Okay, so we may have left Airlie Beach a little later than planned. But we needed those extra 20 minutes of sleep...and that Maccas brekkie... The upshot is that we were late to see the turtles. Very late. Like we should have arrived at 6.30 and we were still driving at 8pm late. The drive also took a lot longer and was quite a bit more exhausting than we'd predicted too. I've done it before, but it's a hell of a lot different with no aircon. When we got to Rockhampton it looked as thought we'd been helping to build the pyramids so tired, dusty and broken were our faces.
But we made it; thank the stars we were late anyway because we ended up in the group with the best Turtle.
I should explain that Mon Repos is a prime turtle nesting location, and for the price of a coffee and cake you get to follow a guide and watch as they emerge from the sea, dig an egg pit, lay, cover their nest up and return to the ocean. The group who went first - our original group - had their turtle return which will often happen if they are disturbed (as soon as they begin to lay no amount of disturbance will stop them) whereas we arrived, nipped to the loo and got the full turtle show right away. Some people wait in their groups until gone midnight...so everything happens for a reason, eh?
Our turtle, lets call her Theresa, was a newbie and it was her first season of laying. This was her third batch and they can lay up the five. We weren't allowed to use the flash on our cameras (although apparently no one told the Japanese group...) so the pictures aren't the best, but it was absolutely amazing to see.
The pegs are to locate the eggs, as they are moved afterwards to a safer spot on the beach.
Theresa was a loggerhead turtle and Chris, ever the man, was amazed at how big she was. They get measured, tagged and their weight estimated. There are huge problems with turtle numbers at the moment, although due mostly to bad fishing practices in other parts of the world, so keeping track of them is important. I can't recommend doing this enough to people. Not only does it help to support the conservation efforts, it's also just magical to watch something like this up close. I swear the voice of David Attenborough was whispering into my ear throughout...
Unsurprsingly we found it difficult to get anywhere to sleep at gone 10pm so instead opted to pitch up, dog tired, at a free rest stop. It might not have had any showers, but it gave us somewhere to rest our weary heads so we were happy.
Bridget's little tent did her proud.
But we awoke still pretty sleepy the next day...
We made the short hop to Hervey Bay where we were going to collect my sister. But plans, as ever, changed, and we left her behind to drive to Noosa for the night. Unfortunately we were all still dead tired after uber-drive the day before and gave up in Gympie where we checked into, essentially, a trailer park. Thankfully one of the nice white trash inhabitants pointed out that our tail lights didn't work. Just another thing to add to the list of Kat Slater's defects, although the first that meant she wasn't actually road worthy. We loved our spot for the night, although mostly because it had showers and power outlets. After a while you become relatively easily pleased.
The next day we drove to...dah dah daaaaah...Australia Zoo! The drive was useful, because it made us aware of quite how far out the van speedo was. Hurrah! But little did we care, we had some croc hunting to do.
This is probably my favourite sign ever. Funny how sitting on the fence can get you killed, eh?
We saw tasmanian devils.
And, finally, cassowaries.
Notice something? That's right, they're all asleep. Don't go at the peak of summer, guys. Its HOT.
I narrowly avoided a croc attack by holding it open with my strident feminist strength. Rawr.
I swear I jumped higher, my camera was just too slow...
This picture illustrated how kangaroos mate, but we wondered why the male kangaroo had to have such, well, rapey eyes. Who drew this for children? He looks so angry and her arms looks so...meh.
Thankfully we found some less menacing marsupials...
...but some rather scary crocs. Ok, not this one, it was tiny.
They talked about snake safety, and got some poor bloke to dress up like a bogun and show how not to handle snakes. No one laughed, it was so awkward.
Then there were some pretty cool birds of prey.
Before finally we got our croc baiting. These guys are mental. How do you get this job, and what does it say on your passport? 'Croc antagoniser'?
We had enough of scaly creatures and went to see some fluffy ones., although apparently even these can be vicious.
The elephant section was pretty cool, but as ex circus animals they don't seem wild at all, something we witnessed throughout the zoo. The animals are all very humanised - we saw the tiger keeper literally sat down chilling out in the tiger house - and actively encouraged to be pet like. The dingoes actually get walked around on a leash! It was something I didn't really like about the zoo, but then I'm no animal expert, so if someone can tell me it helps their wellbeing then I'll take back my criticisms.
Our final stop was the new, much hyped, over advertised 'Africa' section. Now, perhaps our hopes were too high but given the amount they bang on about this bit we'd expected something special. What we found was, literally, a large paddock with a few giraffe and zebra, and one rhino.
My camera chose that moment to give up, and so did we. Exiting via the gift shop, obviously.
Australia Zoo is touted as a 'must see' on your East Coast, but I was slightly underwhelmed. It's marketed as a huge tribute to Steve Irwin, but you can buy tacky merchandise with his face on - it seems a slight contradiction You can't be reverent when there's a shop that sells dolls of your 15 year old daughter and beer coolers with a picture of Irwin's gawping face on them. It's clearly a hugely profitable business and it was a good day out, but they know what they're doing when they charge that $59 entrance fee (and a ham roll sets you back $9...).
That night we stayed in the back garden of a lovely lady who managed to be hospitable without even being at home. Thank you Heather! It also marked the beginning of three-in-a-van with the arrival of my little sister and the official start of our Aussie Christmas...