Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Day Thirty Nine: Crikey! We went to a zoo…

Well what a day this has been, I woke around 5.45am thinking that it was an hour later (the clocks went back again last night) and worked my way to Deck 12 to watch the ship coming into Brisbane port. It was mild and muggy and I fired off a few photos as we made our way up a very winding river. Hilary planned to have a shower and then decided that she would rather see the arrival and she joined me around 6.30am, we both waited until we went under the main bridge across the river (6ft clearance) and then I went for breakfast while Hilary stayed to watch the ship turn itself through 360 degrees so that we would be facing forward when we leave tonight. I caught a part of that and it was fascinating to watch the crew in action during this manoeuvre which relied on two tugs pushing us round and completely blocking the river. We also discovered how they get the forward lines out and it starts with a man in the bow lowering what looks like a thin rope with a bag of sand on one end and a ball on the other. He lowers this bag until someone out of sight to us but lower in the forward part of the ship obviously grabs it and ties it onto a bigger rope. When the ship is close to the dock this same man throws the ball with the thin rope on it to men standing on the shore. The ball seems sticky as it doesn’t bounce and the men on shore grab this and haul away pulling the thin rope until the big lines with the loops on the end can be placed on a bollard. Pay attention as there will be a test on this procedure at the end of this blog! Whatever they did after that was just to tighten the springs and the lines so that the ship was snug against the dock and they could run out the boarding thingies. ‘Nuff said.

We did the usual Theatre Royal, pick up your sticky badge with tour B1-1 on it, sit and wait until your group is called and then follow the nice man down the stairs, off the ship – not forgetting to have your card swiped as you go so that the machine can recognize you and say ‘Goodbye’ – and onto the coach. It was a nice coach, air conditioned, the driver and the courier spoke English (well ‘Strine’ actually but close enough) and we were on it for just over an hour to get to the Australia Zoo. For those of you who don’t know it this is the zoo made famous by the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and he poured millions of dollars into it to turn what was once a small family run rescue centre into a world class zoo involved with maintaining wild life in an eco friendly manner. We had roughly 3 hours there and this was time enough to see the kangaroos and wallabies that wander freely around the park and I even got the chance to pet one, well I sort of touched his ear while Hilary took a photo. We spent a long time with the koalas, shy little creatures that like to sleep a lot and stink like crazy, I would not fancy holding one of those although I am told that at certain times of the day this is allowed. Hilary had her photo taken by a zoo lady as she stroked a baby crocodile but when we saw the picture we didn’t consider it worth buying and then it was time for the big show of the morning in the Crocoseum. This is a huge staged arena with seating on 3 sides and you look down on a meandering pool with a concreted area that the host walks on, once upon a time this would have been Steve himself but nowadays it is one or more of the assistants. The show starts with a tribute to Steve and his conservation attempts and proceeds with shows of snakes swimming, birds flying – these were spectacular with brightly coloured parakeets and cockatoos and several other species all colours of the rainbow – just flying freely from one helper to another in search of seed. Then we had the main event which was the introduction of the salt water croc that swam silently up and down the pools jumping out for meat hung in his path and finally leaping several feet out of the water to reach meat hanging from a platform. Great stuff and all on tape – don’t worry you will see it through the eyes of our camera all in good time. With the show over we managed to see the Tasmanian Devil, some fresh water crocs and of course grab a pizza and coffee for lunch before we had to get back on the coach for the ride back.

Hilary needed to get some more scrapbook supplies so instead of getting on the ship we caught the next available free shuttle coach into the city of Brisbane where to be honest we spent no time at all looking at the sights but instead hunted for shops that might sell scrapbooks and refills. We found these in a shop called Big W and we also found some macadamia nuts (grown extensively in these parts we were told) and some curious candies called Jaffas that we were introduced to by our coach courier. These are hard shelled candies with a chocolate centre and although they sound a bit like M & M’s they taste very differently and are actually spherical. As a last minute shop we also went into Woolworth’s, yes they are still in business over here, and bought some orange juice for Hilary and some Ribena for Jess if she is able to see us and if we are allowed to take it ashore in Hong Kong. And with that our daytime was virtually over, all that was left to do was to get back on the bus, through the security procedure, listen to the ‘Welcome’ as our cards are read by the machine and drag our tired bodies back to the cabin. With that I will turn you over to Hilary who I know wants to answer some of the questions on last night’s comments and also tell you her version of today’s activities.

Tiz I. Almost got the day but with a few extra comments. The Australia Zoo is very conscious of conservation and saving injured and endangered animals – Hayles you would love this place. The enclosures are natural, open and not made to make the animals ‘on show’, in fact, in some it is quite difficult to see who lives there. Animal privacy is respected and sometimes you just have wait for the animal to come out into the open. The wallabies live in a huge area (a couple of acres at least) with natural food growing on the river bank etc. They graze most of the time and totally ignore the people who are allowed to wander amongst them – the animals have all the rights and the people have to respect that. It is fantastic. The koala bears sleep in the Eucalyptus trees and the people can walk around the trees on elevated walkways. The koala’s sleep most of the day (approx. 20 hours) and eat the poisonous eucalyptus leaves which take an enormous amount of digesting. We had to wait ages for one koala to rearrange himself in his tree so we could see his face but it was worth it. A lovely way to spend the morning and we have been so lucky with the weather. It rained a bit today but the incredible heat has gone making it much easier for us Brits to cope. Even Sydney was a lovely temperature and, of course, we had the bonus of seeing Brian there! We really like Australia. Now to answer the questions on the blog. For Sharon. The photograph was a complete fake. The bird that appears to be in our hands is a kiwi and they are nocturnal so would not be outside in the sunshine. In fact the kiwi couldn’t be asked to associate with people in the real world. The bird above Sam’s head is a wild bird but was not available when we had the photo taken so they added it later. I was back to front with where Colin and Graham live. It is Graham in Queensland – the sunshine state, and Colin in Melbourne where the fires are! – sorry folks I was tired and the senior moment memory kicked in, so switch around what I said yesterday and you will be good. For Julian, I still don’t know about the engines but I am planning to find out tomorrow! We have found that Woolworths is alive and well in the southern hemisphere and Brisbane has some great discount shops where I found the supplies I needed for the scrapbook – the shuttle bus between the berth and the city was free and extremely comfortable so an easy option to take. I would like to have had more time in both the Australian cities we have visited but the ship always leaves about 5.30 – 6pm so it can be a bit of a rush around to manage a tour and a shop. I have not sent any cards from here as I did not have time to get back to the ship, write the cards and get them into the mailbox before the ship pulled away. The engines have just been fired up so we will be leaving in the next few minutes – a long slow cruise down the river then out to sea and follow the coastline up to Whitsunday Islands, we will be there in 2 days time. Take care everyone, God bless.

Ok this may not go out as it seems we have satellite problems with the internet but I am prepared to give it a go, if not you will be reading this a day later. I won’t attempt to post any photos tonight but we have a bunch of them with pictures of the zoo and I will post them as soon as I can. Good night.

Good morning! The internet was down last night as I feared and some of you will be getting this a few hours late. We are currently cruising in the gap between the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef and already this morning after breakfast we have seen flying fish and one pod of about 7 dolphins. That made Hilary’s day. Will post this now and try again tonight with today’s activities. Enjoy….

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