Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Memories That Will Last A Lifetime

2 Dec 2011After 18 months of planning our wedding, I just couldn’t wait to relax with my new hubby on our honeymoon. Unfortunately, I kept waking up early so didn’t get to catch up on much sleep, but that didn’t stop me having the best holiday ever.

Todd and I originally planned on going to New York for our honeymoon, but as they do, plans changed, and we decided instead on having a more modest holiday, to allow us to save for our first home together.

After our wedding, we stayed at a beautiful little bed and breakfast in the hills of Wollongong, which had spectacular views of both bush and the ocean. We stayed there for two nights, and both mornings woke up to a lovely tray of bacon, eggs, fresh fruit, pastries, yoghurt and juice. We had a very relaxing time there and didn’t do much, except eat! Which, could explain the extra weight that we are now both carrying... It was such a peaceful location and our Moroccan-style room allowed us to feel as if we were in another land, far away from home.

When we left our bed and breakfast, before heading off to our next destination, we had a special task to do. As some of my regular readers will know, Todd’s mum passed away almost ten years ago, and as a tribute to her, we decided to wed at the location where her ashes were scattered. I ordered her a corsage to go with her photo on the memorial table at our wedding, and I came up with the special idea of tossing her corsage into the water where ashes laid many years ago. So before we left to drive further down the coast, that’s what we did, but not without some tears, and heartfelt words. I felt so honoured to be part of such a beautiful and personal moment that I will never forget.

Our next stop was Batemans Bay, which is about 4 hours south of Sydney. It’s a small yet quiet, but pretty place, and the main reason for our visit there was to take a trip to Mogo Zoo. We had nowhere in particular to stay, so we just drove around until we found somewhere that looked nice and fit our desired description of what a motel should have. We ended up staying in a cute little inn across from the bay for two nights, which had a pool, and was close to the local shops and restaurants.

In anticipation of our visit to Mogo Zoo, I had booked us in to feed a Sumatran Tiger and a White Lion, which we were both very excited about, being the animal lovers that we are. We weren’t booked in to feed the big cats until the afternoon, so spent most of the morning walking around and exploring the zoo, which was amazing. For a wheelchair user, I would recommend taking a friend or someone to explore with you, as there are some quite steep hills and uneven pavers to navigate around, but other than that, it was relatively accessible, and a spectacular place to visit.

So on our way around the zoo, we were taking lots of photos of animals ect, when our new digital camera went flat, before we’d even made it to feed the tiger and lion! I stupidly forgot to charge it, so we had to go and buy some ancient disposable cameras.

We were waiting to go and feed the tiger first, when his handler appeared to ensure we were all ready to go, and I mentioned that we didn’t have a proper camera, so he kindly offered to grab his professional camera to get some happy snaps of us.

There was a couple of steps up into the tiger’s enclosure, but I happily jumped out and climbed up the steps, after all, I was going to do something I had always wanted to do! As soon as I got in there Kinwah the 2 year old tiger, became very agitated about my wheelchair, to the point of, if I were to move left or right, he would pace up and down the cage staring me down. There was a little brick step next to his enclosure, so I decided to get out of my chair and sit there, and got the handler, Clive, to take my wheelchair away, out of view. This seemed to calm Kinwah down a little bit, but he still seemed a bit skittish around me whenever I moved.

Clive told us heaps of info about Kinwah, and how he had raised him since he was a tiny cub. It was quite a windy day, and Clive said that cats aren’t hugely fond of big winds, so that may have contributed to his restless behaviour. Todd and I were able to feed Kinwah some chicken necks through the fenced off enclosure, ensuring that our fingers were faced away from his mouth. He loved it, as did we. We learnt that his favourite treat ever, was animal heads, gross!

Clive also explained to us how Mogo Zoo was a conservation park, which used all of its funds to improve the lives of the animals, and make their enclosures bigger, better and more realistic to their natural habitat, and also to assist in keeping endangered animals alive with their breeding programs.

Our next stop was to feed the white lions, which were huge! Before feeding them, we had walked past their enclosure earlier, and the lioness was stalking me up and down the fence line, so I wasn’t sure how she would react to me when I was going to come even closer to feed her.

As soon as we were let in to the feeding area, both of the lions started snarling and grunting, and spitting saliva at us as they did. We were with a different handler for the lions, but Clive came along to kindly take some photos of us again. We learnt that the lions; Mafuta and Numbi were brother and sister, but when food was involved, had the potential to fight, so one had to be distracted while we fed the other.

Numbi, the lioness was fascinated with my wheelchair. I climbed out of it, because where we were feeding them was a bit rocky, so I left it off to one side, but Numbi was pacing up and down in front of it and staring at it the whole time. Her handler told us that it could be perhaps because their food gets delivered in a black wheelbarrow and she may have thought my chair resembled that. Both Mafuta and Numbi were enthralled with me, which I later learnt that it was possibly because they saw me as ‘food’! All I can say is that I’m glad there was a massive fence between us, because they were both acting like they would’ve gobbled me up in one bite if I was on the other side.

We fed them chicken necks as well, which was amazing, even if just to see the size of their teeth close up. Todd got them both to stand up, towering over him, while he fed them, which left us both breathless.

Because of Clive’s generosity throughout the day, we decided to donate some money to the park. The lady at the front desk told us about their ‘adopt an animal’ opportunity, which cost $55 for one year, so we adopted Kinwah. We’ve already planned on going back for our one year anniversary to feed some of the Zoos many other animals, and to visit Kinwah and the Lions again, which we can’t wait for!

When it came time to head back to Sydney, we were sad but excited because we were staying home for one night, which meant we would get to see our fur-babies, before heading up to Queensland for four days.

Our flight was around lunchtime, so we got to the Gold Coast just after lunch and went straight to our beautiful hotel, where we stayed on the 17th floor, which had spectacular views of the beach. The pool area was amazing, with a beach with real sand, that gradually turned into a pool. There was a spa, and a big bbq area as well, and we weren’t looking forward to leaving in two days, so we booked another day!

Our first morning that we woke up where we were staying, in Surfers Paradise, we went nice and early to SeaWorld, where we got to see more gorgeous animals, including Polar Bears, Stingrays (which we got to feed), Dolphins and heaps more.

Whilst looking at the dolphins, one little baby dolphin swam up to the edge of the enclosure and hurled a piece of seaweed at my head! Later on in the day, we ended up playing fetch with the dolphin, where it threw pieces of seaweed towards us for us to catch, and then would wait with its mouth open for us to throw them back, it was just beautiful!

The next day was Dreamworld, which was also a lot of fun. We got to see Todd’s favourite of all the big cats, the White Tiger, it was nowhere near as close to us as the tigers on our trip to Mogo Zoo, but still beautiful to see. We also got the opportunity to hold a Koala, Python and baby Crocodile (which poo'd on me! I was told that it had never happened before!).

Because of my vertically challenged-ness, and my fear of big rides, I didn’t go on many rides at Dreamworld, but watched Todd while he went on them. Luckily, my brother lives in Queensland, so he, and his girlfriend came with us, so Todd didn’t have to go on all of the big scary rides alone.

One thing we wanted to do on our honeymoon was to get tattoos. No, not matching ones! Just something that would always remind us of our honeymoon. So, Todd got an image of the badass Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, tattooed on the back of his calf, while I got an equally evil purple and blue butterfly on my wrist, that I’d wanted since I was 18 years old.

When we returned back to Sydney, we definitely felt like we had the best possible honeymoon that we could’ve hoped for, and were excited to be reunited with our furry children once we got home. Everyone keeps asking us how married life is. Well, it’s pretty much exactly the same as before we got married, but now we have great memories of some awesome times together, and I look forward to making many more with Todd, for the rest of our lives...

Handler Clive telling us about the magnificent Kinwah
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About to pig out at our Bed and Breakfast
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Todd before throwing his mothers corsage into the ocean where her ashes lay
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Todd feeding Numbi
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Numbi stalking my wheelchair
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Up close and personal with Mafuta the white lion
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Todd feeding Mafuta
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Us with Mafuta and Numbi
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Me feeding Mafuta
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Mafuta stood at around 7 feet tall
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Me feeding Numbi
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Numbi was a bit smaller than her brother, but not by much
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Posing for a photo in front of Numbi
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The view from our hotel room in Surfers Paradise
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Posing in front of the dolphin that was playing fetch with us
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One of the beautiful Polar Bears from Seaworld

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