Archive for the ‘Kangaroos’ Category

March of the Penguins

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Thankfully the next day our flight wasn’t leaving at some un godly hour, instead we got to actually see sunlight before boarding the shuttle to the airport. We had a lazy morning packing and getting checked out of our rooms until it was time to meet the shuttle, which showed up over thirty minutes late due to some road construction delays. When we got to the airport we learned that our flight had been delayed too. Dad, who had spent two hours sitting on the runway at LAX with Julie due to a Qantas delay was growing quite impatient with this routine (not that it takes much to make him impatient) and he said “ You know I could work for Qantas. I would just have to be able to say, sorry for the delay. “

Eventually we did get onto our flight and once we arrived in Melbourne it was much chillier than it had been in Cairns. Since it was getting close to the end of the day we didn’t have any time to explore museums, so instead we checked into our rooms and headed down to the hotel bar for a light dinner and of course mom and dad got drinks, thus continuing the “Lapointes Get Hammered Tour.” After dinner Julie and I gathered up some $1 and $2 coins and headed to the Internet kiosk in the lobby to catch up on our facebook news feeds and check our email before heading up to bed.

Even though our tour of Phillips Island didn’t start till 1pm the following day, we had decided that we would get up early the next morning and spend the day exploring the city. So we got up the next day around 9am, had a quick breakfast at a cafe we found near our hotel and then headed towards Federation Square, which is the center of downtown near where all the museums are. I wanted to take everyone to the Australian Center for the Moving Image, a free and very interactive museum that I had really enjoyed when I was in Melbourne, and I thought that even Dad and Julie who have very little patience for museums, might enjoy this one. We arrived at the museum around 9:30am and since it didn’t open till 10 Dad and Mom explored the area around federation square while Julie and I sat at a table in the square to take advantage of the free wifi. Around ten we headed inside the museum and consulted one of the docents as to what exhibits were on for that day. Dad couldn’t have said more than three words to this woman when she asked “So what part of Ireland are you from?” In the United States people ask him if he is from Australia, and apparently Australians think he sounds like he is from Ireland. I don’t see why a Boston/New England accent is so hard to place but once even in Logan Airport in Boston someone asked him where he was from.

Interacting with some street art on the way to Federation Square

What is happening here? Art is happening here.

Car from Mad Max, Dad was pretty excited about this

Can Can dress from Moulin Rouge

 

After spending a few hours wandering through the museum we ventured back outside to a sunnier day than we had left, as it had been rainy and overcast when we had woken up. Given the pleasant change in weather I decided that we should check out some of the street art that Melbourne is so famous for, so we headed over to Hoiser Lane, one of the most famous alleys in Melbourne. Last time I was in Melbourne Seth, Jordan, Lyndsay and I had spent easily 30 minutes carefully examining and gawking at all the amazing works of art we found there. Mom, Dad and Julie were quite content just to walk through it at a normal pace and tell me it was cool. Another thing that Melbourne is famous for is its many hidden alley ways as they hold art, galleries, cafes, and lots of shopping outlets. I steered us towards one where I knew we could get some great burgers for lunch. After eating we headed back up towards our hotel to meet up with the shuttle that would take us to Phillips Island.

Healthy burgers for lunch. Dad and I both got Veggie burgers which were incredible.

More street art

 

Phillips Island is  a small island that is located 140 km southeast from the city of Melbourne and is approximately 10,000 hectares in side. In addition to the town of Newhaven, which has a population of 428 people, the islands other residents all live on the Phillips Island Nature Park. Wombats, koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, parrots, birds of prey, and reptiles can all be found here, roaming free, but the most famous inhabitants of this park are the Little Penguins which nest there and come ashore in groups every night to do so.

Before reaching Phillips Island we made two other stops. The first of which was a petting zoo where Dad had his first real life encounter with a kangaroo. He seemed slightly less than amused, but mom seemed to really enjoy herself, although she was a bit timid at first to feed them since they can be a bit grabby.

Mom feeding a kangaroo

Dad staring it down

He gave in. They are so soft.

wombats- they bite!

After leaving the petting zoo our next stop was a koala sanctuary. By the time we got there it had started to rain, and since it was a bit chilly out, all the koalas were bundled up into balls sitting in the forks of trees sleeping. I can’t say I blame them. It was a rather miserable day to be outside. So that was somewhat disappointing. But I did manage to spot one of these:

A kookaburra! Do not be fooled by the cute exterior, these things make an obnoxious amount of noise and they are LOUD.

Roughly another hour on the bus found us at Phillips Island about an hour before the penguins were expected to begin coming ashore. We wandered around the visitor center which was buzzing with activity. They had a fairly good exhibit on penguins that showed the different types of penguins and talked all about the breeding and social habits of the fairy penguins that nested on the island. It was all very well done. They even had some nesting boxes with little viewing holes in them and you could see some penguins that had not ventured into the ocean for the day. Around 6:30 it had gotten dark enough for the penguins to come out, and so we headed down to sit on the bleachers lining the shore. It was a cold and windy evening and it was still lightly drizzling. Mom, Dad, Julie and I huddled together to try and stay warm, but I don’t think any of us were really dressed to be sitting on the beach in the rain in the middle of the winter so we were cold.

 

While we waited the park rangers explained that every night the number of penguins that come ashore varies a great deal due to the moon being out and tides and such. They have seen as few as 20 and as many as 2,000 in a single evening. Since the moon was full that night we were told not to expect a huge number, because this would increase visibility for predators thus making the penguins a bit more timid about coming out onto the beach. The penguins have had a rough time in the past few decades with the introduction of species not native to Australia, like foxes and feral cats as they have taken a dent out of the population. Penguins can only have one egg at a time, but they have survived somehow. We kept hearing them referred to as “determined little birds” and they really are.

 

We shivered and waited for about 15 minutes before we saw the first penguin emerge from the water. It is unusual to see only one, as they typically come ashore in small groups of four or five called rafts. They do this because when you are a tiny little penguin there are many predators out to get you and there is safety in numbers. We watched this lone little penguin come out of the water and timidly make his way out of the surf until he was almost halfway up the beach and then he broke into a waddling run to get to the low lying bush where he would be better protected from birds and such. The ranger had told us that we should only spend half our time on the shore as once the penguins had come out of the water they could be better observed further up the beach socializing and coming home to their mates. We saw that first one, and then about two small rafts of five or six before the rain really started to pick up and we decided we had enough and were ready to head inside. As we did we saw some of the penguins waddling up beside us.

Since the penguins can be easily startled, we were not permitted to take pictures, so here are some that I stole from the Phillips Island Penguin Park website:

 

We got this close

Totally could have reached out and touched one

ADORABLE. DO WANT.

 

By the time we got back to the visitor center we were cold, wet, and somewhat disappointed. While the penguins we did see were adorable I think we had all been expecting to see a few more than the twelve or so we ended up seeing.

Dad said “I’m gonna tell people that there were so many penguins that we had to walk on them to get back to the visitor center. The sea was blackened by penguins.”

The four of us all got a very overpriced cup of hot chocolate in the visitor center before getting back on the bus and headed back into the city.

No running over penguins please

Lapointes Reunited

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Mom and I were up early on Thursday morning to check out of our hostel and check into The Menzies in downtown Sydney where we would be spending the next two nights and meeting the other half of the family assuming they had survived the flight. This was a big assumption. While I was excited for my mom to come to Australia early, dividing our family in this way meant that we were leaving the two least capable members of it behind to get through two flights and a layover by themselves. Mom’s anxiety about their arrival began almost immediately after we woke up that morning. Their flight was supposed to get in around six am but we had checked their flight status the night before and learned that it had been delayed two hours.

We arrived at the Menzies, checked into our rooms and then found a place to stage our stake out in the lobby. I was quite relaxed, I mean even if something had gone wrong it would be no fault of ours. Mom had given each of them a stapled, color copied, and laminated copy of everyones passports, credit cards, travel documents and visas, trip itinerary, and details on the location of our hotel in Sydney. All they had to do was get off the plane, find their bags and then locate the bus driver who was scheduled to pick them up and would be looking for them. Even if something did go wrong, neither of them had an international cell phone so there would be no way for them to reach out to us for assistance. So basically all there was to do was wait. Or at least thats all I thought there was to do. Mom found all sorts of other things to do, like try to predict what had gone wrong, mentally work through the worst case scenario, call the bus company thinking they would know something about wether or not they had arrived, pester me about checking the Qantas website to search for updated flight information, inform the concierge desk to look for them even though we already were. Mom was jumpy and anxious like anyone married to my father has reason to be.

We sat waiting in the lobby for a little over two hours and I watched moms breath quicken everytime a bus or taxi stopped outside the hotel. Around 11:25 we had this exchange.

Mom: I’m so anxious! Why aren’t they here yet, are you sure the flight information said they were only two hours delayed?

Me: YES. For the last time YES. I don’t know why you are so worried, relax, there is nothing you can do.

Mom: I should go get my blackberry so they can call us, do you have your phone? Where is your phone? you should go get it.

Me: What exactly are they going to call us from?

Mom:….well….I don’t know …can you just go get it please?

Me: No, they aren’t going to call us, and even if they do, what can we do?

Mom: If they don’t get here by 11:30 I’m going to–

Me: You’re going to what? Implode?

Thankfully around 11:35 they did arrive. They looked worn and weary but for the most part they appeared to be intact.  After a few minutes of hugs and hellos we all headed upstairs to our respective rooms so that dad and Julie could put their stuff down, shower and change. As it turned out, their flight had been delayed because there had been some sort of problem with the fuel pump, and so they had sat on the runway at LAX for two hours waiting for that to be resolved, thus turning their 14.5 hour flight into a 16.5 hour flight. Needless to say they were quite thrilled to no longer be on a plane or in an airport.

For our first day in Sydney Mom had booked us a hop on hop off Captain Cook cruise, which runs all day and goes to various attractions in and around Sydney Harbor. So after Julie and Dad had recovered a bit, we went to Pancakes on the Rocks for lunch and then got on the boat and headed towards Taronga Zoo, the premiere zoo of Sydney. Taronga is home to over 2,600 animals and is located north of sydney harbor on 52 acres of land by the water.  Taronga is an aboriginal word meaning “beautiful view” and this is perfectly fitting as the zoo has some of the best views in the city, but I feel like this is probably wasted on its animal inhabitants. It would be the US equivalent of putting a very fancy zoo somewhere in the hills of LA overlooking the city. Beautiful, yes, but it means that admissions is crazy expensive to pay for the massive real estate bills.  Taronga is one of only two zoos in the world that breed platypus, thus a platypus occupies their official logo.

It was a chilly and blustery day, and so most of the animals were hiding or sleeping. Dad became very frustrated by this and kept saying “This is a zoo with no animals! Great! We should go to the botanical gardens because at least we know the plants would be there!”

Entrance to the Zoo

Giraffe and Zebra exhibit and the Sydney Skyline

We wandered around the zoo from 2pm until it closed around 5pm and then took the boat back to our hotel. Julie and Dad were exhausted and while it was good that they managed to stay up the whole first day, they were ready to get to bed. So we headed back to the hotel for an early dinner in the hotel bar and then up to our rooms for an even earlier bedtime.

The next day we were all up fairly early and after breakfast at a small cafe near our hotel we set out towards Paddy’s Market, or as dad came to call it- Trinket Heaven. My father is very persistent in his search for “trinkets.” For a man who doesn’t like to spend money he has an odd tendency to snatch up the most inane and useless objects he can find. I steered Mom and Dad and Julie through the maze of market stalls at Paddy’s and watched in horror as they purchased the most awful touristy items that could be found. A stuffed kangaroo, an Australia t-shirt, key chains, boomerangs and all sorts of other tacky and useless items. Not wanting to waste the whole day there, or any more money on kitschy trinkets I made every attempt to push them towards an exit. Once I was finally able to pull them out of the market we headed towards Central Station where Mom and Julie would catch the train to go to Featherdale Wildlife Park to pet marsupials for the day. Since I had already been twice and dad had no interest in going, we went instead to the University of Sydney to explore the campus and then walked through Darling Harbor and then along the water to the Sydney Harbor Bridge where we walked halfway across the the pylon museum.

Julie at featherdale with a koala who is awake- very rare.

Mom, Julie, and a marsupial

Feeding time

View of the Opera House from the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney from the Bridge

Dad and I had a pleasant day catching up, and the weather was beautiful so walking along the water was breezy and picturesque. Around 6 we headed back to our hotel to meet up with mom and Julie. Since this was our last night in Sydney and Julie was of legal drinking age in Australia mom demanded that we go sit somewhere on the water and have a Lapointe family cocktail hour. When mom and I had taken the Opera House tour a few days before we had received a 20% off voucher for the Opera House Bar, so we headed there. The opera bar was a popular happy hour spot and it was crowded, but we each got a drink and took in the nighttime views of the bridge and the opera house before setting out in search of dinner. It was in this moment that dad officially dubbed our vacation the “Lapointes Get Hammered Tour.”

For dinner we headed back over to Darling Harbor to the Black Bird Cafe so that dad could get a kangaroo filet. Julie, who had pet a kangaroo earlier that day was mildly horrified that the same animal could be eaten with a side of vegetables, but dad wanted to try it. I think Australia must be the only country that eats their coat of arms.

A tasty coat of arms

Dad ended up not really enjoying his kangaroo filet because he enjoys his meat fairly well cooked and because kangaroo is such a lean meat it has to be served very rare. After dinner we walked back to our hotel and packed our suitcases to get ready for our 10 am flight to Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef.

How Mary-Kate and Ashley Got it Wrong

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

The last two weeks exams have been in full swing. Since the exam period in Australia lasts for the better part of a month and most of us only have two or three classes this has lead to a lot of down time. In addition to this, it has been raining quite a bit and therefore we have spent most of our time confined to our apartments pretending to study, or just straight up procrastinating. After a few days of this we were beginning to feel the early symptoms of cabin fever, so late one sunday night Kaela and I decided to head to the local blockbuster to pick up some DVDs to watch. We grabbed 3 full seasons of Sex and the City, The Royal Tennanbaums, Ferris Bueler’s Day Off, Stardust, and this little gem:

More like: Our Lips are Full of bad stereotypes and cliches

It was Kaela’s idea.

Our Lips are Sealed is one of those classic straight-to-video releases that Mary-Kate and Ashley made in their prime before they started dating suicidal movie stars and developing eating disorders. The premise of the film is that the girls witness a crime and have to be placed in the witness protection program. They are relocated all over the United States but they keep blabbing that they are in the witness protection program so they are finally relocated to Sydney, where theoretically they cannot be found. It was one of my favorite Mary Cait and Ashley films when I was ten years old, and re-watching it eleven years later I am having serious doubts about my mental capacity as a ten year old.

In the film the girls spend all their time in Sydney, and all their time in Sydney around the Harbor. It’s as if American’s will only be able to recognize that they are in Australia if the Opera House is in the background of every shot. All the usual suspects were wheeled out for the film: kangaroos, vegemite, crocodile dundee hats, and all the boorish Aussie colloquialisms they could squeeze into an hour and a half.

While Jill, Kaela and I sat and watched the movie we mocked the bad acting and were elated when we could pinpoint every location they filmed at. During one scene they have a chase sequence that goes through the public restrooms in Darling Harbor that Kaela has used on many an occasion, she was quite excited that she could recognize them.

While we mostly just found ourselves laughing at the sheer idiocy of the film, we also found ourselves groaning at the grossly over perpetuated aussie stereotypes that the film rested upon. Here is a brief synopsis of what we found to be deplorable about this film. (Let me just say before I go into this that yes, I realize its a movie and a crappy low budget one starring Mary Cait and Ashley at that, so I don’t take anything too seriously nor delude myself to think that this film had much of an impact on anything, although one of Courtney’s friends from Bondi did once say that this film was her reason for becoming interested in Australia, which frightens me)

Aussie slang

1) Colloquialisms- Throughout the film they use words like “sheila” and “brekkie” over and over again, trying to illustrate the point that even though Australians speak English you can’t understand them half the time. This is highly inaccurate. While there is some use of colloquialisms here they are easy to figure out for the most part. For example, brekkie is short for breakfast, sunnies is short for sunglasses, bangers are sausages, barbie is short for barbeque, ect ect. While sometimes a thick Aussie accent can make someone a bit more difficult to understand someone, generally speaking it is really not a problem in Sydney where accents are not that thick. Also- the word “sheila” is only used now on tacky tourist t-shirts.

2) Vegemite- In the film the students at the girls new school make them eat vegemite to prove that they are ‘worthy’ of hanging with the Aussies. While vegemite can be found at most continental breakfast bars and has its own shelf section in the grocery store, it isn’t something people are big into forcing onto other people because even the Australians know its kinda weird. Vegemite is a gritty brown food paste that is made from a yeast extract and it is typically eaten over a piece of buttered bread. So basically you are putting bread on your bread. In the film one of the twins tries it but it is fairly obvious she is eating Nutella and not Vegemite as the substance she spoons into her mouth is creamy looking and smooth, whereas vegemite is thick and gritty. I even looked it up on IMDB and it was cited there as being nutella as well. Not that I put too much stock in Mary Cait and Ashley films but SERIOUSLY!? They couldn’t even be bothered to ACTUALLY try vegemite for one scene? So much for method acting.

Care for some bread and yeast?

3) Kangaroos as pets- In the film the girls have a kangaroo as a pet. This is not only ridiculous but its something that Australians often make fun of Americans for thinking. Keeping a kangaroo as a pet would be like the American equivalent of keeping a deer as a pet, you just wouldn’t do it. Yes its true kangaroos are everywhere, because, like deer, the population has gotten a bit out of control, but you are more likely to see them lying dead alongside a major highway in Sydney than anywhere else in the city. Just like you don’t see deer in New York City you aren’t going to see Kangaroos in Sydney unless you go to a zoo.

4) Climbing The Sydney Harbor Bridge- At the beginning of the film the girls and their parents live in a trailer and the twins share a room. When they move to Sydney they work at a hotel on the harbor but have almost no guests, suffice to say it isn’t a very profitable enterprise. Yet, one day they meet two boys who ask them what they are doing later, and they say nothing. The next scene cuts to the four of them climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I did this during orientation and it is a $200 excursion, certainly not something in the budget of most 14 year olds and definitely not something you can just do on a whim as you have to schedule it ahead of time and its an hour of processing to get onto the bridge.

5) Manly Beach- At the end of the film the girls attend a surf competition that is supposedly held at Manly Beach, which is in North Sydney. Had they actually been on the beach in Manly then the would have been surfing on the ocean and not the Harbor, and therefore would not have been able to see the Opera House or the Harbor Bridge in the background, and yet during this scene that is exactly what you see. Anyone with any sort of basic geographic knowledge of Sydney would know that if you can see these landmarks then you are not where waves could be caught because you would be in the harbor.

6) Boomerang usage- A boomerang is an Aboriginal flying tool that was used for hunting and for sport and has become an Australian icon, but you are far more likely to find one in a tourist trinket shop than anywhere else. Living in Sydney for four months I have never seen anyone tossing a boomerang around a park like a frisbee, or tossing a boomerang to an animal to catch and retrieve. It just doesn’t happen. In the film they make a big deal out of the Australian kids playing with boomerangs like frisbees and one of the Olsen twins even masters the art of using one so that it actually comes back to her after she throws it. Most boomerangs are not “returning boomerangs” which are a kind of boomerang that is specifically designed to return when you throw it, but you have to learn how to do it, it doesn’t just happen if you chuck it mindlessly into the wind.

7) SHAMELESS Qantas Product Placement- Qantas is the big airline in Australia, and clearly they thought it advantageous to use Mary Cait and Ashley as their marketing monkeys throughout this film. It went further than just showing the famous kangaroo logo every time the characters flew anywhere, they even went so far as to blatantly spell out where all the funding for the film was coming from during this little exchange.

Mary-Kate: You need to get yourself down to Australia

Ashley: I recommend Qantas, is a long flight.

Not that I thought the Olsen twins had standards or souls when it came to creating films, but COME ON.

The whole film was camp, kitsch, and embarrassing in its shameless promotion of Qantas and pushing of inaccurate Aussie stereotypes, but then again, it’s a Mary Cait and Ashley movie, so I can’t say I expected much more out of it.

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.