Sometimes, I forget that I live in Australia. It’s not dramatically different from the United States: people speak English, follow road rules, and shop at giant grocery stores.
But there are times when I see something very Australian and do a double take.
A passionfruit husk on the road.
Aloe vera plants growing nonchalantly in the front yard.
Kids in their wide-brimmed school hats and matching school uniforms.
And, perhaps most of all, when I run in the Blackbutt Reserve. Before you go getting any ideas about racially charged body part jokes, ‘blackbutt’ is a common name for a type of eucalyptus tree that grows around here. The reserve is a mile from Jared’s parents’ house, and I run there twice a week.
It’s free (though I think parking is $5), and littered with trails, ponds, picnic tables, and barbecue pits. It’s also stocked with flying foxes (fruit bats), kangaroos, emus, wallabies, wallaroos, wombats, native birds, and koalas.
And that’s when I remember that I’m in Australia – running through the pungent eucalyptus and finding myself faced with an aggressive emu and bounding kangaroos. It always makes me smile, even when I’m having a tough day on the track (which is most days).
I decided long ago that if anyone I know comes to visit Australia while I’m in Newcastle, I’m taking them straight to the Blackbutt for a free summary of Australia’s wildlife.
This week, I cycled to the reserve specifically to take photos for this post. Two hours later, I left, satisfied with my photos and even more gratified by the animals that I’d seen. As soon as I put the photos on my computer, I saw them for what they were – a blurry, amateur attempt to capture nature’s glory. Guess you’ll have to come out here and see it for yourself to get the full effect.
There are two main sections of animals. Unfortunately, they don’t roam freely but it is a conservation effort. The kangaroos, wallabies, and emus inhabit a large fenced-in area:
The second section is a wildlife exhibit, an open-air walk-through of different animals in their habitats. Here’s where you can see the koalas, who quite frankly wouldn’t give a fig where they were as long as there was eucalyptus:
There are daily koala feedings open to the public at 2PM. It costs $4.50 and I believe you get to have your photo taken next to it and maybe even give it a little pat.
The wombats were sleeping and I couldn’t get a shot of them, but I wasn’t the only one hanging out at the wombat enclosure:
I’ll leave you with a shot of this little finch looking stupefied:
If you ever make it to Newcastle and still haven’t feasted your eyes on the variety of wildlife Australia has to offer, stop at the Blackbutt. I’ll be the one running uphill, breathing heavily. Do say hello.