Australia 99 p3

Gorge Zoo koalas

Tuesday, September 14

While we were still preparing my trip, Anne had e-mailed me asking whether I would like to pet a koala. My answer was along the lines of: "YES YES YES!" When I was 6 in school, our reading book was a wonder-filled story that included two pet koalas. I still keep the book, and I had always dreamt of cuddling one of these adorable creatures myself. Finally the day had come: the place was Gorge Wildlife Park, a family-run zoo in the Australian countryside.

Watching the koalas in their enclosure was a joy in itself. They are truly adorable. They can run pretty fast on the ground, especially when food is brought. Some were blissfully napping, and I learned that their backside is shaped like a wedge and extra furry, to allow them to spend the nights lodged in the branches like the one below.

Waiting for food
After their feeding time, a handler took two out and brought them to the visitors queuing for that purpose. My koala felt just like a furry baby, weight and all. It fastened its arms around my neck and sniffed my nose curiously before settling its attention on a leafy branch the handler had just given it. I was a puddle for the full five minutes it spent chewing a snack in my arms, before it was returned to its family.

The rest of the zoo was no less interesting. I was able to get a good look at many typical Australian animals that I wouldn't have a chance to see in the wild, not to mention hearing a Tasmanian devil's maniacal cry and feeding wallabies. Wallabies are a small species of kangaroo, quite manageable. I say this because I encountered an actual, full-sized male kangaroo while I was sitting in the midst of a family of its relatives. I looked up to see this huge animal with fearsome biceps making its way towards me to get its share of popcorn. Kangaroos truly are awesome animals, not just awkward and funny as they are usually portrayed.

Tasmanian devil, a seriously hyper animal
Wombat: the largest rodent, big as a pig
The kookaburra has a very characteristic cry
Wallaby and kangaroo enclosure
I get along well with Wallabies...
Feeding the goats was a funny episode. They were literally all over us, fully willing to climb on my head if that was what it took to grab some food. The funniest of all however was this mean little bird. Whenever a visitor hands it a peanut it takes it, then quickly drops it to grab the finger instead. When the startled victim pulls out the finger, the bird starts laughing hysterically: "HahahahaHA!" The cheek!

Echidna on the run

On the way back we made a little detour by Gumeracha, where stands the Biggest Rocking Horse in the World. We were lucky enough to see an echidna on the road they are discreet creatures that don't usually show up. (When you see what looks like a dry land urchin, you know it's an echidna).

By then I had already acquainted myself with many an Australian specialty: lamingtons, pasties, wedges... Then of course there is Vegemite, and my diary entry on the subject is quite eloquent: "Concentrated yeast extract. Spread that only Aussies can swallow. Smells foul."