Australian Animal Wonderland!

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That’s right, folks…I’m in the land of actual kangaroo crossing signs! It feels so strange to finally be in Australia after all of these years of wishing I could visit. It’s really as weird and exotic as you may have heard. I’ve had some surprising moments of joy like when I was shown the flying foxes cruising over the house into nearby trees. Or when we went to the golf course and saw roos on the green (at the 12th hole, to be exact). Even today when we went to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and saw devils, wombats, dingoes and monitors…oh, and of course koalas. The sanctuary was started in the late 1920’s after the koala population was decimated by hunting for their fur.

So without further adieu, let the photos begin!

The birds that appear in this yard alone are stunning…rainbow lorikeets, parrots, cockatoo and kookaburra are daily visitors.

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Rose breasted cockatoos

 

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Kookaburra
Kookaburra

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Rainbow lorikeets

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The crowd is waiting for the putt

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Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil

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Dingo
Dingo
White dingo (that did not eat your baby)
White dingo (that did not eat your baby)

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Koala gang signs
Koala gang signs

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Sure...if that's comfortable for you...
Sure…if that’s comfortable for you…
Um....ouch.
Um….ouch.
That's a crashed out wombat.
That’s a crashed out wombat.

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You have a little mouse tail there, ma'am.
You have a little mouse tail there, ma’am.
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Cassowary
Oooo girl, put some lotion on!
Oooo child, put some lotion on!

 

These are the last birds you want to mess with. The cassowary can cause major damage to your tender human skin with those feet. They can stand up to 6 feet tall, can run and jump and put a huge damper on your day.

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Licking arm to keep cool
Licking arm to keep cool

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Then there were the bats by the house on the way home. WAY too cool…fruit bats (flying foxes) are my favorite!

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I know this is a bit out of place, but I wanted to mention these trucks that are here. They refer to them as Ute’s (utility) and they’re starting to grow on me. Not sure why they haven’t caught on in the States (sort of a throwback to the El Camino days). And actually, just quickly looking up a Cadillac Ute I saw a photo of recently, they mention bringing this one into the U.S.

GM Holden ute (photo from motoring.com.au)
GM Holden ute (photo from motoring.com.au)

Ute

 

 

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Dunedin, New Zealand

 

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Where to start? I’ve only been here for 10 days but it seems like a month already. Quite a bit has transpired since I arrived, starting with my cancelled flight to Dunedin from Auckland due to snow. It wasn’t that pressing that I got down there that day, so I holed up in a not so great hotel down the road from the airport.  I didn’t have a first impression of New Zealand by staying there, really. However, walking around to find something to eat and checking out a nicer hotel, I saw in the distance a large tall field with trees on it that looked nice, but that was about it.

The flight to Dunedin (which is located near the southern tip of the southern island) was amazing. It’s the only land I’ve seen besides Guyana that has been so sparsely populated.  Of the 4 million people in NZ, 3 million live on the north island, mostly in or near Auckland and only 1 million on the south island. I saw a huge snow capped volcano and mountainous areas devoid of trees. I was actually surprised at how few trees there were. Apparently NZ had about 80% of its land covered by them but when people came here, they were cut down.

There aren’t many animals here either. The poor flightless birds that were native to NZ were killed by introduced species like humans, cats, rats, possum, pigs and dogs. I thought I was asking a dumb question as to where I could find kiwi birds, but I was told that they are very hard to see in the wild. I believe the only mammal here is a bat. NZ is free of snakes which is amazing but does have the sweet tuatara lizard who is a relative of the dinosaurs. Those are hard to see in the wild as well but can live between 60 and 100 years!

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When I was about to land in Dunedin, there were patches of tall dark trees poking up out of the earth like knives standing on end. I could see where the snow still hadn’t melted in spots yet and bright yellow bushes dotting the landscape.

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The following day, I got into town and had a look around. It certainly was quite different than what I’ve been used to seeing. First, the weather was very cold and damp. I stayed bundled up in my jacket, three layers of clothes and bought Merino gloves right away. It was overcast with drizzle on and off and then the sun would come out. However, it was subject to change at any given moment and I learned quickly to always have an umbrella with me.

There are quite a few photos, so I’ll post them here with comments under them:

View from Roslyn looking out onto Otago Bay
View from Roslyn looking out onto Otago Bay
Amazing architecture in a church
Amazing architecture in a church

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Great mochachino!
Great mochaccino!

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Train Station
Train Station

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Inside train station
Inside train station
Chinese botanical garden
Chinese botanical garden
A very steep street, but not the famous one here
A very steep street, but not the famous one here
Gulls in St. Clair
Gulls in St. Clair

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St. Clair beach
St. Clair beach
St. Clair beach
Best cup of hot chocolate I've ever had!
Best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever had!
Tuatara on the side of a building
Tuatara on the side of a building

I was able to take a penguin/albatross/fur seal tour the other day and luckily it was beautiful! Not a single drop of rain. The tour only had 7 people, 4 of which didn’t speak English so it was a fairly quiet group. We were able to go onto private land to see the very rare fur seals, hooker sea lions and yellow eyed penguins. We stopped at the Royal Albatross Center which is one of the only places in the world based on a mainland that albatross nest.  They are the largest sea birds with up to a 10 foot wingspan! We saw about three fly over us and the views out to the ocean were spectacular. If it’s not obvious by now, I like taking photos of the sea gulls. They’re actually quite beautiful and they pose very well. I didn’t realize I caught this one flying in until after I took the photo:

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Gull calling to his friend flying in at the albatross center

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After that, we drove about 40 minutes toward the peninsula where huge hills awaited us.

Cool trees shaped by the wind
Cool trees shaped by the wind

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Fur seals were hunted to extinction by European hunters last century. Luckily, a large population increase occurred over the past five years here. They looked silky soft!

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Baby fur seal
Baby fur seal

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Then it was off to see the penguins and sea lions! The scenery did not disappoint and was literally breathtaking (especially after coming back up the hills!) The hooker sea lions are the rarest of the world’s five species of sea lions and are endemic to NZ. The Maori hunted them to extinction centuries before the Europeans showed up. These males weigh up to 880 pounds! They can also live up to 25 years and can dive to depths of over 700 feet!

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The male with his harem

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The male with his harem beach babes

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Seal skull
Seal skull

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We waited patiently for the penguins to come in from the water. There were two on the cliffs already and finally one appeared right before we left.

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The end of a great day!

The drive back provided some great shots of the sunset, albeit from the inside of the van.

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I feel this was the first time I got to see the New Zealand I have been hearing about and I look forward to seeing more of it over the next few months.