Hitchhiker’s Hell

Jakkie writes…….

Unbeknown to us, we picked up a hitchhiker.

This happened somewhere between Perth and Adelaide and this hitchhiker wasn’t welcome. The first signs of him being there began at night when we’d hear rustling and scraping noises, then in the morning we’d find little messages left on the table. Then one evening, as Glen and I were just preparing for bed, Glen announced, ‘I saw a mouse’, ‘Where?’ I replied, ‘There on the stair right there’, then we both burst into song, ‘A little mouse with clogs on, going clip clipitity clop on the stairs’.

I then leapt up and screamed!!!

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After the initial shock that we had a furry friend travelling in the van with us, we decided it was quite cute. I’ve always wanted a pet on board, however when we googled ‘mouse in motorhome’ we learnt how much damage they could to, especially chewing wires causing electrical faults and fires.

Glen turned to me and with a wicked glint in his eye he said, ‘KILL IT’.

We’ve picked up quite a few unwanted hitchhikers during our travels. I found a frog in our sink one morning. I am still baffled as to how it managed to get there, the obvious route was from the pipes through to the plughole, however the plug hole is tiny and this frog was big. We were in the desert at the time and this frog was obviously looking for any scrap of moisture it could find. Usually the frogs hang out in toilet cisterns and it was quite common to go for a pee and find a frog clinging to the sides of the toilet bowl. So the only humane thing I could do to our frog was to transfer it to the next public toilet on route. This probably wasn’t acceptable behaviour, however it was that or have it perish in the harshness of the Outback before the next rains arrived. So I plopped him in a toilet just outside Darwin and off we sped.

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We’ve also had ants, flies, cockroaches and spiders cohabiting with us.

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Being a nature lover, I would save all our unwanted guests. I would spend hours catching them one by one and then releasing them back into the wild. Glen however had another method. He’d get out the insect spray and obliterate them all within seconds. This was a repeated ritual of ours, especially with fly’s. I’d spend all morning capturing the fly’s one by one with the cup and paper method and then set them free. Glen would then walk in with 20 flies hitchhiking on his sweaty back, bringing them all back in again! Sigh!!

Cockroaches are the worst as they are impossible to control and we’ve had loads of them. I woke up one night and screamed out loud, ‘Aaaaagggghhhhh, something big and crusty just crawled over me’, which woke Glen up. Glen replied, ‘Was it a tortoise?’ then he promptly turned over and went back to sleep. This wasn’t very helpful.

I suppose it could’ve been worse, I have heard stories of campers coming back to their tent/van to find a 6 metre Python wrapped around their pillow or taking a drink from their  sink!

So I bought the humane trap and then Glen conveniently disappeared to Sydney for a week on business, leaving me to do the dirty deed all by myself. Because mice are nocturnal creatures, the plan was to leave the trap out overnight. However I was in Adelaide at the time and there was no way I was going to release Squeaky into a city environment. So I left the city and headed about an hour south to a place called Aldinga. The campground had a nature reserve right on it’s doorstep, so it was the perfect place to set Squeaky free. Oddly enough, just before I set the trap that night, I Skyped my best friend in the UK who is also an animal lover and she suggested I talked to Squeaky to let him know what I was up to so he’d co-operate. Just as we were laughing about the idea, from the back of the sofa in the van, up popped Squeaky’s head! I’d not seen him before that point and for a split second we both looked mutually horrified at each other, then he scurried back to his hiding place behind the fridge.

So that night was the perfect night!

I set the trap and put it in the area I know he likes to frequent (evidence in the droppings). Before I went to bed I talked to Squeaky and told him I would set him free if he co-operated. At 1.45am I was woken by a rattling sound, Squeaky was in the trap and was desperately trying to get out. The trap was 3 inches x 1 inch so not a lot of room for him to move. The trap was vibrating so much with his stress, I realised it had to be now that I released him. So at 2am, I strapped a torch to my head and in my pyjamas I ventured out with the trap and Squeaky in my hand and headed off on foot to the conservation park about 10 minutes away.

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I was still half asleep despite the adrenalin pumping through my body. By torch light I picked the perfect spot in amongst foliage and so it was there that I opened the trap door and set Squeaky free. I had to do a bit of jiggling as Squeaky was facing the wrong way and so it had to be bum out first. It was pitch black and from behind me I heard a very loud ‘THUD THUD”. This was the sound of a very large, very close Kangaroo. I have been face to face with a big Red Kangaroo before and they’re not to be messed with. The male’s are huge and very territorial and the THUD THUD was getting nearer.

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My heart was pounding and I shook the trap harder and out popped Squeaky who back flipped and disappeared so fast into the undergrowth that I didn’t even see him go. Not even so much as a thank you or a final farewell. Mind you, I wasn’t going to hang around much longer, not with a killer kangaroo on the loose. I legged it out of the reserve and back to the safety of the van. And once my blood pressure got back to a healthier level, my heart warmed at the thought that squeaky is now free and back home where he belongs. How perfect for him. But then I had another thought. There must be loads of predators out there which he’d now have to face. For all I know I could’ve tipped him out of the trap and straight into the open mouth of a Python!

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

I was quite proud of myself at the lengths I went to for wildlife conservation. However when I told Glen what I’d done, he laughed and said that someday, a mammalogist expert will be scratching his head with the new rare discovery of mouse only ever found in the Western Australian coastal shrub to now be in the South Australian inland bush, which has disrupted the whole eco system that took thousands of years to create.

I know nothing and forget you ever heard this story!

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