Breakfast BBQ and the fauna farm

by Alissa

Ace and Octavia feed the kangaroos.

Two terrific firsts today: Breakfast BBQ, and kangaroos in the wild.

We gathered with a few fledgling friends for one of their regular social events this morning, a breakfast barbecue–most of the fun of camping without having to sleep on the ground. Wood fire, early morning mist in the gum trees, bacon and eggs stuffed into rolls, a playground for the kids. The older kids poked around in the pond, not getting attacked by geese or swans or eels, while the adults carefully doled out their stories of harrowing contact with the native creatures.

“I saw a kookaburra snatch a sausage out of someone’s roll once here.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t mention this–I don’t want to put you off of Australia–but it just goes to show you. Nobody dies of these things unless they are really in the middle of nowhere. My sister was bitten by a [insert highly venomous snake name that I have already blanked out–brown snake?]. She went to the hospital, but she was fine. She didn’t even need the anti-venom.”

“You’re going to the petting zoo? Watch out for the kangaroos–they can be aggressive, especial to women on their period. I had a friend pinned to the ground by a kangaroo and her head and face all scratched to pieces. Usually they’re very sweet, just be careful.”

“The redbacks are so common around the house.”

All this and more over wood-fired toast, buttery eggs, New Zealand strawberry jam with Tasmanian brie, and grilled tomato and onion. Even with a swarm of ominously cawing cockatoos overhead (one of my most-dreaded Australian phenomena), I couldn’t get enough. The breakfast barbecue is a stroke of Australian genius that should be emulated the world over.

The other first came on our way to the zoo/farm. I saw my first kangaroos in the wild in a field we passed by on our drive. They were lying down, looking for all the world like deer in the grass, but for their mysterious marsupial back ends. Spotting them for the first time felt like matching the first piece of the thousand piece jigsaw puzzle of wild Australia. I’ve been working on this one for a month already. Ace saw his first kangaroo on the side of the highway on the way to Canberra two weeks ago. I saw at least three, and they weren’t even roadkill. The moment of elation gave me courage for our next stop of the day, Oakvale Farm and Fauna World.

It is the last weekend of a two-week school break in New South Wales, so the animals were all overfed and docile.  Ace and Octavia lingered a long time with the kangaroos.

After a while, I even touched one myself. They are quite soft. The ones who came up for a snack were all polite enough. We also visited the camels, the ponies, the goats, the piglets, the koalas, the peacocks, the rock wallabies, the cassowaries, the emus, and the stunning collection in the reptile house.

My enthusiasm (and stomach for taking photos of the day) ended there, at the tank holding something called a Children’s Python. Seriously. A Children’s Python. Australia truly is a kid-friendly country.

It turns out to be named for a guy with the surname of Children, but I didn’t find that out until google spoiled the mystery for me a minute ago.

After the zoo, we visited the historic town of Morpeth, where Ace knew about a shop with an exceptional assortment of Australian honeys. We stopped for a slice of cake and some chips/fries (Octavia’s default restaurant food) at a tea room with a covered outdoor courtyard. This is a treat so rare that O sang me Happy Birthday when my plate arrived. Halfway through my flourless chocolate hazelnut torte, something big moved on the roof above us, and another patron exclaimed to his kids, “Look at the dragon!”

After that we spotted another really large lizard lounging around the vines, checking out what the table over from us had ordered. At that point a super-cool teenaged girl got up to snap its picture and it scuttled down a post and across the floor. It’s heartening that even the natives get excited about this stuff. I would hate to lose a sausage without a witness. I’m trying on “forewarned is forearmed” as my new motto.