Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Continuing Along the Coast – or – MORE KOALAS!!!!

3 July 2013

We spent a second day in Tuncurry – the sun finally, FINALLY, showed up, so that things can dry out, and we can see the beauty of this part of Australia.  Our second day in Tuncurry was partly sunny and a lot cloudy, so we took care of travel business on the road – laundry, finishing our taxes and sending that off, dealing with renewing our prescription meds.  Boring stuff that needs to get done to continue on.  (I still think we need to find laundry fairies who come in during the night to wash, dry, and fold the dirty laundry, so that I don’t have to spend a few hours doing that.  I did meet some nice women at the campground laundry – but still, there are so many things to do and laundry just isn’t on the top of my list.  On the other hand, considering how soaking wet my clothes were from my hike to the lighthouse, it was nice  to get them washed and finally dried.)

Today we drove north, first along The Lakes Highway (weaving among more of the great lakes here); then along the Pacific Highway, which is inland a bit; then off to the Ocean Highway, which runs, obviously, close to the ocean.  The inland part, near the lakes and than along the Pacific Hwy, is surprisingly green – so much of Australia is desert, scrub, dune, sand, the Nullarbor (yes, as in no trees) – just solid red or beige ground and little growing on it.  So the green of New South Wales is a pleasant shock.  Although, with all the rain we just had, it makes sense that this area is bright green, reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest USA, or the British Isles – places that have more rain than most, along with mist, drizzle, sprinkles, and of course fog.

There were fields full of cows, horses, one pasture full of camels!  And of course, the occasional newly-mown field full of wallabies nibbling on whatever looked tasty.  Field after field of wallabies!  But always next to a wooded area, so they could run and hide.  (There are approximately 60 million wallabies and kangaroos in this country – that’s about three times more kangaroos/wallabies than there are people! Can you imagine that many roos and wallabies????)

Then there were huge tall hills, towering over the highway, full of trees and probably koalas, because there were koala signs all around – slow down, koalas for the next X km, and koala rescue hotline numbers.  I kept looking in the tops of the trees, hoping to see a koala or two, but didn’t see any at all!

We drove over rivers – this part of the continent is WET! – and past lakes, and then the ocean!  We stopped at Rainbow Beach, a long beautiful stretch of beach, along the Tasman Sea, or maybe the Pacific Ocean, depending on which map you look use.  Gorgeous turquoise water and golden sand, the beach with a very slight slope so the waves come rolling and crashing in row after row, looking so orderly and organized for water.  Absolutely beautiful!  I picked up fish and chips that we shared sitting on a bench by the lifeguard chair, watching the waves and one crazy surfer way out trying to catch a wave.  These weren’t monster waves, but they were pretty big, maybe 5 ft or so in the area he was trying to surf.

We traveled onward, until we came to Lighthouse Beach – this is just a few km south of Port Macquarie, tomorrow’s destination, so we decided we may as well stay here, rather than in the big town.  Our holiday park is in a very wooded area, the beach maybe 4 or 5 minutes down the road but close enough so we can hear the constant roar of the waves.  Well, when the parrots and lorikeets and cockatoos aren’t squawking at each other as they fly from tree to tree to lawn, squabbling over food and prime space on the best branches.  And when the kookaburras aren’t laughing their truly demonic and maniacal laugh, which seems to go on and on like a demented mechanical clown, really almost creepy – very Bellatrix Le Strange, for my Harry Potter fan friends.

But the piéce de résistance (excuse the accent ague rather than the accent grave) is that there are koalas here!  In the neighborhood!  In the park!  People have seen koalas hanging out around here, there are signs to drive slowly (with various cuddly koala images on the signs, from realistic to cartoonish), and this is koala country!  Eucalypts and gum trees all over!  YAY koalas!

 After we plugged in the van, popped the top, transferred stuff to the cab, I went out for a walk to find the koalas – I met several of our neighbors, all of whom live in this park full-time, in some of the houses that are built around the edges of the park.  They look like quaint little Victorian cottages, but I’m sure they’re reproductions.  Anyway, everyone had different suggestions of where to look and what kind of tree the koalas prefer, but basically I looked in each and every tree.  I did meet a black lop-eared rabbit who people feed, and who is probably an escaped pet who now lives in the park.  I also met a woman who works at the koala hospital in Port Macquarie, which we’ll visit tomorrow.  But my favorite was the man who has lived in this park with his wife, over 20 years, and really enjoys the community as well as the quiet.  Very friendly people, and very helpful in my quest to find a koala.

And then, there he was!  High up in a tree, in the middle of a yard, not far from the road – one lone koala snuggled up into a furball sleeping soundly!!!!  YAY koala!!!!  I tried talking to him, but he slept on.  (I think it was a boy because they have bigger noses, and are generally bigger than females – and this was a pretty good-sized koala.)  I may go see if he’s walking around later in the evening, though I don’t want to shine a flashlight into his face.  Yes, I tried to take photos – but he was pretty far up in the tree, and it was late afternoon so getting somewhat dark – the photos make him look more like a large termite nest rather than a koala.  That grey blob is my koala.  But yay, my first koala totally in the wild, not in a reserve, not fenced in, just living his koala life!!!!  

I think the only uniquely Australian animal I haven’t seen is the platypus – and while interesting, they aren’t as cute as the koalas or wallabies – they just don’t have the same cachet.

That was the most exciting event of the day – finding my wild koala!  Okay, yeah, they don’t get too wild and crazy – they sleep about 18-20 hours a day and focus on eating eucalypts and gum leaves when awake.  These are not wild and crazy guys – they’re just cute and cuddly koalas.

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