Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: snakes

Sex Shops, Snakes and Waterless Lakes!

The waterless lake!

The waterless lake!

I am sitting in a restaurant in Australia’s 8th largest city, Canberra, Australia’s national capital.  It is a crisp, clear July day.  It can get quite cold here in Canberra, with average winter temperatures dropping to -2 degrees.

Canberra is a lovely “planned” city built in a circular fashion with lots of green space. There are plenty of museums to visit as well as some funky suburbs such as Fyshwick where you will find plenty of adult toy stores more commonly known as sex shops. I am not in Fyshwich though (surprise), I am in a coffee shop in Kingston. Kingston is a small shopping district near the centre of Canberra. Every time I am here I find something cute to buy. The shops are funky and at this time of the year the sales are great. I found a little book store with all books on sale. $12 for a hardcover, $8 for softcover. Gotta love a good sale.

It is about a 4 hour drive to Canberra from Ettalong Beach. It is a pleasant drive. We pass wineries (okay, we rarely pass them without stopping in, check out www.leridaestate.com, yummy) and the infamous Lake George (one of the oldest lakes in the world), which never ceases to amaze me.

One drives by the signs saying Lake George, but all you can see is land, pastures (called paddocks here in Oz) and cows grazing. How can cows graze in a lake?  Why call it a lake if there is no water to be seen? That’s the crazy thing, Lake George does fill with water every 50 years or so. In fact in 1956 five people drowned in the lake. Apparently it can get quite windy and choppy and is known (at times)to be dangerous  waters. Even weirder, they still don’t know exactly how and why Lake George fills with water or empties out. The last time the lake dried out was in 2002 and remains dry to this day. They do know that the lake will fill again and when it does it will be  about 25 km long and 10 km wide with an average depth of 1.5-4.5 meters. It will be salty, almost as salty as the ocean. The lake also has the tendency for strong winds (hence the danger) causing the water to blow back on itself. This has resulted in filling and drying episodes that can last hours or years!

The drive has long distances in between  pit (washroom) stops. Therefore Australia (like Canada) has rest areas with washroom facilities. The difference between Australia and Canada can be seen in the pictures below.

Beware of snakes

Beware of snakes

The path to the dunny!

The path to the dunny

You are warned to watch for snakes. The warning signs must be for tourists because every Australian knows to watch for snakes everywhere they go.  Australians also know to lift the toilet seat when in an outhouse to make sure there isn’t a redback spider under it. Rest assured I have never used one of these pit stops! I am more than happy to stop at McDonald’s to use the toilet. If you are a tourist, here’s a tip for you don’t ask where the washroom or restroom is. The only answer you will get to that is a blank stare. You have to ask where the toilets are (or a dunny). I am still learning this lesson. On the upside, McDonalds here in Oz has McCafes. These Cafes are very much like a Starbucks, but with good coffee. I am amazed that McDonalds hasn’t caught on to the popularity of these cafes and introduced them in Canada!

This trip is coming to an end. We leave Canberra at about 5:30 for the long trip home. I will use the toilet before I leave and silently curse the late departure. Dam it the wineries are going to be closed!

Rule #1: If it is Australian, it bites!

 

Life is full of rules.  Some rules are made to be broken, some rules are not.  Most rules in Australia are rules that can one day save your life.  One of the best places to hear these rules is the zoo.  On Sunday Al and I went to the zoo to have fun and teach me some Ozzie rules.   When I say Ozzie rules, I don’t mean footie, I mean rules of engagement with poisonous reptiles.

The reptile park isn’t just any zoo, this is a reptile park with a difference.  This park is the only place in Australia that has a “venom milking” program of snakes and spiders.  Put another way, this zoo saves lives every year.  Not just animal and reptile lives, but human lives.  Okay, for those of you who know me, I can hear you saying “there is no way Judy is going to look at spiders”.  But I did.  I will be honest here, that part of the “zoo trip” was not my favourite, but it might save my life one day.

Living in Australia, a person needs to know what a  poisonous spider or snake looks like.  This information can save lives.  I don’t really think it was all that important for me to look at the spiders because if I see a spider the first thing I am going to do is put as much distance between me and the spider as possible.  That said, if for some reason a spider gets close enough to me to bite, I want to know what just bit me!  So, I did it.  I walked through the spider area.  I watched (while standing behind Al) a funnel web spider being milked.  The spider is big, aggressive and I think if I ever see one, I will just die of a heart attack, but oh well, it’s done!  I know my last words would be something like “that was a f###ing funnel web!”

On the other hand, the snakes are a really good thing for me to see because when I see a snake I am curious.  First rule of thumb when one sees a snake in Oz is don’t be curious.  Get away from it!  The best place to see these beautiful snakes is at the reptile park.  In the wild, leave them alone!  Okay, I am listening, I now know this is a rule that can save my life.  I AM listening!

Others things to see at the reptile park, frogs, lots and lots of lizards, tons of colourful and interesting birds and of course, the ones that make you go awwww.  Like the koala mommy with her baby hanging off of her or the kangaroo with a BIG joey in her pouch.  All you can see is the legs and tail sticking out.  There has to be a rule about being “too cute”.

One of my favourites is the wombat.  They are just “too cute”.  I wanted to pick them up and cuddle them.  Not allowed!  More rules!  The danger with wombats?  Stay away from them when they are crossing the road.  Hitting a wombat while driving down the highway is like hitting a brick wall.  We have already had one close call in a car, I hope we never have one on the bike.

A nice surprise was how adorable the Tasmanian Devils are.  There are 3 of them on display in the enclosure and they use all of it.  Every time we saw them they are up on logs, under logs, running in circles, running the inside perimeter of the enclosure or taking a dip in the small Tassie pool!  We missed feeding time by a few minutes.  By the time we got there, one Devil was chewing on a kangaroo leg.  I didn’t ask where the kangaroo leg came from, I am hoping it was “road kill”.   We decided to watch for a few minutes when low and behold, a fight broke out.  It was short and exciting!  After the “scuffle”, the winner slid his bum along the ground to spread his scent ( I assume) and then went back to gnawing on the bone.  The loser joined the 3rd devil with “chucking laps” once again.  The sad thing about these devils is they are facing extinction within 10 years.  Tasmanian Devils have been afflicted with a face cancer that is killing them off.  In fact the reptile park is currently involved with starting a captive breeding facility here in New South Wales where they hope to house 1000 Devils, which has been targeted as the amount that will save the wild population from extinction. (Must be a rule).  In true Oz fashion, they are planning on calling this ranch the “Devil Ranch”.  At this time they are looking for major sponsors.  Maybe they should look at some of the ranches in Vegas to sponsor them!  Check out tassiedevilappeal.org for more information.

The Australian Reptile Park is the perfect place to spend a relaxing Sunday.  You will find stressed out Moms, Dads that look like they would rather be at the dentist, happy, excited, inquisitive, and maybe some tired and cranky kids.

Because there are no rules that say you have to be a kid to enjoy the zoo, you will also find Al and I, we are the couple who appreciate all that wildlife and nature has to offer. We both love reptiles and cute, cuddly animals.  As for the spiders, I think there is a rule that you can only see them once.  If there isn’t a rule, there should be!