Plant your­self right where the wild things are

Get­ting close to a platy­pus doesn’t have to be un­com­fort­able, writes Ali­son Cotes

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - SHORT BREAKS EUNGELLA -

YOU prob­a­bly thought that platy­pusspot­ting means get­ting up at the crack of dawn, trekking through the muddy rain­for­est wilder­ness and wait­ing in hushed si­lence for hours in the freez­ing fog. Or, not quite as bad, hang­ing around in the late af­ter­noon chill wish­ing that the elu­sive lit­tle beast­ies would hurry up and ap­pear so that you won’t miss your hot din­ner in front of a blaz­ing fire.

You’d be wrong on all counts – ex­cept the hot din­ner.

We saw six or­nithorhynchus anat­i­nus splashing about in the wa­ters of Bro­ken River in the Eun­gella Na­tional Park at 3.30pm, quite obliv­i­ous to the seven peo­ple who were try­ing in vain to get them to stay above the sur­face long enough for a de­cent photo op­por­tu­nity.

And any sounds we made couldn’t be heard above the screech­ing of the hun­dreds of white cock­a­toos that were wing­ing their way home­ward, so I sus­pect that noth­ing short of plung­ing into the river and try­ing to cud­dle one would have scared them off.

Less than an hour away from the pleas­ant coastal city of Mackay, the Eun­gella Na­tional Park is known as the platy­pus cap­i­tal of the world, and you’re al­most guar­an­teed to see them from the view­ing plat­forms at Bro­ken River.

For those who like their wildlife at close range and within a com­fort­able walk, the Bro­ken River Moun­tain Re­sort is the place to stay, be­cause you can get to the view­ing plat­forms in five min­utes but still feel re­mote from the worka­day world.

Platy­pus spot­ting is one of the most mag­i­cal things you’ll ever do in your life. If you’ve never seen them be­fore, the big sur­prise is how small the Queens­land va­ri­ety is, with a top weight of 1kg, un­like their mas­sive 3kg Tas­ma­nian cousins that mea­sure an av­er­age 50cm.

That’s about the size of your av­er­age pussy cat, and as they are the same brown colour of the wa­ters they swim in, you have to know what you’re look­ing for.

This, as any first-time ex­pert will tell you, is a tell­tale bulls­eye cir­cle of rip­ples, but don’t ex­pect the platy­pus to emerge there, as they can swim for up to 20m be­fore com­ing up for air.

At Bro­ken River they may stay on the wa­ter sur­face for up to 30 sec­onds, float­ing along be­fore plung­ing down to for­age some more, and the wa­ter is such a clear brown that you can see them do­ing it.

And while you’re wait­ing to be the first in the group to sig­nal suc­cess, don’t for­get to ob­serve the quaint lit­tle fresh­wa­ter tur­tles that also hoon around un­der the view­ing plat­form, wait­ing for the crumbs that fall from the platy­pus­sian ta­ble.

But by now it’s prob­a­bly 5pm, and the air is chill­ing as rapidly as your toes, so it’s back to the re­sort for a glass of some­thing from the bar be­side the huge fire in the guest lounge, or even a nap be­fore din­ner – leav­ing the en­dan­gered gas­tric brood­ing frogs to re­gur­gi­tate their off­spring in peace, so that they can be gob­bled up by the orange-sided skink. Na­ture never lis­tens to con­ser­va­tion­ists, so has pro­vided no cam­ou­flage for these lit­tle tapi­oca-like spawn.

No tapi­oca on the splen­did menu at Pos­sums Res­tau­rant, though, much less pos­sum stew, al­though the Ger­man chef does a mean lamb ragout with ve­g­ies, and an even bet­ter starter of smoked salmon on kitchen-made potato rosti topped with a mus­tard cream sauce.

Main cour­ses may stretch your wal­let a bit, so do what we did and have two starters – the afore­said salmon for $ 12.50, and three fat lamb

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