A Human Encounter

At Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, you can get up close and personal with a koala. They call it “Koala Encounter.”

It’s like a koala strip club. Touching is prohibited. But you do get to go in the cage, close up. Close enough to smell their cute farts (eucalyptus + marmite) and for them to smell you back.

Sadly, due to 91 kph winds and unexpected rain in Sydney, I missed the official Encounter hours (you get a photo op and feeding demo), but a friendly keeper named Blake took pity on this sleep-deprived, wind-ravaged tourist and let me in for a quick look anyway.

There I was! Encountering a koala! I gazed at Hex, a three-year-old male, from behind the yellow line with my hands shoved deep into my pockets to avoid the nearly overpowering cuddle reflex. He gazed back. He wrinkled his gumdrop nose. Then the furry dumpling reached out and...PATTED MY CHEEK.

A horrified Blake leapt for Hex, thinking the furball cupcake was going to claw me (even then, wouldn’t the scars be adorable?) But Hex was calm. He had just gently laid his paw on my face.

Blake explained that he had probably liked the smell of my shampoo or deodorant. (My money's on the Tom's of Maine lavender deodorant...I plan to slather myself in it when I'm back in Oz...have you heard Mitch Hedberg's bit on koalas?

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