Monday, June 13, 2011

Sydney

Last weekend I finally made it to Sydney! It was a short 3-day trip in between final exams, but we got a chance to see some great stuff. I went with my roommate and one of our friends that we met here, he is from South Carolina. The three of us arrived Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the day wandering around the city, spending a lot of time at the markets. They have a lot of great markets all over Sydney, great for finding souvenirs and stuff so that was really fun. On Sunday we took a walking tour of the city, where we got to see all of the great areas and landmarks of the central business district. Seeing the Sydney Opera House was very surreal, it is something that you always see on TV and stuff but being right in front of it is a very cool feeling. The bridge was also very fun to see, we took a boat ride through the harbor and got a great view of both the bridge and the Opera House. Sydney is filled beautiful architecture and has a great history.
We also spent a day in the Blue Mountains. The mountains are about 2 hours away from downtown so we went with a tour company. It was really cold so we had to bundle up, but the mountains are beautiful! It is really cool because they actually look blue, it has something to do with the way that the sunlight passes through the oil from the Eucalyptus trees and it scatters in a way that appears blue. Very cool! We also saw some wild kangaroos and some waterfalls.
That weekend there was a light show going on in Sydney so we stopped by that on our way back. There were a bunch of crazy lights shining on the buildings down town and also on the Opera House across the harbor. This was really cool, I could have stayed and watched all night.
The trip was short and sweet, I enjoyed seeing everything in Sydney but the city was a bit too crowded and busy for me to spend too much time there.
I am now in the midst of studying for a final exam and packing for New Zealand. My exam is tomorrow morning at 8:00 and then I leave for NZ that night. I will be back next Tuesday with a few days to study for my last exam on Friday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More Animals!

As if I did not get enough animals on Tuesday, a few days later was our field trip to the Australia Zoo! This was a field trip I had been looking forward to since the first day of classes, so I was extremely excited to go. This zoo used to be a smaller reptile park but Steve Irwin and his wife took over management of the zoo in 1992 and now it is much bigger and much better. Now, the zoo does an amazing job at celebrating Steve Irwin’s life and building on his dream. The zoo is filled with pictures of Steve, his family, and all of his animal ‘friends’, it is impossible not to feel his presence and appreciate his passion while being there. I wasn’t a avid Crocodile Hunter fan growing up or anything, but seeing all of his accomplishments in person still had a strong impact on me. The zoo is about 2 hours away from Brisbane, so my classmates and I packed the coach buses at 7am for that last field trip of the semester. At the zoo we first took a walk around the many crocodile habitats.

We then visited a kangaroo reserve, similar to the one I had played in at Lone Pine early that week. We did not have as much time here since we had a strict field trip schedule, but it was amazing because I finally got to see a baby kangaroo! There were so many kangaroos with Joeys in their pouches it was so cool! They were so little and cute, and they just hung out in their mom’s pouch the whole time. I was so surprised that the moms were not more protective over the Joey, they would still just come right up to us and let us feed and pet them. I was extremely excited and happy that I finally got to see a Joey!

We then visited the echidnas, and watched the zookeeper feed them. Echidnas are such weird looking animals, like nothing I have ever seen before. They let us touch the echidna which was a weird feeling, almost felt like plastic. We also saw a HUGE python, bigger than any snake I have ever seen before and even though it was behind glass it still scared me a bit. We also saw some wombats, which are also weird looking animals, and it was funny because they were climbing all over each other. We all got a turn to pet a koala, they are really soft and just calmly sat in the tree the whole time.

Echindnas
Wombats

Then we went to the Crocoseum and watched a show. In the show there were a few demonstrations with birds flying around and they also fed a huge, scary crocodile and we watched the croc swim through the water. They are such big and strong animals, I would be very afraid to be that close to one.

After the show at the Crocoseum we were taken into a classroom where the zookeepers/’stars of the show’ gave us a special behind-the-scenes educational session about crocs, birds, Tasmanian devils, reptiles, and koalas. The coolest part was that for each of these demonstrations they were holding the specific animal the entire time, and afterword we were all able to pet most of them (the friendly ones).

We were then given free time to explore whatever we wanted in the zoo. My friends and I went back to the kangaroos and spent some more time marveling over the Joeys. We also had another good look at the crocs, saw some more cool birds, and found a really old-looking tortoise.

I acted like a little kid when I got the chance to feed an elephant (I actually acted like a little kid when I simply saw the elephants, they are such cool animals!). All I had to do was grab a piece of fruit out of a bucket and hold my hand out, and the elephant would suck it up with his trunk. It was such a cool feeling except the slobber on my hand smelled terrible!

This was one of the best experiences I have had in Australia. This country as such unique and cool animals and I am so glad that I got a chance to see them all! I took some videos of the animals while I was there (mostly the kangaroos) so hopefully it will work and you all can see some of the cool stuff that I did!

video

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Last week I finally got to visit the koala sanctuary that I have been trying to go to since the first week in Australia. Lone Pine is the world’s first (and largest) koala sanctuary and is a 40 minute bus ride away from my apartment. I went with my roommate, one of our friends from out apartment building, and his girlfriend who was visiting from the states (they both go to U of I too). We were able to cuddle koalas, feed kangaroos, and see other really cool Australian wildlife. Needless to say, it was a really fun day!
We saw many beautiful birds like lorikeets, parrots, kookaburra, emu, cockatoo, cassowary, and a crested hawk.
We made sure that we went to see the lorikeets during 'feeding time' which was insane! The birds were so loud and flying all around you it was unlike anything I have ever seen. They would land on your head and fly right by your face. It was actually really overwhelming but a very cool experience.
We also saw a platypus, dingoes, lizard, a possum and a wombat.
The coolest part about the day was getting to play with the kangaroos. There is a 5-acre Kangaroo reserve with more than 100 kangaroos and wallabies hopping around. We were able to feed them with some kangaroo food we bought at the gift shop, once they noticed you had food they would hot right up to you. They would also just let you sit or lay with them and pet them and just hang out. It was so cool! We did not see any Joeys, which I was disappointed about. Some of the kangaroos were really big which kind of scared me a little when I felt like they were bigger than me. They were not aggressive at all though and seemed to not even really care that we were there besides getting to eat our food.
Then, of course, we saw the koalas. It was so cool to see them up close and being able to hold one was amazing! Koalas are much more fragile than kangaroos, so you can only touch them with the help of an expert. You have to just stand still and can only really hold them long enough to get your picture taken. They are very calm animals, they really don't do much besides eat and sleep and they spend almost all of their time in trees but it was very cool to be so close to one.
After the koalas we went back to the kangaroo reserve because we had so much fun the first time. I would have hung out with the kangaroos all day if I could. It was a great day and I was so happy to finally make it to Lone Pine. Australia has such amazing and different animals and it was so cool to se them up close.