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Published: March 15th 2011
The extra days we had booked on our return from New Zealand were to give us the chance to do something we really wanted to do before, but never found the time. Alas, Tuesday didn’t give us that chance as it was a disappointingly miserable, wet day. But on Wednesday, with the promise of a much more pleasant day, we went across the road to catch a bus into the city. We didn’t know which number bus to catch but the very next one had CITY on the front so Graham flagged it down. We asked for day returns and said we wanted to go as near to THE ZOO as possible. The driver kindly advised us to stay on the bus until we were just past the city centre and he would give us the nod when it was best to get off. So within half an hour of leaving Sweetie we were outside the gates of Adelaide Zoo anxious to see two special guests. In addition to a huge variety of animals all kept in very good surroundings, about sixteen months ago the zoo acquired TWO GIANT PANDAS and I was desperate to see them.
The story of
Coming in to the city centre on the bus
past the famous Haigh's Chocolate Factory
how ‘Wang Wang’ and ‘Funi’ came to live in Adelaide is, in itself, a rather sad one: on the 12th May 2008 the Wenchuan Earthquake devastated the Sichuan province in China and destroyed the Wolong Giant Panda Research Centre where they lived. Fortunately they survived and were moved to another centre in China and eventually, in November 2009 were brought to Adelaide. They are the only Giant Pandas in the Southern Hemisphere. Funi has a twin brother called Fuwa and that reminds me, it's Patrick and Jonathan's birthday in a couple of days - happy 5th birthday to you both! (the twins live opposite Sarah and Darryl).
I had been looking at the information on the internet and people were advised to go as early as possible in the morning as that’s when the pandas are most active. We were there soon after opening time and they were our first port of call. The zoo was still fairly quiet so we had brilliant views of both pandas inside and outside their enclosures. They have become a major attraction and often a queuing system and a time restriction is employed but today was a relatively quiet weekday so no restrictions
were in force. As Giant Pandas are solitary animals they are kept in separate enclosures but are regularly switched from one to the other to enable them to become familiar with each others smells and surroundings. Wang Wang is 6 years old and Funi is 5 and eventually it’s hoped they will become a mating pair and be the start of a breeding programme in Australia. I was really thrilled to see them and, although he was playing it cool, I think Graham was quietly “chuffed” as well.
We spent most of the day at the zoo and had our lunch in The Lyrebird Cafe. We didn’t see many of the “timed” displays, preferring to stroll casually and looking at things at our leisure. I did, though, leave Graham relaxing by the café to go to see the feeding of the male Sumatran Tiger, Tuan. I have always loved tigers and this one was a magnificent specimen. How tragic it is that so many of these animals are greatly endangered in the wild. We found time for another look at the pandas but, by now, they appeared exhausted and were just “flopped” over tree stumps, seemingly asleep.
the bus back proved far more difficult than the morning’s journey. We made our way to where we had got off the bus earlier and waited at the stop on the opposite side of the road. Bus after bus went by, either without stopping or displaying a sign saying “No Pick Up”. Just when we thought we would have to walk into the city to find an appropriate bus, a sympathetic driver pulled up and asked where we were headed – we clearly looked like lost and bewildered tourists. When we told him, he encouraged us to hop on as, although the sign on the front suggested a completely different destination, he would actually be passing reasonably close to our caravan park. How good was that? So, after a smooth journey back through the city and a five minute walk, we were back at the caravan by 4:00pm. We both went for a swim and then I spent time on the computer looking at the many photos I had taken. I was pleased with them all but especially those of the pandas. A quiet evening in was spent reflecting on another interesting day in Adelaide.
The following day, Thursday,
was spent preparing for our departure on the Friday. We had been parked on the Marion Caravan Park for a total of 29 nights although, of course, for 11 of those we were actually in New Zealand. We re-fuelled PIE, did some shopping at Westfield and did a bit of re-arranging of SWEETIE as being parked up for so long makes you become casual and a bit dis-organised. We would need to get back into our normal day to day camping routine although, compared with many of the regular Aussie campers we’ve come across, our normal routine is still very amateurish. As has become a fairly regular practice whilst in Adelaide, we spent the evening watching the sunset at Brighton (and YES – eating fish and chips!). We’ll remember our time in Adelaide fondly. As major cities go, it’s fairly casual and relaxed and the Marion Caravan Park proved an ideal base for a variety of reasons. Tomorrow we head towards The Flinders Ranges via the wine region of Clare.
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