Ode to the wombat

While I normally try to keep my posts trip related, forgive this indulgence, because after finding this poem while cleaning out emails I couldn’t help but put it on the site. I’ve published the version sent to me by T1, found in the Valentine Hut logbook in Dec ’92, despite it varying slightly from the version published by the Kosciuszko Huts Association.


As you pound along the track
Eyes wide open and ears pinned back
You may have noticed those queer square turds
And thought if not expressed in words
The pain of such defecation
Baffles the imagination
But it ain’t done to entertain us
The wombat has an oblong anus
So if at night you hear pained cries
Outside your tent, feel no surprise
With eyes shut tight, teeth clenched with pain
A wombat’s gone and crapped again!

Now the reason T1 dug this out of the archives for me is because the wombat is one of the animals I most connect with in the bush. If you’ve ever walked off-track with me, or shared a tent with me, the reasons become starkly apparent.

While not a practitioner of an ancient animistic religion, I do find there are animal totems that I connect with on a subconscious level. While the wombat always makes me smile, and I know we have an awful lot in common, there are a few other creatures that have an inexplicable impact on my mood.

Firstly there is the Black Cockatoo. Whether it’s the glint of colour from its sunlight hitting its tail, or simply the sound of its piercing call in the distance, or even just the act of stumbling into one feeding upon a mountaintop Casuarina grove, I can’t help but have a wave of contentment sweep over me. No matter how tired, wet, fed up or geographically challenged I might be, the Black Cockatoo touches a subconscious part of me.

Next is probably the butterfly. Again, its appearance always seems to be a good omen. When I first started bushwalking, generally alone, and still had a lot to learn about navigation, I developed the habit of deferring to butterflies at moments of indecision. For instance, where a track forked, if a butterfly fluttered past me one way or the other I’d take it as a sign and follow along. Years on I’ll still swear blind that a butterfly has never steered me wrong.

Finally there is the wombat, whose unlikely physique and ungainly gait make it the most unlikely bushwalker. Its tunnels through thick, impenetrable scrub have been used by me on hands and knees more than once, and its general bushcraft technique carefully emulated. There’s nothing quite as surprising as watching a short, chunky, hairy beast move impossible fast through even the thickest undergrowth.

So with that, how about I finish with the first few lines of another poem devoted to the humble wombat, Becca Kellaway’s Ode to a Wombat:

O! for a cool slab of VB, that hath soaketh
in an esky, chilled by its icy embrace
tasting of angels’ piss; but it so inebriateth
mine mind, that I no longer see her face.
Instead ’tis thee, Wombat…

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