Bundaberg: Rum, Ginger-Beer and Turtle Rookery
In KL Anette had actually her first bottle of Bundaberg ginger-beer, the first encounter with Bundaberg Rum we had on the airport in Darwin where many Australians went into the duty free to buy some booze. Our bible (the lonely planet) gave us another interesting idea about the brew and liquor town. Apparently Bundaberg is home to the east-coast´s largest turtle rookery, Mon Repos, just about 15 k´s north of the city. Arriving in Bundaberg Anette and me booked our tickets at the tourist information center after we had booked our Fraser Island Trip just a few minutes before. The travel agent wanted to charge us 45 bucks each, but since we had a car, we just had to pay the entrance fee of 9,80 each. So we felt it would be fair enough to buy a ginger beer and a root beer from the balance and have lunch in Bundaberg's Queen's-park next to the River. We could actually see the impact of the monsoon season in some lower parts of the park that were almost being flooded. Seeing that there were still crocodiles out in the River up here in the Tropics, it didn't make us feel more comfortable to spend more time then necessary somewhere close to the water. So we were just warming up our pumpkin soup from the day before, had some bread and our splurge drinks and as the dusk was closing in we left the park for our rookery experience.

Apparently it´s a popular job for elderly folks here to work at an information center. The lady, who sold us the tickets did a good job pointing out the way to Mon Repos as well. It took us about 15 minutes by car and at the time we arrived the place was already buzzing with tourists from allover the planet. We prepared our adventure using heaps of mosquito repellent, putting on warmer clothes and queued up in line. Entering Mon Repos waiting hall was like walking in a turtle-museum. Bits and pieces of information about the beautiful amphibians, their unfortunate history, amazing abilities etc.

Turtle Trivia:
Did you know that only 1 out of 1000 turtle babies reaches maturity and that back in the 30's turtle soup was made in Australia and shipped abroad? It is very interesting as well, that female turtles find the way back to their rookery for laying eggs 30 years after they'd been born; and that the shield of the turtle grows about 3 centimeters per year until maturity. Turtle-eggs have got the size of ping-pong balls, the shell is soft and it is about 100 eggs per batch. It takes about 6 weeks until the turtle is breaking the shell and hitting the surf; during that short time the turtle gets imprinted by the magnetic field of the beach which helps them to find their way back for giving birth. Male turtles never return back to the rookery. A land turtle b.t.w. is called tortoise. The Mon Repos rookery was founded 40 years ago. The oldest female turtle on record is about 70 years old. Bundaberg beer has been sponsoring GPS-devices to learn about turtle wandering, behavior and feeding grounds.

After about 2 hours we were called to the beach, the rangers had found a green turtle. Apparently it was one of the few green-turtles breeding in this area. Which is to 90% the Loggerheads domain. We found ourselves in a group of 25 people walking down the beach, first steady then quicker and very slow again, always according to the instructions of the ranger in charge. Since turtles react to light designated rangers on the beach used torches to light the way to safe breeding areas in the dunes. As soon as the turtle reached her destination and started digging our group was allowed to have a closer glance. The group was moved up from behind the turtle not to disturb her. Since turtle don't have any ears we could talk freely without distracting her. After spending time, that felt like an hour, both, on our knees and feet, the turtle started to finally lay her eggs. The group was moved up closer around the turtle now. Finally we realize how much energy it must take from a turtle to drag herself (136 kg) 100 meters up shore, just with her flippers, dig a hole of approximately 50 cm depth, give birth to about 100 eggs, cover the eggs and make it back into the ocean. Busy mother. Wow! That's hard-core!
When the epic moment was over, the rangers started to investigate a bit further to learn more about the green turtles. Apparently this one returned for a second time in this breeding period and she is expected at least one more time this summer. Funny enough the length of her shield was 111 cm and she was giving birth to 101 eggs. That's our turtle! Emotionally lifted by this exceptional event we stumbled through the gift shop and almost bought a $40 fluffy turtle back-pack, for no purpose really.

And this is pretty much all we can say about Bundaberg and Mon Repos except that you have to try the Ginger-Beer!

Andreas and Anette

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