Sunday 8 March, 7.51pm, Frasers On Rainbow Beach
So it turns out that multi-coloured sand was something of an overstatement. I went for a walk for the best part of three hours today on the beach, and whilst the colour in the sand is remarkably varied, it is only really varied for sand. That is to say, all the 72 shades that this town so proudly claims to possess in its coloured sand cliffs, could
quite easily come under the heading of "sand" to anyone other than a Dulux worker. I was expecting a tad more, all things considered, because the name Rainbow Beach brings to mind a plethora of blues, pinks and greens. This was more sort of brown, gold and beige. Stripey Beach or Cliff Beach might've been a slightly more accurate moniker, but then, you can't shill guillible tourists like me into coming here. A beach with multi-coloured sand, I thought, holy fuck, why are people wasting their time with Hervey Bay when there's a goddamn natural miracle going on down the coast? Now I know why. But hey ho, you live and learn, and it is nice here.
So I had a pretty smooth journey up from Noosaville today, just merrily followed the signs (still no satnav, Avis are going to get a smack on the back of the legs when I drop the car off) and looked around hopefully when I arrived, as has become my wont. Fortunately, the town centre of Rainbow Beach is tiny, and clearly mainly funded by tourists, being as there are too high a percentage of cafés and restaurants around here to survive through locals alone in such a small place.
Noosaville itself was nice enough, I went for a bit of a walk around yesterday and admired the various places, but most of my day was taken up with a visit to the Australia Zoo, the former home of Steve Irwin. I believe it is still managed by his wife. Now, I always liked Steve Irwin, the man was mad as a bike but you couldn't argue that he seemed like a thoroughly decent chap. Like many people, I was pretty sad to hear he'd passed away (although in inimitable Irwin style - you can't imagine a man like that just being in a car accident or getting cancer or something, can you?), but my daily life was not consumed by him, and since his death three years ago I've not really devoted too much of my waking hours to pondering him and his beloved zoo. Not so the people of Australia - they
absolutely loved him, he was a national icon, and along with renaming 15 November Steve Irwin Day (not entirely sure what that entails, but it's certainly impressive for a guy who died before he even reached his fortieth birthday), they have renamed whatever lonely stretch of highway formerly housed the zoo as Steve Irwin Way. There's a brilliant copper silhouette of him feeding a crocodile as you arrive onto the road, which is pretty cool, and then you have the zoo itself, which is literally covered in tributes to the man. Besides a display of signed khaki shirts bearing messages of love from zoo employees and others who knew him, there are banners and posters with signatures of hundreds of Aussies sending their love to his family, poems, songs, and one brilliant letter from a little girl that made me simultaneously laugh and cry for her:
(I'm paraphrasing, but this was the gist) Dear Steve, I am very sorry you have died, because you were a wonderful man. I love animals just like you did, and have always felt a special bond with them, a connection not everyone feels. I have been inspired by you to try and make the world a better place for animals, and I used to want to be a vet or a zoologist. Then I found out you need very good marks in school to do those jobs, so I have decided to be a singer or an actress instead. With love, Penny
Kids are top, aren't they?
Anyway, tributes aside, Steve wrote a lot of the signage around the zoo, and the ones he didn't write have been written in his style, so you can feel his influence over his domain even now. The zoo itself is astonishing, they have 72 hectares of land (most of which is open space for the animals away from public viewing, and only some of the animals will be on view at any one time - say, two of the eleven tigers will be in their display paddock, and the rest will be sunning themselves in private), and that is set to increase to 315 hectares in the next couple of years. They're also looking at building a five star hotel on the grounds, apparently, and they had a couple of areas under construction which we were told would be the homes for the cheetah they have already
acquired (I believe she's bunking up with the tigers at present) and the pandas that will be coming over next Easter. That's along with the alligators, wombats, koalas, dingoes, red kangaroos, grey kangaroos, wallabies, birds of prey, elephants, emus, snakes, echidnas, foxes, camels, cassowaries, Tasmanian devils, turtles, tortoises, otters, lizards and of course, crocodiles, that are already in residence. They've all got bags of space, and even when they're doing the shows in the specially built arena (or Crocoseum - I groaned too), the animals seem chilled out and happy. They have great relationships with their handlers, which is obvious (people don't just sit drinking tea in a tiger cage unless they know the tiger likes them), and while they get paraded out occasionally to do a turn and pose for a picture, it seems a lot less forced than in other establishments, and I like
that they can wander off whenever they please, because there's always a lot of space the public can't get at. Steve Irwin was clearly a man who adored nature in all its forms, and it shows. I was very impressed, and should I return to the Brisbane area, I'd like to go again.
Tomorrow I was planning on looking into a trip out to Fraser Island, the nearby sand island which is the biggest in the world, but as usual, the force is so, so not with me, and a freaking cyclone warning has been sounded. They're evacuating the island, and you're not allowed to go there at present. Still, I'm here for four nights - let's give it time, I may be able to make it yet. I've heard Fraser Island is truly stunning, it's actually a World Heritage Site, so cross your fingers it'll just pass us by. The locals seem confident enough, but until the ferry companies are happy, there's not an awful lot I can do!