Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | November 1, 2014

Adventures on the Other Side of the World #16

I finally got to hold a wombat.  He was pretty docile, even though he was hot and so a bit cranky. I get that way too in the heat!

I finally got to hold a wombat. He was pretty docile, even though he was hot and so a bit cranky. I get that way too in the heat!

It was a nice, hot day here in Townsville, with spring temperatures hitting 31C at least, quite the scorcher for this Northern Canadian. Between the heat and the humidity, I can’t really be sure if what I’m doing is sweating or, like a glass on a hot day, leaking condensation first thing in the morning. Whatever the case is (and I know I’m mostly sweating bullets), it is pretty glorious weather, and I get to enjoy it with the Magoos.

So this morning, after puttering about getting ready and waving Liz off to work, Gerry and I headed to Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary, about a half hour outside of Townsville. Like the sanctuaries I’d visited before (Maru and the one in Kuranda), the captive animals are rescue animals, but Billabong is larger and has many, many animals.  Gerry and I spent about four hours interacting with the animals and going to the different presentations they have there, though it honestly didn’t feel that long.  If it wasn’t so hot, you might never have been able to drag me out of there!

We started off first thing at the wombat presentation, in part because one of the things I really, really wanted to do while in Australia was hold a wombat.  There was a short informative talk about the wombat, and I learned things like the tottering-looking wombat is actually quite fast.  When faced with a predator, he or she will race back to the den at speeds of 40 km/h, which is faster than Usain Bolt runs.  The also have a hard plate of cartilage on their backs, with few nerves, so they can use it as a block to their den, keeping things like hungry dingoes from coming in and, if the dingo doesn’t take the hint, they may actually let up enough that the dingo sticks his head in the den to try to get a fleshy bit of the wombat and ends up with a crushed skull.  Nature is violent!

This is Tinkerbelle, who was being extra adorable.

This is Tinkerbelle, who was being extra adorable.

After the talk, you could pet the wombat, or you could get a photo taken with him for a fee, which I did.  We forgot the professional photo at Billabong but Gerry did take a few of me on my camera so I have those if we can’t get back to get the hard copy. And I’ll always have the memory of holding Tonka the Wombat, with or without the souvenir photo. That was not, of course, the end of things.  Next there was a koala talk and the opportunity for an experience and cuddle with a koala. You can only actually hold a koala in Queensland, which is why I could do it in Cairns but not at Maru.  The koalas were also smaller than the other two I’ve seen, more delicate and like the ones you expect from seeing them on television or in photos. I pet them but didn’t hold them, since I’d already done the experiences before. I did get a lot of great photos and also a few little videos on my iPhone, so those will be fun to take back with me.

Bravely feeding the emu, and finding it was not so bad after all. And I still have all my fingers!

Bravely feeding the emu, and finding it was not so bad after all. And I still have all my fingers!

Also at Billabong? Plenty of ducks, ibis, and other birds I don’t know the name of but suspect are related to geese, which wander freely.  I fed ducks by hand and discovered I have a ticklish spot on my left palm.  Also, the ducks chirped instead of quacking, which was surprising.  The feed you buy is good for the free wandering birds (but not the ones in enclosures, who have special diets, such as the kookaburra, which I final go to see) as well as for the kangaroos, who also wander and who I also go to feed by hand, even a kangaroo with a joey in its pouch. I also fed an emu by hand, which I am pretty proud of, considering I’d been afraid to do it before. In fact, I was afraid to do it this time, but sucked it up and fed Selena the Emu anyway.  It was a bit pinchy at the end, but for the most part, despite the crazy emu eyes, wasn’t much scarier then the ducks.

I fed the crocodiles, but not quite as close as this feeding!

I fed the crocodiles, but not quite as close as this feeding!

They also have reptiles and amphibians at the sanctuary, lizards in their little spaces sunning themselves on trees, turtles who looked like they had moss or algae growing on their backs, and snakes! I went to the reptile talk, then got to hold the two-headed lizard (or bob-tailed lizard) as well as the smaller of the two snakes, without needing to pay. I am not afraid of snakes, which I was glad to confirm.  A tiny spider sends me running, but I can drape a snake around my neck like a boa! Another reptile there?  The crocodiles, ranging from the small freshwater ones (which I got to feed!) to very large salt water crocodiles. I really though that people were making those up, but they weren’t.  The males get quite large and can leap quite high out of the water.  I wouldn’t want to stumble on one of those in the wild, that is for sure!

After that, Gerry and I headed out for a very late lunch, since we’d been out in the sun most of the day and I especially needed a long shade break.  We went to a place call C-Bar, where I had a delicious sangria (and then another one), some battered bugs (which is not bugs but seafood similar to lobster) and a delicious salad with roast pumpkin (which is essentially squash here – any squash is a pumpkin, and what they call squash is something else all together. After that, it was back to the house, where I took a swim in the pool to cool off, then sat outside and read a bit before dinner. Tomorrow is the market, I think, and I’d better be getting myself to bed in short order, so I have energy enough to enjoy everything.  Time is flying!

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