My 2 days off have rolled around once more, and this time I had more of a plan to them. Starting with booking a hostel and hopping on a train Monday night for a 2 night stay in Brisbane.
This proved to be slightly harder than originally planned as my first stopping block was just finding a decent hostel. Brisbane has no lack of them, but when you were limiting yourself to those in walking distance of the train station, it proved to be a problematic ordeal. Simply put, I couldn’t find a single one that promised a good nights sleep. They were either party hostels or just run down to the point backpackers were walking out.
Eventually, I selected the Woodduck Backpackers, since it had relatively positive reviews and promised sociability without the insomnia. I also noted on my booking form that due to the train schedules I’d be arriving after 8pm and to let me know if that was a problem.
Unfortunately for me, there was a problem – when I got there the reception was closed, and the night manager was not picking up the phone. The hostel has a coded locked front door and its impossible to get in without a key or the code (and promises heavy fines to anyone in the hostel who lets people in if they don’t stay here). I decide to give them some time, go out and get some cash, then come back and call again. Ten minutes later, I try again, and start getting agitated – I’ve called 3 times and been waiting just under half an hour. I’m this close to throwing up my hands and walking to one of the many hostels surrounding me, when the door opens and a guest spots me. She enlists the help of several boarders and they eventually uncover the night manager.
Turns out its his first night on the job, and the phone had been plugged into something or other in order to balance the Eftos card machine (I didn’t really follow the description, only that whatever they did meant the phone wasn’t ringing on their end), and hadn’t realised the phone needed to be reactivated. Since he was pretty apologetic about it, and its his first night, I just let it go and head up to my room (an 8 bed dorm I’m only sharing with one girl) before heading out to see Brisbane at night.
The first thing I uncover is the light show currently hosted on Brisbane’s skyline. Due to the G20 summit, the lights are currently undergoing a temporary interactive feature – you can change and interact with the light show via the internet and create your own designs. Something that sounded awesome…but never actually got round to doing. Meant to spend some time the next night looking around, but as you’ll find out, was in no shape to do so.
In the morning, I’m juggling ideas on how to spend my day. On the one hand, I’d like to explore Brisbane, on the other, my hosts have recommended I go to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary after warning me off Australia Zoo (apparently its become very ‘American’ and generic rather than an ‘Australian’ zoo, and the locals have pretty much turned against the owners after some rather poor business and family decisions). Since I know I’m going to be spending some serious money in the next few weeks preparing for New Years, and my month long trip home next year, I decide I might as well splurge this break and do the more touristy expensive things rather than look around Brisbane. Once I get some directions to the bus stop (and buy a Go Card so I can start saving some money on the ludicrously expensive public transport in Brisbane), I’m off on the 430 bus to Lone Pine.
Started in 1927, this sanctuary is now home to over 100 koalas, as well as dingoes, platypus, kangaroos and tasmanian devils. Although I did find it ironic that the first collection of animals when you first walk in happened to be Australian birds (including cockatoos, eclectus and corollas – exactly what I’d travelled away from).
There are several different areas to view koalas, all with different types, including an area for mothers and babies, an area for ‘bachelors’ as well as ‘young ladies’, and a ‘retirement village’. They were scattered around the main stage where short presentations were held regarding the animals in Lone Pine, and the photo area where you could cuddle a koala and get your photograph taken with it. Although I’ve never actually cuddled a koala, I’ve seen so many on my trip around Oz that I figured it wouldn’t really be worth the extra money, and settled for taking photos of those in the enclosures before heading into the other big attraction, the kangaroos.
There is a giant walk through area in the back on Lone Pine where several species of roo can be found, including reds, greys, wallaby’s and pademelon. For $2, you can buy a bag of roo food from the gift shop and feed them as you walk through.
I’ve done this before in Perth as well, at the Caversham Wildlife Park, which had less species but more roo numbers, and didn’t require you to pay for the food, so felt this was far more financially driven. I accept that this is a sanctuary and that’s inevitable, but unfortunately I can compare it to somewhere that didn’t. A lot of things in this park were actually very pricy compared to other attractions I’ve seen.
Despite this, walking through the roos, especially the giant grey kangaroo (at 6″ high give or take) is pretty awesome. The area is also shared by the emu’s, who were very curious at the visitors.
The presentations held throughout the day are very short, usually ranging from 10-20 minutes and usually involve 1-3 animals depending on the topic. There was usually one every hour or so, but the far more interesting ones were down in the farm area, including sheep shearing and birds of prey. The birds were fantastic, and the handlers had them swooping over the small audience and flying over the rolling hills of the area. The final highlight was the frankly gigantic sea eagle that swooped – that’s a very big bird.
Sheep shearing was also great as you got to see a handful of sheepdogs rustle up the sheep and clamber over their backs one herded, followed by a shearer showing how its done and explaining the technique. Its consisted the most physical job still performed today – and the shearers only make about $2.50 a sheep, so have to do a lot, fast. They need the same endurance as an Olympic marathon runner.
The final attraction for Lone Pine happens at 4pm, an hour before the park shuts. The area is home to dozens of wild lorikeet parrots, and every evening the park puts out food for them to encourage growth. This food is put on detachable plates…
Sure you can guess what everyone was doing at 4pm.
I adore lorikeets. The sanctuary doesn’t have any (and due to an illness they can carry, my hosts have made it clear she’ll never take any in), so it was great to be around them and watch them in action. Had to be careful though – although they’ve become used to humans, these were still wild birds – and on one occasion they fled to the trees after spotting a predator none of us could see, only trickling back one they were sure the danger had passed.
The evening was sadly less enjoyable. Whether I hadn’t drank enough water or had too much sun, but I had a killer headache. Even the concept of going out for food, touring the lights or joining the karaoke held at the hostel (which I had wanted to do) seemed like agony. Ended up crashing on the bed and having a long, mind-healing sleep.