Friday, April 10, 2009

The Bouncer Says Hello

If you want to make friends with a kangaroo or wallaby, you're normally going to need food. Failing that, convince them you have food long enough for them to come within arm's reach. They aren't huge fans of being petted like cats or dogs, but I've had luck scratching the side of the back, behind the shoulder blades. I met this one at the Billabong Koala Reserve in Port Macquarie. He (she? I didn't check) was probably the friendliest of the bunch, though the albinos gave competition. This reserve's animals were all bred in captivity, and weirdly the ones bred in captivity have a much higher chance of being born albino. The white fur is one thing, but the dark red eyes are a little unsettling.

I was expecting something a bit more... wild, but the Reserve turned out to be essentially a small zoo. Still, it's not everyday you get into a petting paddock with roos or a chance to pat a koala. The place was one of two reasons I'd come to this town.

A lot of people miss Port Macquarie. I might've as well except for two words in my guide book: Koala Hospital. I checked it out, it was exactly what it sounded like. A clinic with indoor and outdoor recovery wards, operating room, and dispensary. The patients? Wild koalas. It started as a garage operation, expanded to a few wood buildings and then captured the heart of a wealthy elderly German woman who left her entire estate to the operation. It's surrounded by eucalyptus trees and treats injured and sick koalas found and rescued by 120 volunteers (or maybe one of the two paid employees).

The hospital doubles as an education center on the animals. Around the grounds are signs with tidbits on their habitat, feeding, physical characteristics and breeding behaviors. Some have stories about one of the local favorite koalas, a permanent resident of the hospital who is totally blind. Also they describe the disappearing habitat for wild koalas, and how many get hurt because they will always return to their favorite place, no matter what happened to the trees there sometimes resulting in things like attacks from dogs. I talked to one of the employees for a while who told me that the day before koala hunting was banned, companies hoping to use their fur killed more than 600,000 koalas in Queensland. I'd never even heard of koala hunting, or that the fur was used for anything. Apparently a lot of it was used to make toy kangaroos. It sounds like some sort of sick joke-- imagine being a kid and finding out how your favorite little stuffed kangaroo was made. But things have changed-- if you ever want to make sure an animal's safety is assured, make sure the animal is cute. People from all over the world want to help the little guys.

I went from Port Macquarie to Byron Bay, the local hippie community and beach. Good stop to make, even if it's making the switch from actual hippie haunt to a place where tourists pay extra for a hippie-style trinkets, classes, etc. On a whim I took a hike through the forest to the beach cliffs to a lighthouse by moonlight. No flashlight. Just the moon appearing and disappearing behind clouds. Forget moonlit walks on the beach, take a chance and walk through the woods by moonlight sometime. Getting to the easternmost point in the Australian continent was a bonus. So was following my way to a great looking lighthouse. I used to think it was kind of strange how people seemed fascinated by lighthouses. That was before I spent an hour finding a hidden path to get to one after dark,

I'm in Brisbane now for the Easter holidays. Good Friday turns out to be a bit more of a big deal here than elsewhere-- everything shuts down, even the grocery stores. I ended up at a barbecue with a ton of Irish and English backpackers in a park. It rained. Seems appropriate, weirdly. Australia brings the barbecue, the British isles bring the weather. Or maybe someone upstairs was annoyed with us for eating meat that day. Tough call.

Check out this entry's Photos.


  1. I love that picture!


  2. The bouncer pun just hit me. Nice.

  3. I have to say, I keep coming back just to look at that photo of the adorable baby. Good work!

  4. Yeah, focus aside, I'm pretty proud of that shot. And I'm almost sorry about the pun. Almost.