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Attack of the Killer Kangaroos  (Grampians National Park)

(Reprint from News: March 1, 2002)

February 21, 2002


After getting a taste of mining -- which is still in my mouth -- I left Bendigo the next morning and continued my westward journey across Victoria, arriving at the Grampians National Park in the early afternoon.  The Grampians are a beautiful mountain range and, considering how they protrude above the surrounding plains, reminded me of the Black Hills in South Dakota.  Fortunately the similarity ends there, though, because the Grampians arenít very heavily visited and donít have any of the kitschy tourist places that are so common in the Black HillsÖ not even a place like Wall Drug.  


Here's the Aussie crooner, Lazy Harry, singing Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.

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I wanted to check out the Grampians Visitor Center, because I'd heard that you could order a kangaroo burger in the adjoining cafe.  PETA people, please don't read this, but I really wanted to try a 'Roo Burger.  First, though, I strolled through the Visitor Center, where I watched a fascinating 45-minute movie on kangaroos.  As I learned, kangaroos have a very complex social structure similar to wolves, and male kangaroos will compete against other males in the group by kicking each other with their massive feet while standing, believe it or not, on their tails.  I'd heard that kangaroos could kick-box, but I was absolutely amazed to see a couple of big 'roos going several rounds against each other.  After watching this fascinating movie, though, I just couldn't bring myself to eat a kangaroo burger, but maybe I'll try one in another week or two.


I drove through Grampians National Park for a few hours that afternoon, got lost a few times on the dirt roads, then found a remote campground where I set up my tent.  Shortly afterwards, I had my very first close encounter with a kangaroo. 


I was making dinner at my picnic table when a large 'roo, about five feet high, started hopping towards me while sniffing the air, obviously looking for a handout.  Iíve dealt with a lot of large animals in the wilderness, but this was something new because I wasnít used to them COMING AT ME.  Most big critters that Iíve dealt with -- like deer, elk, mountain lions, and bears -- have run away when they saw me.  However, here was a very large kangaroo (and with very large claws) hopping straight towards me. 


This was like a scene out of a Hitchcock movie and, despite my years of training as a Rocky Mountain ranger, I wasnít sure how to handle it.  First, I tried shooing the kangaroo away (real macho, huh?), but that didnít stop him.  Then I pushed him away, but that didnít work either.  I kept eyeing his very large claws (quite seriously, about the size of a grizzly bearís) and was imagining the headlines in the local paper the next day:  ďAmerican Mauled By Hungry Kangaroo.Ē  


I got up from the picnic table to get my hiking stick out of the Camry (to try to push him away, I guess), but he still didnít budge.  Finally, I shuffled my feet, which startled him and he slowly hopped away.  During the next hour, his little Ďroo friends hopped through my campsite several times to try to scrounge some food from me,  but with no luck.  


I have to admit that, despite my "near-death" encounter, it was fun to camp amidst the kangaroos and kookaburras that night, and I got a chuckle the next morning while lying in my tent and listening to the gentle ďhop, hop, hopĒ of the 'roos passing through my campsite.


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Above left:  Approaching the Grampian Mountains.

Above center:  A western gray kangaroo, in the Grampians. 

Above right:  Looking for a campsite in the Grampians.  Where the heck am I??


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Above left:  Here's a little kangaroo mooching for food at my campsite.  Check out the claws on Skippy's paws.

Above center:  Another freeloader.  Aack!  I'm surrounded!

Above right:  The next morning at McKenzie Falls in the Grampians National Park.


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Above left:  View of Halls Gap and the Grampians.  This is a terrific park and it wasn't crowded at all.

Above center:  Driving through a eucalyptus grove in the Grampians.

Above right:  Humorous sign -- at least, I thought so.


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