Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rain, cows, and goats

Well, we find ourselves a bit behind in keeping up with blogging. Lots of stories percolating, but this one will have to do for now. Currently we are in Airlie Beach and on our way to Eungalla National Park hopefully to finally see some platypuses (I prefer to call them platapi).

We spent about forty-eight hours camping in the rainforest a few hours from Cairns. For thirty-six of those hours it rained. At least the forest delivers on its promises. Everything was green and beautiful.

Following the highway a bit further we suddenly burst from dense rainforest to the most rolling, majestic cow pastures I have ever seen. Did Massachusetts look like this before it regrew all of the forests?

This led us to some of the best cheeses (and cheese cake) we’ve ever had. Some of the locals though were a bit crass and rude about letting us use their roads:

Eventually we snuck by him, but somehow I think those horns are for more than show, because he definitely wasn’t concerned about our car.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The night before snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, we went to a slide show summarizing the life on the reef and what to look for. Near the end of the presentation the instructor talked about some fish that like to follow along beside boats hoping for someone to vomit (spew) and provide them with a “hot lunch”. She then casually mentioned that there would be high winds the next few days and everyone should take some harsh motion sickness pills (not the wimpy, feel good ginger tablets that don’t really work).

After the slide show about half the class lined up in a nearby 24 hour pharmacy to buy some motion sickness pills. Boy was that a good idea.

Mekayla and I had an incredible day of snorkeling. The sea was a bit rough, but it was still beautiful and there was not a hint of seasickness. Many of our fellow travelers were not so lucky. I think half of them were sick within 5 minutes of leaving the dock. At about 10 AM as we reached our first snorkeling spot I overheard one passenger ask a crewmember when they would be getting onto land. The answer was 5PM. Some people had a very long day.

Now we are off to camp again. It looks like we will be pitching the tent at night and in the rain. Just the way we like it. Now off to get used to driving a manual transmission with my left hand. Later.

Fishing, Flooded Roads, and Crocs

The East Alligator River crossing (poorly named by some crazy British explorer, there are no alligators here) between Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land is about 70km upstream from the ocean. At low tide the river is flowing normally, and the crossing has about 10 centimeters of water running over it. It can easily be crossed in a four wheel drive vehicle. As the tide comes in, the water starts flowing back in the opposite direction until the crossing is covered by over half a meter of water. The area attracts four things: drivers crossing the river, fishermen, crocs, and gawkers (us).

We also didn’t see anybody get his car overturned while doing the crossing, but every time one drove across all the fishermen stopped to watch.

From what we heard, a truck overturns here once a year. At high tide there were more than a few trucks that approached the edge of the crossing, paused for a little bit, and then started quickly backing away. Discretion is the better part of valor.

The other entertainment for the fishermen was playing find the croc. This one was maybe 40 yards away from where most of them were fishing.

And then a guy in a boat showed up to fish. And he tied up his boat 6 feet from where a crocodile just submerged. The croc was almost as big as the boat, Mekayla said I might finally get some scale for taking pictures of the croc.

Now I know that these guys have probably been fishing croc infested waters all their lives so maybe it isn’t a big deal, but one of the fishermen on the bank yelled out “You do know that there is a croc there don’t you?” and the guy just went on starting to fish. We weren’t sure if he hadn’t heard, or had seen it and didn’t care, or if he was just crazy.

So let’s review: trucks fording through river, fishermen on the banks, crazy boat fishermen, Aussie bravado, and salt water crocodiles. This is the most entertaining spot on the planet. We returned here many times.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Driving on the Left

I think I spent the first few days in Australia carefully watching how everyone was driving and worrying myself about looking in the correct direction whenever I approached an intersection. There were lots of subtle things that cropped up that I had to get used to, but they really didn’t turn out to be too hard: rotaries go in the opposite direction, slow lane is in the left not the right, etc.

But the one thing that I still can’t break out of the habit of is that the turn signal is on the opposite side of the damn wheel! This means that invariably when I’m about to go and pass the road train (truck pulling 3-4 trailers) that is going 30 km/h under the speed limit, I end up turning on my windshield wipers. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like the sound of bone dry wipers scraping across a windshield in 90 degree heat. And Mekayla’s chuckling as I fail to signal properly for the 40th time doesn’t really help either.

Back from the wild

Sorry, this post got a bit delayed due to an urgent need to go snorkeling, more on that later.

Before we get into posting some stories from the past week I just figured I’d give a quick summary. We whole-heartily recommend Kakadu National Park in Northern Australia. It was absolutely amazing, and we did get used to the heat (though I did sweat through my shirt every day we were there). The wildlife, incredible landscape, and Aboriginal culture and rock art all in one place make for a great mix of things to learn about. Hopefully I can find some time and way to upload all of the pictures we took, but here is a taste of the local wildlife:

That last one is either a wallaroo or a wallaby. We really have no idea how to tell the difference. They hop like a kangaroo, but are quite smaller. Can you tell?

Just getting to Kakadu itself was quite an adventure. Everyone has seen the kangaroo crossing signs, but the crocodiles next five kilometers kinda surprised us.

Alas, we saw no crocs crossing the road. Then once we entered the Park we had to drive through fire (literally) in order to get to our camping site. It seems the Aboriginals are still keeping up with their millennia long tradition of cleansing the forest with fire, so there are lots of small fires going on this time of year.

We’re now sitting in Darwin airport waiting for our 1:40AM flight going to Cairns. Ideas of exactly what we are going to do are still percolating, but certainly the Great Barrier Reef will be involved.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Winter is HOT.

At least in Darwin it is. Though the nights are quite nice. Rather than drive-in movies we went to a deck chair cinema and watched a movie under the stars.

Hmmm… The sign across the street is inviting us to “Swim with the crocodiles!” I think we will refrain from taking them up on the offer.

Jet lag is mostly over, and today the camping begins. We won’t have any internet access for 5 or 6 days and so won’t be posting. We’re off to explore the rainforest.

Forgot to Mention

Whoever planned for our flight out of Denver to go over the Grand Canyon was pretty sneaky. We get it. The US is beautiful too. I guess we’ll have to buy return tickets someday.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Can we sleep yet?

We haven’t quite finished traveling yet, but seeing as we are jet lagged and hanging around the Brisbane airport it is time for a first update. Here is the first documentary evidence of our existence on the other side of the world. Look, we're in the clouds!

Not the plane we were in, or the airline we were flying (yet), but out this window of the airport we got to see the sun rise above New Zealand for the first time while we waited for our connecting flight to Australia.

Too confused to try and write something witty and coherent so we’ll check back in after we reach Darwin and get some sleep.

G’Day all!