We were on Perillup and we turned left onto Perillup. It was a road that comes to a dead end and then you can turn left or right. If you choose correctly you stay on the road. Coincidentally the road that we turned off of and now drove down is also the same name as the town. Perhaps town is not the right word. Think smaller. I am once again out in the middle of no where, and no where is named Perillup. There aren’t many roads here. No street lights or road curbs or signs or light. There aren’t even any signs posting the speed limit, and if there are, I can’t remember seeing them. We left the concrete road some time ago and the sun has retreated from the rest of the day. It was dark and the long road of red sand disappeared into the fading distance of our not-so-far reaching headlights. I could tell Dave was beginning to feel it. We were lost. We both knew it too. The map I had gotten off of the internet would have been fine if it was accurate, but in this case it was not. I simply didn’t know that we were destined for the middle of no where. We were traveling far off of the beaten path. As we continued into the unknown the uncertainty grew and with it the edge.
An hour had passed and we should have found our road by now. That was according to the map anyway. The map that was no good, but all we had was the map, and so we were reluctant to admit its uselessness. Off in the distance we saw a a subtle hint of light. We drove toward it. It’s not often that I’ve been in the middle of no where and approached a single light in the darkness. It is an odd feeling. You just have no idea what you are getting into. In the middle of the dark unknown we had come across half a dozen vineyard workers who had gathered together at the end of their day. They drank their beers and pointed us in the direction that we needed. Twenty minutes later we had found Uralla, had said farwell to each other, and I had found myself sitting around a bonfire with a group of people I’ve never met. The night had swallowed the scene and the only thing I could distinguish were the faces lit by the fire. I heard sounds in the darkness. Lots of them. I wondered where I was exactly and what this placed looked like in the day. I knew those strange sounds had to be the kangaroos that I had come to work with. I would have to wait until morning to see for sure though. As for now, the darkness kept everything hidden from me.
The night was cold. A hum that I hadn’t realized that was there suddenly went away. It was a generator, and with the sound went the lights. This is the second time in my life that I have been so far from a power grid. When I woke up there were wheels set in motion. There are about eight volunteers here. Everyone was stirring about and the sun was just coming up. It was still cold and it was one of those things that didn’t need to be mentioned. No one talked about how cold it was. No one needed to. Milk was heated and placed into dozens of bottles. The bottles had names like Rosey and Charlie on them. I was the newcomer and it was patiently explained to me that everyone fed the kangaroos in the morning at the break of day. There were two baby lambs that needed to be fed. A volunteer showed me the lambs and I fed them. Ten minutes prior I had just gotten out of bed. I put the bottle down and this little turbocharged baby lamb came running at it with full speed. I was surprised at how it took to its breakfast. Its little head kept thrusting forward into the bottle like a ram.
As I write this now I am sitting in an enclosed area where two dingos live. Dingos are dog-like animals that look like a mix between a fox and a dog, with emphasis on the fox. It is an Australian animal and it is becoming rare to see one that is a pure bred. Australian authorities have classified the dingo as a nuisance though because they do not stick to their species when breeding. They will breed with regular house dogs and so the dingo is hunted and killed for this reason. I had been told about the mixed breeding of the dingo months ago. I also knew that seeing one was becoming extremely rare. Sure, I might find a dingo from time to time in Australia (rarely), but it is likely the product of mixed breeding with household dogs and not the natural species that once inhabited the continent. When “Nibbler” and “Rosey” were brought to Uralla they had been DNA tested. The test confirmed that they are pure breds. It was a cool surprise when I woke up to them. They are the real thing and as I write this they are circling around me. It’s a cool experience and I appreciate the dingos more than the kangaroos and so here I sit with them, especially because I had heard the dingo story about their dying out. I might never get this chance again, but alas there is hope. Mandy who works at Uralla, tells me that one day the Australian government will want to conserve and protect the original species of this animal. That serves as half the purpose of why Nibbler and Rosey are at Uralla, the other half is that they are simply cool to have around.
If I wanted exposure to the iconic kangaroo I have gotten it. This place is packed with them. The entire compound is on a large amount of acres and there are about a dozen people here. It is all to help rehabilitate injured kangaroos. There are little kangaroos that have to stay in a climate controlled environment to simulate a ‘pouch’. There are also little joey kangaroos, bigger kangaroos that haven’t been released, and there are a mix of released and wild kangaroos who are outside of the compounds perimeter but stop by from time to time to visit (to get a free lunch). It is one in the afternoon now. I had stopped writing to feed some more kangaroos and then lay a pipe from a hole in the ground to a water collection dam. I’m sitting with Nibbler and Rosey again. They haven’t been at the sanctuary long. I’m told that human contact is good for them. These dingos are fast. Another characteristic similar to a fox. They are much faster than a dog. Not many people get a chance to touch them I’m told. They aren’t used to humans. A moment ago Nibbler came up to my extended hand and sniffed it. I had sat there while he paced his area as I was making him anxious from sitting in there with him. Later a boy by the name of Braedon wanted to try and put a leash on Nibbler. It is another step in the process and eventually he will need to be leashed. I had been talking with some of the other volunteers when I saw Braedon in with the dingos by himself and so I joined him. Nibbler was fast. He simply couldn’t be caught. Then I tried another approach. I extended my hand again and I had Braedon stay back so not to intimidate him by two larger creatures coming at him at once. Nibbler showed his teeth for a brief moment. I retreated and waited. A few moments later I had the leash on Nibbler. I gave the leash to Braedon and left the enclosure. Mandy and John soon saw that someone had gotten Nibbler on a leash. Not long after I would hear about how Nibbler had bit Mandy on the hand.
The kangaroos are strange creatures. They seem to have several different stances. They can put their weight on their front paws and then move along on all fours and they can hop on just their hind legs. They can also put their entire body on their tails, which the males do when they are challenging one another. Their front paws have claws as digits and they will eagerly use them to reach out and grab your pant, whatever is in your hands, or simply you. They are herd animals, and at a strange sound one can become frightened causing all to follow suit and bounce away. The kangaroos seem curious. They aren’t too timid either, but that is because they are dependent on human interaction and they know the hands that feed them. I asked Mandy if they were aggressive in the wild. She said they aren’t. If fight or flight is the question, it doesn’t seem that they would choose to fight, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t. It also doesn’t mean that they won’t win if they do. Five years ago a kangaroo had challenged Mandy. Males challenge other animals to establish dominance like many animals do. Mandy was pushed to the ground. Upon falling to the ground the kangaroo kicked at her. The large nail on its hind claw put a gash into Mandy’s throat and she tells me that you could see her artery. She admits that had been a close call and that she wasn’t acting as she should. I take it as a reminder not to take a kangaroos kindness for weakness.