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Magnetic Island #2

Magnetic Island

23/06/12

Weather: sunshine

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!

 

What a difference the sunshine makes…

Jan 12th

What a difference the sunshine makes!

Today was what we could call my first “real” day, in that off I went this morning to class after class, navigating my way around Bratislava on the bus, the tram and the trolley bus to destinations I can’t pronounce and places I can’t locate on the map!

But without the damp mist that seemed to hover around like a bad smell, the buildings were certainly a different shade of grey and bathed in sunlight the whole city was a totally different place.

I set off this morning, my first class having been cancelled the night before, allowing me a generous lie-in until 7.30. I made it into town on bus 95 in plenty of time, marvelling all the way at buildings I hadn’t even noticed before. Off I hopped to make my change at the tram stop, deliberately missing the one I saw approaching, so I could smugly stand and wait knowing I had aeons of time. Tram 12 rattles into its stop, on I get eagerly checking my timetable against stops. It turns left. Did it turn left on Monday? No, having just missed one, the director and I had walked onto another stop for another line. Ok, no problem I think, scanning the screen for my stop. Doesn’t appear. That’s odd. Double check schedule and destination. Yes I am on the right one. Left again. This can’t be right. Off I get, whip out my street map and now I really am on an adventure and a mission. I’ve just got off the tram at a random stop in the middle of a city I have not yet explored and I need to get to a class in 45 mins. Best mistake I have made! I locate the stop I had used on Monday, for Tram 5, and race along cobbled streets towards it. This is Bratislava! Here are the lovely buildings I’ve seen in images of this city, the old churches and cobbled streets. Fabulous, but no time to marvel, got a tram to catch at 19 mins past! I race up the steps recognising the stop from another angle and skip across the road as the tram approaches. Phew. Wait a minute, this tram doesn’t list my stop either, I realise as we jerk into a tunnel. Ho hum. What to do. I soon realise that only the MAIN stops scroll across the screen and the dear old tram stops at them all. This is confirmed as I step off at destination stop Svanterova and number 12 comes squeaking up behind it. Oh well, learnt something about the trams. Along I skip, still very pleased with myself. I still have 20 mins till class and will arrive with more than enough time. This nasty looking housing estate is not a glum as it was in the fog, in fact the buildings are painted rather oddly in oranges and yellows. Yes… orange and yellow tower blocks. The school looks much cleaner and brighter as I approach and again I smile to myself at how easy this all is. I arrive slip on shoe covers. The Children remember my name and take very well to my new English Only policy (and strict it is too!).

Two hours later, I saunter, yes saunter because I have 2 hours to get to my next class back to the tram stop. This time I hop on Bus 83 for about 12 minutes and get off at a totally random place Sokolska to then catch the trolley bus. At least I am seeing the city now, although cleaner windows would be nice. I’m not looking forward to the next class cos a fellow teacher “helpfully” warned me that they were difficult to teach and the class was miles away from anything. When I arrive at Trnavska I spot a café next to the bus stop (He told me he’d walked for miles to find one!). It takes ages to cross a rather complicated road and as I am still 45 mins early I enter the “fresh food market”. This is weird. It’s nearly empty bar about 10 open shops which either sell fruit, veg, bread or a combination of the lot. There are some stalls selling food with tables too, but I am only brave enough to buy a mandarin and a pastry. It’s going to take a while since I answer every question with “Si”, greet people with “hola” and thank people… you know how it goes.

The class itself is fine. I enter an enormous building, which is the central office for a big bank. Hand over my passport (rather annoyingly have been told to carry this with me at all times for my business classes) and make my way towards elevator D, floor 5. Not as easy as it seems, as when I get out of the lift I realise I am stuck, cos my security pass doesn’t allow me to enter the next part, so I wait for a student to arrive. The class is in a glass cubicle, in the middle of an open plan office. I can’t scratch my bottom when I write on the board, not that I do normally…

After that class, I have to navigate my way back out and then find bus stop 50. This drops me at another random location Wustenrot where I whip out my street map (this is a street map, bought here, NOT a tourist guide) and enjoy working my way back to school. It’s now 3.40 and I have a substitute class to cover in less than an hour and everyone wants to know how I got on today. How nicely annoying. One to one class takes place in a classroom at the top of the building, to which I am given a special key. Student is waiting when I arrive. He is surprised I am not Mike, but after that initial confusion, the hour flies by.

5.30, can’t go home yet cos photocopies have to be made for my 7.30 class tomorrow nd everything I taught today has to be typed into the online agenda.

A busy, but enjoyable day was had by me, finished off with a quick trip into Tesco near school. I don’t have the time to wander round with my dictionary so I shamefully collect TESCO items that I recognise and totter off to the bus stop having bought more than I intended to…

Photos in aorder of appearance are…

View from my bedroom window,

My block of flats

Waiting for the tram at 9am ( before I thought i’d buggered it up and got on the wrong one…)

Bratislava Castle from the balcony

Orange tower blocks of Batkova, near the school I teach at 3x week.

13th Floor!