Mission: Honeyeaters

Book Cover


That’s the impression of Western Australia from the air, the very ground rusting away, contrasting with the Indian Ocean blue as my flight followed the coast down to Perth. Not a town to be seen for hundreds of kilometres until the grids of civilisation appeared within a boomerang-throw of the capital. Perth was upon us, and the plane was down and passengers were out of the terminal faster than Adam Gilchrist bats his way to a century.

I had booked the shuttle bus downtown, which surprised the driver, who was prepared to hang around until the last body had squeezed out of the airport. This gave me time to identify welcome swallows, so at least the birds were pleased to see me; and I had finally hit summer after a couple of dismal UK washouts.

The bus bounced into the city, over the Swan River, home to silver gulls, and past the WACA, home to cricketers. A kid sitting in front of me clicked his camera phone at everything. He had flown from Britain in one and was hyper from lack of sleep. He snapped the cricket ground without having any idea what it was – cute.

The remainder of the day only gave me time to eat but it was light enough, while I sought out a restaurant, to register par­rots. In the square outside the hostel they were screeching and zipping between trees. The birds were too fast to identify but their calls were familiar; I couldn’t quite pin them down. A disappointing nasi goreng preceded bed, perchance to sleep.

Or not, as it happened.

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