This would be August 25th…
Up reasonably early, after a lovely night’s sleep, and rarin’ to go. (I am, anyway.) Bonnie, our hostess, graciously offers us accommodations for longer, but I stammer my way through a statement that we really want to hit the road see as much as we can see in the area until we get the campervan.
We get organized – with Barkley’s help, of course – while Bonnie runs the kids to school. When she returns, we are almost ready to roll. We say our farewells, get information about where to go to pick up a few essentials, then get a very valuable lecture on the subject of bakeries.
An Australian bakery is a combination bakery, food/snack bar and coffee house. It’s a great place to pick up a quick lunch for a few dollars, usually in the form of a pie. A pie, that is, in the English tradition: meat pies of all kinds, veggie pies and so forth, small enough to fit in the hand but usually large enough to satisfy the rumblies. We fondly recall the lecture many a time when we are hungry but do not want to stop for a sit-down meal.
On our way out of Sippy Downs, we stop in a small shopping center, where we make a few new discoveries. First of all, Woolworth’s is very much alive in Australia; moreover, it’s primarily an upscale supermarket. Second, cheap cell phones, with inexpensive calling plans, can be had at Australia Post offices. Third, the Aussies apparently like to keep close track of cell phones in the hands of foreign devils like ourselves: I practically have to leave a pound of flesh, not to mention AU$ 60-plus, before I am allowed out of the store. Finally, there is evidence of courtesy everywhere: I simply cannot imagine signs in U.S. stores addressing “dear customer” and saying “please.” But in Oz…
Once we have looked around and bought a few snacks, we sally forth. The plan is uncertain, but it does involve heading north on the M1 Motorway, aka The Bruce Highway, to see what we can discover. According to the maps I had consulted, there are expanses called national reserves and national parks everywhere, so we reason that every kilometer should bring some pleasant surprise. (Unfortunately, except for a few huge attractions like Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef, there seems to be no way to tell which are the must-see places and which ones one can bypass.)
But as always, there is the unexpected, and this one is a dilly. Having been tempted by signs with such exotic names as Beerwah, Caboolture, Beerburrum and such, we finally bite when we see a sign to Steve Irwin Way and Australia Zoo. We look at each other – and then it clicks. This is/was where the Steve Irwin had worked. We all agree that we should go, and spend the rest of the daylight hours there.
Australia Zoo is a huge place, with Steve Irwin’s spirit all-pervasive.
Steve’s wife and children clearly keep the place going, to the point of slight overcommercialization of the kids, particularly the 15 year-old Bindi. It’s one thing to have rides named after a child, but the gift shop is filled with Bindi dolls, Bindi clothing, Bindi toys, Bindi this, Bindi that. It’s just a little like a cult, at least to me.
But what do I know, right? I am just an old reactionary, intent on stopping the wheels of progress.
The zoo is fabulous, with (obviously) beautiful animals, but also extraordinary veggies. Also clever signs. A few samples of each follow.
We come across a wombat being taken for a walk.
Talk about firm flesh! Well, actually, most of their behind is apparently made of cartilage covered with toughened hide, designed to keep predators (dingoes and Tasmanian devils) at bay.
The wombat lives across the seas,
Among the far Antipodes.
He may exist on nuts and berries,
Or then again, on missionaries;
His distant habitat precludes
Conclusive knowledge of his moods,
But I would not engage the wombat
In any form of mortal combat.
A nighttime collision with a wombat can do serious damage to a car, I am told.
But wombats can get up their dander, as when they defend their territory: Humans who accidentally find themselves in a fray with a wombat may find it best to scale a tree until the animal calms and leaves. Humans can receive puncture wounds from wombat claws, as well as bites. Startled wombats can also charge humans and bowl them over, with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall. One naturalist, Harry Frauca, once received a bite 2 cm (0.8 in) deep into the flesh of his leg—through a rubber boot, trousers and thick woolen socks. (Wikipedia)
Not bad for a veggie-eater!
These guys, however, are pretty familiar.
Speaking of the latter, I imagine that no Australian zoo would be complete without a decent koala population, to include photo op and petting locations.
When weary of being admired, koalas can take a rest.
The Crocoseum show features crocodiles, birds, snakes…
There are brave and fearless snake handlers,
equally fearless croc handlers,
all kinds of birds flying in from all directions,
strutting their stuff
and leaving again, having exhausted the gullible humans’ supplies of bird food.
There is even one cheeky parrot that has been trained to steal money from people. The handler asks a lady in the audience to hold out her arm with an AU$ 10 in her hand, and swoosh, pluck and swoosh again…
Then come the heavyweights.
Damn good advice, I say!
The show concludes with the ominous demonstration just how high a croc can propel itself out of the water – the moral of this story being that you should never lean over a body of water where crocs may be found (not to mention entering the water or even carelessly approaching the shore).
Thoroughly impressed, we go off for lunch at the zoo human feedery, then continue our tour.
Roo Heaven is an absolute must-see.
You can play with kangaroos, feed, them and pet them to your heart’s delight.
Wherever you go, there are the scrub turkeys, either poaching food from you or scratching away. Because of their tail feathers, and because I am devilishly clever (though some misguided people might disagree), I ultimately labeled them “vertical stabilizer turkeys.” They are the source of more extreme Aussie cleverness at the zoo.
There is nothing like a good stretch when you are tired of visitors…
The Willie Wagtail keeps the kangaroos company. It’s an insectivore, so I assume it provides the roos with grooming services. Because it is a noisy and territorial varmint, maybe it also serves as early warning of danger.
As in any great national zoo, Australia Zoo has animals practically without count. Here are a few more highlights, but if I don’t cut it off, I will never get this published. I will put more great animals, and a lot of exotic veggies that we saw in the zoo, into a later file.
Okay, okay, I’m closing it out. Just a few more lines, if you please. We find a nice old-style motel in Beerburrum, where we dig in for the night. Before we hit the sack, however, we have to do some money laundering, since Lisa likes to collect stuff in restaurants and put them in her purse, and one of the things she had collected a long time ago was a small container of barbecue sauce, and it happened to break and contaminate all our cash, and so we really did have to launder money…