Sunday, November 20, 2011

Adventures in Oz: Invisible Platapus and the Australia Zoo (Part 4 of 6)

Link to Part 1: Cairns
Link to Part 2: Great Barrier Reef
Link to Part 3: Port Douglas and The Road

Coming up to every new city on our road trip, we'd stop at the information centers and see what was nearby to decide if we wanted to stop and do one of the activities. Most were for resorts, hiking areas, skydiving, or boat trips. Then there was this gem:

I like koalas as much as the next girl, but I don't need some kind of freaky three-way with a crocodile.

In a touristy area called Airlie Beach we found an ice creamery that is both familiar and unfamilar.
Not to be confused with that other place.
Just outside of the shopping and adventure-booking centers was our campground. A very nice facility, well maintained with lots of showers and restrooms and a short walk to a kitchen facility where we could cook (if we hadn't had the equipment in the back of our camper van) or wash our dishes.

Airlie Beach. Where the ibises are white and the ducks are squeaky.

We drove for hours and hours and saw almost nothing but this:

Australia gives me a new frame of reference for "rural." The amount of sheer distance between anything just blows my mind. You can drive for hours and see no more civilization than a farm house in the distance or one single school bus stop sign with no schools, stores, or gas stations within miles.

We also attempted to go platypus spotting. We drove up a mountain on a very curvy road in milk-thick fog and Husband cracked a joke about "platypus in the mist." Did you know platypuses live in the mountains? I had no idea. I did know that they're venomous, but I didn't know that they locate prey by sensing its electromagnetic field. Weird.

I like to think the shorter stick person is saying, "Look, Dad, a giant arrow!"
This way to platypuses!

This is where they live!
We didn't see a single platypus. Boooooo.

But there was a turkey in the parking lot as some sort of cosmic consolation prize.

The drive up the mountain wouldn't have been very interesting because it was all gray outside the windows, but here's a little bit of our drive down. It's not necessarily amazing by itself, but it's very different from driving along the coast, where we saw nothing but farmland.
That crashing sound you hear when we go over the cow catchers is all the silverware and glasses rattling around.

Like I was saying, very different from this:

Eventually we landed at the Australia Zoo, the one run by Steve Irwin's family. Many years ago I gave up seeking out zoos because they're so depressing. Animals are bored, lonely, or in cages much too small. This is not the case for the Australia Zoo. It's really a fantastic venue, and if you ever have a chance to go you'd really be missing out if you didn't.

Of course there are crocodiles. Conveniently, there is also a handy chart of instructions on how to view said crocodiles. One method is right, the others will apparently result in death.

This 2-foot lizard is a water dragon, and they aren't in any of the exhibits. They're just cruising around wild.

There was a good reptile house, too. This painstakingly assembled python skeleton was in the middle.

Another turkey. It took a stroll through the wombat exhibit before hopping the fence to see what was going on by the concession stands.

One of the things I really like about this zoo is that a lot of the animals get taken on walks around the park. The wombats, tigers, and elephants for certain. It's obvious that the handlers have good relationships with the animals.

Wombat on a walk.

Another thing I liked was how open everything is. A lot of the koalas weren't even in enclosures, they were in trees with signs hun on them saying, "There's a koala in this tree." During the day they're pretty sleepy, so it mostly looked like gray Popples stuck in the branches, but a handful were moving around and chomping leaves.

Just outside the koala neighborhood, this water dragon let me take a really nice closeup.

There is a section for the tigers, as well. There's a stomach-turning exhibit to educate people about the poaching of and illegal trade in tiger parts, but I agree that it's something people need to know about. The tigers living here, though, have got it made.
Life is hard.
The trainers have been with those tigers for the entirety of the tigers' lives, and they have a great relationship. Where else can you see the trainers getting into the enclosure with big cats just to play with them?

There was a kangaroo/wallaby area as well, but the pictures and video from the Port Douglas wildlife habitat are better. This, though, was new to me. It's a life-size representation of how big some species of kangaroo can get. Holy crap!

The last thing we saw was the otters. They like their handler, and they love peanuts.
We only caught the last minute or two of the afternoon "these are otters and here are some interesting facts about them" talk, but afterward we noticed that all three were staring at the door to the enclosure. The woman came out on the outside and we chatted for a couple minutes. When she said, "Hey, girls," to the otters, they all looked at her and chirped hopefully.

She relented and got some peanuts for them. They were so happy!

...and here's a picture of a magpie for no reason other than it hopped over and posed for me.

Link to Part 5: Tamborine Mountain and Surfer's Paradise
(cannibalism, a fairy woman, and a haunted house)

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