Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day - Melbourne

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day throughout much of Europe, though stories differ as to where the tradition started. Australia being a British domain, it is not unusual for them to observe the custom as well. All government buildings are closed including museums on this day. Here in Melbourne, all but the most commercially oriented stores are closed. Those that are open, are doing a brisk business from customers who must have received cash in their stockings. There seem to be more people with shopping bags now than before Christmas.

With few choices of things to do, this was a low key down by demand, not desire. The one place we would wander was the Royal Botanical Gardens. With ninety-nine acres and 12,000 plant species from around the world, this could surely maintain our attention for a few hours. This is considered one of the best botanical gardens in Australia. Admission is free, so the place was swarming with visitors. Though there are numerous signs stating why ball playing of any type, could be harmful to the plants and foliage, there were a number of families with their cricket balls and bats, mallets, clubs, whatever they call the stick used in that game.

Nearby in King's Domain, we came across La Trobe's cottage, which was a prefabricated house brought over from England for the first government house of Victoria. Brick by brick, it was shipped over to be reassembled. This is not its original spot, but was moved here years later. It was not open for touring when we were there, but normally, it is on Sundays from 1-4 pm.

The rest of the day was spent down by the waterfront, but first we made a side trip to Federation Square, where the Christmas décor was already removed, but the tourism office was open. We were looking for something to occupy our time, thus maximizing the time we had left. One thing that we had spotted on previous jaunts down to this center was a small brochure for an animal sanctuary that is only held at night. Called Moonlit Sanctuary, we booked a tour for $110.00 each. We arranged for the driver to pick us up in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, because we wanted to stay in town.

At 7:00 pm, Jefferey pulls up to collect us in his private car. He explained that he collects tourists coming out to the sanctuary when they need transport. An hour ride, Jefferey made it interesting with his world views and his interpretation of life in Melbourne. He was quite a character and waited for us to complete the tour in order to drive us back again. We thought we were a tour of two, but some others arrived with their own transportation. All together, there were only nine of us.

The tour is at night since most of the animals are nocturnal, so are more active in the nighttime. After receiving a handful of pellets we set out to feed the kangaroos and wallabies that knew we has something of interest. It did not take long to get one or the other eating out of our hand. All of this took place in the open backyard behind the sanctuary. From here, we walked through the woods where Michael, has created protective cages for many of the other species. A number of them are on the verge of extinction and he is attempting a breeding program to raise their populace.

We visited gliders, possums, owls, dingoes, wombats, quolls, padermelons, pobblebonks, some of these names sound like they are straight from Harry Potter, but they are truly animals. We also walked amongst to feed bettongs, miniature kangaroos that are not much higher than my ankle. It is fun and surprising to see this mini-kangaroos hopping all over, but without any inhibitions if you have food in your hands.

The final animal we met was the piece de resistance, the koala. One solitary koala named Gumbah, sitting up in his tree, eating his breakfast or dinner, whichever it is koalas eat when they first awaken. We were not allowed to touch him, but we could take as many photos as we wanted. Seeing a koala up close and personal was all I had wanted. I felt complete.

After the tour, we were invited into the sanctuary building for tea and cookies. Michael, who started the sanctuary on his own, has been trying to get funding for some time to increase the number of animals, but has not been too successful. The tours supplement the costs of care and feeding, plus he has some volunteer programs running also, getting people to assist him with the upkeep. All-in-all, we felt this was a good value for the cost and would certainly recommend it to others. or call at (030) 5978-7935.

Jeffrey drove us home afterward. He seems to be good friends with Michael, so it is most likely a symbiotic relationship. He was quiet on the drive back, which was a good thing since I had hopes of taking a nap on the way, but did not get the opportunity because of the conversation, but now I was on the downward slope.

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