Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sleeping Koalas

Michele: One of the highlights of our visit to Townsville was Tuesday's trip to Magnetic Island. I played hooky from the conference and we booked the auto ferry over and back for a day of hiking and snorkeling. Magnetic island is a few km from the coast and has wonderful granite boulders everywhere. Rock wallabies were scampering on the rocks near the dock. Having the car with us was a wonderful decision because Will was a bit feverish that day and this way we didn't have to worry about catching busses etc with a feverish child. Now you might be thinking, you had a feverish child and you are making him hike around in the heat etc! Well, yes we did.... but but we had an agenda, an important agenda, to see koalas in the wild.

Magnetic island hosts som
e great habitat for koalas. No predators for the them and lots of acacia tree leaves to eat. One of the guide books touts that on the Forts track you will nearly certainly see koalas. We consider ourselves a group with pretty good observational skills so we felt that this was as good as a guarantee. Even feverish Will was excited at the prospect of seeing trees abound with koalas. Well, it wasn't so much a long hike (only 4km) but it was one of those hikes that feels long.. uphill, dry, hot and accompanied by whining children. Fortunately, Gavin spotted the backside of a koala in a tree off the trail in time to prevent mutiny. That one was pretty far from the trail though and looked like a grey blob on a tree branch. Fear of the death vipers advertised at the trail head prevented any of us from wandering off trail to get a better view of that koala. So we continued on. Sure enough, just at the side of the road was another koala sleeping oh so photogenically in a tree. This koala was the most photographed koala in all of Queensland on Tuesday. This trail attracts a lot of koala-seekers so everyone on the trail was pretty excited to see this koala. It was amusing to see all the humans, who usually walk with eyes on the ground for obstacles, walking with eyes in the trees. Yes, I stubbed my foot a couple times.

Koalas sleep for 20 hours day because the nutrition from the Acacia leaves is so poor. They wake in the cool hours and eat then sleep through the hot day. As long as they stay in the trees, no predators can get them so they are adapted for clinging onto tree branches while asleep. Back in Amherst, we have a cat named Koala. She also sleeps all day and in some strange places. Here is a photo of her sleeping in our papers-that-need-filing box.

After the koala spotting we went for some snorkeling but by then Will was pretty tired. Robin and Gavin snorkeled some. On the ferry boat ride back to Townsville after dinner, Will did his best koala imitation clinging to dad and trying to sleep. And the next day, Gavin woke up with a fever....

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