Murchison River Gorge - Day 4
At the 4.2 km mark, the grass seemed a lot healthier, greener somehow. As I rounded a large boulder, I saw the trickle of a small waterfall above rocks that were stained with black algae, and felt the air laden with moisture. Small, 'tall sundews' (Drosera auriculata) lined the bottom of those black rocks, appearing almost dainty-like, but harbouring a malicious intent: these tiny, carnivorous herbs use sticky fluid on their tentacles to capture small insects, before the enzymes in the fluid partially dissolve the body to provide them with nutrients. We came upon a peculiar dead tree [note: the foliage in the image belongs to the trees behind] approximately 500 metres from the waterfall. The tree sprouted out of a round depression that was filled with murky, algae-filled water. I was fascinated by the whole scene - wondering what had happened to the tree, and how a depression like that had come about.The gorge opened up with vast expanses of boulders at the 5.5 km mark. The river broadened out and the water became a lot calmer; the huge overhangs on the West bank, and the imposing cliffs that surrounded the area made everything seem majestic. This was it - the Little Z-Bend.
The largest spider that I saw was a huge female Australian golden orb weaver spider (Nephila edulis) - the name referring to the golden colour of the strong silk that it weaves, so strong in fact that it can ensnare small birds. This species is one of the largest spiders that can be found in Australia, and this specimen had a torso that was easily 5cm across and had a swollen abdomen, one that was most likely filled with eggs.This species shows pronounced sexual dimorphism - the phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species, such as body size, morphology, and ornamentation - with the large females staying upside down in the center of the web and the much smaller males on the outskirts. The female has also been known to kill and eat the male after mating, and considering that the Nephila spiders are also considered a delicacy in New Guinea, this genus must be tasty indeed!
Setting Up Camp
We decided to stop for camp just before the Z-Bend. We crossed the river to the East bank and found an area that was flat and sheltered enough to set up camp. The camp ended up being perfect for my Hennessy Hammock, as I was able to loop my tree-protector around a large pillar that had a multitude of bands running through it, and then string the ridge line of my hammock across to a young River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). The ground underneath my hammock was decorated with patterns, swirls, and ripples; and the river water was fresh and invigorating.The warm afternoon sun left me feeling a little weary however, especially after the day's walk, but the cool breeze that would occasionally waft through kept me comfortable. I was left entertained by the songs of birds chirping and twittering away without a worry in the world - that it until the sounds of a hunting kestrel (Falco sp.) were added to the medley.The clear, azure sky that lay above me was an indication of the brilliant, starry night that lay ahead.