March 23, 2005

This morning we slept in a bit as we're all fighting off minor colds. We were out of the motel, though, by checkout at 10:00 am, which is the standard checkout time in Oz. On our way out of town, we stopped at the big bunch of bananas for a couple of the yellow fruits for brekky. Then it was back on the road.

We didn't have very far to go today and extra time so we looked for any opportunity to stop and see interesting things. We didn't have to wait long before we came upon a butterfly house. For A$20 we were all able to enter a warm, moist greenhouse filled with plants and butterflies. The small insects would flutter about, chasing one another and sipping nectar. The greenhouse included a corner for breeding. We actually watched a butterfly laying eggs and saw caterpillars eating leaves and chrysalises. There were many varieties of butterflies and we even learned a couple of things about butterflies. It was a lovely stop.

Next up was lunch just north of a little town called Kempsey. We stopped at Fredo Pies, which advertised itself as having the best pies around. We have had a few of these pies. They are really just small pot pies that you can eat with your hands. Although when most Americans think of pies, they think cherry or pecan, so the idea of eating pies for lunch might seem a bit odd. If you see a pie shop in Australia don’t wait for dessert - stop for the meal. They were pretty good pies at Fredo, but the colorful shack itself was worth the stop. It was a typical tourist trap that we always enjoy, with bright signs and statues of famous people out front. They also had some great dessert pies.

We still had plenty of time to spend on the Pacific Highway before we wanted to stop. We found the perfect place to spend that time: the Billabong Koala Sanctuary near Port Macquarie. A typical wildlife exhibit, it had exactly what we've wanted again since Paul's Place: an opportunity to pet and feed the animals. For about A$30, we got in and then bought food for the kangaroos for A$.50 a small cup. That was a great deal, though, considering we spent two hours there feeding wallabies, wallaroos, kangaroos and emus, got to pet a koala and see other animals including another talking cockatoo. You know how we love those! The wallabies were our favorite. They let us feed them and pet them. We watched them chase each other and they were just so sweet. We had a great time and could have stayed all day. The koalas were so darling. We didn't get to hold one, but petting a koala was almost as good. We also saw some river dragons - kind of like iguanas. We also saw spider monkeys and peacocks. This was easily our favorite part of the day.

One of the things we've noticed on the road here in Australia is the signage placed to remind you to drive safely, slow down, rest if you're tired, etc. Some of them are funny, and a few are quite alarming. Some say "Stop, revive, survive." One says "No belt, No brains" (with a picture of a shattered windshield). The one that's most alarming, especially to Vienna, is the one that simply says "Slow Down" and has a grim reaper looking ominous with the hood and crook. It truly is creepy. Aussies are pretty strong in their warnings. They do the same thing with smoking: "Smoking will kill you!" We've seen this a few times.

We made it into Charlestown around 6:00 or 6:30 and had a nice meal at our motel's restaurant and relaxed the rest of the evening. We're staying at the Panorama Motor Inn. It's a fine motel - nothing special but it gets the job done. Tomorrow, we'll make it back to Sydney. We'll also see an old friend of mine, Carol Robinson, with whom I used to work. She married an Aussie and now lives in the small town of Dee Why, a bit north of Sydney. It'll be great to see her again after about five years.