Penguin Parade and Koala Experience

I apologize for the delay in posting, I’ve been busy and I wanted to take the time to do this post justice. There’s so much to tell! Where to begin… I suppose I’ll keep with the theme and go chronologically. So the bus picked us up around 11:30. Our tour guide’s name was Jason (Steph and I had hoped to get Sean again, but no such luck). Jason was nice, but not as awesome as Sean (in Jason’s defense the bar was set pretty high). We decided that Jason was one part intimidating mixed with a little bit of nervousness. He was a pretty big guy and looked like he could do some damage, but he also had the look of a puppy with its tail between its legs, it was like he couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. But he knew what he was talking about and was informative, and he was nice. Anyway, the bus picked us up and took us to the little town of Tooradin for lunch, which was sandwiches, coffee/tea and biscuits.

After everyone ate, we were on our way to Maru: Koala and Animal Park. I think this was by far the best part of the day. It was quite a nice drive through the country side of Melbourne, and then we arrived at the park, which was deceptively small. It looked like almost nothing, but it was incredible. We entered through the gift shop, where you could buy feed for the animals as well as Close Encounters. Steph and I decided to do the Koala Close Encounter together and split one container of feed (which was more than enough). Then everyone went to the Koala enclosure for a presentation on the Koalas. Apparently they’re very high maintenance, there are 600 types of eucalyptus trees, of which they will only eat 10. And on top of that, they would rather starve to death than eat eucalyptus they don’t like. After that, Steph and I got to do our Koala encounter. The Koala we got to meet was named Diesel. He was so cute and fluffy and just slept through the whole thing. They’re quite soft and their fur is very thick. The more northern Koalas are silkier, but he was still very fun to pet. They were very nice and took pictures with both my phone and Steph’s camera as well as the professional picture. I’m not entirely sure what a Koala is supposed to smell like, but he smelled like a giant stuffed animal, I wanted to take him home with me. It was such a surreal moment. After we recovered from meeting Diesel, we moved on to the Wallabies. There were about 8 or so of them just chillin’. To me, Wallabies look like pigmy kangaroos, but they are different. Kangaroos have one extra bone in their tail, and their ears are a little bigger, and they kind of look a little different (which I’m beginning to figure out). The Wallabies were so adorable. And they ate right out of your hand. The amazing thing was that they just kept eating, tourist after tourist would offer up fistfuls of food and they accepted it as eagerly as the one before. At one point Steph asked, “Are we going to over feed them?” We were afraid we might have an exploding goldfish type of situation on our hands. But they said no, that they just feed them less at night depending on how many visitors passed through. Then there were some sheep (which were so cute, they wagged their tails like dogs, begging for food). They also had a donkey, some alpacas, and a horse. There were some mean looking Emus too. Then there were the Kangaroos. They were in a huge enclosure that we could walk into, and they were just laying around, waiting for us to come feed them. The were quite a bit bigger than the Wallabies, but not the big Red Kangaroos that are found up north (people keep comparing them to Arnold Schwarzenegger…). Steph and I were still a little weary of them, so we approached them from the front with a fistful of food. The would kind of sniff with their noses before the even acknowledged us, deciding if we were worth the trouble. But once we had them eating out of the palm of our hands (literally) we were buddies and they would let us pet them and take pictures of them and what not. The Kangaroos were a little bit softer than the Koalas, and not quite as coarse. They have thick tails too, they act as another appendage. Steph was telling me that if they want to they can support themselves entirely on their tails, for example to kick their opponent with both feet… We tried to keep the odds of that down by not pestering one particular Kangaroo for too long, we tried to share the wealth. They also had an Albino Kangaroo, I think he’s the only one in the southern states as well. He seemed to know that he was the popular one and went with it. In addition, there were Tasmanian Devils, which were adorable (I probably sound like a broken record). There were also Peacocks just walking around. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to one before, nor will I ever be most likely. There were photobombing Chickens roaming all over the place, they especially like to get in the pictures with the Kangaroos. They also had some wombats, but I don’t think they were as docile as the other animals because they were in cages, and the same thing with the dingos (which just look like dogs). But it was awesome, and we got to feed most everything.

Next on the Agenda was the Philips Island Chocolate Factory. Which was cool. They were giving out chocolate samples, which were actually delicious and made me want to buy all of it (which was probably the intent). After that, we went to the beach, which was gorgeous. It was picture perfect and then some. Steph was ‘having a moment’ the entire time. She kept asking me “is this real life?”. I got some great pictures, and they don’t even do it justice.

Dinner time! We went to the equivalent of ‘Main Street’ for dinner. There were all sorts of little beachside restaurants to choose from. We went to a place called Chino’s and got take away to eat on the beach. I got a fish burger and it was pretty good. And as our luck would have it, Philips Island does a little craft fair/food festival thing once a month, and we got there just as it was opening. So we wandered around there for a little while. It was a good thing I didn’t have very much cash on me, because I wanted to buy everything (which seems to be a common problem).

After dinner, we went to Swan Lake, which was a lake with swans, go figure. On the way there we saw a ton of wild Wallabies. At first I was thinking that they were like rabbits, just everywhere, but they’re really more like deer. And these one’s didn’t look as friendly as the ones in the park. But it was still neat, and they would get surprisingly close before the bounced away. We also saw an Echidna, which is kind of porcupine-esque (and fairly rare to just see in the wild).

Our last stop before the Penguin Parade was Seal Rocks. It was breath taking. It was just overcast enough for there to be ‘god rays’ coming through the clouds onto the water, and the sun was beginning to set, gorgeous. I think the whole thing was one big ‘having a moment’, especially for Steph. We walked all along the board walks and just took it all in. There were also lots of little penguin burrows. And there were even a few of the penguin chicks that weren’t quite ready for the ocean hiding under the board walk and in their burrows.

Finally, the Penguin Parade! We were a little early so we walked through the visitor’s center, which was neat. And then walked down to the beach. The visitor’s center was pretty far from the beach (so as not to scare the penguins), so we had to walk down this long curvy board walk. We got to the stands and found a place close to the front and waited for the penguins to arrive. The whole thing kind of reminded me of a high school football game, except the field was the beach. Eventually, in tiny little groups, the penguins began to make their way up the beach. It was the cutest thing. We took to narrating their actions again. And there was this one penguin that every time he was almost up the beach he would turn around and scuttle back to the ocean. He eventually had the whole crowd cheering when he made progress, and booing when he back-tracked.  After about half an hour (it was so cold) we headed back up the board walk, which was almost cooler because it wove through their burrows and we could hear them calling to each other and trying to figure out which house was theirs. At one point everyone on the board walk had to wait due to penguins crossing. And they had signs saying to check under your car for penguins before you left. They were every where. And because we were so far from the city, we could actually look up and see all the stars, we could see different galaxy star bands and such going on, it was amazing. (Side note: there was no photography allowed because they don’t want to harm the penguins and their sensitive eyes, but there are pictures on line and such that have been professionally done by the Penguin Parade.)

Back on the bus, everyone fell asleep for the two hour ride back. Then it got crazy because it was White Night in the city, and the main part of the city was closed down. It took us at least half an hour to go about a block and a half. Eventually Jason let anyone who wanted to see White Night out at the base of the city because he wasn’t getting any closer and he was going to have to go all the way around the city to drop everyone else off. Steph and I hopped off. It was cool to see the different light installations and performances going on, but it was crazy crowded, like crazy drunken Disneyland. I’ve never seen that many people packed into one space. Steph said it was like Times Square. It was crazy. Steph and I were tired so we made a bee line back to the apartments, but it still took us a while. And there were people just leaving for it as we were getting back…

All in all, it was a fantastic day. So awesome. Yet another instance in which I wish I had a GoPro in my head.

I’m a little frustrated because they changed some the times on my classes so I had to reshuffle them. I now have classes 4 days a week, but only one class per day, so I think that will be fine. It did however open up a class for me that wasn’t open before, so not all is lost.

Tomorrow is the O-Week kick off. There’s a week of socializing and partying ahead, oh joy! It should be fun though. Today, as a precursor for O-Week they had a beer race in the court yard. About 20 guys participated, and they had to do things like chug a beer, sprint the courtyard, chug another beer, jump in the pool, chug another beer, ect. It was amusing until they all started puking. The RA’s were at the ready with hoses and were hosing down the side walk and the contestants. The loser (the guy who puked first) has to wear an neon shirt with profanities written all over it for all of O-Week, and the winner (the guy who puked last) got a golden goblet, that if it any point during O-Week is empty, someone around him has to fill it, aka free alcohol for O-Week. I’m starting to think that maybe I haven’t missed out on much by not going to parties…

Vocabulary: highway/freeway=motorway, tire=tyre

Also, I posted lots of pictures.

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