Saturday, May 29, 2010

Aminalz! Aminalz! (Also: Fruitz!)


I'm itching to tell you about Hong Kong, but first I want to share some photos from our final day in Sydney. Because that was the day we went to the Taronga Zoo, and oh my goodness, Australian animals are the best! Isolation is truly the mother of weird and fascinating creatures.


Like this Spiny Echidna, whose tongue is as long as its body, whose males have four-headed penises, whose females are mammals but lay eggs and then carry their young around in a pouch for the first fifty days or so of life...


...and the Platypus, which Wikipedia describes pithily as an "egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal." That description left out the part where the platypus uses electroreception to stalk their prey. Like their brothers the echidnae, the platypus's egg-born young are called "puggles," which can only be a good thing in my book.

These wonderfully weird creatures so flummoxed European naturalists when they were "discovered" in the late 1700's that folks thought they were a hoax and tried to pry off their bills. Ow.

When I was a kid and everyone forced me to answer the question "What's your favorite animal?," my stock answer was the platypus. It was a delight to finally get to see one.


Of course, the star of the zoo, and needing no introduction, is the remarkable koala.


This guy's name is Irwin, and he seemed to take a particular interest in my husband.

We paid extra for a "koala encounter," which is why we're so close in these shots. Getting up close and personal with a koala was terrific, as was having the zoo-keeper nearby to answer all our questions.


Despite what that sign says, that's a kangaroo. Her name is Charlotte and her fur is very soft.

We also saw plenty of wallabys, one of whom was lying on her side when the white fur on her belly started gyrating like crazy. A zoo-keeper confirmed that she'd recently given birth and was carrying her young in her pouch. They were waiting for the little one to poke its head out, as none of the humans had seen it yet.


And to round out the Australian collection, an emu! It's not just a Scrabble word!

My goodness, that's a big bird...we saw it bullying the young kangaroos into giving up their food.


On the ride home at dusk, we finally saw the famous Sydney bats, thus completing our zoological tour of the continent down under.


And then these lovely people had us over to their home for a wonderful meal. Janet (woman farthest to the right) was our production manager at the Opera House, and she and her partner Adrian loaned us their very own table to use in our production!


I forget what this dish is called, but we'd had it the night before in a Chinese restaurant and loved it. Then we had Adrian's version, with finely diced apples and I-can't-remember-what-else, and his version was even better.


Dessert was an assortment of exotic fruits. Exotic to *me* at any rate. Of all the fruits pictured above, I'd only ever had one of them. TRAVELMONKEYS readers, I issue you this challenge: How many of these fruits can you name? And how many have you had the pleasure of trying yourself?

4 comments:

Mollie said...

Persimmon, magosteen, cherimoya (or soursop), papaya and...the green one is....apple guava??? It's not fair, i live in the tropix...how did I do????

JM said...

Mollie wins the TRAVELMONKEYS readers prize for being "most in the know" and also "most likely to answer a TRAVELMONKEYS readers challenge."

Mollie, these are indeed a persimmon (specifically a Fuji), a papaya, and a mangosteen. The cherimoya-looking fruit was introduced to me as a "custard apple," but I wonder if they're the same fruit. Does the cherimoya taste like delicious pear custard?

Finally, the green one is native to New Zealand, where I'm given to understand they grow just about everywhere--like blackberries in the Northwest. It's a feijoa, and it has a wonderful fragrance: light and green and delicately floral, like something poised right on the edge between spring and summer.

Mollie said...

Woo Hoo! I'm awesome! When I moved to Hawaii, every trip to Chinatown markets yielded some new and tasty fruit treat. Now, a rambutan is as common as an apricot and I don't flinch at the smell of durian! SO FUN TO FIND NEW FOODS YOU HAD ZERO IDEA EXISTED!!!
I Checked it out, and a custard apple is indeed a Cherimoya/Soursop (they're cousisns) but if it tastes like perfect custard it is probably a Cherimoya--they are my fave! And the Feijoa is a kind of guava, also called "pineapple guava". I get a tropical fruit medal! Yippeeee!
Thanks for the fun challenge and it looks like your trip is awesome. My favorite thing about Facebook is living vicariously through other peoples travels!

Mollie said...

Woo Hoo! I'm awesome! When I moved to Hawaii, every trip to Chinatown markets yielded some new and tasty fruit treat. Now, a rambutan is as common as an apricot and I don't flinch at the smell of durian! SO FUN TO FIND NEW FOODS YOU HAD ZERO IDEA EXISTED!!!
I Checked it out, and a custard apple is indeed a Cherimoya/Soursop (they're cousisns) but if it tastes like perfect custard it is probably a Cherimoya--they are my fave! And the Feijoa is a kind of guava, also called "pineapple guava". I get a tropical fruit medal! Yippeeee!
Thanks for the fun challenge and it looks like your trip is awesome. My favorite thing about Facebook is living vicariously through other peoples travels!