Today, Ryan’s booked us a daytrip to Lady Musgrave Island, one of the southernmost atolls of the Great Barrier Reef. Seven of us are supposed to go on this nautical adventure that will depart from the town named 1770, after the year Captain Cook sighted it. However… There’s been a storm, a cyclone perhaps, down the east coast, resulting in swells consequential enough to cancel the trip. No more snorkeling for us two, I guess. Bullet Dodged or Grievous Disappointment – You be the judge. Instead, we will take two cars and head north to Rockhampton and the Koorona Crocodile Farm. We drive separately thanks to the magic of GPS and by the time we reached Rockhampton, we’ve caught up with them. Hey! It’s their red Kia ahead of us; that’s Kalarney waving through the sun-roof.
The Crocodile Farm lies at the end of an unsealed road. We’re each given a colorful wristband that identifies us as food. After a short instructional video we are led outside to a series of fenced-in ponds, each home to a croc clan – one croc dude and maybe ten females. Our guide, whose accent is nearly impenetrable, rouses the formidable creatures by whacking on the water with a stick and yelling, “Whoa.” Ripples, eyes, and snouts. Primordial crashing and splashing occurs when he tosses a feathery, leg-inclusive, bloodless chicken quadrant in the general direction of the reptiles that either snap their jaws or diss the meal with lizard-y scorn. The beasts all have names and attributes that don’t humanize them one fucking bit. At the end of the tour, we’re offered an opportunity to hold a youthful specimen in our hands. This is met with trepidation and joy. The yard-long creature’s jaws have been taped shut, but still. Photographic evidence exists of this site-specific foolhardiness. Ali and I buy swag, because we are fearsome this way. As we’re leaving the six of us photobomb a crocodile named Stumpy.
This experience ended at noontime, yet we chose not to dine here with its unappealing farm-to-table menu. Instead, Ryan and his girls have a mission at the big mall in Rockhampton. It’s a big honkin’ mall all right with food court opportunities galore. Kalarney’s unsuccessful in finding whatever righteous accessory she required, and we depart for the Rockhampton Zoo and Garden.
This is a lovely place with shady trees and flowerbeds and military monuments and a delightful zoo full of native critters. The wombats live in an oubliette. One of the girls knows how, with a smart phone, to gaze through the inky darkness and render the furry lumpkin visible. This is a mysterious technological procedure known only to tweens. We bear witness to nature in captivity – a koala in a tree that slowly turns to face us and then shits, emus that emit a bizarre drum-like resonance at the instigation of one of Ryan’s youngsters, and truly hideous cassowaries we can throw grapes at. We bear witness to a toddler dropping his bottle into the cassowary enclosure, which is the cause of apocalyptic wailing.
Back at the motel, Ali and I contemplate the wonders of repose, then rejoin the Elys for a spectacular food truck fish & chips meal. Here’s where I tell Ryan how much our reunion has meant to me. A lot. He kinda gets it. God Bless him.