The Day I Finally Cuddled a Koala...!

Trip Start Nov 29, 2012
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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Friday, April 19, 2013

For avid readers of my blog, you will know that coming to Australia has not just been about travelling and working Down Under but achieving certain life goals. And at the top of the list, without a shadow of a doubt, was cuddling a koala. I have been to more animal sanctuaries than you can shake a stick at since arriving here in December but none offered the chance to cuddle a koala. But then, whilst in Byron Bay, I discovered Lone Pine, the biggest koala sanctuary in the world. Even the Pope and Pavarotti have cuddled koalas here. I mean, come on. You can imagine my utmost excitement at the prospect of having FINALLY found a place that allows koala cuddling. Dear reader, I nearly fainted at the thought.

The place itself is set in beautiful grounds just eight kilometres from Brisbane and not only has koalas but a whole array of Australian animals including emus, kangaroos, wallabies, lorikeets, dingoes and Tasmanian devils and platypus. I was nearly bursting with excitement when I arrived but first of all went to feed the lorikeets. This involved holding a bowl of honey milk on a stick and letting them descend on me which was fun, if not a bit scary! One even landed on my head! I then went to feed the kangaroos which is always fun, these ones were very laid back compared to the ones I'd met at Phillip Island. Rather than chasing me for munchies, I instead had to go and sit next to them before they took my food the lazy buggers!. I found myself having full-blown conversations with the poor creatures, much to the amusement of the other visitors! For some reason, some of the kangaroos took to eating my green dress which was a bit strange, despite the fact I was practically throwing food at them!

And then it was time to cuddle the koala. For some bizarre reason, I was really nervous, mostly at the thought of dropping the poor creature! I was handed Mr Peabody, an eight kilo koala who I was told had the softest fur of all the koalas in the sanctuary. It was a very strange moment when I was given him in my arms, mostly because he was taking a dump just as he was being handed to me. How quaint. Once he’d stopped pooping everywhere, I was surprised at how heavy he was and that he didn’t struggle and seemed quite happy. He even put one of his arms around me which was lovely. It was just as I had imagined it to be. Although I was rather puzzled by his name. His keeper merrily told me as I stroked his fur that he was called Mr Peabody because he had a bad habit of peeing on people. All the time. 'Great’ I thought, ‘now she tells me’. But fortunately enough for me, I wasn’t deemed worthy enough to be piddled on, although I couldn’t help but snigger at the thought of the Pope being covered in koala pee. Teehee!

I had a bought a photo pass that allowed me to hold three of the sanctuary’s creatures, so later that afternoon, I had the chance to hold a massive sea eagle. This was after the birds of prey show which was pretty impressive. The only problem was that as part of the audience were a bunch of Japanese tourists with very high tech looking cameras. So when the official photographer came to take my photo of me with the humungous sea eagle, (which for the record, weighed an absolute tonne and I could barely keep the bloody bird upright) I couldn’t actually tell who the official photographer was. As a result, the photo I received, shows my face at the most bizarre angle. In fact, I would almost say it looks like this giant eagle that kept squawking had just cracked some ridiculous egg joke and I’m pulling my mug into a sarcastic scorn. All in all, it was a bit of a fail.

 The next photo was slightly more successful, sort of. This involved putting a massive blackheaded python round my neck. This was made slightly more comforting than it sounds due to the fact the snake keeper was really hot. Being the eager beaver that I was, I made sure I was first in line for the photos and gave him my sweetest smile as he placed this terrifying-looking creature tentatively on my shoulders. I happened to be wearing a floral headpiece that I’d bought in the tie dye rainbow shop in Byron Bay and I saw him looking at it. ‘That’s a very nice headband’ he said, ‘My daughter would love it.’ Darn on two counts. One that he was evidently taken. The other, I bore a worrying resemblance to a child!

I still can’t believe I got to cuddle a koala. And that I escaped without getting peed on! I was pretty reluctant to let Mr Peabody go actually, I secretly hoped that the keepers wouldn’t notice if I plucked him off his tree and smuggled him out of the park. Don’t think Mr Peabody would have been very hostel friendly mind you. And as for the eucalyptus, I think that may have posed a tad of a problem! Mr Peabody, you are a legend!
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