Today our target was to show Dan just a few of the very bizarre animals that inhabit this wild, wide brown land of ours. So we set off for the zoo. We arrived reasonably early, and only had to queue at the gate for a minute or two – a stark contrast from the last time we’d been when it was a gloriously sunny Sunday and just about everybody else in the city had also had the idea of going to the zoo. But this time round it was fairly quiet, apart from a few tourists and small gangs of schoolkids running around clutching clipboards.
The Australian animals were the priority, so we spurned the appeals of the big cats and tapirs and all those other weird and wonderful creatures they have at the zoo. Of course, we’ve all seen them multitudes of times, but the whole point was to show Dan, the visitor, the stuff he couldn’t see back at home in Seattle. So the Aussie creatures were first.
Wallabies are like miniature kangaroos – like they’ve been put in the tumble-dryer a few too many times. And they look and behave much like kangaroos – lazing in the sun, or sitting up washing themselves, and occasionally taking a bounce around just to give the tourists a thrill.
Next were the kookaburras. What you don’t realise about kookaburras until you see a whole bunch of them together in the zoo is that there’s actually lots of different varieties, sporting slightly different feathers, and occupying different parts of the country. They also vary in the amount of hysterical laughing that they do, and on this particular morning none of them appeared to be in the least bit amused by anything.
Wombats look a little like very small bears. The wombat’s main purpose in life appears to be crawl around looking cute, and they do this reasonably well, though the "Wombats may bite" warning sign meant most people weren’t willing to lean over the side of the enclosure to pat them. L has a strangely fanatical affection for wombats though, so she did. As long as you keep your hand clear of the wombat’s mouth, no bites will be forthcoming.
The koala’s ONLY purpose in life is to look cute. In fact there are rumours that koalas were especially bred just to bring in more tourists. They seem to spend most of their days sleeping in trees, climbing along the branches to find more leaves to eat, and then going back to sleep. Which to be quite honest, sounds like a pretty good lifestyle to me.
After watching the koalas laze around, we headed into the Butterfly House. The Melbourne Zoo Butterfly House is a must-see for anyone who is the remotest bit interested in insects. The butterflies fly around above you and between you, and they frequently land on you, so you need to be careful where you’re treading, and don’t make any sudden movements or you may end up with a squashed butterfly on your shirt. Which is not a good look.
The other thing to beware of is that the place is quite warm, so much so that camera and sunglass lenses tend to fog up pretty fast. And when you leave you’ll face a barrage of merchandise on sale just outside the exit, so if you’re not intending to spend much money, just push your wallet further down into your pocket, and keep walking with your eyes to the ground until you’re clear of the area.
Next we headed for lunch. The food available at the zoo has improved remarkably in the last few years. It doesn’t seem that long ago that on inspecting the sausage roll or pie you’d wonder if the animals were getting food which was of equal or greater quality. In fact, I really hope they were. Thankfully that’s all in the past, and if they could only organise the eating area so that it didn’t get so wet when it rained, they’d be onto a real winner.
After lunch we continued on around the zoo, looking at the rosellas and other assorted birds, which inhabit one of those very tall, old fashioned looking zoo cages which I think used to contain monkeys. We also took a quick look at the seals, which were up to their usual tricks, swimming around and looking cute (I’m always reminded of Dennis Leary’s "which animals are edible" routine).
The Aviary is a bit like the Butterfly House in that you get to walk through it and interact (well, a bit) with the inhabitants. Except that it’s not heated, and the birds keep well clear of the humans. Actually, it’s not really like the Butterfly House very much at all, is it.
Presumably kangaroos and emus have no inclination to eat or attack each other – which probably explains why they were sharing a display. In the Bushland display, you can walk through and if the kangaroos and emus are brave enough, they’ll come up and say hello. If, however, there happens to be a horde of noisy schoolkids going through at the same time, then the animals will probably stay in their private areas of the display.
Before leaving the zoo, we also went for a quick spin around some of the other displays – the elephants and the meerkats in particular, then through the Zoo Shop to see what wacky animal merchandise we should pick up.
We headed back for the city then, and while L and Isaac headed home, Dan and I continued on, with a quick stop at JB Hi Fi
to see what CD bargains were available that day, then we headed over to Young And Jacksons, for the customary view of Chloe flashing the goods, and a few well-earned pots.
While there we shared a game of pool with two people who were probably more than averagely pissed, considering the time of day. They still managed to win though.
The great thing about Young And Jacksons is that you can look across the street to the Flinders Street Station clocks and find out when your train leaves, then keep drinking until it’s about to go, stagger across the road and jump aboard. This we did after not too long, and headed home to prepare for the next day’s great outing.