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Crikey!

And lo, episode 4 of my 2019 Australia trip. This’ll be written in a hurry, but probably more photo heavy than words anyway. Being a family holiday with my brother and his two daughters, things are actually less hectic than were I on my own or with Helen, charging around as many tourist activities as possible. Also with Kevin’s legs still feeling the after effects of his marathon, Monday was never likely to be too busy.

Monday

Since the kids had pizza making class on Monday morning from 0930-1030, I was given a lie-in and some respite from all the uncle-ing duties. Naturally then, I got up and went for a run.

So did tons of other people. Thinking this trip might pose a good opportunity to get some midweek miles in my legs for the first time in bloody months, I ran a 5k route along the walkway just beside Burleigh Beach. 1.5km or so just up to where there was a park with a bit of a hill in it, 3km back to where there was a definite incline at the start of the Burleigh Heads park, then 0.5km back to near the apartments. I was slower than at Parkrun on Saturday and felt pretty bloody ropey afterwards, but it was good for me, right?

Instead of going straight back, I went for a wander around. Took at look at the beach, which was still kinda bleak with hints of sunshine.

Back up to near the headland, there was a free outdoor tai chi and Qi gong session going on, proving very popular.

Into Burleigh proper I bought a bunch of food and stuff from Woolies Metro for breakfast and snacking, then went back to the apartment for a shower and to chill. The girls took much longer than I anticipated to come back from pizza making class, which looked bloody amazing.

Once everyone got back, about half midday, we ... did nothing, pretty much. The girls wanted to go play in the pool for a bit, but that proved too cold, so instead we decanted back into their apartment. Kevin and I sat out on the deck drinking the beers we’d bought on Sunday evening while the girls slept or watched TV, and that was it for the day.

At some point I went out to the off licence for a few more tins, and as the sun set I was gobsmacked by the noise and sight of pairs of lorikeets all heading towards the trees down by the beach from wherever they spent the day. Oh, and a bit of time was spent birdwatching in the trees within our accomodation’s boundaries - a blue-headed honey-eater turned up, which again seems impossibly exotic. The pic from my phone, zoomed and cropped, is pretty terrible but gives an idea.

There was, sadly, no WWE on TV when I retired to my flat on this night. There may have been Team America: World Police, and I may not have stayed awake long enough to see it all.

Tuesday

Up early enough to write up the previous days... nope. Holidaying with family is relentless. I have to get up and be ready before I ever do for work, such as it was with Tuesday’s 6.30am start. We all piled into the car, driving as the sun rose at the same time as the local hot air balloon.

We were heading north, towards and beyond Brisbane. Our first stop, 90-odd minutes after leaving Burleigh, was to drop in to some friends. Not anyone I’d ever met before but Kevin’s mate Dave, and their kids - who are very good friends with his kids. With maximum hospitality, we were supplied with a breakfast comprising bacon, avocado, egg, and toast. This was most excellent. As the kids played, loudly, we popped to the corner for liquids and sweet stuff before hitting the road north again.

The Australian stereotypes kicked in large here. The motorway changed name once Brisbane’s suburbs were behind us, becoming the Bruce Highway. G’day Bruce. How far a drive is it to any notable conurbations on this route?

Shit the bed! 1675 kilometres? That’s over 1000 miles! The whole bloody country I’m from isn’t 1000 miles top to bottom, yet here’s a single road that’s at least that long WITHOUT EVEN LEAVING THE STATE. By Christ, Australia’s big, innit.

Mercifully we weren’t going to Cairns. Rather, we were amping the Aussie up even more notches by taking a left turn onto Steve Irwin Way, and driving to Australia Zoo, home of the crocodile hunter (RIP). There was pleasant scenery en route.

And then, just up the way, crikey!

This shot of Irwin holding a croc is, unsurprisingly, not one I took. It is the rather magnificent splash screen of the official Australia Zoo iOS app. This next one is mine though.

I’d referred to it before arrival as the church of Steve Irwin, and it really is. I wasn’t taken aback, mind - on my first visit to Australia back in 2006, my second or third day was Irwin’s funeral and every TV channel was showing it, for hours and hours. He was a legit big deal, and for very good reason.

Parking was a little challenging since there were bloody thousands of people here, what with school holidays ‘n that, but soon enough we got to the pre-paid tickets queue and were in. Quick, let’s look at the otters!

We’d arrived at, like, 10.30am or something. This meant one of the Big Deals of the day was 90 minutes in the future, when some members of the Irwin family were going to be part of the show down at the Crocoseum. Trying to fit in a few animals beforehand, we argued about the worth of using a map especially when someone unable to accurately read one is in charge. Nonetheless, animals were seen.

Like, say, this moody turtle.

And this Tasmanian Devil.

And this giant tortoise.

And the other one.

And this... hang on, bit blurry, what’s that up in the tree?

Wait, is that...?

It’s a BABY KOALA ON THE BACK OF A PARENT KOALA AND THE BABY IS EATING AND BEING UNBEARABLY CUTE OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.

Hey little fella! Hungry for eucalyptus are ya? You know it’s really not that nutritious, right?

The parent koala are also very cute, but mostly just sleepy curled up balls of cute rather than small hungry and awake cute.

Unwillingly, we leave the koala bit. Harry is now shouting at me how she absolutely cannot leave this place without taking a koala home, and of course they’re domesticated pets and that’s totally allowed. I’m unsure she’s correct about this.

Around the corner are some crocodiles, and then a large building with a food hall. At this point it’s, I dunno, 11.35am or something. We think, perhaps, the three pools with crocodiles is the crocoseum, and the best seats are up on the balcony. So we go up and buy chips and perch at some seats.

The first seats I choose, I subsequently un-choose, when an Ibis flies up onto the ledge, steps on the tables, and takes a dump right in front of me. Thanks, bin chicken.

You shit!

Further up, we are entertained by noisy mynah birds flying around us.

Finishing up, we realise that this isn’t actually the crocoseum, that’s next door. Turns out the crocoseum is a stadium bigger than the one where I go and watch AFC Wimbledon, all-seater, where the show takes place. It’s pretty incredible for a zoo.

We take a set of 4 seats in the corner which is just coming into the shade as the show commences, and what a show it is. There are tons of different hosts, coming out and alternating between showing off animals and describing their behaviours and habitats and stuff, and history of the zoo, spiel about Steve and the Irwins, and general conservation. After a daft skit about crocodile safety, the first animals in the show are some birds. Like this one.

There are more birds. Lorikeets way too fast to photograph fly in formation as pairs or triples, doing loops of the stadium very close to our heads. Also very close to our heads are some big fuck off birds of prey. None of them prove easy to photograph, and the dingoes weren’t all that either. This daft bloody thing though...

Behave yourself.

Another bird showed off some tricks. A member of the audience was asked to hold out a five dollar note: lo and behold, the bird flew to her arm, nicked it, and went back to the handler.

Then, after some comedy, it repeated the trick in reverse, handing her her money back. Pretty cool. More audience participation followed, as the crowd was split in two and asked to shout “CRIKEY!” as loud as they could. Somehow our side won, despite being significantly quieter than the others.

But, y’know, all this bird stuff is cool ‘n that but everyone here at, let’s not remember, the CROCOSEUM, is here to see some bloody crocodiles. Like this one.

That’s one of Steve’s kids, I think, goading a small crocodile out of the water. Apparently they’re super territorial but not aggressive unless you encroach on their territory – which is the water. So the lad starts off by stamping his feet in the water, to piss him off and make him come out.

Then he picks the fucker up! Hang on, that’s a bloody crocodile! What the fuck are you doing?

Oh, that last crocodile was a small one. No danger. Let’s bring out this giant one and dangle some meat in front of his face. That’ll be fine, right?

Boom. Lunchtime!

What you can also do is dangle some food at them near the water’s edge, when you’re in the bit that’s got much less space to escape from. Yeah, go on then. Or not.

Lastly, to demonstrate that they can also stand up to 7 feet tall on their tail if they need to - top tip: don’t escape from a crocodile you’ve pissed off by jumping up a tree, because they can drag you down out of it.

Oh, that wasn’t lastly. Lastly they realised they had to get the damn thing back out of sight and into where it lives, so the way to do that is – after a bit more food – jump in the water and splash about a lot to make it follow you, and then swim away from it.

I do not want this job. Cracking show though.

Really, really impressive stuff. It was a real shame it had to finish with a song composed by auto-tuning a load of Steve Irwin quotes over some dreadful music. Please, no. Just no.

Right. Back out into the rest of the zoo. This place has far fewer animals than some of the world’s “great” zoos, but it is 1000 acres so there’s a lot of walking to do.

I can’t for the life of me remember what this thing is.

There’s a “kids” zoo, full of baby goats and other farm animals.

There’s a snake and reptile bit full of snakes and, well, reptiles.

And then there’s an aviary, one of those large ones where there’s a double door at either end, and on the inside all the birds are free to fly around you. So they do.

Birds, as anyone who has been bored to tears with my domestic Instagram account or other expressions of my newfound ornithological enthusiasm, are bloody great. I barely know what any of these things are except that I very much enjoy looking at them and hearing them.

Next one’s a kookaburra, I’m reasonably sure. Recordings of these birds are used by movies to simulate apes going apeshit.

Beyond the aviary is Roo Heaven. We’re in Australia, we’re at Australia Zoo, we’ve already seen koalas so let’s go see some kangaroos. Oh hang on, there’s a lady taking a wombat for a walk first.

And another member of staff taking a koala out to meet its adoring public.

My two nieces are hands on.

OK, now kangaroos.

Wait, what? They’re not in cages, just a big expansive area of grass and stuff, over which the humans walk, and you can just go up and pet the damn things? SERIOUSLY?

Yes, seriously. There’s one member of zoo crew around just to make sure no-one angers or frightens any of the animals, but otherwise you can just chill with them. It’s ace.

It’s a very enjoyable visit to the zoo, this. I’m only bringing the mood down somewhat by continually singing that “We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo” song with new lines that end in words that rhyme with zoo, zoo, zoo. This is a theme which continues for the next 4 days, as it goes, by which time the kids are thoroughly pissed off with it.

Next up there’s more bloody koala. In this dimly lit bit with 4 trees, one at each corner, one of them has 3 steps leading up specifically so you can go stroke the sleepy one at the top. Like my nieces did, here:

OK. Tigers next. There’s another show on as we arrive, so we can’t get anywhere near the seats and hear what’s going on. But the tigers live in a giant enclosure with two huge viewing windows, and one of them is kind enough to come sit near us and look all tiger-y.

Giraffes! Zebras! It’s a long walk from the last bit to the “Africa” region, but worth it.

Also, CHUBBY UNICORNS!!!!!

Or, y’know, a rhino.

Meerkats. Meerkats are ace. Who doesn’t love meerkats?

The meerkat stall is basically as far from the entrance as it’s possible to get, so we have to turn back. This gives us another opportunity to check in with the tigers.

But, basically, that’s it. We do wander around a wetlands bit, which is a very cool (in temperature terms too) rain forest in which we see barely any animals, but I’m glad to be out of the sun. There are a few other photo ops for the kids, and we briefly look for elephants but there are none.

It’s about 4pm, an hour before closing, and we’re back at the shop by the exit. I buy ice creams all round and we make our way back to the car, ready to set off past the cool mountains we’d seen earlier in the day. It’s so sunny I have to use my fingers to block out the sun just to make the thing visible, and because I am a tardy lazy scrote I can’t even be bothered to crop my hand out of the picture. Have this!

Back along Steve Irwin Way we go. Back along the Bruce Highway we go. Back to Dave’s we go, with his two kids and then his missus arriving home from work. Everyone has dinner, and I have a few drinks chatting to Dave. It’s convivial and fun but by ‘eck most of us are knackered. It’s been a hell of a long day, a very fun one, but I’m not unhappy to be back at the apartments ready to crash into bed. It was already decided that Wednesday would not be another day with 4 hours of driving involved, so maybe I could have a lie-in and catch up on blogging.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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