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Published: September 4th 2011
This morning Matt got up at o'dark-thirty with Rowelly. He was letting us borrow his car for the day to go to Australia Zoo, which meant that Matt had to drive him to work. Better him than me. Rowelly has an SUV and the roads here are narrower than the States. Combine that with driving on the wrong side of the road and that would just be a recipe for disaster if I got behind the wheel. I've driven on the left before but it's always been a compact rental car...not a huge, nice SUV that belonged to someone I knew.
Matt came back from dropping off Rowelly and I got up and got dressed and ready. We went to breakfast with Rowelly's brother, Keith. We had actually met Keith before this trip...he had come to the States to visit for three months when Rowelly was our neighbor. He was actually the one who gave us our nicknames...Matt and Mandi 2Doors 😊 Rowelly had several friends named "Matt" and Keith was trying to keep them all straight in his head so he gave them all nicknames. Because Matt lived two doors down he became matty2doors and I, by default, became mandi2doors. Thanks for the great nicknames Keith!!!
Anyways, we went to breakfast at a local place in town and it was absolutely fantastic. Matt had Baklava French Toast and I had some sort of beignet made with sweet potato and gruyere cheese, covered in a dill hollandaise sauce. Holy cow...I need to figure out how to make that at home.
After breakfast we headed out to Australia Zoo. It's about an hour away and we had Rowelly's iPad with 3G to GPS us there...thank goodness 😊 Matt has a great sense of direction but I don't and there were too many places where we could have taken a wrong turn on our way to the highway. After a good 30 minutes of driving through town we were finally on the highway and another 30 minutes later we exited onto Steve Irwin Way. Yes, Australia Zoo is THAT zoo. Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, founded this zoo and his wife and two children actually have a house on the property there. I'd heard a lot of great things about it and it's supposed to be one of the best zoos in Australia.
Rowelly had told us that there was supposed to be a military discount on admission, which was actually kind of unusual. There are tons of military discounts for American military IN America but not so much outside of it. Because Terri Irwin (Steve Irwin's wife) is American apparently this place was an exception. For any military members interested in going, you get a 10% discount off admission with your military ID. This applies to spouses as well. I don't know about kids under 10 that don't have an ID but as long as you have some sort of "Defense ID", as they call it, you should be able to get the discount. I showed my student ID and got a lower rate and then 10% off of that, so you can combine discounts too.
Let me just say that this place is amazing. I got to hold a koala and get my picture taken with it (that part cost extra) but everything else we got to do was free, including feeding and petting kangaroos and wallabies (which just look like small kangaroos), and feeding elephants. The kangaroos were in their own section of the park and you got "kangaroo food" out of a vending machine for $2 a bag...we shared a bag. Then you walked out into the park and pretty much hand-fed any of the kangaroos and wallabies lounging around outside. There were a few rules, like you couldn't pet the joeys (baby kangaroos) in the pouches, you had to control your kids, and you really shouldn't pull the food out from under them while they're eating. We also left the nursing mothers alone...we figured they probably didn't want to be disturbed.
Feeding the elephants was an incredible experience. They have feeding times and you line up in front of one of three elephants and pick up two pieces of fruit and/or vegetable in your hands. You stand where they've placed a mat so you're close enough for the elephant's trunk to reach you but not so close that they accidentally knock you over with it. You reach out your hand and the elephants reach out with their truck and take the food from your hand. The best part is that it's just beginning to be spring here so it's off-season at the zoo and the line was pretty short. They let you keep getting in line as many times as you wanted until they ran out of food. Near the end they let us take 6 or 8 pieces of food to feed them at a time. It was SO cool.
The koalas, the thing I was most excited to see, were so cute. They had several koala "pens", for lack of a better word, around the park. They had shortened trees for them to climb in so they were low enough for us to see and eucalyptus or tea tree limbs in big water vases for them to eat so they were happy. Matt and I are pretty convinced that the leaves they eat have some sort of a drugging effect on the koalas because they look stoned all the time. All they do is eat and sleep...and boy are they cute when they sleep 😊 They're also kind of stinky...they have scent glands on their chest so I smelled like koala for the rest of the day after the picture. Also, they have REALLY long, sharp nails and they kind of dig in to your arms when you hold them. I didn't care about either thing...he was cute and so soft and Matt and I had a great picture with him. We got to pet ones up in the tree in two of the other pens but the photo places was the only time you could hold one.
Of course there were crocodiles, tortoises, various birds and snakes, and tons of other things at the zoo. We enjoyed seeing the wombats and other animals that you don't typically get to see anywhere else. There were also tons of scrub turkeys and water dragons running loose all over the park. The scrub turkeys were nesting and were making quite a mess of things but were very funny to watch. The water dragons look like iguanas but not the bright green that we're used to seeing. You came across them sunning themselves all over the park, in different animal pens but also on the walkways and benches.
We spent almost 5 hours at the zoo and that was enough for us to see everything. It really helped that there really wasn't many people there. We headed back to Brisbane just in time to pick up Rowelly from work. We showered the koala and kangaroo smell off of us and then met up with Rowelly's dad, Les, Keith, and Keith's girlfriend for dinner. We drove down to the river dock and caught the ferry into downtown which was really cool and also saved us from having to find parking spots once we got down there. We ate at a Japanese restaurant near the water, which was really good. It was family-style dining, which I've never experienced before at a Japanese restaurant.
After dinner we headed back to the ferry and then back to Rowelly's so we could get to bed at a decent hour. Matt and Rowelly are going to go surfing tomorrow and they're getting up early to do it. I might go to the beach with them and just catch a little bit of sun but I really have no interest in surfing. I'm not fond of falling down and hurting myself, and it seems to hurt more and more the older I get lol.
(Pictures to follow in a day or so. Matt's camera is incompatible with Rowelly's MacBook so we have to wait until we get to an internet cafe to get the pictures off of it. Macs are a pain but I'm thankful for the internet connection just the same.)
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