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Monday, May 30, 2016

From Biggest Reef to Oldest Rain Forest

The Daintree Rain Forest is, purportedly, the oldest rain forest on the planet. Parts of it abut the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, so it is truly a unique place to visit. When you step into the greenery you feel like you've slipped back in history to a time when humans had yet to exist and our ancient ancestors hadn't walked upright. This sensation is often interrupted by signs of development, but when you step away from the road and traverse the walkways into the forest the feeling is transformative.

He's lost his hookah, but it's okay.
Big spider, not tarantula big...but big enough
Katydid (or did she??)
Tribulation Bay - the meeting of the rain forest and reef

The Daintree is home to the elusive cassowary (trust me...I did everything I could to try and spot one - perhaps they were offended by my calling them by the name"Kevin" and offering them chocolate...a reference to the movie "Up", if you were living under a rock in 2009), It's also home to the platypus and fearsome salt water crocodile. The beaches are lined with signs warning you not to get too close to the surf, as a croc might make a surprise meal of you. The flora is diverse and stunning and well worth the extra effort to go see it. I'd recommend planning to stay, at least, overnight so that you can take in everything the area has to offer.

Can't see a croc? That's the point.
It was a fungi hotbed and I enjoyed taking photos of such subtly beautiful and diverse things.

While we didn't get to see the cassowary, we did go on a river cruise that offered the opportunity to see both a large crocodile and one of her babies. The downside was that the croc was so well camouflaged that we couldn't get a good picture of her and the other croc known to the area was scared off by a small fishing boat, just as we were ready to snap photos, but such are the vagaries of travel. The baby had climbed onto a fresh stump at high tide and he found himself in a pickle as the water lowered.

Find the baby croc...hint he's on the stump.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but we had two incredible days traveling the Tablelands to the south of Cairns and to the Daintree the day after. 
The final set of photos are a bit of a mix, but mostly from the Atherton Tablelands, north of Cairns, but a couple from Mossman Gorge near the Daintree river. Next time...really, really...Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Not to be missed!
The Atherton Tablelands
A bear in his natural environment
Nope, not a cassowary, but a brush turkey

Mossman Gorge
"The Boulders" - that's what the area is called
Tree at Mossman Gorge - aptly named

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Big Blue - The Great Barrier Reef

I don't think it's any secret that we've been looking forward to seeing one of the seven wonders of the world, especially now that it's under threat and may never be the same again. Ron, in particular, worked very hard to be able to strap on a tank of oxygen and go into the depths to have a first hand look at the coral and sea life of the Great Barrier Reef. We chose Seastar Cruises and are so happy we did and you'll see why in the photos.
Our boat
Michaelmas Cay (not as stormy as it seems)

Getting ready to snorkel
We went out to the reef fairly early, meeting our tour group - the Sea Star - at 7:30, in an attempt to get to Michaelmas Cay before the flocks of other tourists arrived. We had a slightly choppy crossing, but arrived to find no other boats at the sand bar bird sanctuary and first snorkel and scuba spot of the day. 
Little Blue and corals

It was a bit intimidating, I admit, relying on your mouth to inhale and having water in your mask, so that your nose could feel it. It makes you want to inhale, rather desperately, through your nostrils, but you  know you can't. Once I got past that little bit of terror, off we went, into the depths...well the shallows, really, of the reef. Alexa, our instructor, towed us around like useless lumps of flotsam, but it still gave me an idea of what SCUBA diving might be like. I was itching to be let free and swim on my own.

Ron and I waiting to go deeper
Once we got back on the boat - a half hour seemed horribly. short - we ate lunch and then headed of to our second site. As we were arriving, Alexa got us suited up in our stinger suits (jelly fish were still in season, so better safe than sorry) and had us strap on our tanks. 
Big step!
Then me!

This time there was no hesitation and I jumped in and waited for our next dive adventure to begin. There is something addictive in gliding through big blue and seeing things that I've only seen on TV before. The half hour passed so quickly that I could hardly believe it.

The chop was high on the way  home and many of us, myself included, succumbed to mal de mer. (Not Ron, of course, the man's a rock.) I was fortunate and got off lightly, some spent most of the journey looking at the bottom of a paper bag. While not the best wrap up to a fantastic day, I'm trying to leave the memory behind and keep only the good things. The crew of Sea Star were champions dealing with everyone who was sick, as well as being helpful, fun and informative on the rest of the journey. It really was a trip of a lifetime and we will likely go diving again.

What's next? Uluru, or Ayers Rock! The journey is winding down and there are only a few more stops left, so stay tuned, as they say.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Going Coastal!

Our little campervan adventure sent us running around a confessedly small part of southern and eastern Australia in a mad and relentless sort of way. We needed some R&R and found it in the sleepy city of Coffs Harbour. Perhaps, that's not a fair way to describe it, but we arrived on the last weekend of a school holiday and it seemed like many of the families had made scarce of the small city and we were, by and large, left with the retirees and those not able to afford a trip to other parts.
We took several days of much needed rest, worked on our tans and enjoyed a couple of restaurants, but mostly, we enjoyed the extra space and ability to really cook again.

Yup, us by the pool
After we tanned up and rested, we headed off to Brisbane by train and bus. 

Brisbane is a beautiful city on the river. It's much like Melbourne, but on a smaller scale, which makes it even more walkableIt has lots of restaurants, beautiful paths through the Botanical Gardens and along the river and a decent autumn climate. (I don't know if I could survive their summers, but it hovered around the 30 degree Celsius mark, while we were there, with river breezes to offset the warmth.)
The free, man-made city beach in Brisbane
We came across a Hari Krishna parade on Sunday, which was pretty interesting. I hadn't realized that there was still such a large contingent of believers out there, but the proof is in the pictures.
Krishna parade

Guru in a toque (aka beanie)
Pretty heron
How apropos!
Robertson on Robertson
We only spent three days there, but enjoyed the food, sights and weather before heading off to Cairns to discover the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. (We're finally going to put the underwater camera to the test!) But I'll leave you with a few more images of Brisbane.
Is that really something you need to advertise?
Along the river
Pretty building at night in Fortitude Valley
(A Brisbane Neighbourhood)