March 26, 2004, 17:00: Brisbane, Australia - Prince Consort Backpackers
I had another early morning today, although it was a relatively late one - compared to some I've had. I was able to sleep in till 4:30am, and I got up, showered, gathered my pre-packed stuff, and waited for the shuttle. The shuttle was about 10 minutes late, and the driver was clearly scrambling to get to the airport - other people had earlier flights than mine whose boarding time had already begun with the airport 10 minutes away. I managed to check in, get a window seat, not get charged for "excess" baggage, and get to the lounge before boarding even began. I got some food, a ham and cheese croissant and a large blue lemonade slush. It wasn't the cheapest place I could have eaten, or probably not even the best food (blue lemonade slush at 5:30 am?!), but I needed something to tide me over, and I'll opt for that over airline food. The flight to Brisbane was relatively uneventful apart from some neat turbulence right at the start. On arrival, it was as simple as picking up my luggage, and I proceeded to the rental car company, and off I went.
I was given a Ford Focus 2.0, despite asking for an "ultra-economy" car, and I'm not complaining. This car has a CD player, air conditioning, it was automatic (something not quite right about the shifter on the left hand side - although I would have tried it), and all for the same price. I studied the map of the Brisbane area intensely for 5 minutes, and found my way to the hostel, and the Australia Zoo. It was now 8:45 am, and figuring check-in would not be starting for another hour and a bit, I decided to head straight for the Australia Zoo. With a bit of experience under my belt, driving a car on the wrong side of the road wasn't that big of a deal. Actually, I hardly even noticed much of a distance, other than sitting in the passenger seat with a steering wheel in front of me. On the way to the zoo, I decided to be adventurous and take the "scenic" route, which was explained on the highway with a simple road sign. Not even 5 minutes down this scenic route, I saw a lookout point sign directing me left, away from my intended course, but I figured it would be worth it, due to the very interesting looking mountain ranges periodically rising over the trees.
The mountain was mount beerburrum and I drove the car up a bumpy dirt road for a kilometre or two, when I came to the footpath. "Lookout - 700m". Piece of cake. I headed up the path, and I saw a few signs indicating this would be a steep walk. Nice. Well, a steep walk it was. Quite a workout. I need to do this kind of stuff more often. On the way up, I saw what I believe to be a Kangaroo jumping down the hill - it looked much bigger than a Wallaby. After many stops along the way, I made it up to the top, grabbed a few photos of the view, and set on my way down. This was much easier, but it's one of those pitches where if you even hinted at jogging or running - next thing you know, you'd be sprinting totally out of control bound to fall one way or another. I took it slowly, and before I knew it, I was back at the car. I stopped at the first gas station I could, drank about 1.5 litres of water, and set on my way to the zoo. I was much closer than I realised. About 5 minutes again, and I saw a sign indicating the zoo was only about 10 kms away. It featured Steve Irwin, and well, being a tourist and all that came all this way, I turned around and took a picture.
I got to the zoo, liberally applied sunscreen in the parking lot, and walked to the entrance. I paid my admission, got handed a map, and was set free. I was encouraged to go to the stadium area to see the dingo pup show, and I went straight for it. I stayed for that show, and the Bengal tiger show after. It wasn't much different from any other zoo show I've seen, but it was entertaining. At the end of the shows, I grabbed my map and set off for the poisonous snake exhibit. It was very quiet there - no other people showed up the whole time I was in the exhibit. I looked at snake upon snake behind a pane of glass, and made my way through it pretty quickly. Not much going on there. I spotted an enclosure with a staff member crouching in it, and walked over to see what was happening. The guy was walking around the yard, and a wombat was following him. A wombat is a marsupial, and is built like a tank, albeit a miniature one. This little guy weighs a lot for his size, and is very short. The wombat seemed to wander around the yard aimlessly until the zookeeper started walking around or called him. Fun stuff.
Walking around further, I saw a few elephants, and made my way through a rainforest aviary. I was almost hit by a flying bird - it swooped about 2 feet from my head and flew to the other side of the enclosure. There wasn't much that was immediately visible there, so I continued on my way. The next stop was the Red Kangaroo Area. I got in, and walked for a couple of minutes before I finally spotted one. The Kangaroos were a lot smaller than I would have expected, and didn't seem shy in the least. I walked right up to one and was able to pet it without it even flinching. This was way too cool, I was having a ball. I managed to snap a few shots, and went over to a mother kangaroo with a Joey in her pouch. I was able to pet her too, and I grabbed even more shots. Actually, about half the shots I took today were of the Kangaroos. Well, not quite, but you get the picture. On the way out I saw an albino Kangaroo. Next, there was a Koala display where they let you touch the koalas (rather, the koalas tolerated you touching them). I did that, grabbed a few more photos and set on my way to the Emus. These are really odd birds; I guess the closest thing to them is an ostrich. Quite odd.
There were many different displays at the Zoo, and I could go on for quite some time about them all, but in short, it was an excellent place to visit, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite not seeing the Crocodile Hunter. I left through the gift shop (it's the only way out) and gawked at the tacky merchandise for sale for exceedingly high prices. I drove pretty much straight to the backpackers where I'm now settled in, and I plan to have a very quiet night trying to recuperate some energy from all the walking today. Tomorrow, I fly to Sydney in the morning. I should be meeting up with Dean finally, and it will be my last full day in Australia. Hopefully I can do some more surfing at Bondi.