Tuesday, March 19, 2013

day 9 of my australia trip

Eye hath not seen nor ear heard the mind-boggling awesomeness of this day. Wait until I tell you; you will plotz.

First, we caught our flight with no problems, the seats were squishy and made us thankful to not fly Jetstar with any kind of regularity, and the flight was quick and uneventful.

When we got to Launceston we stopped for breakfast at a place called Cafe Mondello. Claire got Eggs Benedict, Elaine got Eggs SS (smoked salmon instead of ham), and I got baked beans with poached eggs, spinach, and a fried tomato. It was good. I bought an Anzac biscuit that I couldn't finish because I was still sweeted out from Owen's birthday cake last night.

We decided to drive all the way down to the south end of the island to go to the Bonarong Wildlife Sanctuary, because Elaine's friend had gone there on a cruise shore excursion and recommended it very highly. Children, I do not have words. You pay your money, only $24, and for that you get entry to the park, a tour, and a sack of kangaroo food. We fed actual kangaroos, and they came up and ate the food right from our hands! We fed a mother whose joey was nursing while we fed her, and few males, and then another mother whose joey was all stuffed in the pouch with one of his legs hanging out. It was so cool! They have soft fur, but not a lot of fat, so they don't feel all cuddly like a cat or dog. They remind me of deer.
Then we did the tour. The keeper showed us the baby wombat first. Its mother had been hit by a car, and luckily somebody checked her pouch and found the baby wombat inside. Evidently wombats are the most aggressive marsupials they have--they seem all slow and cuddly, but they are fast and territorial and fierce and destructive. They stay with their mothers until they're about two years old, when they start trying to defend the territory from her, at which point she throws them out. So they're solitary in the wild. They have a big patch of cartilage on their hindquarters so it doesn't hurt to be bitten or scratched there. We got to pet it on the back. They get released slowly back into the wild, getting a chance to find their own territory so they don't encroach on another wombat and have to fight it. This one is named Ben, and he's still pretty friendly and will let the keeper hold him. He'll stay there for a little while, and then they'll start releasing him once he starts defending his pen from the keepers.
Then we saw the devils. The keeper fed them dead baby chicks and other animal pieces, just a snack because they are nocturnal and typically eat at night. One of them steals all the food and has gotten all chubby because she's following the wild devil instinct to gorge whenever there is food, because you never know how long it is until the next meal. In the wild they are shy and hide from people, but these were much more . . . friendly isn't the right word, I guess. We'll call it approachable. They are fast little buggers, and they growl at each other when they want the same thing. One of the most dangerous dogs to a devil is the Jack Russell terrier, because they were bred to go down holes and kill vermin, and the devil isn't actually very good at defending itself, even though their bite strength is six times greater than a pit bull's, about as strong as a lion or crocodile.
Next we saw the koala. Earlier while we were walking around Claire and I saw a koala walking around on some branches, and then it jumped with a big thud onto the ground right in front of us and walked around to the back of the enclosure and started scratching itself. I've never seen a koala move so much! The one the keeper brought out wasn't quite so peppy, but it did move around and scratch itself for us, and we all got to pet its little back. They are very soft. Koalas are not native to Tasmania, because when all the other animals were migrating there during the last ice age there wasn't enough variety of eucalyptus to sustain them. There are only a handful of types of eucalyptus in Tasmania, and the keeper said that is enough for koalas born and raised in Tasmania, but not enough for koalas who are used to more. Koalas are quite picky and only eat the ends of the leaves, and then only if they taste just exactly right. You would need 1000 eucalyptus trees to keep one koala for one year.

This was pretty much the coolest zoo/animal thing I've ever done. I'm happy that not many people get to Tasmania, because I bet if it were more crowded they would stop letting people get so close to the animals. I am so glad we went there. It's definitely a highlight of my trip.

After Bonarong we started north again on our way to our house. We had mediocre food at a sad little pub in Ross which was our only option because lunch places close at two or five, and dinner places don't open until six.

We got to our house when it was getting dark. It's just a cute little 60s house in a quiet neighborhood. We had to hurry to grab some groceries for Sunday before Woolworth's closed, and on our way home we saw a restaurant that served gelato and decided to stop. As soon as we walked in we regretted our earlier dinner decision, because it smelled so good in there. We each got a scoop of gelato and shared a vanilla slice, which was delicious, the exact kind of thing I want a bakery/patisserie to make, because unlike a stupid cupcake, I'm not going to make a vanilla slice or Napoleon at home.


beckster said...

Thanks for posting this. This part of your visit was awesome, and you taught me a lot.