So…close encounters with dingoes or “I can now go to the grave saying I was sniffed by wild dogs.”
The backstory is that I had signed up for an outback tour that included 3 days of driving around in a rickety van with 18 20-somethings — and, yes, I was feeling quite acutely the fact that my birth year starts with a 6 instead of an 8 or 9 — and two nights of “bush camping,” which apparently means no tent, just you and a bedroll under the prodigious Southern Hemisphere stars.
Now, the rest of the group circled their sleeping bags around a big central fire, but I was concerned that my snoring might keep everyone awake — until they stoned me or doused me in kerosene and set me ablaze — so I took my roll and moved a couple hundred meters away from the camp. Our guide told me I’d be fine out there by myself, and though we had spotted some dingoes creeping up sort of close to us, they scattered when we trained our flashlights on them.
Well, the stars weren’t really out yet, but the moon was so bright that I had a very tough time going to sleep. So for quite some time I was just lying there with my eyes closed, and then I heard faint footsteps. I opened my eyes, and about 4 feet away was a dingo, somewhat courageously checking me out.
I obviously couldn’t get a picture, but he looked a lot like the one on the left in this stock photo)
An hour or so later I heard the footsteps again and the same thing happened. And then, once I guess I had dozed off lightly, I woke up hearing sniffing noises, opened my eyes without twitching any other muscles, and there were three dingos right up close, giving my face the nose test. They weren’t menacing at all, and once they realized I was awake, they all backed away.
I don’t think I was in any danger — though I have to think my un-showered self probably smelled a bit like an aged bratwurst — and to be honest, they were really cute and playful-looking. Perhaps my guide knew this, or perhaps he was just okay having the lone senex in the group dragged off into the night.
In any case, I’ve now had exceptionally close and unexpected encounters at various times in my life with dingoes, moose, falcons, water buffalo and stingrays. This was the least frightening of the episodes, but, as with each of the others, it felt kind of magical, like being behind the curtain of a play or seeing a poet’s original hand-written drafts.
Maybe it’s sad that nature in its own element is such a rarity for me (my Alaskan friends are just shaking their heads), but I am a country and city boy, after all, and there really wasn’t anything where I grew up except corn and soybeans for 150 miles in any direction. i’m planning on doing some serious scuba diving in the next few weeks, so that’s likely to add a few species to the face-to-face list, but for now at least, the dingoes seemed really cool -- and a distilled dose of authentic Australia.
Next animal adventure: the spectacled flying fox, a.k.a. fruit bat, one of the world's largest "megabats," with a wingspan of 4.5 feet. They look like this (stock pic):
And here's one I caught with my own camera.