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October Update #1 -- alternate title...Mike's a slaker.

It's been way too long since we've updated the world (which I'm sure is hold it's breath waiting).  So I figured I'd pick up Mike's slack and let people know what we've been up to.  Besides there has been so much going on it'll take two updates to share.  
Whale Watching - The migration pattern of the humpback whale takes them right by Sydney.  Last November, boatloads (literally... they were on the ferry) of people commuting to work were greeted by a mom and pup (?) who turned into the Sydney Harbour for a brief rest before continuing the journey south.  In June, we saw 3 whales from the Palm Beach lighthouse.  At first, I actually thought 1 was a small ship that was sinking, until it came back up :)  Wanting to see more of these huge, majestic creatures, I booked us on a whale watching cruise for the Aussie Father's Day (early Sept).  We spent 2 hours looking for whales, 30 minutes following 2 around, and 1.5 hours cruising back to Sydney... Not great.  
So imagine my surprise when I park my car at Shelley Beach in Manly and one of my friends calls me over to watch a young pup, just off shore, playing in the water.  He was having the time of his life!  For at least 15 minutes, we stood there in silence, watching this whale wave & splash at us with his tail.  Have you ever been around a baby the first time they discover that they have hands or feet?  It was like this whale had just discovered that he had a tail and that he could do these wonderful things with it.  Too bad I didn't have my camera with me.  I'm sure I won't need photos to remember that moment.
Roar & Snore - Taronga Zoo is a world class zoo that is right here in Mosman, about 5km (that's 3 miles for you Americans) from our house.  They have a sister Zoo about 5.5 hours from here.  For a small fortune, you can pay to sleep overnight in a tent at either zoo.  The first weekend in October, we chose to do just that at the Western Plains Zoo.  As part of the "Roar & Snore" program, we got a beer on arrival (of course... this is Australia after all!) and lots of up close animal encounters.  We went on a night time safari walk with flashlights in hand to view rhinos, hippos, camels & others up close.  We even got to feed carrots to the giraffes!!  Have you ever seen a giraffe's tongue?  They are VERY long!  And all of us got a good licking.  Apparently carrots are the giraffe's chocolate!
During the night, if the hard ground and/or snoring from a neighboring tent hadn't kept us awake, the rustling from native wild animals certainly would have.  There were echidnas (sort of a cross between porcupines & anteaters) and possums and who knows what else scurrying around the campground.  In the morning we got up close and personal with a variety of reptiles & native animals, then went on an early morning walk to view more animals as they were rising for the day, being fed, etc.  
The most memorable encounter (besides being licked by a giraffe) was watching the Siamang apes "show."  They are incredibly strong and swing around on these rope structures much the way that Spiderman flies in all the movies, almost jumping from one rope to the next!  With that kind of exercise, there is no fat on those bodies!  So much so that if they were to go into the water surrounding the islands, they would drown because they would sink to the bottom.  Having said that, they still get very threatened when groups of zoo goers gather on the mainland.  The girl will start sounding off, alerting her guy to trouble. He'll join the song, escalating it.  As it escalates, the girl's calls start to remind me of a particular diner scene in "When Harry Met Sally."  As her calls get closer together, they run from one position on the island to another, both stopping at the exact same second.  But the best part is that the boy strikes a pose!  Every time it is the exact same pose!  Left arm up in the air; right hand pointing toward the ground.  And this goes on and on and on until the people leave or they give up.  Amazing!
During the 5.5 hour ride home, I announced that I so enjoyed the Roar & Snore program at the Western Plains Zoo that I want to do the one here in Sydney.  Mike told me I should let him get a couple good nights sleep before I mention it again.
Fairy Penguins - Did you realize that penguins live in Australia?  As far north as Sydney?  They do.  There are a couple colonies of Fairy penguins, also known as Little Blues, around Sydney Harbour.  Based on our visit to Phillips Island, near Melbourne, I knew that penguins rarely are out during the day.  You are most likely to see them before sunrise or at sunset when they can more safely get in and out of the water.  So imagine my surprise when my Tuesday walking group finds two fairy penguins, hanging out on the rocks, as we cruise by on the walking path!  Seriously!  Wild penguins a few feet away from me!  Amazing.
Believe it or not, I'm going to end here.  I'll save our trip to Northern Queensland (including the Great Barrier Reef) for my next update.  We've been having lots of great adventures.  Wish you could be here to share them with us!

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While on a trip to Fiji, our group unexpectedly encountered a mama whale and her calf. We were on a boat going to an island tour when the whales suddenly appeared on the horizon. It was definitely an extra treat for us even though the captain of the boat that whales were sighted there. These mammals and other sea creatures are being threatened by man's excessive consumption of material things. It was a joy seeing mama and baby frolicking in the water and waving their flippers at us. In our own little way we can do something to make sure that these majestic creatures survive in order for future generations to see them.

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