A wombat, quoll and Tasmanian devil walk into a bar…

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Okay – not really. That would be just crazy. None of them drink.

As part of our trip to Oz (Australia that is, not the one with the witches and munchkins) last month, we spent 5 days in Tasmania.

For those you who don’t know, Australia has 6 states and numerous territories. The states are New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Tasmania is actually an island state off the south eastern coast of the mainland. Kinda like Hawaii is to the US but with Tasmanian devils, wombats and quolls.

AGMA likes critters. Except snakes. And spiders. And animals that want to eat me.

Part of the delight in traveling in Australia is the amazing wildlife. Except the snakes, spiders and AGMAovores.

We had quite a few close encounters with kangaroos and koala’s in the wild on our trip to Oz in 2013. And of course we had our snuggle session with the sweet little joeys at the Kangaroo Sanctuary outside of Alice Springs on this trip.

But Tasmania was a new experience as far as critters go…

Sans wildlife, Tassie reminded me a lot of Ireland. It’s roughly the same size and topographically similar. The western part is wild, wooly, craggy with an untamed beauty all it’s own. The eastern part is much more “civilized” with beautiful rivers winding through flatter land. No Guinness Storehouse, but lots of great vineyards.

Did I mention the fabulous wine?

Hubs and I met friends, C & J, from New South Wales at the Hobart airport on November 19th to begin “The Great Tassie Adventure”. We were very thankful for these friends who were willing to drive the rental car. They drive on the “wrong side” of the road in Australia.

AGMA didn’t realize just how thankful I would be until we starting winding up and down narrow mountain roads heading towards Strahan on the western coast. Pass the Dramamine.

And that’s when we started seeing the wombats. Dead wombats. Road kill.

Wombat – the other yellow meat.

It was hard to tell if they were cute or not. They were all kinda puffed up and keeled over on their sides with their little legs up in the air. All of us wanted to see one that was actually alive. We put “spot a live wombat” on our to do list.

The third day out, we struck pay dirt.

We were in beautiful Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park when it happened.

I need to mention that the weather was atrocious that day. Even though it was early summer in the southern hemisphere, Tasmania evidently did not receive that memo. It was in the low 50’s with rain. I was wet, cold and miserable. And our friends, who are very hardy Australians, decided that we should picnic outside then C & I take a hike afterward.

Huh?

Given Hubs can’t walk too well, he and J were going to drive there & meet us.

But J pulled out his super duper x-ray vision binoculars before they left and bingo! He spotted one. A wombat. A really, truly live wombat in the field next to the boardwalk trail.  Not all bloated on it’s side with it’s legs sticking up.

OMG OMG OMG

Then we found out from “real” hikers that wombat sightings were not all that surprising given that there was enough wombat poop on the boardwalk trail to turn the Saraha into a lush, garden paradise. Just add water. I mean, piles and piles of wombat poop.

As the old joke goes – dig down deep enough and your bound to find a wombat in there somewhere.

Or something like that.

After 30 minutes of wombat watching – two more showed up – we figured that 129 pictures and 12 videos of wombats would be good enough.

Ah – but that was just the beginning of the critter sightings…

We saw a paddymelon hop across one of the roads. Yeah – I said a paddymelon. Google it.

Then we went to Devils@Cradle. It’s a wildlife conservation sanctuary for Tasmanian devils and quolls in the National Park. Yeah – I said quoll. Google it.

Turns out, real Tasmanian devils don’t look at all like the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil. And the females don’t wear lipstick. At least AGMA didn’t see any with lipstick.

Sadly, there is this nasty facial tumor disease that is taking a huge toll on the Tasmanian devil population. That, along with devils being right up there with wombats as road kill isn’t a good thing. Their numbers are greatly reduced and now wildlife biologist are having to deal with the implications of that. In other words, the genetic weaknesses from inbreeding.

Despite their sorta ugly appearance and their decidedly nasty disposition – they make a horrific sound –  I found myself feeling sorry for the little unpleasant carnivorous marsupials.

Not so much the quolls. They’re not endanged. They’re too nasty to be endangered. They can put multiple male devils in the same compound, and while the boys might not like it and kinda rough each other up (a la The Soprano’s) the quolls are ruthless (a la Scarface). Put two male quolls in close proximity to each other and it’s a bloodbath. One of them will die. They can’t even put females too close to two males in separate cages. They die from the stress.

Sounds like the post-election United States.

Hubs and I also went to The Platypus House outside of Launceston after several delightful hours sampling the fine wines of the Tamar Valley. Those platypi were sooooo darned cute!

Hic…

And so were the echidnas. Yeah – I said echidnas. Google it.

We loved Tasmania and realize that 5 days were woefully inadequate to even begin to explore this beautiful part of Australia.

Or drink it’s fine wines.

Guess we’ll have to wait for another $528 round trip airfare from Atlanta to Melbourne.

So many vineyards – so little time.

Hic…

 

Kangaroo Dundee

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Hi!

Remember me? I’m AGMA and used to have a blog. I wrote about all kinds of stuff but mostly how not to age gracefully and the humorous side of getting older. And there is one if you look really, really hard…

So we got back from Australia about 48 hours ago. Since I get jet lagged flying to Chicago and changing one time zone, AGMA’s beside herself with a 16 hour time change.

I might fall asleep any minute.

And we had date changes.

AGMA crossed the International Date Line.  Twice.  How the hell does that work anyway? We lost a day flying there. November 16th – nonexistent, poof, goodbye. And we landed in LA 5 hours before we left Melbourne on December 1st. WTF?

Sounds like some sort of a evil plot cooked up by Vladimir Putin and his BFF, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

But it was a great trip. Sophia, my very overworked guardian angel from our summer trip to France and Spain, got a break this trip. I behaved.

But I had fun anyway.

Again, AGMA’s not a travel blogger. I don’t have the ability to write about a trip in a way such that the reader isn’t sound asleep by the end of the piece.

ZZZzzzz….

Friends have asked about our Australian trip highlight. Normally, it’s really hard to come up with just one thing.

But Hubs and I both agree that our unanimous favorite thing on this trip was…

(drumroll)

The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

BBC/National Geographic/PBS is airing 6 part series made in 2013 in the US called Kangaroo Dundee.  It’s about this slightly quirky (in the best way!) man named Chris Barns. But his friends call him Brolga.

He lives in the Outback outside of Alice Springs and has devoted his life to saving orphaned baby kangaroos. Otherwise known as joeys.

Cute, sweet little trusting joeys.

Hubs and I saw the series last summer and were throughly enchanted.

AGMA wants her own joey.  I wonder if I could teach it to use a litter box?  The cats might not be too wild about that idea…

When I realized that Brolga’s sanctuary was close to Alice Springs, and we were going to be in Alice Springs, and that he did tours of his sanctuary three days a week, and we were going to be there one of those days, I entered a state that can only be described as rapturous.

AGMA immediately bought tickets for the tour.  Five months in advance.

The big day – or evening – arrived last week!  Brolga came out to greet the bus. AGMA was the first one off (of course…)  I ran up to meet him and shook his hand. You’d have thought that he was a Tour de France cyclist. Without the spandex.

Friendly, kind, unassuming with a joey in the sack he had hanging off his shoulder, Brolga was awesome!

Did you hear me?  HE HAD A JOEY IN HIS PURSE!

If a female kangaroo is hit and killed by a car, more often than not, the joey in her pouch will survive. Interesting right? You just have to look in the pouch and pull the little critter out.

Turns out, when a little joey is orphaned, you pretty much just stick it in some sort of pillow case or sack and it’s happy. And feed every 4 hours round the clock.

Brolga is one of those unique individuals you come across once in a blue moon who feels he has found his true calling, passion and purpose in life. He’s a surrogate mom to hundreds of kangaroos.

After the election debacle in the US, it was totally refreshing to meet somebody not interested in fame, power or fortune. He just wants to save joeys and raise his kangaroos in peace and without fuss. He’s turned down a 4th series for the BBC because his said his ‘roos need a rest and he needs a break.

What reality star does that?

Before the income from the BBC series and the tours he personally leads 3 days a week for half of the year, he was holding down 2 jobs to pay for sanctuary expenses. He shared a tin shack with no electricity or plumbing with mice, spiders and (shiver) the occasional snake.

Now he’s able to devote 100% of his time to his kangaroos. He’s even built a Kangaroo Hospital and will be needing volunteers to hold joeys when it opens next year.

Pick me! Pick me!

He’s since gotten married to a joey crazy lady and moved into a real house across the road from the sanctuary. No mice but full of joeys. Probably in diapers. Hopefully in diapers.

We all got to hold the two joeys he had with him – Poppy and Anastasia.

OMG. OMG. OMG.

As it got dark, we walked around his sanctuary to meet his mob of adult kangaroos. He pens up the males, but only during the tours for the protection of the guests.  The “boys” can get kinda nasty.

Remember those Looney Tunes cartoons with the boxing kangaroo?  Yeah – the males really do that. A few years ago, Roger, the dominant male in the mob that Brolga raised from young joey, gave him a kick in the groin that required 6 stitches.

Ingrate.

As our bus was taking us back into town, we passed a dead kangaroo in the road. Our driver pulled the bus over and called somebody. He asked this person to call Brolga to check it out to make sure there wasn’t a joey in the pouch.

Kangaroo Dundee’s on duty 24/7.

More tales from Down Under soon…