This Valentine’s Day though I was going to find out just how cuddly Koalas really are. Other than the game drive out of Durban, I think my visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the excursion I’ve anticipated most during the planning of my world voyage. What little girl doesn’t want to hold a Koala?
It took my trusty alarm clock to get me out of bed at 6:30 AM following a really good night’s sleep. The cough syrup is definitely helping and my knee is definitely better. I can’t swear it is the acupuncture since I’ve been taking it fairly easy on the knee, but I walked four miles our first day in Sydney, much of it on fairly steep hills, and had no worse pain the day after than the day before. Can I get a “Hallelujah”?
I took a shower and read while I waited for my breakfast to be delivered. I went light on breakfast. A pot of tea with honey and cinnamon and a toasted English Muffin. My tour didn’t meet in the Queen’s Lounge until 9:30, so I wrote up a quick blog post saying I was going to hold a Koala and posted it online.
At 9:15 AM, I went up to the Queen’s Lounge and they called our excursion right on time at 9:30. The walk through the terminal and to the waiting bus was probably a little over a quarter mile over flat terrain. The bus was parked next to the curb and the first step was probably only two or three inches above ground. Piece of cake.
Mary and her father were already on board. There were four seats reserved by name for handicapped people and one reserved on the “honor system” for the mobility challenged. There was a woman sitting in that seat and I asked if I could join her. She said I could, but then immediately leaned over and said I could sit in the front seat.
I told her it was reserved for the tour guide and she frowned. For the record, I wouldn’t have moved anyway as there was no legroom in the front seat and I don’t like my jam my knee against anything. I gave her the benefit of the doubt though that she was looking out for my comfort.
As we were driving through Brisbane, the tour guide (whose Dutch name I cannot begin to spell) and the driver, Alan, kept up a running commentary on what we were seeing. I took a bunch of photos, which seemed to annoy my seatmate who was in the window seat to no end. I didn’t care. I’m not sure how many of the photos will be usable as most were taken while the bus was moving.
The bus was comfortable and air conditioned. It was a very nice ride out to Lone Pine. The first animal we saw was a Bearded Dragon lounging under the welcome sign. He was a very good model, turning his head this way and that and even looking straight up at me. Then I took a picture of him with Mary and when she stood up she kind of startled him and he scooted behind the sign. Not when she got down there with him, but when she stood up.
We walked straight through the park to the Kangaroo Encounter and beyond for a tree planting ceremony. Part of our tour price was a donation for the purchase of a Eucalyptus tree for the Koalas’ diet. I chose to take a break in the roofed gazebo in the Kangaroo Encounter during the actual tree planting. Walking isn’t bad, but standing can be torture.
While I was sitting there I took some pictures of the Emus wandering about. Then I saw a couple of Grey Kangaroos next to a replica of a house. People were walking right up to them and petting them and taking pictures. The big male seemed to be particularly friendly, but then a little boy about six came running up to him and he hopped behind the building.
When the kangaroos were alone again I walked over and took some pictures of the female, who was lying down next to the house. The male poked his head around the corner and I politely asked if I could take his picture. He also posed nicely – turning his head to different angles and giving me the opportunity for some head-on shots. I did not try to pet him since he had been a bit frazzled earlier.
Koala Encounter - Meeting Fingle
Then it was time for our Koala Encounter. The line wasn’t bad – about ten minutes which didn’t seem to bother my knee at all. My Koala was a male named “Fingle”. He had really nice white spots on the lower part of his body.
To hold them, you make a seat for them by placing one hand on top of the other. Then the keeper places the Koala and he holds on however he chooses. Fingle put one arm around my neck and the other on my opposite arm. He reached up and touched his nose to my face which was very nice. He was warm and very cuddly.
The photographer took a picture with her camera and then took a couple with mine. Then the keeper took Fingle back and let me pet him softly on his back. I’d been told they had wiry hair, but it was still very soft. Like a Schnauzer or Airedale rather than the steel wool that had been described to me. It was an awesome experience.
After I picked up my Koala picture I walked back to the Gift Shop and picked up some souvenirs. I got a stuffed Koala, an Echidna made out of stone, and a Coozie (cold drink cooler) for me, some postcards and magnets for my sister, and a boomerang and some Australian Animal cards for my grandson, Eli. Then I sat down in the shade and waited a few minutes until it was time to board the bus.
Valentine's Day on the Amsterdam
I got some more pictures on the way back into Brisbane. We got back to the ship about 2:30. I went to my cabin and found that we had received flowers (a single red rose) and chocolates (a nice box of mixed chocolates from the Seattle Chocolate Company). We also got another letter of apology about the Internet – this one from two HAL Vice Presidents in Seattle. How about instead of an apology they refund us some minutes without making us jump through hoops?
They had forms available a week or so ago in the Library for requesting minute refunds. It seemed they were refunding minutes on a whim though – some people asked for 200 minutes and got 200 and others asked for 90 and got 10. I didn’t bother at all. I was sick and couldn’t walk and didn’t need to be further annoyed on top of it all.
I had a great time on my shore excursion. It was the first one since Manta that was JUST fun – no pain or suffering of any kind. Holding a Koala was everything I thought it would be when I was six. I wish I could do that again at every port.
There was one shadow over the day though. Paul and I had our marriage blessed by the Catholic Church on Valentine’s Day thirty-two years ago. Father Sullivan told Paul that he had no excuse for forgetting our anniversary. He never did – either the 2nd of September when we were married by a Unitarian minister or Valentine’s Day. He even went out and got me flowers and a stuffed bear with a red Valentine’s Heart while he was undergoing chemo and getting sicker every day. So I was a little sad at times during the day.
Trivia was at 3:00 PM in the Ocean Bar and went down and played with my new team for the first time. We didn’t do that well. We would have tied for third place if it was Gene, but it was Kevin and he uses a tie-breaker which we did not win. They are all nice though and I’m looking forward to playing with them every day.One funny thing about Trivia was that one of the questions was about a corollary to Murphy’s Law – who proposed the law that states “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and at the worst possible moment.” The answer was “Fingle”. I doubt it was the Koala though.
After Trivia I went back to the cabin and took a shower and got all gussied in what I pass off as formal wear. Then I read for about half an hour until it was time for dinner. Aloha didn’t join us for dinner. She still wasn’t feeling well – she has a cold.
Dinner & a Rom-Com
I had a Shrimp Cocktail, the Garden of Eden Salad (mixed salad with a crouton spread with herbed goat cheese), then I had the NY Strip with a lobster tail. It was all really good. I had vanilla ice cream for dessert. Dedan always looks so sad when I order vanilla ice cream even though I keep telling him that I LIKE vanilla ice cream.
The piano player, Debbie Bacon, was playing love songs in the Dining Room tonight and right after we sat down she played “Could I Have This Dance?” I said “They’re playing our song!” and Jo Anne said “This is your song?” I said that it was the song Paul asked the band to play the night we got engaged. Later, while we were waiting for our desserts, I asked if I could make a toast. I told them that it was the 32nd anniversary of Paul and I having our marriage blessed and toasted “the nicest guy I ever met”. I managed to do it without crying too!
After dinner we went to the movies to watch America’s Sweethearts. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a good romantic comedy. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this particular one before, but it was very funny. I like Julia Roberts and her character was likeable in this movie. I think it was one of the last she made before she made a string of movies with spoiled rotten, conniving heroines.
After the movie I just went straight to bed. I slept like a baby – two nights in a row!
It was not nearly as hot in Brisbane as forecast by Google (95-degrees Fahrenheit), but it was hotter than the Captain’s forecasted 75-degrees. I think it was actually about 85 and the humidity was around 50%. It was overcast most of the day and it was raining as we sailed out of Brisbane at dinner time.