Sunday, October 24, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
We did two short (35-40 minutes) dives with a guide. It wasn't more than 12 meters deep, so any certified diver should have been comfortable. I thought maybe the guide was required to protect the reef from stupid foreigners.
Having no words to do it justice, I'll emulate Joyce Kilmer and say "blogs are made by fools like me, but only G-d can make a reef".
Day 3 was tour day and we were picked up by this giant bus. It made the rounds of hotels and collected a very international tour entourage.
As the guide checked the names on his list, he asked 'where is home?'. We said Japan and got a strange look. But that's where we live.
The skyrail travels over the rain forest to the east(?) of the Barron Gorge, which is Australia's Grand Canyon. Our destination was the Kuranda Aboriginal Village. We saw very few natives in Cairnes, and though this was a traditional Aboriginal home, it was very touristy.
Here are some views from the gondola. We made two stops along the route at areas where walking paths wound through the forest and the flora was surprisingly like Florida.
We heard the cracking of the whip before we saw the Man From Snowy River. (That's actually a Bonanza type Australian TV series.)
A walk from the hotel was the tourist area, complete with tee shirt shops (yes, I got one each for Brian and Cameron). I also bought Brian a boomerang in Cairns.
Not far from the tee shirt shop, a crowd was gathered for this performance. The guy on the right is playing a digeridoo. There's a better shot of him below.
A traditional digeridoo is made from a eucalyptus tree. I don't know how they manage to bore out the center of such a long trunk, but I heard that sometimes termites will do it. Then the Aboriginals come along and do whatever it takes to finish the job.
I think they just hum into it. The sound that came out when this guy played was sort of a echoey (or is it echo-ee?) moaning.
It took 15 years to complete these tracks, and seeing the landscape, it was hard to imagine doing it with 19th century tools and technology.
We returned on the west side of the Barron Gorge. It was a pretty nice day.
At night, when we walked to dinner, Allan tried to see the southern cross (southern hemisphere constellation). I don't think he ever did identify it. I'm not sure he knew exactly what to look for, but looking up, we saw the sky filled with bats the size of crows above the local casino.
We're flexible when it comes to food. That night for dinner, we ordered pizza and what we thought was salad, but we got something like nan (Indian bread) with cheese and sausage. The 'salad' was a bowl of steamed vegetables. Tasted okay.
Ever seen one of these? Hint: a kangaroo gave up his manhood, so some tourist could own this unusual item. Yep, kangaroo testicles. Who thinks up this stuff?
Day 4, we were picked up early for a 'Food Trails Tour'. We had 'morning tea' at the first stop, Maloberti's coffee plantation. I had tea and everyone else had coffee and cake.
Then to a winery for a tasting of fruit wines (mango, blackberry, lychee, cherry) and a few coffee liquors. After which, we had a lesson in macadamia nuts - how they're grown (on trees), harvested (scooped up like golfballs on a driving range once they've fallen off the tree), then processed for different uses including pressed into oil which has NO cholesterol, NO carbs and NO sodium, too right!
Nothing weird about our delicious, relaxed lunch at a rustic old hotel. And our last promised stop was a dairy that made cheese, milk chocolate and ice cream, which I resisted. I bought a sasparilla - that I couldn't resist.
During our drive from place to place, the guide talked about the history and geography of the area. He'd talk for a while, and when he got to the climax of the story, he'd casually point out the window and say "and right there is where...". We were with him for 10 hours and were never bored, or hungry!Afternoon tea is seen here. Scones with jam, overlooking a pristine lake. This country has ALOT of old hotels. The one with this cafe has been owned by the same family since 1920.
During a walk through a wooded area, we saw the 'Cathedral Fig'. These vines grew up around a tree, squeezing the life out of it in the process.
Eventually, the tree died and rotted away, but by that time, the vines were strong enough to stand alone. Does this look a bit like something from 'Avatar'? I'm not sure anyone can guess the age of this thing, but since the original tree is gone, I'd say real old.
Another full day, and we weren't finished yet. We went to dinner (can you believe it, after all we ate?) but even though we went light, neither of us finish the meal.
Our last active day was another dive day. What we gave up by way of fancy lunch, we gained in two great dives together, then I asked one of the crew if they could arrange another partner for Allan, so I could stay onboard. Lucky for him, they did a special drift dive in a place called 'Wildside', which began about 100 meters away from the group. It was his best dive.
My favorite part was the crew helping us get our gear on and actually put on our fins on the platform. And when we returned, someone was there to grab your fins off and help you stand up. I felt like Cinderella.This public pool is open to the Esplanade, and it's close to an acre. You walk right along the edge of it and can jump in any time, no lifeguards, no fence, no hassle. Are these people crazy? Aren't they worried about liability?
Our last day, was a free day, which is perfect at the end of a busy vacation. And why do we think running from dawn to dusk is a vacation? As usual, I needed a rest after this vacation.
Walking around on our last night, we found this in an 'herb shop'. I guess it's holistic viagra.
Friday, October 8, 2010
We just got good news from Florida! Our renters signed another 1 yr. lease. That's a relief.
Sunday afternoon was Oktoberfest. It was the same as last year, except the band didn't have as much Oompah. They actually tried to sing popular American songs, but probably shouldn't have.
That brick warehouse-looking building in the 2nd photo, well it actually was a warehouse. Now it houses one good reason to go to Oktoberfest, a chic mall. I didn't buy alot, but did get a cute keyring cat that 'meows' when I push the button on his head. He's solid black like Joey.
And this afternoon, the hospital had a 'hail and farewell' for about 15 people. Hail for those coming, and farewell for those going.
Lots of people move through this place during the summer months. This Corpsman is taking the oath of allegiance as she re-enlists. First she is given an honorable discharge, then she commits for another tour of duty. I thought they just signed a paper.
See you when I'm back from Down Under.