Cairns Zoo and Culture Park

Trip Start Feb 05, 2006
Trip End Jun 20, 2006

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Wow, today was also intense. We got to go to the zoo, but it was more of a wildlife sanctuary. The animals have a lot more space, and they also do breeding (they were the first to breed koalas in Aussie). So we walk in, and the first thing we see is this bird that was known to be foul mouthed (according to the sign). So we started swearing at the bird, to provoke a response, sure enough, we got one, hilarious. Great way to start things off! So then we got to roam the zoo. I saw birds, monkeys, dingos, wombats, emus, and a pelican... Wow, that pelican was mean. I was trying to lean over the fence to take its picture when he lunges at my camera, pecking the lens extension. No damage, but the bird was (as the locals would say) a wanker.

So then we got to the Kangaroos, they were roaming free on the path! So I literally got to sit down and pet them. They were really friendly and/or lazy. That's where I spent the majority of my time. It also occurred to me that it would NEVER fly in the States because of 'Safety'. But it was so cool to have them roaming free like that! Petting them was just like petting a dog or cat, and they seemed to like a good ear scratch. So then I wandered over to the croc pen. Crikey! They were big. We got to watch a show, where one of the zoo folk gave a presentation while poking, prodding, teasing, and sometimes feeding the croc. It seems like whenever I hear a presentation from an Aussie (pilot, bus driver, croc handler) they are always very informative and hilarious. They have all been very sarcastic, which is exactly my type of humor.

So after that, I went to get my picture, while HOLDING a koala! They are very furry, soft, and almost cuddly, well the one handed to me was. In the wild, they are VERY mean. They gave me a print of the photo, which is AMAZING. I'm going to make sure to scan it. They had 20+ koalas just chillin nearby, which was an excellent photo shoot.

After the zoo, we went to Tjapukai. Which is an aboriginal tribe, who does tours and such. (Pronounced Jabber-kye) Apparently back in the 30's and 40's there was a gov't program that separated aboriginal children from their tribes, and placed them with white, European families for assimilation. So they basically lost an entire generation. Since the 80's or so, the program has been stopped, and the gov't returned the land to the tribes. In this case, the Tjapukai have 25 acres that they use partially for this culture park.

First, we got to throw spears, with a spear chucker. Apparently I'm very good at it, as I was the only one to touch the target (I grazed the top). We also got to throw boomerangs (very hard to handle). Then we got to see the Dance Theater, where the aborigines showed us the dances of their ancestors. They also taught us some of their language. During most of it, they were playing the didgeridoo, which I was really enjoying (I almost broke out into dance myself). They also showed us nuts, leaves, berries, and such that they use for foods, medicines, etc. We then got to have lunch, which was mainly the usual (curry). It seems that at least in Cairns, they LOVE curry. Every meal we've had includes at least one curry dish. Anyways, the highlight was getting to eat local reef fish. You remember all those fish from yesterday? Mmm... they were tasty!

Then we watched some movies about the aboriginal culture, most interestingly their religion. They basically believe a higher power created a baby, and sent a mother and father to care for it, after it could take care of itself, the mother and father were recalled. They also believe in two brothers, who basically represent good/evil. One wanted to make things hard (so they tribe wouldn't be weak). So he made nuts and berries poisonous, he also created a croc to hunt the tribe. In the end, he kills the good brother, and shortly after is eaten by the croc. This leads to the formation of two divisions among the drive... Water/Wind, and Fire/Sun. (Which I think represents both brothers). This also plays a role in marriage, since a fire and water ay only marry (not water and water). This is not at all based on gender, apparently when they are born; they are given their status by the tribal elders (who govern the tribe).

So then I got back, and went to get dinner at a fish and chips place I spotted yesterday. I had barramundi (a local specialty, some say the best in the world). It was awesome! It tasted sort of like cod, without the fishy taste. I also got hot chips (fries), which were good, less salt and better tasting than normal 'American' fries. I then stopped at the IGA, and picked up another bottle of Pepsi Samba, and a bottle of sasperilla (like root beer). Both were excellent.

Also, this morning I was waiting by the computer lab, and saw a guy moving out of his room. He asked for a hand, and I gladly accepted. His name was Trevor, or 'Big Trev'. Turns out that he goes to uni here, and since he's between sessions, he's moving his stuff to another room. So we got to talk about the weather, which he referred to as 'relentless', which I found funny... Also, he was curious, as almost all Aussies have been, about where I'm going and how long I'm staying. We also got to talk about the local surf (or lack thereof) since the reef dissipates the waves. By the end, he thanked me, and commented that Big Trev and Big Kev make a good team. Before I go, I'm going to leave a note under his door with my contact info, since he seemed so cool. Perhaps we can be pen pals and such. Anyways, that's all from paradise... Tomorrow we leave for Wollongong!
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