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Part 2 - Australia


Katie and 'friend' at the gift shop in the skyrail terminal to Kuranda. Our first stop in Australia was in Cairns, a smallish city in the north of Queensland, known as Tropical North Queensland. Probably because it's tropical, and in the north of Queensland. That was the assumption we made, anyway.

Katie hiding among the giant tree ferns, common to the rainforest areas. Cairns is a beautifully landscaped city with all the conveniences, especially lots of internet shops where one can catch up on email. Our first Ozzie experience was to have a dinner of kangaroo and wallabie. Quite tasty. What other country eats their national symbol?

One of the more attractive denizens of Bird World in Kuranda. Hard to believe these beautiful birds are native to the rainforest. Our first outdoor adventure here was an 'over the rainforest treetops' day excursion to the tourist town of Kuranda via skyrail, better recognized as a ski area type of gondola. It's a 15 km round trip with two optional stops along the way to take nature walks through the rainforest and view the surrounding mountains. Little did I know that Kuranda was also an opal mecca, a tidbit known by Katie, who took full advantage!

Here's a picture of our green friend again, just after alighting on Katie's hat. Of course no trip to the north would be complete without scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, which runs off shore in that area. Although we would experience much better diving later on, at least we got to do a day on the reef. No links here to the dive operator, however, since the sites we were taken to were less than stellar and not representative of the reef as a whole. The 3 hour r/t boat ride wasn't worth it for what we experienced.

One can see just how much fun everyone was having on the R'n'R river trip. That's us in the front, of course. The best part of the stay in Cairns, however was the white water rafting trip we took with R'n'R Adventures, who provided a whole slew of us tourist types with great adventure, hilarious experiences on the river, a few tense moments, and a whole lot of fun. And the food was good, too. Statistically, the wettest area in Australia, we were blessed with a partly sunny day and sightings of platypus dens and Ulysses butterflies. Pretty much an entire day experience, this one was worth doing again.


A rain forest shot on Mt. Glorius, west of Brisbane and adjacent to Mt. Nebo, while on a nature walk. We spent two weeks in the Brisbane area, the largest city in Queensland. This part of the trip, aside, from day trips by car, was primarily spent with Katie's family, which gathered this past Christmas season at sister Missy's home on Mt. Nebo, in the mountains to the west of the city. Again, it rained every day for the first week setting our rainy vacation days to a record 26 consecutive days.

Me and brother-in-law Woody, with crossed umbrellas, signifying the nature of the weather in general and specifically on this nature walk. Brisbane was where we started renting cars. You know, they drive on the left side of the road and have right side drive cars. That was culture shock enough, but as I was the designated driver for the entire period, I had to acclimate quickly.

A gowanna crashed our patio Christmas dinner, literally leaping from the roof to the patio. A little encouragement got him on his way with no harm done and no food eaten. Fortunately I had some recent experience with our trip to Grand Cayman the previous month. With back seat driving help from all passengers concerned with staying alive, we did pretty well. The only lingering habit was approaching the car from the customary US driver's side, which none of us every quite reconciled.

A close-up of a rain covered leaf at the cabin some of the family stayed at on Mt. Glorius. Beautiful scenery from there with many birds and animals native to the nearly impenetrable rainforest. The typically narrower roads, preponderance of single lane travel, a predilection for one lane bridges and numerous indecipherable road signs made each day trip an adventure in itself. I tried to pawn off some of the driving so I could see some scenery, but no one would have it. So if I didn't drive, we didn't go. At least I had no accidents and was honked at only twice, both times in 'roundabouts'. Hey, when you don't know the rules, it's hard to play the game. Once we figured it out, no problem. A particularly unnerving aspect of Road Australia is their tendency to simply eliminate a lane of travel with no warning on the multi-laned streets in the city. 3 lanes. Wham! 2 lanes! Screeeeeech!

A photo of the Brisbane skyline from the Brisbane river, aboard the 'City Cat', a catamaran 'bus' that plies the waterways of Brisbane. We occupied our spare time with local sights, the aforementioned day trips, and even a round of golf on Christmas Eve (very hot and humid). Visiting the "Wool Shed" was entertaining, seeing the various breeds of sheep and watching a few get sheared.

A pandanus tree and its tangled web of roots growing from a bank on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. We saw sheep dogs in action and socialized up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies. Pretty touristy stuff, eh? However the b******s in the gift shop sold us local honey that they knew would be confiscated by New Zealand customs on the next leg of our trip!

A kookaburra, roosting over a restaurant patio on Mt. Glorius. Its call is the famous bird call heard in all the Tarzan movies. Of course we wandered through the countryside passing through towns with names as long as the alphabet (Maroochydore,Mooloolaba, and Caboolture, for example) on the way north to the Sunshine Coast, a lengthy beachfront area north of Brisbane. We also took the trip south to the border with New South Wales and spent some quality time tasting the treats in the Gold Coast, the primarily beach/casino area, 100 km south of Brisbane.

A Buddhist shrine fronted by brilliant flowers on the South Bank of Brisbane, a trendy area of shops, amusements, and restaurants. It was all beautiful, all fun, and all so free of litter and grime. Slightly cooler than normal, they all said, but generally delightful between the rain showers. It was summer, after all!

A view of the beaches and buildings of the Gold Coast, an upscale area south of Brisbane. Observations:
Every tourist attraction was "Something World". Everything! Toilets have two flush modes, for obvious reasons. Toilet paper is narrower than in the U.S. Lamb is on almost every menu. The beer was good. The Southern Cross was low in the sky. They have and use abundantly, $1 and $2 coins. Parrots and such are native and common birds. Kookaburras do not look like they sound. People walk like they drive -- on the left!

Heron Island

Stretch of Heron Island Beach. The northern part of the island (tiny as it is) is above the Tropic of Capricorn, making part of the island in the 'tropics' and part not. Heron Island, a tiny coral isle at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef, is part of the Australian National Park system. There are NO day-trippers to Heron. When you come there, you stay for a while. You come by fast catamaran or by helicopter or you don't come at all.

View from the beach of our accommodations. No keys used on the island - no locked doors. The beach was only 6-7 meters from the bungalow patio. Everyone who comes there is forced to pay an astronomical sum to do so. You are condemned to sugar white sandy beaches, turquoise water, gourmet meals, luxurious quarters, and doting staff. If there is a place any closer to heaven then Heron Island (other than Bora Bora, of course), then I want to know about it.

View of a turtle from near our bungalow, finishing up egg laying process. Note the other turtle tracks near the shoreline. No, they are not jeep tracks. Katie and I took a few days' break from the family to enjoy a 'honeymoon-like' mini-vacation there before heading out to New Zealand with Katie's mom and brother, Woody. This choice of location was an outstanding one by Katie! Kudos!

View of same turtle in previous picture, heading for the beach after completing egg laying process. Sometimes it takes them all night to complete the task. But of course there are a few downsides to the place. There aren't many places to 'get away' on the island, since one can circumnavigate it on foot at a leisurely pace in about 15 minutes. There is a certain 'presence' on the island due to the thousands of birds that inhabit it during certain times of the year. But after a day, you really don't notice it (as much).

Katie walking on the beach at nearly low tide. One nightly event, however, has to be noted. EVERY night, mutton birds come ashore and do their mating ritual. Unlike humans, who tend to like it quiet at such times, these birds put out a squawk like nothing else on earth. Their nightly calls (for hours on end) sound like screaming children being stabbed in the eyes with hot pokers. It was most unsettling the first night. Second night, no problem. You just didn't notice it (as much).

This is a rare photo of a Katiebird in a tree at nearly high tide. Katie particularly enjoyed the guided reef walk, where a ranger explained about all the poisonous critters inhabiting the reef. She mentioned something about conicals and 'deadly poison', but no matter. We took a private reef walk (at low tide) and were trailed by a 6' reef shark who finally left after getting hung up on some coral for a short time. They say they don't bite...Just call me "Stumpy."

One of the diversions available at Heron Island Resort, located on the Pandanus Bar patio. The biggest annual event on the island is the nightly visits by sometimes hundreds of green sea turtles to lay their eggs on the beach from December to March. We saw plenty of that but were too early by a few weeks to catch any of the hatchlings racing to the sea. Nonetheless, watching the parade of turtles to and from the beach under moonlight was an extraordinary experience. At some points, you couldn't walk 3 meters on the beach without nearly stepping on a turtle. Turtle hop-scotch. Great fun.

Interesting photo of an egret. There are actually no herons on Heron Island. Captain Cook, made a bad call when spotting birds years ago. We got a second chance at scuba diving on the GBR at Heron. The dive shop on the island knew where the good spots were all around the island. And none more than a 15 minute boat ride. Between dives we headed back to the island to relax and snack. Much better than sitting on a rocking boat between dives. The reef coral and fish were astounding. Not quite as good as it was in Fiji, however, but soooo much better than it was on the trip out of Cairns. We would have liked to dive one more day, but we were limited by our flight times.

A view leaving Heron Island from the catamaran ferry back to Gladstone. This is obviously NOT a large island! The 4 days we spent on the island went by much too fast, and before we knew it, we were back on the catamaran heading back to Gladstone for the flight back to Brisbane.

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Last updated November 6, 2005