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Life Happens The adventures of Nora Dunn & Kelly Bedford, Professional Hobos. Nora writes, Kelly makes music. Together, we are on a lifelong journey to...wherever.

Night Walking With the Pro

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 26 June 2008 | Views [3550] | Comments [2]

“I hope you don’t mind having a corpse in the back of the van,” Wendy said in her ever-cheerful demeanor. She was loading the body of a pademelon (a small kangaroo from the looks of it) wrapped in her raincoat onto the back seat. It had been hit by a car, and when we came upon it the body was still warm and there appeared to be a joey (baby pademelon) in the pouch. We were going to try to save the baby’s life.

Such are the twists and turns of life with Wendy at Vision Walks, if you come along for the ride.

After being picked up at Ballina (on the east coast near Byron Bay), we chatted with Wendy at length about anything and everything while we traveled to the next pick-up location. Conversation was easy, and Wendy’s story was enthralling – probably because it’s not dissimilar to our own story; getting tired of the rat race and hanging it all out there to chase down a dream. In Wendy’s case, the dream is to bring the gift of nature and its critters to people…at night.

Vision Walks is the first and only company of its kind to do what they do: guided walks through national parks with the aid of night vision goggles. Since so many of Australia’s interesting furry critters are nocturnal, this is a unique opportunity to see animals in their habitat, without startling them with spotlights. We jumped at the opportunity to join in for an evening of fun – me because I wanted to see the animals, and Kelly because he wanted to play with night vision goggles and pretend he was in a video game. (He says he just wanted to see the animals, but I knew better: he was hiding behind trees and aiming an imaginary gun the entire time).

After picking up a party of four, we were off to the national park. We were warned that the full moon might reduce the number of animals we may spot, but happy to just be out and exploring at night. We don’t tend to drive the World Nomads Ambassador van after dark, so this was a real treat for us.

Learning to walk with night vision goggles is someting to behold. While Wendy was busy getting each of us outfitted with and adjusting our headgear, those who had their goggles in hand (or on head as it were) were staggering and veering of the road as we learned to see through the lenses and adjust the focus. Wendy highly dissuades customers from drinking before coming on the walk, since learning to use the goggles is a pretty good approximation of being drunk to begin with.

With the aid of a few infrared torches (which can’t be seen with the naked eye but which provide ample light for the goggles), we wandered down the road quietly, exploring the trees and searching for life.

“You’re looking for eye-shine,” Wendy said, as she described spotting animals by the reflection of their eyes.

We spotted a bushtail possum before long, looking at us wearily and blinking occasionally. The body was difficult to make out, but the eyes were there for sure. Later on, following our ears and eyes, we found a few more critters, and once back in the van and on our way to the next spot, we spied a few more animals getting out of our way, including bandicoots (really cute rodents), and even a quoll, which is so elusive that even the rangers haven’t seen one.

Our next stop was at Minon falls, a lookout point over a beautiful and very high cascade of water down into the deep gorge below. It was here that we learned that one of our party was celebrating a birthday…and so a birthday cake came out of nowhere! This is just one of the many things that Wendy does to personalize the night vision walks: birthday cake is included if somebody is celebrating their special day.

After eating the mud cake (oh my gosh - why haven’t I ever had mud cake before?!), and enjoying the bright starry night at the falls, we reluctantly had to head back to the van to warm up and head home.

It was on the dark and twisty road home that we came upon the pademelon.

“I can’t believe somebody would just hit a creature like this and keep driving,” said Wendy incredulously. “They had to know they hit something…they could have looked in the pouch. Or at least dragged it to the side of the road,” she bemoaned.

Lucky we found it when we did. Wendy is trained in koala rescue and first aid, but didn’t want to mess with the pademelon. “Sometimes if you rip the joey off the teat too early it can die right away. By leaving it there on the mum, it may be able to live long enough to be saved.”

We called WIRES (the animal rescue center for the area), who, even at 10:30pm, had somebody in the area who came by within 10 minutes to take away the mum and baby pademelon and deliver first aid in their home. It was a detour off our schedule to be sure, but one we were all willing and proud to make. We said a silent prayer for the baby pademelon (which judging by the mum would be cute as a button), and were on our way shortly thereafter.

A long drive home and the fresh air of the night’s walk left us tuckered out and ready to fall into bed. But once in bed, we found our heads swimming with the visions we saw over the night: a full moon and starry sky, possums, furry tails, a green-tinted convex world through goggles, waterfalls, and new friends. Wendy’s plan is to create many more Vision Walk avenues for people to enjoy all over Australia (then possibly other countries – “global domination” is a phrase she casually used when talking about her innovative business concept). So keep your eyes peeled: you too may soon get to see something at night that you didn’t expect.

As Wendy at Vision Walks says, “You don’t need eyes to see, you need vision!”













Tags: ambassador van, australia, ballina, byron bay, minion falls, nature, night walks, vision walks, world nomads



Great story!

  allwelcome Jun 27, 2008 9:30 AM


I have an update on the little joey in your story, unfortunately it did not survive. Thanks to WIRES for trying to save the joey. WIRES are a fantastic organisation of mainly volunteers who work tirelessly looking after wildlife. I only wish they didn't need to work so hard.

Soap box rant: "I do wish that people who drive in parks and areas near them would ensure that they are traveling at a speed at which they can avoid hitting wildlife - this may involve driving under the speed limit - especially at dawn- dusk and night time."

On a happier note, it was great to meet you both (Nora and Kelly) - you guys rock! I hope our paths cross again in th enear future.

  wendy Jun 27, 2008 7:20 PM

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