Archive for the ‘Featherdale Wildlife Park’ Category

Soft, Cuddly, and Tasty

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

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.

Making the wallabies jump for food

Justin: totally excited. Wallaby: couldn't care less

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.

Grumpy looking owl perched on a happy looking Justin

Koalas sleep 18-20 hours a day. I think Justin only gets about 6 hours a day if he's lucky, so this happy face might be masking a good amount of jealousy.

After we had cuddled with some koalas it was onto the main event: kangaroos!

Feeding a very small kangaroo

Attracting some bigger 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!

Attracting a few more pigeons than kangaroos, little do they know what is in store for them

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.

SO. ADORABLE. DO WANT!

I know I posted a bunch of pictures of peacocks the first time I went to featherdale, but they are so stunning I thought it merited another photograph

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.

Me with the kangaroos, still just as docile and soft as I remembered

so fuzzy

We managed to catch this koala during one of his four waking hours on our way out of the park

Justin staring down the grumpy looking owl

The owl was very reluctant to leave Justin's arm but eventually coaxed him into spending a little time with me

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.

Since I don’t eat meat he had asked Seth, another hardcore carnivore in Glebe to join him, and Jordan had agreed to donate his charcoal grill to the cause even though he didn’t want to eat.

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.

Justin grilling up the very same animal he had pet earlier in the day.

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.

Justin and Seth's dinner. I contributed the fries and had a thai lime veggie burger that was quite good.

Soft, Cuddly, and Tasty

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

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.

Making the wallabies jump for food

Justin: totally excited. Wallaby: couldn't care less

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.

Grumpy looking owl perched on a happy looking Justin

Koalas sleep 18-20 hours a day. I think Justin only gets about 6 hours a day if he's lucky, so this happy face might be masking a good amount of jealousy.

After we had cuddled with some koalas it was onto the main event: kangaroos!

Feeding a very small kangaroo

Attracting some bigger 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!

Attracting a few more pigeons than kangaroos, little do they know what is in store for them

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.

SO. ADORABLE. DO WANT!

I know I posted a bunch of pictures of peacocks the first time I went to featherdale, but they are so stunning I thought it merited another photograph

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.

Me with the kangaroos, still just as docile and soft as I remembered

so fuzzy

We managed to catch this koala during one of his four waking hours on our way out of the park

Justin staring down the grumpy looking owl

The owl was very reluctant to leave Justin's arm but eventually coaxed him into spending a little time with me

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.

Since I don’t eat meat he had asked Seth, another hardcore carnivore in Glebe to join him, and Jordan had agreed to donate his charcoal grill to the cause even though he didn’t want to eat.

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.

Justin grilling up the very same animal he had pet earlier in the day.

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.

Justin and Seth's dinner. I contributed the fries and had a thai lime veggie burger that was quite good.

The Orientation Process Continues!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I don’t know what is causing this but everyday almost everyone is waking up around 6 or 7 am without an alarm, myself included. I am sure it has something to do with jet lag/being on the wrong time zone but its a very odd feeling to wake up and have no idea why. Usually when this happens to me its 2 pm when I needed to be somewhere at 9am, so I ususally wake up in a panic and scramble to find some device that tells time to confirm my fears. While the fleeting moments of panic are still there I have been pleasantly surprised to find each time I found a clock that I have woken up 1-2 hours earlier than I needed to.

SO in other words, this country has caused nothing short of a miracle to occur in my life. Let us all pray this blessing does not soon pass.

The first order of business when I awoke for day two was to find my luggage! Luckily it had in fact arrived when they said it would, and was waiting for me in the lobby of our hotel at the concierge desk. I have never been happier to see suitcases in my whole life.

I scampered upstairs with my suitcases bounding behind me and quickly found my shampoo and clean clothes. This was blissful.

45 minutes later it was time to head down to meet up with the rest of the group. Today was going to be all about living in the city and learning where things were. Our tour guide Russ, a native Aussie took us on a three hour walking tour all over the city. We started our tour in Hyde park which is very central and houses the Australian War Memorial.

Australian War Memorial

This building has four corners and there is a statue on each one. A member of the airforce, marines, navy and the fourth one is a woman. Russ was explaining that Australia was the first nation to grant women the right to vote, and that equality has always been a big part of AUstralia culture. Since women ran the country while the men were away at war during every major conflict, they are featured on the memorial. Inside of it is a sunken statue of  solider. It is sunken in so that you have to bow your head to look at it, assuming a position of reverence. The statue has three sets of hands supporting it that represent his mother, his wife, and his daughter. These women symbolize the past, the present and the future of Australia.

Also in Hyde park is this statue of James Cook. Much like Christopher Columbus he did little more than stumble into a large land mass, mistake it for something else, and get credit for finding it when someone else was already there. Essentially he is the Christopher Columbus of Australia. Why we can’t properly credit people for discovering our countries baffles me. I took the picture from this angle because our tour guide showed it to us from this angle and made some interesting comments about his….telescope.

As we made our way downtown towards the shopping district we could see the Sydney Observation tower. At the top there is a very fancy revolving restaurant. Being that the hotel we were already staying at was 80 floors high we were told not to waste our money to see the views from atop this thing as it would be expensive and no better than the ones we already had in our hotel.

This is part of the shopping district. Almost all the stores are located in open air alleyways like this. They are really quite beautiful and you can just wander in from the street without having to go through doors.

Throughout Sydney there are a bunch of public parks that feature the work from local artists. The design in this fountain that Russ is standing in front of is from a local artist. Also- since the soil in Australia is so nutrient poor the trees there never loose all their leaves completely since they don’t have the recourses to replace them all at once like the trees in the US do. Instead they loose a few all year round.

We also walked through the Botanical Gardens. When you first walk in the sign says “feel free to pick the flowers, climb the trees, walk on the grass and feed the animals” I thought this was really refreshing how they encourage a hands on experience when in the United States it would be very “NO TOUCHING”. The big white bird in this picture is really like the pigeon of Sydney. THese things are EVERYWHERE. They are very friendly and will eat out of your hand. Here, Russ is demonstrating how they will sit on your shoulder and eat out of your hand if you let them. They have a particular fondness for banana bread we found out. Many of the students tried this, one guy even had about 4 birds on him.

The botanical gardens back up to Sydney Harbor, where the famous sydney bridge and opera house reside. Of course everyone wanted a picture of this stunning view. I’m fairly certain all 80 kids from my program have this exact picture only with a different person in the foreground in every one.

Harry's Meat Pie Stand. These things are world famous apparently. None of our group was incredibly blown away by them. They were kinda bland, and not great food for an 80 degree summer day.

After our walk around the city we stopped at Harry’s meat pie stand for lunch off of the Harbor. Supposedly these things are amazing and quite famous in Sydney. I didn’t eat the tradition version, because it has meat in it, but instead opted for a veg version.

Harry's Meat pies with potato, mash pea, and gravy. Mine was a vegetarian one. Obviously this is not mine because I would never put coke zero (read:POISON) into my body.

It’s like a pot pie with a serving of mashed potatoes and smooshed peas on top covered in gravy. Its good but certainly not the life changing experience it was built up to be.

After lunch we all were loaded onto a bus and taken to Featherdale Wildlife Park http://www.featherdale.com.au/

It is a very nice facility that is a hybrid between a park and a zoo. While the birds and more dangerous animals were kept in cages the more docile ones were allowed to roam within the permitters. So you could be looking at a pretty exotic bird in a cage and all of a sudden a kangaroo goes bounding past you. Its really awesome. This darling little guy was the first animal we met. He is a newborn baby wallaby, and very sleepy as you can see. But o so incredibly soft and cuddly.

Baby Wallaby

There were also Koalas EVERYWHERE Almost all of them were sleeping in trees, which looks very funny and uncomfortable but they don’t seem to be bothered by it in the slightest.

To me they kinda look perpetually hungover. But also very cute and cuddly. And so incredibly soft.

The Kangaroos and Wallabys are very docile creatures and do not mind at all if you play/pet them. They are very friendly/indifferent. Also super soft. I think one of the major genetic traits of marsupials is that they are really soft.

tiny penguins! They huddled in a little group like this and it was adorable. I was so tempted to scoop one up and let it live in my bathtub for the next four months.

My favorite. So beautiful

Being that Australia has been so isolated from the rest of the world biologically the animals have evolved quite differently, or sometimes very little evolution has taken place at all. This lizard is a very close decedent of the dinosaurs, and he looks it too.

This crocodile is MASSIVE. The inclusion of the girl on her cell phone in this picture was intentional to give it some sense of scale. It was FRIGHTENING to be that close to such a gigantic and ferocious creature.

These guys are wonderfully fuzzy. And as long as they can still get to their food they don't really care what happens to them.

kookaburra!

So after we finished up at the wildlife park we went back into the city and had the rest of the night off. I went with some friends out to dinner at a sushi bar. I am not a big fan of sushi but they were very hell bent on having some since it is so plentiful and cheap in sydney. The quality of fish here is also a lot better than it is in the states. The water around Australia is actually very clean. SO clean in fact that they have begun to attract sharks. While this may seem alarming and unrelated, if the plankton and organisms at the bottom of the food chain have food to eat and can swim in the water then they attract bigger organisms, and this goes all the way up the food chain. So if you have a body of water that is attracting large predators like sharks you have a very flourishing and healthy ecosystem. So if you ever get bit by a shark, look on the bright side, you were swimming in a very healthy ecosystem when it happened!

So after my sushi dinner experience I have gone from a casual dislike of sushi to a passionate one. Luckily it was cheap and I didn’t waste too much money discovering this. After that some poeple elected to go out, but after a long day of marsupials and walking I was quite exhausted and decided to hang out with some friends in the hotel and then call it a night.