Lasting Impressions

- part two -

having made our way into the park past scores of overly friendly kangaroos and wallabys (just little kangaroos from what i could determine), we found ourself at the place where a couple of folks, one of whom was dressed in what i suppose was the australian version of pioneer dress, were cooking some type of meat on a large grill. given all the wildlife in that park, i just had to ask exactly WHAT type of meat they were cooking. fearing the worst, i was relieved to hear that it was nothing more 'adventurous' than beef. having made it through the past few days of meetings on not much more than coffee, little cakes and thankfully, a great breakfast at the bed and breakfast that i am staying at, i was looking forward to a good dinner.

however, before we ate, there was a little 'floor show' on the agenda including what i must admit has to be one of the cutest, cuddliest, most endearing animals that i had ever seen.....the legendary koala. this little creature was significantly larger than i had imagined and had claws that looked almost prehistoric in nature. in fact, almost EVERY animal that we saw had claws that could easily rip a person open if the owner of the claws was so inclined. not sure what it is about australia that 'encourages' animals with claws from hell, and i must remember to check the hands of some of the local participants in the meeting later today during the coffee break.

before i knew what i was doing, i had both my hands on the koala, staring into his/her eyes (still not sure what it was) and rubbing the back of its' neck. while engaged in this very blissful activity, i suddenly noticed that something not quite right was making a strong impression on my senses....especially my sense of smell. the damned little koala STUNK! not only did the koala reek, but now that i had both of my hands firmly entrenched in the source of this stink, i too was so afflicted. sheepishly, i turned to the guide and in the most tactful way that i could muster asked "what the %$@^*#@) is that smell?????????". without a moment's hesitation he replied 'oh, that's just eucalyptus, mate'. i then said, again in a very tactful way "you have got to be out of your *&%$#$%$# mind....i know what eucalyptus smells like and it is actually rather a nice smell.....and THIS certainly isn't THAT!!!!!!!!!". responding once again he said, 'well, it's eucalyptus alright, mate, but eucalyptus AFTER it has passed through the koala'. the folks who run this place must have realized that this petting activity was a fairly common reaction and knowing that dinner was next on the agenda, there was a strategically placed sink with ample quantities of strong soap placed just outside the dining hall.

dinner was indeed a welcome break and the food quite good. best of all i felt was the 'billy tea' which was tea into which a few eucalyptus leaves had been tossed.....thankfully, this method of processing eucalyptus did not produce the same results as processing it through a koala does.

after dinner we went back outside and were treated to yet another petting opportunity...this time with a very sleepy little wombat. after another visit to the sink, we headed down the path towards the realm of the devils. however, before we reached their enclosures we were once again confronted by roos on the run including several females with little joeys in their pouch.

while trying to get at least one good picture of one of them, i felt a tap on my shoulder. not wanting to be distracted from the shot i was trying to get, i ignored the tap and continued shooting. moments later, the tap became a more substantial nudge which nearly knocked me to the ground and turning around, found myself once again staring into a very 'familiar' face. i can't be sure if this was the same kangaroo that had 'claimed' me earlier in the evening, but it certainly seemed to act as if we were old friends.

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gene carl feldman