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On my way to Auckland, I had nearly a day long layover in Brisbane, Australia. After clearing customs around 9am local time, I rented a locker for most of my carryon luggage and sprinted for train. I had one goal : koalas.

But there were some hurdles to jump first – the train from the airport to the Cultural Centre got me there 10 minutes after the morning boat left for Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Fortunately, two kind docents at the nature museum gave me a bus number and pointed me toward the platform to catch it. I arrived in time to spend a few hours there amidst all the animals which also include birds, lizards, snakes and kangaroos.

When I was about three, my mother’s friend Christine gave me a koala stuffed animal that I carried all over the place. It paid off – great-uncle Wally took the little guy and placed him high in a southern California eucalyptus tree for me, the highlight of the visit.

“Someday,” I thought. “I’ll see real ones!”

Afterward I caught the Mirimar boat back to the Culture Centre and the train to the International Terminal. With a slight sunburn, a full camera card and memories, I was on my way to New Zealand.

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