I have only been in the Northern Territory for a little over a week and it already feels like forever. The red soil, the hot sun, the smell of eucalyptus, the croaking cries of colorful birds, the billabongs and mighty rivers… The beauty of this country is almost unspeakable and haunting.
So I spent a wonderful first week out in the Daly getting back into fieldwork- as well as running-mode. While the former was a delicious piece of cake with very warm welcomes and an amazing eagerness to start work straight away, the latter was challenging. I completed three runs outback and had to realize what kinds of trials will be in store for me in the next couple of months. On all of my runs I did encounter wildlife of some sort. Because the wet season ended very late this year, the grass on the side of the road has man-height, absolutely perfect for concealing a variety of big and small creatures alike. In addition to the numerous snakes, wallabies, dingoes and buffalos, a lot of wild cattle and pigs are running about at this time of year causing an awful lot of twisting and ruffling in the bushes wherever you go.
On the bright side, the cattle and buffalo that I already encountered on the sides of the road while running, did increase speed quite substantially! You hear a ruffle, you take a giant leap toward the other side of the road, tense up, stare, recognize the beast, quicken pace dramatically while looking backwards, praying they are as afraid of your perky running gear as you are of them and whoosh, all over. You then spend the rest of your run trying to control your heartbeat and the urge to just sprint home. Bliss.
But even ‘home’ is not a safe haven. The other night, I encountered two big huntsman (nasty hairy fat spiders) within 5 minutes of each other in the house, one making the sofa its home and the other using my teacup for the same purpose. The one in the teacup had to pay a harsh rent for its foolishness, as I reacted to its presence by releasing a high shriek at the same time as the teacup which flew through the air smashing the poor creature on impact with the ground. It was a sad sight of spilled tea and tangled spider limbs.
At least I can run from buffalo and spiders, but my biggest enemy right now is the heat. It is draining and demanding, weighing down my legs and spirits. I had to realize that in particular during the first race I participated in up here: The Mothers’ Day Classic 8k in Darwin. It was an early start at 7am, but even though the sun had just come up, it was already 26C and sweltering. However, I was motivated and determined and, a beginner’s glitch, thus started off way too fast. At about 6k I could feel my strength seriously faltering and had to pound myself through to the finish line where I arrived gulping insane amounts of water to feel normal again.
Lessons learned in this first week: give your body and mind time to acclimatize, practice side-jumps for buffalo encounters, and never touch your teacup without taking a look first.