Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Mysterious Disappearance

I didn’t blog last week. The previous week, I just posted a short message about how I didn’t have time to blog. Which was true. I was on the other side of the world, on a cruise around Australia and New Zealand, and although I sometimes had Internet access on the ship, it was slow, expensive and unreliable. Ashore, I spent my time sightseeing, so unfortunately I still hadn’t sufficient time to blog.

I’m back now. The trip was wonderful--especially for an animal aficionado like me. I’d been to Sydney, Australia, once before, but this time I visited several ports where I got to see many different kinds of animals that are only occasionally visible in the U.S., in zoos and wildlife parks.

We started out in Sydney, where I once again visited Taronga Zoo. There was also a new wildlife exhibit right in downtown--Sydney Wildlife World in Darling Harbor. Both were great fun. I got the biggest kick from hearing the laugh of kookaburras at the zoo, most of whom happened to be visiting, not inmates! I absolutely had to visit the dingo exhibit, which housed two wild dogs who were eating lunch. And that’s only some of the animals I enjoyed.

We also took a tour in Sydney of the Royal Botanical Gardens, where there was an abundance of fruit bats hanging upside down in the trees, trying to sleep since it was daytime and they’re nocturnal. Every once in a while some would stir and fly from one tree to another. There are about 8,000 residing in the park. I also saw a lot of ducks, including a mother with babies, and some white ibis. And of course, outside the gardens, there were ubiquitous seagulls, different varieties but abundant everywhere we went. Pigeons, too, and sometimes sparrows.

Then there were the beautiful lorikeets, all around the town--smaller than parrots but just as colorful. Sometimes, they flew around outdoor cafes in search of leftovers.

In Melbourne, we did the Melbourne salute--swatting some kind of small flies, which were everywhere and loved to swarm anyone who happened to be there. Fortunately, the wind kicked up and they disappeared.

My favorite visit was to the Bonorong Wildlife Park near Hobart, Tasmania. There, I got to pet a blue-tongued skink (lizard), a koala, and a young wombat that would eventually be released into the wild. I fed wallabies pellets called “kangaroo poo” which the Cape Barren geese and emus also enjoyed taking from my hand. One wallaby had a large joey whose head emerged from her pouch, and they munched on leaves in unison. A couple of spiny echidnas waddled by in their enclosure, some kookas laughed and watched us back, and Tasmanian devils, which of course we could not pet, dashed around in their enclosure.

We soon cruised to Fiordland, New Zealand, and I spotted some whales on our way from one fiord to the next, and someone else pointed out a seal swimming near our ship. Albatross soared around our ship, even when we were not close to shore. From Dunedin, NZ, we took a small boat tour to Stewart Island, where lots of shags (a sea bird) nested, and so did albatross--and seals. A few people also got a glimpse of a yellow-eyed penguin but it was shy and disappeared before I got to that side of the boat.

We had too little time on our tour in Christchurch due to unnecessary delays. My appetite to see the International Antarctic Centre and the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve was just whetted. Even so, I got to watch little blue penguins being fed in the Antarctic Centre, and hurried through Willowbank to the nocturnal exhibit where I viewed kiwis strutting and drinking. Despite the New Zealand nickname of “kiwi,” the birds are rarely seen in the wild, although one of our shuttle drivers who was also a mountain climber described hearing, then seeing, a kiwi one night on a climb.

Once interesting, though non-animal, sidelight: We viewed the casket of Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zealand’s national hero, lying in state in the church where his televised service was later held, which--as one man visiting from Sydney whom we talked with on the hop-on, hop-off tour bus in Auckland--said, it’s something we’ll always remember: being in New Zealand at that time.

We had a number of sea days, on which I had the fun of giving two “Scholarship @ Sea” presentations on writing. They seemed to go over well, even though the second was opposite a naturalist’s talk on Fiordland. Another author onboard, Christine McKellar, gave presentations on alternate sea days from me, and I think we complemented each other. I was able to edit and write on those sea days, too, and some of the time after returning to the ship on shore days--not as much as I’d have liked, but at least I got something done. And, oh yeah, I sold another book while I was traveling--a Silhouette Nocturne about a Valkyrie!

As you can tell, it was an exciting and memorable journey for me. The only bad thing: I missed Lexie. And despite having a really nice live-in pet-sitter around to spoil her, she acted as though she missed us, too, when we got home. It’s delightful to once again bask in doggy kisses and hugs!



Anonymous said...

Oh, lucky, lucky you! I've been to Australia once, and had the chance to drive around in the country accompanied by local citizens, so I saw quite a bit--including a field full of kangaroos, and a daddy emu herding his offspring (talk about cute!). We also fed nocturnal possums by hand in a sinkhole garden.

I will confess to snatching a few minutes on a computer here and there (especially in one hotel lobby), just to avoid an avalance of backed-up emails.

I would go back in a minute. In fact, I've included an Australian uncle in one of my series, and I really should go do some research...

Sheila Connolly

Kathryn Lilley said...

Welcome back, Linda! Now I'm dying to go to Australia. Except for the part about petting the blue-tongued skink, lol.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Good idea about the Australian uncle, Sheila. I've been thinking about how I can use what I saw in a story--one in which I'd need to do further research, too! And Kathryn, the skink was actually very nice. Last time I was in Australia, I enjoyed a snake coiling around my neck.

Christine McKellar said...

Linda, thank you for your kind comment as to the other author on the Sapphire Princess. Yes, I do believe we complemented each other. I hope you've had time to read The Shadows of the Sea and that you enjoyed it as much as I did Sit, Stay, Slay. I love animals, too. I hope to see you again someday! Best, Christine McKellar

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