Sunday, September 30, 2007
We're definitely looking forward to being in one place for longer than a few days, but are going to miss all the camping and driving around we've been able to do.
The past few days have been great though because we've been staying just outside of Melbourne with some new friends we met while camping up in Queensland. They showed us footy (Australian Rules Football), fed us kangaroo, and made a last valiant attempt to get us to eat Vegemite.
We saw our first kangaroos just before this sunset in Undara. We stayed out past dusk to try and see more, but of course the next day they were hopping through the campground.
This is the view from the beach we camped on in the
One day in the Whitsundays we managed to get up for dawn.
Somehow the rain drop on the lens of the camera makes the lighthouse in
We later learned that these fields of flowers (which we see everywhere now that spring is here) are canola.
The Breadknife in the Warrumbungles is only about 10 feet wide, but extends hundreds of feet above the mountainside.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Anyway, here are our two intrepid snorkelers. Mekayla’s picture came out with a bit of a modernist twist that I rather like.
This picture of the coral does mostly capture the colors correctly, but it is impossible to capture the experience when it is just a few feet from your face.
The schools of fish that seem as interested in us as we are in them are in my opinion one of the coolest parts of snorkeling. And it is amazing how many fish you see in just two or three feet of water.
While I’m on the subject of sea life I might as well sneak in a few pictures from the whale watch. Not much different from New England whale watching in my opinion except that the sea is an incredible blue.
They are as cute as you think they are, but much smaller and rarer than you can imagine. The first time we went looking for them we sat quietly by the side of a pool where it was said they came out and expected it would be rather obvious when one showed up. After over an hour we gave up. We saw our first one from 60 yards away when we noticed other people pointing off into the water.
It was a barely visible hump that was really only distinguishable because when it was on the surface for 10 seconds at a time it swam around. Then the platypus would arch its back and disappear into the black river. They would then stay under water for a couple of minutes before briefly resurfacing.
We probably spent 3 hours trying to find and take pictures of them that day, and then we got up at daybreak to pursue them again the next day as well. We certainly did see many and with patience got to watch them for quite some time. But taking good pictures of them was very difficult because they were so shy. The few times that they did surface near me I was rarely able to focus on them and take the picture before they submerged again. This is what I got most of the time:
But there were a few decent shots in the end as well. This one does a pretty good job of showing their size.
Passing (called overtaking here) is always an adventure, and of course there are the previously mentioned road trains. More exciting still was the many miles of the Kennedy Highway and Gregory Developmental Road (there is probably a bad joke in that which only my Mother would find funny) where the two lanes in either direction converged to a single lane, in both directions. The speed limit is 100 km/h.
When cars come in the other direction you each slow down and drive with half your wheels in the dirt and the other half on the pavement. When a road train comes you pull over off of the pavement. They don’t get out of your way. Fortunately a helpful gas station owner gave me a lengthy rundown of what to expect on these roads. There were signs, but having someone hit you over the head before the insanity starts is quite helpful.
Along the Kennedy highway we also saw someone who was putting our adventure to shame: a lone biker heading out into the outback. When we passed him, he probably had over a hundred kilometers before the next town. His bike was weighed down by what was mostly water and food.
Along one of the back roads before we left the Atherton Tablelands we also met the largest snake we have ever seen. Its body was only halfway onto the road and yet it was taking up the entire lane and had its head 2 feet up in the air looking at us as we drove past. Since seeing it I have lamented not stopping to take a picture, but at the time all I could think was “big snake, must go faster.”
We figured out afterwards that it was actually a python, completely nonpoisonous and not dangerous at all. Since seeing it though there have been numerous other sightings: snake shaped branch, snake shaped bark, snake shaped leaf, etc. Maybe one of these days we will again see an actual snake. In the meantime our travels will occasionally be delayed by detritus in the road.
Oh, and this is me fording my first creek in Eungella National Park.
And here is me testing the depth before going across another one. We were actually kind of frightened by this one, but it all worked out.
Friday, September 14, 2007
For those who are unaware, Mekayla has a birthday tradition of creating a differently shaped cake every year. This year she chose a platypus. And as if sculpting a cake into a platypus wasn’t difficult enough she also decided that the “cake” should be a chocolate bread pudding since we are partaking in a fair bit of British inspired culture these days.
Of course, neither of us has ever made a bread pudding before (though we did eat one our Servas hosts made up in Queensland). Our kitchen also turned out to be lacking in a few areas: a rather deficient baking pan, metric measurements in the recipe but nothing to measure them with, an oven in Celcius which didn’t measure temperature correctly anyways. Oh, and this being a recipe of Mekayla’s obviously meant we had to find a way to add fruit to it.
It turned out pretty well despite the limitations. In the end we think that there was not enough pudding for the amount of bread we ended up using. The top layer of bread was much too dry. On the second day we just started removing the top layer and eating the bottom layers of fruit and bread. These were quite delicious.
At some point we need to find some willing soul who really knows how to make bread pudding and is willing to teach us. Also chocolate bread pudding seems like it might be some bastardization of a real bread pudding. The real thing seems like it should not have any chocolate in it, but for a birthday cake I think the chocolate is very necessary.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Although my posts are still a bit behind the times we’re now down on the outskirts of the Blue Mountains about 250 km west of Sydney. We stayed at Dunn’s Swamp which despite the name is an amazingly beautiful area where an ancient river carved deep troughs into the surrounding sandstone.
We had gotten a little worried before we got here that it was going to be rather cold (after one night where it dropped down to freezing). But the weather has actually improved as we went more south and spring is beginning to show us some of the great Australian wildflowers that we have read about. And never fear parents, our sleeping bags and tent are holding up exceptionally well in the weather.
Today we are heading up into the Blue Mountains where we have rented a cottage for a more extended celebration of Mekayla’s birthday for the next four days. Then it will be on to Sydney and on the 19th we are taking a train ride to Adelaide.
I guess the way to end this post is to finish off with some pictures of the birthday girl.
Monday, September 3, 2007
We think we are taking pictures of Australian "squirrels". But they certainly are cute. Wallabies and kangaroos seem to be just about everywhere. In areas where they have been around humans they are really not that bothered by us. And the roads are certainly littered with their carcasses.
Since they are so adorable, here are some more kangaroos. Eventually we might get tired of it, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Our first hosts were a retired geologist and a psychologist (doing work with Australian Vietnam vets) living on 100 acres in the Atherton Tablelands. Not really a farm, but they were impressively self sufficient with various fruit trees (grapefruit, mandarins, lemons, plums), 3 one megaliter tanks for storing rainwater, a wood-burning stove for cooking and heating, and solar panels were just starting to be installed.
David had also just recently gotten a horse who seemed to serve as both transportation and lawnmower.
To the untrained (American) eye these are chickens, but in reality they are chooks (shockingly this word is also in my spell checker’s dictionary).
Over the two days we had lots of discussions about geology, some politics, non-violence movements, and climate change. There is too much to summarize here, but definitely a great experience.