Wallabies and Lorikeets

Trip Start Nov 06, 2003
Trip End Jan 24, 2004

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Flag of Australia  ,
Sunday, November 23, 2003

We complete a full out assault on Currumbin Nature Sanctuary on Saturday. Bronwyn's mom can't imagine us taking more than a few hours, but we stay the whole day, riding the train to various animal shows, having photos taken with marsupials and generally being the tourists we are.

The place swarms with kangaroos, koalas, snakes and crocodiles, culminating in a lorikeet feeding of thousands of birds that wing in from the surrounding region to drink the milky liquid everyone holds up in pans. Emma forlorngly offers her pan until her arms ache, without attracting a single bird. But her perserverance pays off as first one, then two, then uncountable birds perch on her pan, arms, hat, shoulders. She ends up white-washed and smelly, but happy.

The sanctuary has humble origins in the area, and seems a bit of an anacronism in the overhyped strip of theme parks along the Gold Coast. This is most apparent in the Aboriginal Dancers show. Their performance is great, but the parallels with the animal shows ("Come have your photo taken with the Dancers!") is alarming. The aboriginal population is practically invisible on our cursory visit to Australia, and the points of contact are all (with the exception of Jenny in Childers) reduced to cultural stereotypes, whether on TV or in this sanctuary. Australia's first peoples seem to have a harder road ahead than their counterparts back home in Canada, if that's possible.

Saturday night, most of Australia sits down (or more accurately stands up) to watch the Rugby World Cup final against England. No one can tell me why the English are called "Poms" (or frequently "Pommy bastards"), but the historical relationship between the two nations makes for a rich and amusing commentary in the days leading up to the match. [Note: After posting this, I get inundated with theories ranging from: Prisoner of Mother England; Property Of His Majesty; rhyme with Tommy, a term for the English in WWI; Port Of Melbourne, where most immigrants landed; pomegranate, from new arrivals' sunburns. The list goes on...] In an atmosphere where France--a country exceptionally unpopular in the Pacific because of its nuclear testing and horrible post-colonial record--is treated with diplomatic courtesy, it's especially bemusing to see England raked over the coals by the Aussie media.

But all the wit of announcers can't hide the fact that England dominates the game. Australia puts it into overtime, but Johnny Wilkinson's final 3 points through the uprights is simply a fitting end to a game that should have been won many times over by the English forwards. I don't mention this view too loudly.

As if in sympathy with the nation, a storm rolls in and drowns the coast with rain and lightning, lashing the palm trees outside the window until they seem wigged out rag dolls.
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