Sydney holds its Vivid Festival at this time of the year – a two-week extravaganza where the city is lit up with, well…lights, and luckily for us, a friend of mine organised tickets for us to celebrate this year’s celebrations at Taronga Zoo.
I like zoos and the old man could hardly contain his excitement as we sat in traffic on the way there. Interestingly, we were the only adults without small children at the event, even though several sets of parents offered us theirs, for forever. And I admit, that there were moments in between the ‘wows’ and whoops of joy that came from the whole city’s population of children, when the old man and I asked ourselves why the fuck we weren’t in the pub drinking wine.
The event also confirmed my suspicion that Australia has a fascination with crocodiles, which is fortunate because the likelihood is that they will soon be running the country. Where in the past, crocodiles were only found in Northern Queensland, they have headed further south since culling was deemed politically incorrect and their lives became more highly valued than those of the human population. The nation also suspects that they can do a better job of controlling terrorism than our current leader, so I envisage a Planet of The Apes-style takeover, once they decide that feeding off tourists (stupid enough to get into the water at night) isn’t enough of a Masterchef experience.
When we were in Port Douglas recently, I was informed that the reason the locals don’t swim in the ocean has, in fact, nothing to do with the Box Jelly Fish or Irukandji, and more to do with the saltwater crocs that have taken up surfing. The old man says it was the wine, but I swear I spotted one waiting for me in the water beneath our restaurant one evening, licking its lips in readiness for the curves of my newly acquired size 16 body.
Only a month or so before that I was on the Sunshine Coast visiting my sister and my niece – Her Cuteness -who we took to the zoo one day to while away the toddler-awake hours before we could open the wine. Australia Zoo is the one set up by the Irwin family – basically the Royal Family here, who will ultimately replace the national emblem on our passports and citizen certificates as well as the various luminaries on our bank notes. Once you get past the cheesiness and outright terror of the bronze version of this iconic family, Bindi’s dancing and the nauseating sight of green safari suits on every child – could this be a job for VB? – the space is a wonderful representation of Australian wildlife, and in particular of those animals that like to eat us.
As you might be aware, Steve Irwin had a bit of a thing about crocs and his party piece was to taunt them with meat and then capture them in a testosterone-fuelled display of Australian maleness, and this still goes on in the show, only his offspring have since taken over the mantle. I tried not to think it, but there was a tiny part of me that hoped for a croc win that day as we sat in the blistering heat and watched Robert and Bindi play hide and seek with those poor – toothless, I suspect – crocs.
Fortunately, there is a lot more to see than drugged up reptiles and nocturnal animals that refuse to play ball and look alert when toddlers poke, prod and force feed them. In fairness, I was quite impressed by the spacious green plains for the larger animals and my niece had all her dreams come true when she discovered that the real Kings of the jungle (in the minds of most cute two-year-olds) – the ponies – were offering rides. And while I fretted about the potential nit hazard of hundreds of little kids all sharing the same riding helmets, my sister’s chest filled with pride.