Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Devilish Good Day at the Australian Reptile Park

This week found us on the road again, after Temple Tuesday and Couple's Conference.  We  woke up on Saturday to rain - a very unusual but welcome sight.  We know this area needs rain and since it is winter, that is what should happen to prepare for summer and fires.  It has been cold and when we walk in the mornings, the smell from fireplaces is very strong.  We were speaking in Tuggerah on Sunday so we decided to visit some of the places we have not seen in the Central Coast.  Notice the Street Beggar sneaking up behind the people watching the show in the picture above. 

Every time we drive north on the M1 we see a large sign for the Australia Reptile Park.  We asked the missionaries if we should go and they all said yes it was a fun place.  So armed with umbrellas and camera, we paid the big bucks to see the Reptile Park.  It was actually very interesting as well as entertaining.  It is mostly outside with only the spider and reptiles housed inside.  The weather cooperated and after a few hours, the sun decided to come out.  But the park is very well set up with animal shows in covered areas.  We saw a variety of lizards, snakes, birds, and of course the crocodiles.  

We even saw this large boa and we both held him.  The snakes were quite warm as well as the crocodiles.  But their skin felt like dry paper, sort of like our old skin!  

This cute little guy is a wombat.  We have seen a few along the sides of the roads and we warn the missionaries all the time to watch out for them when they are driving because if you hit them, it is worse than hitting a Roo.  

The funny face above is a Boobook Owl.  And below is our favorite Kookaburra.  We love the laughing we hear during the day and enjoy seeing them all over.  We will definitely miss the sounds of the numerous birds.  

The spider museum was lots of fun!  We saw all of the poisonous spiders that we need to avoid - mainly the red back spider which is actually like a black widow in the US.  The orange snake below was from Nebraska.  The Zoo handler asked us if we had seen one but we told him we were from Utah, not Nebraska.  :)

"So have you heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir before? They like to sing too."  These lorikeets are everywhere and hard to get pictures of around our flat.  But in this cage, they were a "captive audience".  

And here he is... the ferocious Tasmanian Devil!  We have some video that we will put on facebook.  They do have a mean look but don't you just love those cute little red ears? 

This Brolga was strutting around looking for a mate.  He seems to be a lone ranger, but with a little luck, maybe he can talk some lady Brolga to move in.

 The Western Diamondback.  Very impressive and it seems they made it across the ocean to take up residence here all the way from the US.  

 This big guy is Elvis.  It seems he is very good at jumping for his dinner.  It was a good thing the camera was around my neck because I almost dropped it the first time he snapped his big jaws shut!

This reptile center provides a place for them to do many studies in raising these animals in captivity.  They do a lot of conservation work.  They also milk the snake's venom for antivenom.  We learned a lot about more of God's creatures.

This was a fascinating place and the one Aussie animal we had not seen.  We saw the water moving in a small lake and knew they were making the ripples, but were unable to see them up close until now.  So the top picture is our attempt to see platypus in captivity.  They are breeding them here but they are still very difficult to see.  You can see his bill in the top picture.  Apparently they are very shy, nocturnal, hold their breath for 2-3 minutes kind of animals so it is no wonder that we have not seen them.  
The perfect dinosaurs!  Or maybe we are the Dinosaur Missionaries.  

After the Reptile Park, the elders in the area suggested Somersby Falls as another not-to-be-missed site.  So we took a quick 2k drive and ended up at this beautiful spot in the late afternoon.  The sun had come out in earnest and it actually warmed to about 19 C.  

We have had lots of fun experimenting with the tripod this week and you may see this on our Christmas Cards!  If not, just enjoy it here and at Christmas, come and look at it again and know that we are saying, "Merry Christmas from Down Under!"

The path was rocky, narrow, and uphill and downhill.  But like all things in life, it is all worth it in the end.  We feel that way sometimes about our mission, and with only a few months left, we have become acutely aware that our time here is short. 

While this may look dangerous, it seems very safe.  Every trail we have been on is well cared for and compatible with the environment.  So, as you can see, Tarzan looks good in the jungle. :)

Me Tarzan, you Jane!  And this is the Waterfall.  

YEAAAAA we are in Australia!!  But seriously, that is how we feel all of the time.  Have we told you how much we love this country and the people?  

The water moved over the rocks and by the bottom of the falls, disappeared into the crevices.  

Tree climbing in old age... the trees must be laying down and high enough that if necessary, we can actually climb under them.  This place is only about 50 minutes from our house and we had never been here.  We are continually amazed that each weekend, we are able to find another new place to visit.

We made it down and back up with no accidents.  That is always a positive.  We try to exercise every day by walking or doing yoga stretching and then on the weekend we are hopefully in good enough shape to do something a little more difficult - like walking up and down 150 rock steps.  
This is The Entrance.  Lake Tuggerah meets the ocean at this spot and we were here a few months ago feeding the pelicans.  We spent the night here because it was close to the Tuggerah Ward.

 Sunrise, Sunset... a beautiful view from our hotel room.  We actually had a king size bed which we think is a first since we have been here.  
It was breakfast on the verandah with our good friend Milo! We think of Dearborns every time we eat on the verandah.   

No Elder, No swimming on Sunday. Oh yea, it is 12 C.  Not exactly swimming weather.

We thought about working on our tan, but again, it is Sunday and we are all dressed for Church - "Let the Sunshine In"

This is another winner for the Tom Tom.  We plug in Lookouts near us and we get these amazing views!  We have learned to love a GPS and can't imagine what we ever did without one.  In fact, everyone here uses one because it can be difficult to find your way around.  Just like life. :)

This is Pearl Beach.  Captain Phillips came here in 1788 just 5 weeks after settling in the Sydney area.  The sand was coarse but the seashells were amazing.  We definitely want to come here and spend a little more time.

This is Patonga Beach.  All of these small beaches surround Broken Bay, just up the coast from Sydney.  Herding seagulls is fun but you have to be dressed for the job.  

 We have seen more barefoot people here.  We all would like to carry our shoes and go barefoot but most of us are just not as brave as the sweet little Aussie girl.
All roads lead to Sydney, and after speaking in the Tuggerah Ward, it is time to head home.  The ward was one of the largest that we have spoken to and they average about 50% attendance on Sunday; that is pretty amazing when you think of the distances these wards cover and the travel involved.  This ward just had a family of five join the Church.  One member of the Bishopric has a seeing eye dog because he is losing his sight.  They were all friendly, humble, and down to earth.  The Youth sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" for a special number.  We enjoyed this opportunity and it will be one of our highlights.  Our service here continues to be uplifting and challenging.   Every week it seems like we have learned more.  We are moving ahead - we are trying to read the Book of Mormon in 60 days and we are progressing nicely.  We would encourage all of you to keep reading and studying, especially the Book of Mormon.  And enjoy all of the Waterfalls you can find as well as the Tasmanian Devils you meet!
Elder Tassie and Sister Kookaburra