Thursday, November 5, 2009

This morning, we finally got breakfast correct. We realized that we hadn't missed out on much the previous two days, though. We walked over to Circular Quay, then boarded a ferry for the Taronga Zoo. We had originally been scheduled to go to the zoo two days earlier, but because we wanted to "experience" the Melbourne Cup hoopla, we re-arranged things. After seeing the Melbourne Cup stuff, we probably could have kept things the way it was. Oh well. The ferry was nice, with good views of Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) on the way over.

At the zoo, the lower entrance was not yet open (curiously, the lower entrance opens after the rest of the zoo opens), so we got on a bus that took us to the main entrance. Perhaps they should open the lower entrance earlier, because the main entrance is a mess - it and everything around it is under construction, so the first impression of the zoo is a uniformly negative one. We went to see the Australian animals first. Crystal got to see another platypus, who was zipping around the aquarium like mad. We also got our first good glimpse of a wombat - this little guy was awesome. He looked like he had just woken up, and was up for his morning stroll. But then he started acting weird, looking like he was humping a stick. And then he found another stick, and humped it too. Never having seen a wombat before, this struck us as odd, but our best guess was that this was an adolescent male - we found out later in the day we were correct. We also were able to see a Tasmanian Devil, who looked nice enough (video here), but then again there was glass between him and us.

We walked down (the zoo is on a hillside, sloping down towards the harbour) to the aquarium part of the zoo, which had fairy penguins and leopard seals. One of Crystal's favorite animals is the leopard seal, and the Taronga Zoo is the only place that has them in captivity (video here). The two they had were much larger than the ones we saw in Antarctica, although the one in Antarctica looked cooler because it was more serpentine looking. After that we tried to grab lunch, but the restaurant we tried to eat at was out of half the food on the menu, so we ended up just getting snacks.

After lunch we went on a "VIP Tour," the reason we had to reschedule the day. We saw a lot of the same enclosures, although this time with explanation of what we were seeing (albeit not much more than you could read on the signs at the enclosures). We did get to go behind the scenes a bit, for example going into the "kitchen" where all of the food was kept for the animals. We could be wrong, but our recollection is that they told us that only the platypus gets live food - everything else is fed animals that are already dead. We also got to hang out with some animals that aren't in regular enclosures, such as the animals that the zookeepers will take with them when they go to schools and whatnot. Crystal got to hold a snake (video here), and we both hung out with a little possum and also an old Kangaroo and a Quokka.

After the VIP tour, we went to see the Asian and African animals. On the way there, however, we made a pit stop for something we hope to see next year, the Andean Condor, the world's largest bird (along with the Giant Albatross). The tiger was out, and it was very impressive (video of the big guy). It made us want to go to India to see them in the wild, irrespective of the fact that we don't really want to give any money to India since it has an absolutely horrible track record for keeping the tigers (or any other endangered animals) alive. We also saw the pygmy hippos - another of Crystal's favorites, and the apes. The ape enclosures were packed, but we couldn't really stomach seeing them in the zoo - they look (and act) too much like us, and it is unsettling to see them in an enclosure where it is vividly obvious they don't enjoy being in.

Right before we left, we stopped by the big red kangaroos one last time, and they were out, and in fact they were fighting with one another - it looked like some MMA action (video here). We took the 5:00 ferry back, and then walked down to Darling Harbour via Pitt Street. We had happy hour at Docks again, and had dinner at Chinta Ria, with the food being very good once again. We walked back to the hotel (we were getting good at this by now), and Crystal quickly fell asleep. Justin went downstairs to check out the bar - we had been here four nights but never been to the bar - and talked to a couple of regulars. From the regulars, he found out the fight the other night was between owner and his son, and the other son had to come by to patch things up as best as possible. Maybe we should have hung out in the bar more - it was a fun place with good people. Next time, perhaps.