Our honeymoon adventure to New Zealand, by way of Australia, was phenomenal. For thirteen days (give or take, depending on how you’re counting travel in and out of time zones and across the international date line) we traveled around parts of the globe where everyone spoke English but lived very differently from what we’re used to here in Los Angeles. But before we get to the no-CGI-necessary, Lord of the Rings scenery of New Zealand’s South Island let’s talk about the trip there which included a memorable stop-over in Brisbane, Australia. Grab your passport and boarding pass!
The Virgin Australia flight from Los Angeles left late on Monday, February 6th. We rode in steerage (aka economy), which worked out just fine because the humongous plane was largely empty and we had a seat between us to spread out. There’s something wonderful about free food, wine and movies on a flight, even if it is 13 hours. We slept for a few, worked through part of our Netflix Queue (available selections were heavy on the work of Ryan Gosling and Olivia Wilde) and I barely held on for deal life at all during rare patches of turbulence. Before we knew it we were landing in Brisbane on Wednesday, February 8th. “Time travel” caused us to missed all of February 7th. (Belated happy birthday Amy!)
Upon arrival we were detained by security to be sniffed up and down by a wonderful drug seeking dog. In addition, twice on this trip Jeremy and I were individually tested for explosives. Apparently we look like trouble. In reality we’re harmless and were permitted to enter Australia where we found one of those silly cars that drives on the ‘wrong’ side of the road waiting for us at the rental company. Thankfully Jeremy was doing all the driving in Brisbane and despite some jetlag he expertly maneuvered around this new city and driving on the left side of the road.
As we saw it, the main reason to travel through Australia was to hug a koala, which you can do at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary about 45 minutes from the airport. Jeremy drove through Monday morning activity in the city center, out to the sanctuary area (which it seems most locals aren’t aware of). We arrived before doors opened at 9am and took stock of everything we’d get to see on like the Sheep Dog Herding and Birds of Prey Shows.
Once in the doors our first stop was the 9:45am Lorikeet Feeding. The birds all know exactly when to gather at the appointed location where wooden rods with “plates” of feed are set out for visitors to hold. The energetic birds hop onto a plate and grab breakfast. We were advised to avoid having more than four lorikeets on our dish at a time, and with good reason. They’re very active and flitting about. While nobody was more than brushed by a bird’s wing the whole scene made me giggly and was a bit freaky, like you were in the midst of a Hitchcock film with rainbow hued birds.
The highlight of the sanctuary was of course the koalas. There are about 130 living on site in various habitats which look a lot like the one below. Not only are you supposed to grip really tightly to the tree if you’re a koala, you’re also supposed to jam your body right up against your buddy next to you. Snuggling seems to be really important to koalas. Apparently I have more in common with them than I originally thought.
The ‘advanced’ koalas hang out at the Guinness of World Records acknowledged retirement community. Here they can chill out in peace and quiet undisturbed. Appropriately when we were at this part of the sanctuary a tour group of octogenarians were checking out their koala equivalents.
Young koalas literally hang out in the kindergarten area. Can you spot little guys nestled into the trees? At the sanctuary it never felt like you were surrounded by koalas until you really looked into these habitats and realized there might be four or five hanging on one tree. They had plenty of space to spread out and none of them are over-worked in the human-hugging department due to their strict 30-minute work day (every 3rd day).
And here we are with Bagel, the best koala of them all! Pronounce Bagel however you’d like, just hold on tight because he’s heavy. Overall he was very friendly, but did get a little clingy when I had to return him to the koala wrangler. Clearly Bagel wanted to go on vacation with us to New Zealand and then back home with us to Los Angeles. I’m sure he and Syd the Fish would have made great friends!
And then there were the kangaroos! I had been so focused on the koala hugging I didn’t even realize there would be kangaroos we could feed. A huge portion of the sanctuary is fenced off for the kangaroos to live and visitors are allowed to let themselves in and roam around. We caught one guy out for a morning hop.
Most of the ‘roos were chillin’ out in their designated Rest Area, which made sense since it was a hot, sunny day and this was THE area with lots of shady spots to rest beneath. Guests were respectful and kept their distance from the animals …
… except for Jeremy “No Entry” Diller whose hand full of food somehow crossed the line between man and animal. This kangaroo seemed all for the breach and did not report the intruder, but rather made friends with him.
The kangaroos who weren’t in the Rest Area largely hung around the edge of the ‘roo park which also provided shade. I found one little guy who was interested in some treats from this city girl. I’ll admit it - I was nervous to be so close to these animals. There was absolutely no reason to think they’d bite or attack - and they didn’t behave in a way which would make me think they might - but I was still a bit on edge. Maybe jetlag makes me paranoid? They were very sweet.
One of the coolest things we saw all day was this kangaroo with a little Joey folded up in her pouch. It was a bizarre sight and the momma was understandably hesitant to get close to us so we tossed them some food for later and kept a safe distance. You just don’t see this at a typical zoo, do you?
We ended our brief time in Brisbane having lunch with a view of the city from Mount Coot-tha Lookout. This was the first moment I realized the terrain “down under” may have water and mountains next to each other but it wouldn’t look or feel anything like a ride down PCH going from Santa Monica to Malibu. This was something else entirely. Going forward we made a point of always getting a table with a view for meals so we could take in the brilliant scenery as much as possible.
Onward to Christchurch, New Zealand!