All Under The Place – 8 Nov, Brisbane, Australia

Right, that’s it. I’ve ticked all the boxes of things I wanted to do in Australia. There’s nothing left. Because this afternoon I hugged a koala.

This morning was slightly koala themed as well. We headed up into Mount Tambourine, which overlooks the Gold Coast, to film the Skyway, a metal walkway through the rainforest, and on the way in the people in the other crew car saw a koala asleep in a tree. I’ve been here 3 months and have been slightly surprised not to see a single one in the wild, despite looking out for them in the tops of trees fairly regularly. I guess they really are becoming as endangered as they say.

We filmed a wildlife search in the rainforest (didn’t see a great deal, apart from a rare butterfly and a wallaby we scared off before we could get the camera on it), then headed down to a nearby attraction where you can dig thunder eggs out of the ground. They’re 200 million year old bubbles of fossilised gas trapped in rocks that you can easily dig up out of the ground. A Texan called Gary cut the rocks we found in half and there it was – discoloured rock and crystals that are snapshots of an eruption of lava from the now extinct volcano, stretching back to a time before dinosaurs walked the Earth.

After a lunch sitting outside their cafe being dive bombed by an aggressive food scavenging kookaburra we made our way to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Sitting by the banks of the Brisbane River, the sanctuary has around 130 koalas in various states of consciousness, sitting in artificial tree tops covered in felled eucalyptus branches. Most of them aren’t doing a lot, but because there are so many you’re guaranteed to see a few munching away at leaves or hopping onto a neighbouring branch. Iain and I weighed a large male called Gandalf before finally getting to hold one in our arms.

Mine was a year old female called Coco and she was very sweet, gently sniffing my face and generally looking pretty vacant – which they are. They spend 20 hours a day asleep digesting their nutrient scarce food source, and the other 4 hours eating. Although while we were there a bunch of them did find the time to make slightly aggressive territorial grunting noises when a koala was carried past a pen it didn’t belong in.

Having held a koala I can report that they’re fairly solid animals and not quite as fluffy as you might expect. I had been warned that they leave a pungent urine like smell on you, but that’s only the males and I was luckily holding a female. Mine didn’t poo or wee on me either, so all in all I declare the experience a 100% success.

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