Walking Along the Yarra River in Melbourne

yarra river and bridge
Last week we spoke about the pressures of moving to Melbourne. We found ourselves overwhelmed by the big city and the knowledge that we had to start all over. It was starting to drive us insane.

This week has been better. We’ve managed to tick most things off our to-do list. Place to live, bank accounts, tax numbers. Everything but that elusive job. We’ve stopped panicking and settled a little. Still, after a few days of sending out resumes (and subsequent rejection) I needed a day off or I was going to go crazy.

crab graffiti along yarra
The perfect antidote seemed to be to walk along Melbourne’s Yarra River. The city is so big that it’s hard to find a quiet spot but the further along the Yarra you go, the more greenery you see and the quieter it gets. So I set off early in the morning for a walk through the many parks and trails that line the river.

Jamie refused to come because she feared she’d see a snake and panic. I started to wonder what I should do if I bumped into a snake, so I looked online and my mind was put at ease. Snakes are much like any other animal and only attack when provoked, so I didn’t see it as a problem. Well, until later on when I saw this sign.

beware of snakes sign
Still, despite knowing snakes posed no danger, I didn’t exactly want to see them. I did want to see plenty of birds as after New Zealand I’m a full on bird nut.

grandparent love graffiti
For the first few hours, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t see many birds. Maybe because they’re not too noisy. All I saw was a load of cool graffiti along the path.

mural along yarra river
After about half an hour the path veered away. I ended up wandering around near a golf course trying to find my way back to the river. Behind a building I found a hidden trail going down to the water and as I came closer I could hear the shrieking of animals. I’d never heard the noise before so I was getting excited as it sounded like a load of birds.

As I turned the corner, I stopped in my tracks to look at the trees. The branches were covered in black shapes. I stared at them, trying to work out what bird they were and after a moment it clicked. They weren’t birds, they were bats.

flying fox bats in trees yarra bend
I could write all I know about bats on the back of a postage stamp. So very quickly I’d convinced myself that if I walked by the bats they would attack me. Swooping down from the trees to bite me to death.

flying fox with wings spread
Now I know you’re thinking “Pfffft, what a wimp. A few bats won’t harm you!” But this wasn’t just a few bats. This was thousands of the damn things. A whole forest with hundreds of bats on each tree. The noise was insane. A loud chattering with an irregular shriek at random intervals.

Not knowing if it was safe, I started searching Google on my phone.

Tap tap tap. Is it safe to walk beneath bats?

I couldn’t find any information and my annoying phone wasn’t helping.

Tap tap tap. Yarra golf course bats.

The only results let me know they existed. No rules about leaving them alone. Nothing.

But that wasn’t enough to set my mind at ease. Maybe it was just common knowledge that bats were dangerous. Maybe it didn’t have to be said out loud. But then, I argued, surely there’d be a sign or something. Beware of the bats! However, I did just stumble on this trail behind a building, maybe I’m not even meant to be here. Maybe I’m trespassing. Nah, don’t be stupid, you’ll be fine. Who’s ever heard of a person getting killed by bats?!

No matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was all right, I couldn’t. So I decided to ring up the Melbourne parks information line. I rang up a few times and each time got automatically put on hold. I didn’t even know what I would say anyway. “So…er…hi…I’m on a walk and there’s…erm…tons of bats here. I’m from England and know nothing about bats. Is it ok to walk beside them?” I’m sure this would have been met with long, loud laughter. Probably best that nobody answered.

Eventually I decided I just had to try. I didn’t want to turn back and it was a massive detour to walk around the bats. So I set off, power walking beneath them.

flying foxes hanging from branch
The closer I got, the louder their shrieks were. From time to time a bat would scream so loud that I would jump. I was positive it was about to swoop down on me. After a few minutes I realised they weren’t bothered by me so I stopped to take some photos. On closer inspection I realised they were actually kind of cute.

flying fox bat hanging upside down
Some of the bats were wide awake, a few flying around, most of them though were sleeping, wrapped up in their wings. From time to time two bats would start to fight, clawing and flapping away at each other and this would provoke them both to scream.

flying fox hanging from tree
The noise was the most unnerving part, they sounded like a thousand babies crying. The thought of thousands of these creatures surrounding me didn’t exactly fill me with confidence, so I only lingered for a few moments before speed walking away.

By this point I was a little on edge and looking along the trail in front of me I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I skidded to a halt, my heart suddenly pounding. Convinced I was about to walk into a snake. Then I did a double take and realised it was just a twig.

snake shaped twig
Needless to say I was relieved when the trail opened up and I arrived at a boathouse where some families were feeding some ducks. Birds are far nicer than bats, so I decided to set off in search of them.

boathouse on yarra river
It wasn’t until much later, with sore feet that I found what I was looking for. I was walking through a car park beside a playing field when I heard a loud squawk. Turning to find the noise I could see a dozen or so large white birds flying towards me. They swooped up into the trees beside me and looking up I realised it was a ton of cockatoos.

sulphur crested cockatoos in trees
I was giggling like a kid taking a picture of all of them. People were going to their cars and driving off, paying no attention. Hey, guys aren’t you looking! There’s tons of frickin’ cockatoo in the trees! It didn’t seem like anybody gave a damn, but I suppose why would they? In Australia the cockatoo is about as exciting as seeing a gull. So nobody bats an eyelid when they fly by. People are probably annoyed by these noisy birds.

sulphur crested cockatoo in tree
Some more birds came to join them in the trees, grooming each other while looking at me curiously. Still nobody else seemed to care. I was snapping pictures quickly incase the birds disappeared, although in a year I’ll also probably not care.

long billed corella grooming
Now after seeing the photos, you can tell me, what do you prefer? Birds or bats? I think I know what I like the most.

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