Study Trip Australia Day 4

Our third day in Sydney we spent learning about the diverse wildlife of Australia together with the dangers and responsibilities that arise in keeping such animals.

We had the opportunity to discover the landscape outside of the city by driving about 1 hour outwards the city towards Sommersby. On the way, we could profit from the views of magnificent flora and fauna, and some of us already checked out fun facts online about the vast variety of animals we got to visit.

Arriving in the wildlife park we got a guided tour from a professional in the field. This not only gave us the opportunity to go inside the cages and touch or feed the animals, and to be allowed on premises that are not accessible to the public – we also got to ask tons of questions about Australian vegetation and its animals. The lady was very knowledgeable and patient, both qualities equally important with our group typically asking lots and lots of questions, while being lively, curious and loud all at the same time.

First, we saw a Galapagos tortoise that left the Galapagos islands on Charles Darwin’s fleet back in 1835. Its shell has gotten damaged and was in bandages, but the tortoise seemed healthy and happy. We encountered typical animals such as the Tasmanian devil, koalas, dingoes, cassowaries and wallabies. Unfortunately, we did not see any kangaroos which led to some disappointment among some of us. What struck us most was a record-breaking large saltwater crocodile that seemed to be in isolation – we were informed later on that the crocodile would fight and kill anything that comes near him, therefore the exile was established for a good reason.

Some of the highlights of this part of the trip were two things: we got to hold  a wombat in our arms that was found as a suckling in the pouch of its hurt mother on the side of the road. The goal of the sanctuary part of the zoo is to tend to the animals to get them back to their health and release them in the wild again later. The wombat is now almost at the point of reaching independence – but thankfully not for another couple of weeks which meant we got to snuggle him without any complaints from its side. Below, please find a picture of Mr. Kendzia holding the wombat in his arms: we are not sure which one of the two looks happier about it, both are beaming.

The next highlight was equally as interesting as it was terrifying. It is a common known fact that Australia is home to some of the most dangerous, venomous and poisonous animals on the planet. To clarify: An animal is venomous if it bites you and you die. An animal is poisonous if you eat it and you die. Both options are not desirable.

While our tour guide was calming us down in a stuffy “snake room”, a team member of hers entered the room, calmly took out a tiger snake, one of the top 5 most venomous snakes in all of Australia  (there are 140 different kinds that will kill you) and milked it for its venom in front of our eyes. He did this without wearing gloves, any sort of protection or any slight of worry whatsoever. Meanwhile, we all stood there with goosebumps, adrenaline, and our eyes wide open.

We learned that the snake room in which we stood was the only room in the world that produced and developed the antivenom for the snakebites and we got to realize just how much effort really lies behind the development of these lifesavers: the snakes get milked every two weeks periodically, and almost one hundred doses of venom are needed to produce one vile of antivenom. An average person needs five viles to survive a snakebite – you do the math.

We had an interesting discussion about the cost of such products, as they are subsidized and thus free of charge in Australia, whereas in New Zealand a treatment in the hospital can cost up to USD 10’000 and in the US up to USD 40’000.

After our initial shock we then quickly moved on to the spiders, which we learned are far more dangerous than snakes, and hastily went back into our tour bus to feel safe of all dangers. The weather was on our side during the morning, but luck has left us as soon as our lunch break hit. We ate a quick lunch on our way to the next destination and got to see what Aussies consider as fast food. We even learned about some trivia concerning the brand Burger King that is called Hungry Jack here.

We headed up north for another hour to arrive at the port of Newcastle – as mentioned before, the weather was not on our side and the clouds kept coming in and the rain poured relentlessly. We had to improvise and cancel our planned boat tour around the wharf, which was a pity of course, but would not have made a lot of sense under these conditions. Thankfully, our driver showed as much patience towards us as our tour guide in the reptile park did, and agreed to drive us around the premises while the head of the port of Newcastle walked us through the logistics and operations behind the wharf. We learned that the machinery works 24/7 during a contract but can lay still for up to two years if no contract comes in, that there are slower years and better ones, and that the work of a sailor on a cargo ship is not only hard physically, but also mentally. Additionally, this company visit tied our experience from Monday together beautifully, as we could apply our gained knowledge about MSC cargo and sea shipping from a different perspective. Again, we asked way too many questions which delighted our guide but left us with a bit of a time lag for our departure.

On our way to our accommodation, which again lay a half an hour drive away, a second highlight of the day arose: we spotted some kangaroos on the side of the road, almost as if placed there especially for tourists to see.

We arrived at our accommodation, the Rydgers lodge, which was a marvellous residence: grateful for a break intellectually after an extensive learning session about the port, we frolicked about in the swimming pool and enjoyed the premises. On this night, we got to profit from the complementary dinner we enjoyed together with our organizer Marcia and our bus driver George. Our secluded room had a view towards the sunset, where we again saw some kangaroos hopple around which felt like the perfect ending to a wonderful day together.

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