Friday, February 17, 2006 - Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and Black Spur Drive

Tom and I reluctantly crawled out of bed around 10:00 a.m. Dean had already picked up his lovely daughter Grace, and the five of us were off to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary. The combined effects of travel fatigue, bourbon, and sleep deprivation had left Tom and me ragged, but we were determined to enjoy the hot summer day and bizarre native fauna.

Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary has 200 species of Australian animals living in a beautiful bushland environment and is conveniently located relatively close to Lilydale. Once there, we went directly to the Birds of Prey flight show. For some reason, the wedge-tailed eagle wasn't participating, but we caught it at the end of another show later. The rest of the exhibition was good even without the eagle, but the eagle is fantastic. It's enormous.

Another highlight of Healesville is the platypusary (great word). The platypus is an odd creature. We listened to the Meet the Keeper presentation before viewing the animals. The platypus is a venomous, nocturnal, semiaquatic, egg-laying mammal with a wide, flat tail, webbed feet, and a snout resembling a duck's bill. Tom dubbed it the poisonous beaver-duckfish. Since the lights were dimmed and the platypuses were in the water, my photos didn't turn out, but I feel privileged just to have seen them.

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Tom at the platypusary

The Tasmanian devils were surprisingly large and inactive. I expected to see them running around and spinning up little dust devils like in Bugs Bunny, but no, they were sleeping. I think they're nocturnal, too. They must spin the dust devils at night.

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"Taz"

We went into the petting zoo and petted the wallabies. One of the larger ones came bounding out of the bush (with Dean's prodding) and almost gave me a heart attack. A little wallaby liked the way we tasted and gave us all a lick. It seemed to think Grace tasted best of all!

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Grace, Catherine, and Dean

The echidna is another odd Australian creature. A beaked, egg-laying mammal, it somewhat resembles a hedgehog. We saw one two days later at Macs Cove crossing a road, a very rare occurrence to see them in the wild.

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Echidna

The bird habitat was very nice, too. Australia has a lot of very colorful birds, and at least one of the birds we saw here, the rosella, I saw later in the wild. The kookaburra, a bird emblematic of Australia, we heard later at Macs Cove. They have a very noisy call that sounds like a pack of hyenas.

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Laughing kookaburra

The last animal we viewed at Healesville was the dingo, the wild dog of Australia. I was absolutely delighted when an Aussie lady walked up while I was standing there and said "A dingo ate your baby."

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Maybe a dingo ate your baby

From Healesville we took the Black Spur Drive from the Yarra Valley, winding up the Great Dividing Range through a magnificent forest of immense mountain ash, with a lush understory of great green ferns. At the top, the five of us had a nice picnic, and on the way down we stopped to admire the superbly scenic Maroondah Reservoir.

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Picknicking along the Black Spur Drive

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Maroondah Reservoir

On our way back to the city we visited Catherine's uncle and aunt, a lovely, interesting couple who have a wonderful place in the native bush. Tom and I hardly recognized a single species of tree. It was fabulous! There were lots of colorful rosella birds about. Grace had fun playing with the dogs and the other kids.

It was time to drop Grace back at her mom's, then we returned home. We had a great day, and we were all beat, but no rest for the wicked, as my mother used to say. Soon Dean's work mate Mick joined us for a "tea" of sausages and lamb chops on the barbie. Mick is a great bloke, a real Australian's Australian, and he entertained us for hours with hilarious and fascinating stories of his holidays in Thailand. We definitely have to go there sometime. By midnight, though, we were about to collapse from exhaustion and had to call it a night.

 

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