Worldwide Wallaby Convention

So much for live blogging as I traveled around Australia.  I lugged my laptop around for a month and only wrote two posts.  I just wasn’t staying in places that had free wireless, or wireless at all, very often.  And that was kind of nice.

I’m back in the homeland.  My passport, after disappearing, was turned in to the police in Palm Cove.  I had left it—embarrassingly—at a bottle shop where I had stopped to buy beer.

I can explain.

It was raining when I arrived in Palm Cove.  It was beautiful.

Tired from traveling but excited, I donned my rain poncho and set out to explore. I had been asked for ID about 20% of the time I’d made a purchase in Australia so far, so I zipped my passport into my bag.

I walked on the beach, then along the boardwalk for half a mile to the tiny town grocery to buy cereal, bananas, coffee, and milk for the next morning.  You don’t get plastic bags anymore in Australia; this is great for the environment but not for carrying groceries in the rain.  The cashier stuffed my purchases into a paper bag that began to disintegrate as it got wet.  At the bottle shop, the 16-year-old clerk asked for my ID so I took out my passport.  I then proceeded to take everything out of the paper bag and fumblingly rearrange it to make room for the beer so I could manage to get back to my room without leaving a trail of bananas and beer bottles along the beach. This operation was not facilitated by my wearing a wet poncho.

Finally satisfied, I trotted off, oblivious that I was leaving my passport and a $20 bill behind.  The next day I visited every shop on the beachfront, and the post office, grocery again, chemist, and two restaurants.  By the following day when I realized my passport was gone, I had no idea where I might have left it, or if it had been stolen.

Long story short, my passport was handed to me a few days later by a very tall, good-looking young police officer, along with the $20.

Sadly, I had already cancelled it on the US State Department website.  It was too late to change my plans and stay here another two nights, as planned.  I would have to go ahead and get a new passport, which would cost a bundle.

At 3:30am a van picked me up to take me to the airport so I could make my 10:30 appointment at the consulate in Sydney. The driver, who appeared to be well beyond retirement age, was taciturn.

But then he said, “There’s a wallaby.”

Then he said, “There’s three more.”

“Aww, there’s a whole mob!”

There were at least a hundred wallabies bouncing along the side of road.

The driver said, “I’ve never seen so many in one place in my life.”

They were everywhere.  “It’s like a wallaby convention!” I exclaimed excitedly.

He didn’t say anything after that.

If I hadn’t lost my passport, I wouldn’t have seen a single wallaby.

Getting through security at the consulate will be a story I will write later, but when I finally rocked up to the bullet-proof-glassed counter inside, I was informed that my passport had not been cancelled.  So it’s not like in the movies, where the cops call a hotline and bark, “Cancel his passport!” and your passport is instantly invalidated.


Back to the beginning.  Upon my arrival in Sydney, I was met at the airport by my friend Heidi and her Auntie Margaret, whose lovely flat I shared some photos of in a previous post.  We got there are around 8am, had tea, and chatted.  Auntie Margaret and Heidi displayed a lamb sweater.

Yes, a lamb sweater.  Knitters like Auntie Margaret are knitting them for lambs in the outback due to the hard winter and drought that make the babies vulnerable.

The drought, I know now, is probably why I saw so many wallabies in one place a few weeks later in Palm Cove.  It’s driving wildlife in from the outback to urban areas to find food and water.

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