Creepy Hiking on Halloween - Bunyip State Park

This morning we hustled out of the house and headed to Bunyip State Park to do a little hiking. We started with the Mortimer Nature Walk (1.2k, easy).

This nature walk is an introduction to several of the eco-systems of Bunyip Park and has signs along the trail that describe key features of each ecosystem. Normally we love to read those signs but I am afraid we didn't get much out of the ones on this walk as hiked at a rather brisk pace. Why? Just a few minutes into the walk we stopped to read the first sign. All of the sudden I heard Ian yell and I looked over to see Ian dancing up and down on one foot and waving his arms wildly. Apparently Ian had looked down while I was talking and noticed something crawling towards him: it crawled up his shoe and then sped up and dived INTO his shoe. Then we noticed there were more of them on my shoes and Ben's! They were LEECHES. Yes, here they have LEECHES THAT CRAWL ON THE GROUND! Yuck, yuck, yuck, YUCK. Every time we stopped to read a sign they would come racing out from among the leaves and latch themselves on to us. Perfect for a Halloween hike -- attack of the vampire leeches. Next time we are spraying our shoes with bug spray!!

Leeches aside, the hike was spectacular. Otherworldy. It is... well... Ewok-y.

That's the bark of one of the eucalypts (Messmate Stringybark) hanging over our heads and littering the ground. The eucalypts are so varied. Some are tall, some have leaves that smell like peppermint, some produce red sap that looks like blood, and some have round leaves like the kind they sell at craft shops.

The trail passes through 3 distinct ecosystems. One is dark and damp (Wet Sclerophyll Forest) , one intermediate (Damp Sclerophyll Forest), and one fairly dry and open (you guessed it -- Dry Sclerophyll Forest). As you are walking it feels like any moment you might see Yoda... or a dinosaur. We didn't see either of those but we did see some Rosella Parrots that are native to the area. They are wondrous -- crimson red with blue wings. We also saw and heard a number of kookaburras and got a glimpse of a Superb Fairywren in full plumage. Mostly we heard lots of birds and saw lots of trees and ferns of all sizes ranging from petite and fragile-looking to enormous and tree-like. Some had fronds as big as my hand:

I am really at a loss to describe the landscape. It feels heavy, almost oppressive... the greenery seems to close in on you...

One minute the forest is tropical and damp. Then, suddenly, you rise out of the ferny gully into an open, airy forest.

This is all in a 1km walk.

I am really at a loss for words. Just an hour from Melbourne we hiked through some of the most bizarre and other-wordly nature I have ever encountered.

After lunch we took a second hike through completely different scenery... but I am so tired I will have to blog about that tomorrow.


Tina in CT said...

The leeches would have had me running...for the car.

All in all, it seems like you had a good hike and day. You sure saw lots of new, interesting things.

Anonymous said...

Happy Halloween!
I guess we missed it, it is already Sunday for you!
The park looks incredible. And birds are so bright, hard to believe you can just see them outside on your hike.

Katya said...

Oooh... this website has a good picture of the suckers.

Anonymous said...

Eeeew! But where are the pictures of the leeches?!? I'm beyond grossed out, and yet fascinated too! (At least, lol, since they aren't racing their way up to me and my family!)


Anonymous said...

Oops, I spoke too soon, before I'd followed your link. What wretched beasts! And yet... Wow! :o)


Katya said...

I know... we are in one of only two places in the whole world where there are land leeches.