Last fall, Ray and I journeyed to the South Pacific for a three-week vacation that included stops in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. Spring had come, but cold rainy weather persisted in New Zealand and Australia.
[quoteright]We stopped at Pebbly Beach near Bateman's Bay, N.S.W. in
Australia to feed the mostly tame kangaroos living in the wild. We had purchased day-old bread which the natives had assured us would be the best food. As we drove into the parking area, the kangaroos came out from the wooded area above the beach. There were no other people and we had them all to ourselves. There were two males, one of them very large, three females and one joey.
I snapped pictures to my heart's content as Ray fed the kangaroos. They weren't aggressive, but they were certainly insistent. 1 called to him, "Don't feed them so fast; you'll be out of bread before I can get the right shots." Ray answered, "Have you seen the claws on these guys?" A pleasant half-hour passed quickly and we were treated to the sight of the joey climbing into his mother's pouch head first, turning around so that only his head and his long back legs stuck out. One of my favorite pictures is of the joey leaning out of the pouch to eat grass while his mother munched bread. When the bread was all eaten, the kangaroos sprawled on the ground, ready for a doze.
As we turned to leave, more kangaroos showed up, hoping to share in the feast. I had some dry cereal bars left from breakfast and fed one of them to a female with a joey in her pouch. Her claws were substantial and as I was a bit anxious, I tossed the remaining bars to the group and we watched as the kangaroos devoured them. We drove back to the main road and continued our journey. North of Sydney, we visited the Waratah Park which promised face to face visits with koalas, kangaroos and other exotic animals. I purchased two bags of kangaroo food, assuming that the animals would be tamer here and we could feed them with ease.
It was a rainy, on again, off again kind of day. The kangaroos were in a fenced enclosure that I had to walk into in order to use the restroom. When I came out, I noticed a forlorn little kangaroo and opened one of my bags of food. Puffed rice? Sure was. I had expected some dry vegetables or something exotic. I poured out a handful and bent down to the kangaroo who sniffed half-heartedly and turned away. I spotted something out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see a full-grown emu with fierce eyes approaching me at full speed. Apparently, he didn't know enough to come in out of the rain and his feathers were wet and matted. He was an aggressive rascal and in no time at all, he grabbed my open bag and greedily ate the contents, holding the bag in his beak and tipping the dry cereal into his mouth. I tucked the other bag into my sweatshirt pocket and got a few pictures before he dropped the bag. As soon as the bag hit the ground, the kangaroo picked it up and chewed the paper! It reminded me of the kid who plays with the box the toy came in, rather than the toy. I was pursuing my picture taking when I felt a tug at my pocket. The emu had helped himself to the bag I had tucked away and made short work of the food. When he had cleaned up everything that spilled, he strolled away, satisfied with himself.
I think Shakespeare described this emu in King Lear, II, 2 when he wrote "A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted- stocking knave..."
Kangaroo-fancier MYRA JOHNSON, our Marketing person, is also Calendar Editor for the San Francisco Intelligencer.
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