Sunday, March 16, 2014

Arriving in Adelaide

Over my last couple of weeks in Melbourne, I made arrangements to head to a new city... Adelaide. Adelaide is relatively close to Melbourne, just over an hour flight to the west. A month or two previously I had put out feelers for couch surfing opportunities. Even if I didn't have any animal opportunities there, it might be worth visiting if it was cheap to do so. I got a few replies. One looked really great. A lady named Jess lived on the beach, only a bus ride from the city. She had an extra bedroom and worked nights. Her profile had good references and all of the info checked out. 

So I knew free housing was available. Now was time to search for opportunities to work with wildlife in the area. Before coming to Australia, I corresponded with the curator of Zoos South Australia about such opportunities at his facilities. He was very kind and helpful, but wasn't able to offer anything short term, unpaid or paid. I attempted to contact two recommended zookeepers whom others thought might be willing to meet with me, but neither responded. Since the zoo side of things wasn't going to work, I went to my equally favorite profession, wildlife rehabilitation. In Australia, it seems most rehabilitation is done by certified people within their home. When someone from the public finds an injured/orphan wild animal they call an organization which then either picks up the animal to bring to the private rehabber or instructs the person to call the rehabber directly. As a result, a single organization may know every wildlife rehabilitation location within an area, such as Adelaide. I emailed one of these organizations explaining who I was and that I was looking to gain more experience with and knowledge of Australian animals. I was delighted to receive a response from the directior of an actual rehabilitation center. A koala hospital had just opened in Adelaide, and the director (Rae) was happy to have my help during my time in Adelaide. It couldn't have fallen into place better! 

All that was left now was to buy my ticket and leave Melbourne. Hayley, Kev, and Lorna threw me a great Aussie send off of a dinner party before I left. Thanks guys! After the party, I pulled another all nighter, only sleeping one hour before the taxi came to pick me up at 5:30am. Eventually, I will learn how to pack like a normal person... I hope. The reason it took so long was that my stuff had exponentially multiplied since October. I swear, 99% of the stuff is just clothes. I had to play the cruel game of "Do I really NEED this item?" again and again. So much stuff had to be left behind. I miss you pretty nail polish. I miss you book about the history of reptile smuggling. I miss you space heater. :( yeah, that "roughing it" stuff doesn't really work for me. 

By the time the taxi came, I had squeezed all my possessions into a purse, a duffel bag, and a hard covered suitcase that I like to call "The Refrigerator" due to its giant size and shape. The taxi driver was a funny and interesting older man. We had a wonderful conversation which I have now forgotten every word of due to sleep deprivation. I arrived at the airport and failed at attempting to look like the weight of my bags wasn't crushing me. At the counter, the airline lady informed me that my bag was over the weight limit I selected when purchasing my ticket. You see, Jetstar is a sneaky little *madlib favorite curse word here.* Their tickets are dirt cheap, but they make you pay for everything else. It costs extra to pick what seat you want; the better the seat, the more you pay. It costs extra to have a snack or drink on the plane. It costs extra to check baggage. You pay more, the more your baggage weighs. The catch is that you have to make sure your bag does not go over this number at all! I don't remember the exact ratio they charged me for a slightly heavier bag, but it was something around $30 per kg. Not cool. (Remember, I had already paid extra to check a bag in the first place.) It was either pay or miss the flight. Overall, it cost more to take my bag to Adelaide than to take me!

Jess kindly had offered to not only pick me up from the airport, but also take me sight seeing on my first day in Adelaide. Her top ideas were going to a winery or spending the day at the beach. Unfortunately, neither of those options were well suited for me. I felt bad for turning them down, but I also knew I'd be miserable at either place. 1) I hate wine. It's icky. 2) I was still recovering from my sunburn from Soundwave. It was just getting past the "eye of Sauron" phase and on to the "do you have a skin disease?" look. Not quite ready for the beach. Instead we went out for breakfast, where I had Canadian Pancakes (yes, I ordered them purely for the name), and then went off to Granite Island.

Granite Island is a boulder filled pocket of land just off of Victor Harbor. The brochure says that the island is 62 acres. Jess and I walked the entire perimeter. Most of this time was spent getting to know each other a bit better and taking pictures. The walk was beautiful. A long path leading to the island was completed in 1875, allowing visitors to walk the 2,073 feet to the island. The unique horse drawn tram began in 1894, and is still carrying paying visitors back and forth from the island today, despite a 30 year hiatus. We did not pay extra for the horse tram ride, but I made sure to grab a picture before we left.

Granite Island is also home to an ever decreasing population of Little Penguins, the same species I have seen at St. Kilda beach just outside of Melbourne. Little Penguins, also known as Blue or Fairy Penguins, are the smallest species in the world, standing at just over one foot tall. They live in burrowed nests around boulders, making Granite Island a perfect habitat. They are mostly diurnal, feeding on fish and squid in the ocean during the day, and returning to their burrows to rest over night. We didn't see any during our afternoon visit, but it wasn't a huge disappointment since I've now seen them several times. There was a penguin center near the island that allowed viewing of some of their Little Penguins, but we opted out of that. The picture below is of the same species of penguin I saw a few weeks before at St. Kilda beach.

Nearby was a Whale Center. This facility also charged for entry, but it was worth paying. Victor Harbor (the town we were in) was, at one time, a spot for whaling. Over time they have shifted from killing whales to teaching people about them for their conservation. Once again, I didn't see any whales while visiting, but I saw enough spouts of water from humpbacks in Hawaii to make me feel like I wasn't missing much. The whale center was interesting. It was filled with skeletons of various whales and other marine mammals. It talked a lot about oils used from whaling in the past. There was also a short 3D documentary movie playing in a make-shift theater on the bottom floor.

Thankfully, Since Jess worked nights she was just as sleep deprived as me. We headed back to her place, north west of Adelaide, on the beach. Her apartment has two bedrooms, meaning I had my very own room for free during my visit. She has a cat named Princess Mia who enjoys being in someone's lap at all times. It was so nice to have a pet in the house after five months! The best part of her apartment was the location; it was directly on the beach! The sand was a beautiful off-white, with the only downside being that one of the most deadly snakes in the world lived there. My first time walking down a beach pathway, I was warned to not go down the sidewalk due to a brown snake right on the edge. This warning wasn't really needed as it was obvious people were avoiding the path as if it would kill them to walk within a mile of the snake. Regardless, the couch surfing definitely worked out in my favor! 

Both of these snake warning signs were on the beach pathways just outside of the apartment. I was relieved that at least sharks and jellyfish weren't on any signs. The next day I asked Jess about the helicopters flying continuously over the beach. She said that there was a huge shark frenzy moving through that they were monitoring. I decided that I didn't really want to swim while in Adelaide anyway.

 Jess's cat- Princess Mia

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