Temp: 25 C
I arrived at Bungalow Bay Koala Village and wondered why I hadn’t chosen this hostel. It had a very relaxed vibe, yet the organisation and trustworthiness of a YHA hostel. A-frame cabins dotten in around the trees and a chilled out decked bar/reception/pool area. It’s a little more pricey than Base but it’ll be on my list should I return there. This hostel also has its own wildlife (mini) sanctuary and although I don’t like paying for these things, I feel I got my money’s worth.
A small group of us (7) were lead around the little enclosures by an English ranger who clearly loved her job. She spoke confidently and answered questions gladly about all the animals she introduced to us. I came away feeling I had just had a really interesting biology lesson about Australian wildlife and also had some of my fears about snakes and other venomous creatures greatly reduced.
First was Barbie, a 6 year old Freshwater crocodile. I discovered that some crocs can live up to 180 years and can grow to over 5 metres long! Barbie had her mouth taped shut, which considering she has multiple layers of teeth, I was quite pleased about. They are instinctive animals, with no social skills and live territorially. They don’t get energy from food; they only need it to grow. With no sun, they are very lethargic and not really interested in eating. Maybe you know this, but I found it interesting. They only mate to reproduce and don’t form relationships with other crocodiles or need to have a social group (loners!) and can go for a long time without eating. They are also ambush hunters, which means, a crocodile will not see you and run after you on a river bank or beach. It is the crocs you can’t see that are the most dangerous, as they will leap some 3 metres out of the water to surprise the mammal they have chosen for dinner.
After Barbie was Shadow, a Lorikeet. This was a big, slightly grumpy bird, more interested in men than women, and proved this by puffing out his feathers each time he was sitting on a man’s arm. Not known for their intelligence, unlike Cockatoos; who can be quite cheeky and therefore unpredictable, Lorikeets are a safe bird to have as a pet. I was fascinated at the way Shadow took a seed from the ranger’s mouth: using his curiously shaped tongue to seize the seed and then his large, frightening beak to break the shell and eat the centre. It wasn’t a show; All of us who held him did the same trick, and seeing that huge hooked beak some towards my face made me a little apprehensive but shadow, delicately took the seed from me with his tongue and ate it.
Next; Captain, the cockatoo. Quite a cheeky bird, who speaks and pecks and performs little tricks, and did not like being put in his cage for the night. The birds are locked up night for their own safety, so night animals can’t harm them and so no one can steal them!
The huge wombat was next, called Harry. He was asleep in his log, but we managed to have a peek in as he was waking up from his all day nap. Their closes cousin is the koala, as they have the most similar traits; sleeping aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalll day.
The koalas were just delightful and it was the closest I had ever been to a Koala, so yes, I did pay an extra $14 dollars to hold one and have a photo with Noah, the 2 year old koala. This is the cheapest place to do it in Australia and apparently it’s Queensland law to pay for a photo with a koala. I hope my $14 dollars got the best quality eucalyptus leaves for little Noah. Christina showed us her little baby, very recently born and still in the pouch. Koalas carry their young for a total of 18 months, which I believe is one of the longest periods of time to “mother” their young. This is still not as long as the Spanish, who carry their young until about the age of 30…
Our second to last visit was the lizards and skinks. I held a skink called Sheila, who was one of the ugliest things Mother Nature has produced! They have a tail that looks like a head, appearing double-headed, as their only form of defence. Poor things.
Finally… the snakes. Yes, I held one. Yes I wanted to vomit. No it wasn’t poisonous, nor did it try to bite me, but it was an uncomfortable moment. I still fail to understand why anyone would chose to have this as a pet. Snakes have no feelings and cannot feel comfort and love for a mammal. The only they curl around you ( if they don’t want to squeeze the life out of you) is to get your warmth which is why their favourite place is your neck. Yuk. But at least I can say I have done it.
I was assured that if I am bitten by a venomous snake in the bush (one of my constant fears as the lethal Brown Snake is prominent in this area), I am unlikely to die as long as I can get to a hospital within 4 hours. I have worked out that this is possible, even if an ambulance makes the journey out to the station, I can also “buy” myself two hours by correctly immobilising the area. People in India and Africa die of snake bites fairly regularly because they simply don’t have the medical facilities to deal with it: Australia does. So, stamp your feet whenever you are bush walking and the snakes should slither away. Ok. Noted.
Almost forgot the parakeet feeding! These beautiful birds were just fascinating to watch and feed. Some soggy bread in my hands and a dozen birds swooped down onto me, scratching my arms with their tiny claws and pooing on my head, but making me laugh and smile incredibly. I took nearly a hundred photos of them, in my obsession and awe of them, and a video too, which I hope captures the noise and madness of the moment!
22nd-24th June 2012
Weather: Rain, cloud, sunshine, drizzle, cloud
Temp: 20-25 C
I arrived on a dripping wet Magnetic Island, after a very soggy day in Townsville. I slid off the ferry and onto the bus, paid my $1.70 and plastered a smile on my face determined not to let the weather have a negative effect on my holiday.
I checked into Base Backpackers, the only backpackers directly on the beach in Australia. (This is their claim, so forgive me if I am wrong). I last stayed here on my trip up the east coast in 2004 and being 20, I doubt pissed-up backpackers and excessive noise bothered me in the way it does now, but I chose to ignore those sentiments for the next 36 hours and join in. Everyone in the bar was indeed, drunk. It had been raining all day, and in compensation for this, the bar manager had thoughtfully been putting on drinks specials and extended happy hours since 10am. My free glass of bubbly went down rather well, as did the next few, leading me to continue buying more and so quickly catch up with my new travel friends and join in on the puddle dancing madness of backpacker drinking.
The next day, I was rudely awoken at 7am to loud music blasting out from the bar. I thought my watch must have stopped and that it was later (my $5 watch has been playing that game of stopping recently, causing me to have a few near misses this trip!). Nope, it really was 7am and after plying us all with drinks all night long, the bar staff were up and about and letting everyone know about it. I consoled myself with an egg and bacon role (hangover) and sat watching the sea, in the sunshine wondering how to spend this rare blast of sun, knowing that the rain would soon be back.
Unable to make clear decisions after so many litres of alcohol I thought it was a good idea to go for a hike. I have fallen victim to this before, you may remember a lot of my walks in Slovakia were due to a guilt-ridden hangover that I thought would be eradicated with exercise.
I took the bus, which was fun in itself for $7. It meandered through the villages of Magnetic Island, providing time to gape at people’s front gardens, swimming pools and neighbouring coves to dream of a possible life here on the Island that Captain Cook’s compass got confused about.
I got off the bus and decided to take the Fort walk. Apparently you can see wild koalas, wallabies and snakes. I didn’t meet any of those locals, but I did enjoy the very rewarding views once reaching the sweaty summit. The remains of the forts and battle type things were there and most were possible to explore or climb around. This, I wasn’t too keen on, as I was very aware of what might have been lurking inside. On the Ascent I must have oozed out at least a bottle of bubbles, so on the descent I felt somewhat dizzier and more sober.
At the bottom, I sat I the sun waiting for the bus to take me to the Koala Sanctuary.