On top of Justin’s Australian to do list: pet a kangaroo.
In a first attempt of meeting this goal we had gone to the Aquarium and Wildlife Park in Darling Harbor. The animals they had there had all looked very sad, and the only ones you could actually interact with were the koalas, and you could only do that if you purchased a 15$ photo which we were not inclined to do. The kangaroos there looked especially cramped as there were about nine of them in one habitat that was quite small. After seeing that I told Justin that for a real marsupial experience we needed to go to Featherdale Wildlife Park, where I had been during orientation. So on Sunday and took the train from central station to Blacktown, a suburb of Sydney that is about 30 minutes outside of the city to do this.
Once we arrived we bought our tickets, the first exhibit we walked through was the wallaby habitat. Justin was absolutely elated to see these hopping critters and immediately wanted to feed them. Anticipating this I had brought a few pieces of stale bread so he could get the full experience, because of course once you have food to give away you make fast animal friends.
After a good 20 minutes of playing with the wallabies we moved on towards the koalas and met a grumpy looking owl along the way.
After we had cuddled with some koalas it was onto the main event: kangaroos!
Within each habitat there are no fences or roped off areas, the safer animals are able to roam free and interact with people as they choose. This means that they have gotten very used to human presence and they know that people mean food. By making a $1 donation you can get an ice cream cone of kangaroo feed, so after the bread ran out I got some so Justin could make some kangaroo friends. Kangaroos are very sloppy eaters and since there is no fence overtop of the enclosure the local pigeons have figured out that they can swoop in and pick up the leftovers. At one point there were so many pigeons crowding the kangaroo that Justin was trying to feed that he kicked one. I think he had anticipated the birds moving as soon as he made a sudden movement but they did not, so he quite literally kicked a pigeon. Once he figured out they would tolerate this and continue to come back to eat it became a game, kick the pigeon!
45 minutes and three ice cream cones of kangaroo feed later I finally managed to pull Justin away from the kangaroo enclosure and we spent another hour wandering around the park looking at exotic birds, dingoes, tasmanian devils, snakes, one very sleepy crocodile and a small colony of fairy penguins.
We made it a point to catch the fairy penguin feeding and both proceeded to geek out over the cuteness of the penguins.
On our way back out of the park we had to walk through the kangaroo, wallaby, and koala exhibits again, so of course we stopped to play and feed them once more.
As the sun was going down we caught the train back to central station and then walked back to Glebe, making a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up materials for dinner. Ever since I had taken Justin out to dinner in Darling Harbor at the Black Bird Cafe he had become obsessed with kangaroo steaks. In the wake of that experience he had been on a mission to find affordable kangaroo filets to cook for himself. We had been to several butcher shops and speciality food stores, but we eventually found them at the lowest price at the Bi-lo, a discount grocery store in the broadway shopping center.
Kangaroo is a very lean red meat that has to be cooked rare due to its low fat content. Kangaroo is not commercially raised or farmed meaning so all meat comes from kangaroos caught in the wild. Kangaroo harvest is supported by a wide range of professional ecological groups in Australia. Since there are over 45 million kangaroos on the continent and in rural communities they are considered a pest because they eat farmers crops and bush vegetation, hunting of kangaroo is encouraged. Unlike beef, kangaroo meat has a very high proportion of polyunsaturated structural fats, so kangaroo can be included in a cholesterol-lowering diet. Studies have shown that low-fat diets rich in kangaroo meat are associated with a reduction in important risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Typically it contains less than 2% fat, about 40% of which is long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid molecules which are believed to improve blood flow, reduce the blood’s tendency to clot and thereby reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. So it is red meat that does the exact opposite of what red meat normally does to your body.
Also- according to Justin it is quite tasty, tender, and slightly sweet like a good quality filet mignon.
I suggested we also purchase steak fries and grill some veggies in a marinade to round out the meal. Justin and I purchased the filets, coals for the grill, matches, veggies and fries and headed over to Seth’s apt to get grilling. While I chopped up the veggies, soaked them in marinade and watched the fries in the oven the boys stood on the balcony and puzzled over the charcoal grill. They managed to get the coals to light but couldn’t get the temperature of the grill high enough to cook the meat. At one point the coals were burning fairly well and so Justin separated them out to try and get an even heat distribution and once he put the lid back on the grill they all promptly extinguished. This came at the end of a 45 trial and error period, so this effort was abandoned and all meat preparation and cooking operations were moved to the stove top. I guess Seth and Justin will never be stereotypical suburban husbands.
Once the meat was cooked Seth and Justin sat down to their man meal of kangaroo while I had a chili lime thai style veggie burger with tomato and cheese.
So to recap: Justins fondness from kangaroos has morphed into a full fledged (slightly creepy) obsession. Not only did he spend upwards of an hour petting and feeding them, but hours later he was grilling them up for dinner and delighting in their tastiness. O and he also drinks coffee every morning out of a souvenir mug he purchased at Featherdale with a kangaroo on it. Like I said, obsessive, borderline creepy. He is also going home with some packaged kangaroo jerky. I think he is determined to find it in the states.