After dealing with the previous days torrential rain, the hope for the 11th was of a much better day weather wise. The plan was to visit Australia Zoo, home of Australian celebrity croc hunting / taming family the Irwin's. After that we would head down to Byron Bay in New South Wales and check in for the night.
Indeed, when we got up, the weather was decidedly improved, with blue sky to be seen inbetween the clouds. Unfortunately, the forecast wasn't great, but for now, it was nice not to be soaked when we stepped outside! We set off early again, to make the most of the Zoo.
In the previous days, I had become concerned with how much money I had spent and had remaining. I worked it out that somewhat drastically, I would have to survive on $30 a day in order to stay in Australia until the end of the month, by which time I hoped to have work again. This did however mean that I had to be very careful with money.
Let me say here and now that I have the best friends in the world. Stu, Jess, Scott and Lauren all were massively generous and helped me out for almost a week with entry fees and various other large expenses whilst they were over, and I owe them a great deal. The reason I mention this is that again, on this perticular day Stu and Jess paid my entry to the Zoo. So thank you to all you guys, you are amazing.
We entered the zoo and began looking round. The zoo is absolutely massive, and we were pressed for time, but managed to see just about everything during the day. First up was the crocodile sanctuary and the giant turtle area. They were amazing, just happily basking in the water of their enclosures, paying not a care in the world. I had a chuckle to myself when I noticed one was called 'Alison' - see the picture.
After seeing the crocs we saw various other indigenous animals including koalas, wombats, kangaroos etc. Before we knew it, lunch time had arrived. On the way to fetching lunch, Jess noticed a bed just layed out in one of the main walkways with a sign above. It mentioned a competion to lie with a snake to win the bed. She loved the idea!
After doing a bit of digging, we discovered that in order to get the chance to win the bed, you had to be selected from an audience of over 2000 people. Jess was well up for the challenge and so after lunch we headed to the 'Crocoseum' where the main crocodile show during the day is held, and where Jess would have her chance.
We sat down and sure enough, shortly after the start of the show the keeper asked the audience to take part in a competition by being the most animate 'Ape' in the croud. Stu moved seats to give Jess some space, and she stood up on the chairs and performed a very animated impression, which was hilarious.
Sure enough, the keeper picked Jess out the audience to take part in the competion. The rest of us were all stunned at the stroke of luck, but it was about to get even more amazing. The show continued on, and was very impressive and showcased not only crocs, but various other wildlife at the zoo and I must say I highly recommend it.
After the show, Jess was invited down to participate in the competition. We went down and Jess, along with 2 other competitors had the rules read out to them. They had to lie on the bed with a Python for 3 minutes without any problems. All 3 managed the task successfully, though I have to say I could not have done it myself. I really hate snakes.
At the end, the competitors names were entered into a hat and unbelievably again, Jess's name was drawn. Me, Stu, Scott and Lauren stood stunned, having won a free bed in a foreign country. It was at that point that Terry Irwin and her 2 children appeared to congratulate the victor, Jess. Astounded I stood back in amazement as a massive swarm of people formed around us and Terry and the kids had their photo taken with Jess.
In the meanwhile, we had a free bed to deal with! We enquired about shipping, but it turned out that it could only really be shipped to the local Brisbane area. It was at that point that I remembered that Tom and Jill's daughter lived in Brisbane, and I asked if Jess would be happy to give the bed to her. Jess was more than happy to, and so I called up and arranged for the bed to be shipped, still astounded as I was explaining the circumstances on the phone.
After we calmed down, we had around an hour and a half to explore the remainder of the zoo. We were enthralled by a fantastic tiger show, before heading out and setting off for Byron Bay.
The drive to Byron Bay proved to be one of the single most challenging experiences of my life. After moving south of Brisbane, the torrential rain returned, however it was worse than any rain I have ever experienced in my life. The drops themselves were massive, and worse still the sun was beginning to set, making what little visibility there was even worse.
By the time we arrived and turned off at the junction for Byron Bay, all the light was gone, the wipers were at full blast, and we were following cats eyes on the road and the lights of the cars in front. Looking back, I probably should have stopped, but the rain did not relent all night, and so at some point we would have had to set off again.
Thankfully, we made it safely to Byron Bay, and spent the evening in Cheeky Monkeys restaurant, unwinding from a truely crazy day.