Australia, New South Wales’ Koala bridges

Although Koalas while cute and cuddly, and tourist draw to Australia’s shores, they are in fact in serious trouble. Not only are they dying for the obvious reason of deforestation, attacks by dogs and being killed in car accidents, they are also most notably being killed off by a chlamydia epidemic (seriously!) so much so that in 2012, the Koala was added to the threatened species list. The dogs and the chlamydia epidemic locals experts seem to be clueless about how to address, but they HAVE begun to make inroad on the threat of car accidents…. by building Koala Bridges over highways.

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As my friend and I were road-tripping in New South Wales — and it was a BEAUTIFUL day, we kept passing what he explained to me were bridges that were built over the highways for the use of the Koalas.

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After we had passed a few of them I had him pull over at a rest stop that immediately after one of these things … and, after taking advantage of the facilities (it had cold metal seats and these leachy looking worms all over the ground… leaving me more than a bit grossed out) I trekked back along the edge of the highway to take some pictures of one.

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I was really skeptical that the Koala’s would know to these things …. but my friend swore that he had on occasion seen Koala’s on them … and then, when googled the topic I found this article about an ecologist who had to eat his own words of skepticism on the topic, when they found Koalas were in fact already regularly taking advantage of them… and after only three weeks … apparently, Koalas are pretty smart (oh, and they aren’t stoned, that’s just a myth).

On a racetrack in Melbourne, Australia

We’re not sure how this happened but the cool factor DEMANDS that I blog about it for posterity…. Somehow… and we’re not sure how this happened… we accidentally — possibly were directed there as a detour … but oh my lord… we’re driving on a formula 1 race course.

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Apparently there’s a Formula 1 racing track just south of central Melbourne in a place called Albert Park, and in our drive south to see the penguins we got diverted away from some construction on to it. It’s one of the few circuits that is on public roads, and when it’s not being used for a race is publicly accessible…

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But admit it… this is COOL! (although granted we were driving it at much slower speeds)

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Australians like big things too… who knew?

I’m no longer sure WHO started the trend, if it’s an Americana tourist trap thing that Australians began to copy because it draws in the tourists, or visa versa … but I’m happy to announce that the Australian countryside is just as inundated with these big fiberglass monstrosities as the US is, there are in fact 150 of the things scattered around the mainland, according to wikipedia.

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The first big thing I spotted was via the window of a bus/coach that I was taking from Ballarat to Adelaide (it actually involved a one hour train ride and two connecting busses — bleh) … my friend in Ballarat, knowing my like of these sorts of things, had mentioned the bus might pass it… but the driver offered no warning and sadly the it only pit-stopped at the location in order to pick up new passengers, with no chance given to get off and take pictures… so this is the best one I managed to get (there were two others but they were all blurry because the bus was moving).

And then earlier today while road tripping on Australia’s Great Ocean Road with my travel buddy (so far it’s all good, hoping we do this regularly), we unexpectedly drove past a second big thing, a Lobster by the name of Larry …  who according to Wikipedia is the worlds largest lobster!!!

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Size is a bit distorted as I’m actually standing a bit in front of the thing, see next picture down to see how big I actually am relative to the thing

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I’m 5’4″… my friend who is 193cm (or 6 feet 3 inches) wasn’t able to touch the bottom

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Ballarat’s loud fence: Civil protest against the church in Australia

I’m currently spending about two weeks in the town of Ballarat, about an hour south of Melbourne, Australia by train. Ballarat is currently known for two things, 1) once upon a time it was Australia’s Sutter’s Mill — a gold rush that utterly changed the nature of Australian settlement, and 2) more recently it has become ground zero for the Australia’s version of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. To quote an article by Australia’s ABC news network: “Catastrophic failure’ of Catholic Church leadership in Ballarat caused ‘irreparable suffering’: royal commission

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My friend who lives in Ballarat had been regularly posting ALL the updates about the child sex abuse scandals there to her facebook account, so I was well aware of the issue before I arrived. And then December 17, while I was beginning to plan my trip to Australia to meet up with my traveling buddy, he sent me a text: “Ballarat doesn’t make national news very often. Kinda sad reason for it today,” which included this linked article:

After I arrived in Ballarat, ever time my friend (who I was staying with) and I passed a Catholic Church, convent, or convalescent home for retired priests and nuns, she would repeatedly tell me about how the victims of the abuse, and how the families have been kind of playing a game of wack-a-mole with the church (one that the media has dubbed “Loud Fence”). The families and victims have been repeatedly tying ribbons to all of the wrought iron fences surrounded churches and church properties as a silent protest, and the church has been repeatedly taking them down.

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As part of explaining the scandal to me, my Ballarat friend started to explain to me about Cardinal Pell who covered up sexual abuse of children by priests in Ballarat and in “punishment” had been elevated to one of the highest offices of the Vatican, namely as its Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and was now deemed by the Vatican as being “too sick” to come home to Ballarat to face charges. (Pell should not be confused with Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law who pulled the same crap, and as his punishment was also moved to Rome and given multiple high prestige jobs.) She then played for me this song by a popular Australian Comedian that became a major hit, to the point that when she walked around she was constantly hearing people play it –its a VERY funny song, so please listen to it:
Apparently, the Vatican believed that if they forced the hearings to be moved to Rome, because Pell was “too sick” to be flown to Australia, this would avoid the disruptive and media magnet protests of the victims. When the song became a hit, Minchin — the artist — donated all the proceeds to pay for victims to be flown to Italy to be there for the trial…

One day, on the way back from an afternoon out — where we once again passed first by the retirement home for priests and nuns, where she again told me about how they’d taken down the ribbons that victims of abuse and their families had tied to the iron gates … we passed the local cathedral…  where I noticed that the back was clean of ribbons…

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the side gate however had them… and then as we were about to the church entirely we noticed a woman with a huge basket busily tying ribbons to the gate.

[Picture of said woman typing ribbons to the fence removed upon request of the woman]

We quickly parked and I went to take pictures. Turns out a loved one had been a victim and committed suicide…. and in the category of there are none so blind as those who will not see… at one point a parishioner came up to the woman who was doing it asking her for what reason was she was putting ribbons up…  There are none so blind as those who will not see… 

Happily…  Pell ultimately DID come home to face charges, and the case is currently making it’s slow path through the Australian courts