Today was fantastic! We did so many things! Then again - we do many things everyday! Hopefully we'll be able to store all these memories in our heads, although if we cannot, there is always the memory card in our cameras to help us :)
In the morning, we woke up extra early to feed the birds. Our bus driver and guide, Mr Eric, said that we should go early, because we would get to feed more hungry birds. Otherwise, other people will have fed them already, and we would not meet as many birds. Feeding the birds was quite scary! We were told to hold our arms out straight with the birdseed on both hands, like a scarecrow. However, when the birds came to land on our arms to feed, some of us flinched because the flapping of the wings was actually quite frightening! Also, many of us had not done this before. After a while, though, we got used to it. Soon, some of us even had three birds feeding from us at once - one on each arm, and one perched on our heads! We had never seen such beautiful birds so close up before. They were so close to us that you could make out each individual feather, and the rainbow of colours on every bird. We met one bird that was a bright red with a royal blue tail, another type that was green but had blue, red, purple and yellow feathers on its chest, and one type that was grey all over but had soft pink feathers near its head. And, of course, we met the cockatoos - the Yellow Crested Cockatoos. They were the biggest and noisiest and heaviest of them all! They were pure white, with a yellow "mohawk" on their heads (which fanned out when they got angry), and a grey beak and legs (with sharp claws attached). They were larger than some of our heads, and their beaks looked extremely powerful and were able to crack nuts at an amazing speed! We could feel our entire arm move downwards when they landed on us. They also scared the smaller, colourful birds away, and soon we found that the whole area was surrounded just by the cockatoos. The birdseed ran out very quickly, and many of us wanted more!
We also got a chance to see the kookaburra being fed. Did you know that it is a carnivorous bird? One of the staff at the cafe was feeding them some meat, and invited us to watch. They are brown and white, and have very big heads compared to their bodies. They swallowed the meat whole! The staff told us they also eat insects and grubs in the forest.
After the birdfeeding, we went for a ride on the Puffing Billy train. It was really cool to be riding on a train that used to transport people and goods (such as mail, fruit, supplies, and wheat) between the towns in the area, a hundred years ago! It is hard to believe that the train tracks were dug by men with shovels and pickaxes, since back then they didn't have big machines to help. Now, the Puffing Billy is just a tourist attraction, but as Jian Feng said, "I can't believe I am riding on a historic train!" The difference between this train and our MRT is that this train runs on coal as it has a steam engine, while the MRT runs on electricity. We could see the steam rising out of the chimney on the first carriage of the train - just like in Thomas the Tank Engine! The train also ran more slowly than our MRT, and the ride was much noisier. However, the air was wonderfully cool and fresh up there in the hills where the train was travelling - natural airconditioning, unlike the MRT! :)
The next stop after Puffing Billy was the Healesville Sanctuary. It is kind of like our zoo, except that the landscape looks much more natural. We saw a lot of native Australian animals - the emu, the platypus, the echidna (which we call the spiny anteater), the kangaroo, the wombat (which was sleeping peacefully in its den), the tasmanian devil (which was running his 1.6km Napfa test around and around his enclosure!), and a whole bunch of reptiles. It is amazing how many different types of animals live in Australia, and only in Australia! Our guide explained that it is because Australia separated from all the other continents hundreds of millions of years ago, so the species got to develop all on their own, and cannot be found anywhere else. Of course, we saw the koalas, who were sleeping peacefully in the trees. It is amazing that even though they were fast asleep, and their bottoms are actually quite wide, they manage to hold on and balance (and do not fall out of their tree-branch-beds!). They really do look exactly like soft toys, with their big fluffy ears.
Finally, after dinner, we met two guest speakers, Mr David Collins and Ms Claire Penniceard. They told us all about the pig farm that Ms Claire owns, which is called the Pig Pen. It is very special because it uses less energy and less water than most pig farms in Australia, but it still produces very good pork! For example, she has invented a type of pig shed that can automatically keep the pigs cool without using air-conditioning (which uses a lot of electricity). It is amazing what we can do with knowledge of Science! Ms Claire told us that the world's population is increasing very quickly, so we need to produce more and more food, but we need to do so in a sustainable way - she explained that it means we need to be able to keep producing food without destroying the Earth.
Ms Claire says that she sends her pork to Singapore, and it is called Airpork! We have heard of that brand before in Singapore, and it is cool that we have met the boss of the farm that produces this pork! Another interesting thing we learnt is that she only sends meat from female pigs to Singapore. She says it tastes different from the meat of male pigs, and Singaporeans prefer the female pigs’ taste. We also learnt a lot about farming today – for example, when we think about the energy that farms use, we cannot just think about what is on the farm. We must also remember to think about all the resources that went into growing the food that is fed to the animals.
What a full day it was! Many of us were very tired by the time we got back to the hotel, but we are full of great memories. In fact, we are all planning a little surprise for our family and friends back home…
Tell you more later!
With big smiles,
All 35 of us.