Thursday 10th June - Fred Gone Wild?!
A late morning again after our night of food and boozing, Fred feels a little delicate so we spend the morning on the sofa watching the ice hockey - the Stanley Cup final between the Chicago Black Hawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. Copious amounts of tea and toast have to be consumed before Fred feels human enough to head down to the ferry and across to Darling Harbour again for lunch.
Darling Harbour is a hive of activity. It looks as though they are erecting huge screens and advertising for the world cup - numerous builders with their arses hanging out wolf-whistle at ladies walking by - I have seen many builders in my time. Surprisingly, none of them swoon onto their knees and cry "Yes! My future lies with him!" Past them is a floating 5-a-side pitch and a large Hyundai football on a spike. I haven't seen many giant footballs on spikes in my time. We pass all this by and head to the Wildlife centre.
Another weird and wonderful assortment of fauna await us. We enter to the bugs - cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers - all of Fred's favourite things. I spot an elderly Malaysian man rolling his eyes at a 6 foot bloke huddling behind his tiny girlfriend at the sight of spiders behind glass. The snakes intrigue him a little more and he comes out from hiding - we see the world's deadliest snake (ooh) - an island taipan. Looks like a brown snake to me but I do like the way snakes move, very graceful and slow, in a way that says "yes, I am beautiful, but don't **** with me."
Next we come to some Aussie animals. There are about 6 species of turtle, not as big as the ones yesterday but turtle-like nonetheless, and then, rapture! Kangaroos! They are really quite cute in real life, not on Telly, like. We natter to the keeper and find out that they are all males, partly to stop fights over females but also because female kangaroos apparently not only can have a Joey in her pouch but also a foetus growing AND a fertilized egg "on pause" until there is space for it! Talk about multi-tasking, and single mothers think THEY have it bad.
After the kangaroos we see cute cuddly koalas (which are not bears), wombats (even more cuddly than koalas but still not bears) and things called wallaroos, not kangaroos, not wallabies and not bears. The koalas are especially funny, they sit draped over branches like drunks over park benches, fast asleep with limbs dangling everywhere. The wombats dig fervently and the wallaroos sort of... Sit. And don't do much.
Soon we find a heavy mesh door and go through it, to find another heavy mesh door and a high balcony. Looking down into an enclosure with a large pool and concrete "beach", we are assailed by parrots and assume this can be the only thing in here.
"Hi folks, I'm the reptile keeper, and I'm gonna to talk to you about Rex."
Rex? We peer over the edge - standing at the bottom of the enclosure is a burly Australian with a Britney mike, long hair, piercings and a big bamboo stick - next to him is a huge, HUGE, crocodile. You can't help but gape at Rex, he is truly massive and no words would do the sit justice. If anyone has seen a crocodile up close you will know what I mean and this one was so bloody big he looked like a dinosaur.
"This here is Rex. He is an estuary crocodile, the largest in captivity, he is over four and a half metres long and weighs about five hundred kilos, we think." Were they not prudent enough to weigh the bloody crocodile?! The man standing two metres from him leaning casually on his bamboo stick must have either no sense or no fear? He tells us they have been "training" Rex- he has to be in a certain position half in half out of the water before they will give him a chicken. By hand. And the reason they do this is so he can't use his tail - the keeper informs us that Rex can go from a standstill to a run of 15km/h in a split second and swim at speeds of 20km/h. He is an incredible beast.
Next are butterflies - they seem to take a liking to Fred, who gets one to land on his hand. I also manage to get a great shot of an old guy busily filming a big butterfly on his phone, unaware that one of the same species has just landed on the back of his hat. There are geckos as well - I make friends with a rock gecko by shining the camera light on it - it paws at the glass when we leave, but I am comforted by the fact that it has two friends in it's enclosure.
"You know they eat their own offspring?" Fred says, ruining the magic for me.
Back into the evening sunlight of Darling Harbour for one last pootle before we catch the ferry. On a whim, we decide to be proper tourists and sit outside and I am glad we do as someone has lit up the Opera House with lighted art! Blues, reds, yellows and greens, all forming sea life patterns across the white fans as we pass - it is too dark for a photograph as we only have one lens, which is sad. It is part of an ongoing festival called "ViVid Sydney", which I am told we will visit soon and do properly so perhaps we will have another chance. Fred and I content ourselves with watching this little bit from the ferry and I think it will be forever etched in my memory.
Tomorrow mien farther arrives early in the morning from Chicago - Fred and I are tasked with keeping him awake until bedtime. This will prove interesting as Chicago is 24 hours of flight and 8 hours of jet lag away from Sydney - we plan to take him to the National Maritime Museum so he can wax lyrical about all he has learned in his Australian History degree as we know he won't be the slightest bit interested in crocodiles, even really REALLY big ones...