I always thought the bunyip was a mythical creature, an aboriginal belief about a creature with supernatural powers that lived in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes, that is until I went on my walkabout. I saw that devilish evil spirit, nearly face to face while living in the wilderness on my rite of passage trying to make the spiritual and traditional transition into manhood. I was aware of bunyip sightings before, but I always felt that there were made up stories that were told to children to make them stay away from dangerous areas of water. I had read that the bunyips had dark fur, a face like a dog, sharp teeth and claws, flippers, a duck-like bill, tusks and even horns, and that someone even described it as having a head like an emu and the body and legs of an alligator, but most people who encountered them were too afraid of these creatures to be able to take good notice of their appearance.
On my walkabout, I was admiring nature, walking around the middle of nowhere and hoping to obtain the personal satisfaction that I would make it home alive at the end of my adventure that I took in the outback. I realize that most people usually recount their wilderness trek by exaggerating every detail of what happened to them, adding all these details to provide extra excitement and trill, but I am certainly not one of those storytellers. My trip started out being very dull, and I was OK with that, as I was not looking for any near death experiences. My adventure was about being far away from towns and cities and living off the land to survive. This was not an excuse for me to take a holiday, or to shirk any work that I could have been doing, as I considered my walkabout to be an important institution of my Australian upbringing. My mom is an aborigine and she told me about this custom and I was hoping to meet some interesting aborigines that I could communicate with, but this was mostly desert that I would be in and unpopular places are usually unpopulated, so I might not meet anyone. I wanted to embrace a lifestyle that is firmly rooted in nature and I had hoped to develop specific skills and talents that would allow me to respond to this rural environment.
This was a way for me to stop binge watching Netflix, something that I had been doing way too much of at the time. I should have taken a camera with me, but all I carried was my Swiss army knife. I was used to sleeping out under the stars and I had eaten a few bugs in my day, spiders, lizards, scorpions and snakes did not scare me, that is as long as they were not crawling all over me. I knew that it was going to be hot, dry, and dusty, however I hated the humidity and I was not really fond of flies and mozzies. I enjoyed eating kangaroo when I got hungry, so I thought that I was ready, but I did not possess all the secrets of survival and I didn’t realize this until it was too late. I had read that the outback claims an average of 40 lives a year and I studied up on all of the basic survival tips for being in the outback. I knew how to light a fire without matches and I knew enough to wear a hat and to try and stay in the shade during the day.
I understood that the only thing that really matters in the outback, is having enough water to drink and I knew that I could never carry too much water with me, as I would not be able to survive without it. My mom showed me how to locate rock formations that are prone to catch water and that these would likely to be safe to drink from. She also taught me how to dig below the surface where I might find water when I came across a dried up creek bed. My big mistake was that I had not spent a lot of time being in areas that are well off the beaten track, areas where venomous creatures are lurking at every step of the way.
My first day on this adventure I made a spear and I practiced throwing it all the time, as I was going with an open mind and I thought that it might come in handy. I was able to navigate by the Sun during the day and also get bearings from the stars at night. Most of my time was spent searching for food, but I did stop at several waterholes to wash up and if they were big enough I did enjoy a leisurely dip from time to time. I had no particular destination in mind, so there was no hurry for me to get any place, as a result I was taking it slow and easy moving along at my own pace.
After sixteen days of being in the outback, it started raining and the rain continued for several days, which made the red earth turn green, and the rivers started to overflow. At first I was so happy to see the rain, that I started dancing all around while it was coming down, but after two days of a steady downpour, I was all soggy and I wanted it to end. I climbed up a tree to get my feet out of the puddles that were all around and that is when I saw it. At first, I was not sure what I was looking at, but then I put it together that this was indeed a bunyip.
The bunyip that I saw had long looking front legs and thick short hind legs that appeared to be very strong. It had long claws and it was covered in grey feathers. When it was in the water, it was able to swim like a frog, but when it got on to the shore, it walked on its hind legs, standing 12 or 13 feet (3.7 or 4.0 m) high, being about the size of a small cow. I felt safe being up in the tree, but my curiosity was starting to get the better of me and I wanted to get a closer look. I was not sure if this creature was a ferocious carnivore predator, or maybe it was just a gentle herbivore, but I stayed up in the tree thinking that it was better to be safe than sorry. That is the story I am sticking with and you can believe me or not.
Written for Rachel Poli I Read I Write I Create – Time To Write Random Words prompt, “Storyteller”.