Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Holding on like a koala

“What is that smell?” asks my travel companion as we enter the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. She wrinkles her nose.

“It’s the koalas,” answers another.

We’re at the world’s largest koala sanctuary just outside Brisbane in Australia and I am childishly excited to see koalas and kangaroos for the first time. The pungent animal smells don’t bother me too much, having spent a lot if time on farms in South Africa during my younger years.

First up on our left we spot the lorikeets. It’s impossible to miss these birds with the bright red, green, yellow and purple feathers. We stop and stare. They are exquisite.

As we continue along the path, the smell becomes really stinky and soon it’s clear why. There’s a gate that would lead us into the farm animal section of the park. My companions decide against entering as they cannot stand the smell. For me sheep and pigs are nothing new, so we keep walking until we find the kangaroos.

They move in the strangest way, these kangaroos, using their knees. It looks somewhat uncomfortable. The little baby pouch on the belly also doesn’t look like the easiest thing to have as the little ones go wild inside there. They play and dive in and out of there like it is one big game. I am sure the moms must get hurt sometimes, or at least suffer a few scratches.

I touch one of the babies that are walking around with its mom. Its hair is so very soft and it does this wiggly thing as I tickle its neck, almost like something a cat would do when purring. My heart melts – and I haven’t even seen the koalas.

So we keep walking and find the koalas sleeping with their arms around the eucalyptus branches like they are never going to let go. They look so peaceful and happy just holding on like that.

I envy them for that. While I am always restless they are happy to simply have a branch to hold and some leaves to eat when they wake. I later find out that they sleep for twenty hours per day and that it’s something in the eucalyptus leaves that keeps them so tranquil and happy.

Suddenly we are feeling as lazy as the koalas and its time to head back to our hotel. When I get there I hold onto my pillow. Perhaps one day I will also find my eucalyptus branch.

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