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Australia, 2010!
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Part I: Arrival and some herping in Cairns area
     After years of dreaming of visiting the land down under, the day finally came.  After months of anticipation, pouring over maps, contacting friends who had been there and getting all the supplies ready, the day finally came!  The flight from Los Angeles to Cairns was almost half the price of the flight from Salt Lake City, so my dad and I rented a car and hit the road.  We arrived in LA area and hung out with some of my cousins before jumping on the plane.  The flight wasn't too bad, despite the length, and we arrived in Brisbane none the worse for the wear.  A short flight later, we were in Cairns.  We rented a car at the airport and drove into town.  Was a bit difficult getting used to driving on the left side of the road, especially while shifting the manual transmission on the left side, but I was so excited to see some Aussie herps that I was ready to head out.  Dad had a cold coming on, so he got a hotel room for a good nights sleep.  I headed north of Cairns along the coast to see what I could find.  I had to make a stop to check out the beach and saw my first herp of the trip, a skink on the beach, a Carlia of some sort.
Skink on the
     After some quick shots, I was back on the road.  The coast was breathtaking and everything about the place was new and exciting.  The stark white of the gum trees made for a nice contrast with the orange-streaked rock outcrops along the coastline.  Soon, the road headed a bit inland, and I saw the turnoff for Mossman Gorge.  It was close to close, so I made a quick run up the trail to check out the gorge.  A sign caught my attention with a sketch of a Boyd's forest dragon, which caused me to scan the trail-side trees for these amazing agamids.  Unfortunately, I didn't see one in the short jaunt up the trail, and soon I was back on the bus for the carpark.  After driving down the road a bit, I pulled over to check out a pair Kookaburras, my first sighting of these amazing birds.  I next headed south-west towards the tablelands.  My main goal in this area was to find a carpet python.  My excitement level heightened as dark came on; just the thought of road cruising a jungle carpet got my adrenaline pumping!  I drove down any side streets I could find.  Unfortunately, most of the roads were littered with the infamous cane toads (Bufo marinus).  They are an interesting herp, but out of their natural habitat, they reak havok on the environment.  It is not really their fault they were introduced, but they are spreading across Australia, leaving a wave of death in their wake.
Cane toad
     I made a loop around the curtain fig tree trail looking for herps.  Scanning the trees intently for leaf-tailed geckos (Saltuarius cornutus), I almost put my hand right on top of a very large green frog (Litoria caerulea), who was hanging out on the railing along the path.  Having kept one years ago, it was great to see one in the wild.  An introduced Asian house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) was hanging out on the trailhead sign, so I grabbed a quick shot.
Whites tree frog

     After striking out on finding a leaf-tail, I headed out to Lake Barrine to see if I could find a jungle carpet python or a big scrubbie.  The hike around the lake was very tedious as I scanned the base, trunk and upper levels of almost every tree along the trail.  Again, the adrenaline high was keeping me wired in the hopes of seeing a new and anticipated herp.  Lots of noises kept me alert as well, as various possums clambored in the upper branches and frogs leapt into the undergrowth.  The only frog encountered was the abundant stoney creek frog (Litoria lesuerii). 

     After the intense searching of about 4 km of trail, my work paid off as I spotted a leaftailed gecko (Saltuarius cornutus) from 100 paces.  It somehow stood out like a sore thumb, despite their cryptic abilities.  Unfortunately, it did not have it's namesake leaf-like tail, but rather a nub, the beginnings of a new tail, which it must have recently lost.  After a few photos, the gecko grew tired of the photoshoot and ran to the other side of the log, where it blended in amazingly well.  Having never seen a cornutus, I was amazed and captivated by how large they are and how amazing they look.  I spent quite a while observing this gecko and just laughing to myself how cool it was to find such an amazing creature in it's natural habitat.
leaftailed gecko,
                Saltuarius cornutus
Let's play spot the gecko
leaftailed gecko, Saltuarius cornutus

leaftailed gecko, Saltuarius cornutus
     I finished the Barrine lake loop and headed back to the car.  On the winding road down from the tablelands, I spotted a snake in the road.  It was late enough that not many cars were on the road, but the narrow lanes made it necessary to do a 3 point turn around.  I got the car safely off the road, just as a large truck came barreling around the corner.  Luckily the snake was in the other lane and was unscathed by the passing vehicle.  I jumped out to get a closer look and to identify the serpent.  What luck!  A small death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) was leisurely making its way across the treacherous road.  The snake was banded with gray, rust, and white, and was a bit skinnier than I imagined from the pictures of death adders I had seen.  As soon as I approached, however, that changed as the small snake flattened and widened its body in the typical defensive manner to make itself appear larger than it really was.  Again, seeing such an amazing creature kept me awake for the remainder of the drive back to the hotel, where I rested soundly, content with the finds of the night.
Death adder,
                Acanthrophis antarticus
     Next day, my dad and I headed up towards Mossman Gorge again so dad could get a look around and I could have another shot at finding a Boyd's.  Along the trail, we spotted a vibrant butterfly that was metallic blue and was one of the most amazingly colored insects I have seen.  The rainforest was amazing, espcially the strangler figs and various large trees with butressed roots.  It just felt surreal walking through the dark forest knowing that at any moment I could spot a carpet python or a forest dragon.  The former eluded us, but I spotted the latter as we rounded a corner.  It was an amazing sight to see this cryptic Boyd's forest dragon (Hypsilurus boydii) perfectly perched on the side of a tree, and one that is ingrained in my grey matter.  It was even cooler than I had imagined.  We sat for quite a while observing the lizard and taking photographs.  He accommodated us nicely as he posed and remained still for photos, never trying to run or climb higher into the tree.  We left him as we found him and watched for a while from a distance.  A few people passed by without noticing this amazing reptile, which exemplified his successful camoflauge.  I wondered how many more were out there that we had not seen.  What an incredible reptile.  The sighting almost made me feel like the whole trip was worth it to see this one lizard.  But of course, I was anxious to see more. 
Boyds forest
Boyds forest
     We looked at the clock after returning to the car and realized that we had to be back at the airport in Cairns to meet up with the group prior to head up to Iron Range NP.  We quickly drove down to Cairns where we returned the rental car and met up with the guys.  We all met up and introductions were made.  I had only met one of the Americans in the group, Rico Walder, but the others were all well-known by name.  The other herpers in the group (organized by Neil and Jason) were Allen Repashy, David Northcut, RobRoy McGuinnes, and Dave, a mate of Jasons.  The guys had a miserable flight over from the US, so they were pretty exhausted.  We loaded up the car and prepared for the long drive up North to the Iron Range National Park.
Page 2, Iron Range National Park