One of the things that Australia is best known for, (apart from killer spiders) is its lean, mean, hopping machine. AKA the kangaroo.
When you first arrive in Australia, driving past the ‘Watch out, watch out there’s a kangaroo about’ road signs can be something a novelty.
They certainly beat the more mundane signs for cows, hedgehogs or ‘Men at work’.
My daughter to this day believes that whenever she sees such a sign, a kangaroo must surely be sitting nearby. Possibly filing it’s nails and waiting to leap out at the next car that comes past.
I’ve lost count of the number of times she has squealed “Kangaroo” at me from the backseat. “Where?” I yelp, slamming my foot on the break. “On the sign over there.” she offers up helpfully.
Roo spotting is indeed an excellent way to keep seat-belt bound children occupied for hours. The chances of them actually seeing one can be slim to none, but it is a golden opportunity to train up their eyesight, and stopping them asking “Are we nearly there yet?”
Now as far as that particular question goes, in my experience, as both an adult and a child, there is only 1 answer – “No, we only left the garage 5 minutes ago and we still have hours to go. Sit still, shut up and look out of the window.”
Oh, the power of parenthood.
If you live in suburbia, like we do, the likelihood of actually coming nose to nose with a kangaroo when you pop out to check your mailbox is nil. It is probably as unlikely as coming home to find one relaxing in a bubble bath, sipping a Baileys and listening to Norah Jones. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be found.
Up in the northern suburbs for instance, the bushland that runs along Burns Beach is home to quite a few. They can often be seen out and about on the hills, normally kicking back, having their tea and watching the sun go down. Connolly Drive is also meant to be a great place to spot them – so we keep being told.
So far, despite keeping my eyes peeled back up to my eyebrows and driving at a speed that would put my age at about 80, I have seen only 2. One was disappearing at a rather brisk pace behind a bush, and if I’m honest, could have just been a figment of my imagination. The other one was dead.
Poor thing, it was rather unsettling to see. Partly because it had most likely gone into battle with a bumper (and obviously lost), and partly because rigamortis must have kicked in with lightening speed. It was laying there on the edge of the road, rolled over on its side, but still in an upright seated position.
Granted this wasn’t the best example of wildlife to shows the kids, but hey, you have to take it where you can get it. Of course kids being kids, they weren’t at all fazed. My son, who was only 1 at the time, ignored Exhibit A, and carried on eating his rice wheels. My daughter, who was 7, was fascinated by the whole idea of it actually being real and dead.
I, on the other hand was deeply disturbed – all the way to the end of the road and up the next hill.
Another close kangaroo encounter came about on Lakeside Drive. We were driving back from Joondalup hospital in the middle of the night, (that would be night my husband tried to die on me) when a rather large kangaroo shot out from the bush and straight in front of the car. Luckily I wasn’t traveling quite as fast as I normally would, or we would have had a freezer full of Skippy steaks to keep our dog going for several years.
Of course there are many other places you can say ‘hello’, if you don’t feel like patrolling the roads at night. Or if you already have a permanent crick in your neck, from trying to distinguish what is living, breathing mammal, and what is only a piece of drift wood by the side of the road.
Whiteman Park has a kangaroo enclosure which allows you to get up, close and very personal with a whole mob of them. Yes, ‘mob’ is the collective noun for kangaroos. I know, it sounds like they should be wearing football shirts, chanting stupid songs and drinking in the streets.
This is an ideal photo opportunity – a chance to stick Junior as close as he can go without being bitten, and then jump back as you tell him to smile. Yes, I admit, this is coming from personal experience. This hopefully adorable image can then be sent home, as your ‘Look where we live’ photo. Now, if you could somehow manage to pop a Santa hat on the kangaroo, think of the potential for your next family Christmas card…
Yanchep National Park is another great hot-spot. Here the kangaroos are just wandering around, without a fence or an entry ticket insight. Not so easy to get close enough to pat these, but a lovely setting to see them hopping around. The downside of this place is you are effectively walking on a carpet of Roo poo, but it’s a small price to pay for getting so close to nature.
It was on a visit here that my daughter asked one of those question’s. “What is that, hanging down from all those big kangaroos?”
“That would be their balls,” answered my ever so helpful, smirking husband. Great, thanks for that. How to open up a whole avenue of questions that I have absolutely no wish to answer yet.
There is one more place where you can be certain to literally lay your hand on a kangaroos leg. The supermarket. Or any good pet food supply outlet. OK, so maybe it’s not how you imagined wildlife to be – culled, chopped and cellophane wrapped – but it’s still a genuine kangaroo encounter nevertheless.
If you would still rather opt for those with a pulse, then happy hunting. But remember to wash your hands afterward, they can be more than a little whiffy.