Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Animalia of Terra Australis

It was a decidedly grey day in the Blue Mountains. With Sharon's sister in town we planned a weekend getaway there -- hiking on Saturday, spending the night in one of the local towns at a quaint (read: outdated) motel, and then going to see the Three Sisters, a famous rock formation, on Sunday morning before heading back to Sydney. But any mountains that existed, including the Three Sisters, were hidden by a cloud that descended on us. We could tell our altitude had increased by the popping of our ears, but there was no indication that beautiful, sweeping views were ours to see if only the sun would come out.

This was a shame since the Blue Mountains are supposed to be beautiful. They get their name from the blue haze that comes from the moisture in the air mixing with the oil from all the eucalyptus trees. We thought it would be a great chance to show Dalia a part of Australia outside of Sydney.

Instead, as the rain pounded down outside we grabbed lunch in Katoomba, the main town in this part of the Blue Mountains, and debated our next steps. Sharon thought we should still proceed with our hiking plans. I said I wasn't going. Dalia concurred and we eventually convinced Sharon we'd be soaking wet and cold and muddy and probably slip'n'sliding down the trails within a few minutes.

This left the question: what to do with the rest of the day? We had already incurred the expense of a rental car -- might as well use it. Dalia had found, while flipping through a tourist pamphlet on Sydney, the Featherdale Wildlife Park. This was about halfway between our current location and home, so we decided to go.

As we entered the park, a wallaby hanging out on its own greeted us. We walked right up to it and were able to pet it. In fact, there were wallabies, and kangaroos, and koalas all over the park that you could pet or feed. Koalas got special treatment though. Whereas the wallabies and kangaroos could roam freely, the "show koala" (there were probably a couple dozen in the park, but only one at a time is accessible to visitors) snoozed on a stand while a keeper made sure no one got too animated and tried to pick it up. The koala, when we got there, was fast asleep. They only eat eucalyptus, which is a narcotic, so they essentially get stoned and then sleep 20 hours a day. They actually have to sleep that much or the eucalyptus will poison them, however. Interesting evolution. The koala was by far Dalia's and Sharon's favorite.

There were also a number of emus wandering the park. These animals are, I decided, not very bright. One kept trying to eat Sharon's shoe, even though it was obvious that her shoe wasn't edible. The park also had a Tasmanian Devil, which looks like an overgrown rat, a wide collection of birds, some beautiful Alpine Dingoes, a large crocodile, and the requisite reptile house full of snakes and lizards.

One of the most fascinating looking creatures was a bird called the Cassowary. If any animal looks like something out of the dinosaur age, this has to be it, at least from the neck up. It's got a giant fin on the top of its head that looks like it's out of the Jurassic era. I learned it's considered the "most dangerous bird in the world" according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Here are some photos we took:

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