Sunday, March 23, 2008

Australia Five: I don’t care if he’s nocturnal, I’m here now

On Wednesday, after a deliciously damp start to the week, we laced up our sneakers and headed off on the trail of tradition.

Every time my family (grandparental or nuclear) goes to Melbourne, we happily ignore the other zoos in favor of Healesville Sanctuary. With the Sanctuary a couple of hours outside of Melbourne it’s a real schlep to get there, but we go anyway. I like it because the sanctuary doesn’t trigger any of my anti-zoo issues. Yep. Anti-zoo. And pro-kid. It’s a tough one, but I look at my kids happily romping, and I remember the sad animals of the Bronx Zoo of my childhood, and I don’t care how nice the zoo is now, I still think of those silent, still animals in the too-tiny compound, all prettily painted with the animal’s habitat. Oh, zoos make me sad. But what’s a trip to Oz without a kangaroo? or a koala?

Healesville has a lovely balance between animal and person, with walkways for the people and hiding spots for the animals. Occasionally, an emu or kangaroo will choose to intersect with you, but usually it’s because you are with a park ranger who is about to offer treats to the animals. Unless, of course, you are talking about the koalas.

Koalas are an inevitable disappointment to the tourist, as are wombats. Both are nocturnal, and no matter how hard the boys tried, they just couldn’t get the wombat to wake up and come out of its burrow. And, considering the baking heat, I rather envied the little gal – I wanted a burrow, too. The koalas majestically ignored us, although we certainly made a lot of noise, trying to figure out how they could manage to not fall out of the trees.

So, we admired the kangaroos, and the Eldest actually fed one while the Toddles watched, grumpily (the kangaroos were eating Toddles-unfriendly corn). We exclaimed over the echidna and emu, and adored the platypus. Ibis birds tried to eat our lunch, but I used my sternest mom voice (said the boys) and ordered the pests to shoo. They did.

I would have thought that the highlight of the day would be the wallaby who wandered up to be petted and admired. But in fact, it was the lyre bird. The lyre bird, a mimic whose call includes power tools and extinct birds, happens to be a fascination for QG, and her enthusiasm yanked us all in. We stared at the bird’s tail feathers, we photographed it, we ooohed and ahhed. And then we got back into the baking hot car for a three hour drive home.

Damn that Google Maps. How could they not know about the evils of Hoddle Street?


Auntie A said...

Jealous now. I want to see kangaroos! Guess I'll have to make do with our zoo here once the weather warms up a bit - hopefully not to the extremes of Melbourne summer.

Love the photos!!

mama o' the matrices said...

glad you like the pics, A.A. It's the big regret of our last visit that I couldn't put up photos then. It's a better story with cute kids grinning at ya while you read, no?