Thursday, August 17, 2006

Home Sweet Home

"Silly is a state of grace. Silly is what's real. Serious is what you do while you're waiting until you can be silly again."
-Mike Myers

I made it back to LA -- for a brief two-day stop before heading back out into the world. It's nice to be home ... and to arrive three hours before I left. That's a neat trick, eh? I'm pretty exhausted after the long 13-hour flight and am going to try to take a nap. I also want to get over the sting of losing over $100 worth of lip glosses and liquid eye liner to the viscious airport security guard. Watching him chuck all my expensive make-up into the trash bin was very painful. Oh well, I've learned an important lesson about erring on the side of taking less and now I get to make a trip to Sephora -- always a fun time.

I'm going to go take a nap and then I guess I need to deal with my pre-France errands.

Rainforest/Great Barrier Reef

Peter and I just got back from a 4-day excursion to Northern Queensland. We stayed in Cow Bay, just south of Cape Tribulation. Though the weather was supposed to be warm, it was quite rainy and damp – I suppose that's to be expected in the rainforest.

The first night we were there, we went to a fancy restaurant called the Heritage Lodge. It actually wasn't that fancy, but it sure was expensive. It was still quite nice -- set outside in the middle of the rainforest. It got a bit creepy after a while though because I saw what I believed to be rats running around me. I am much better about the rat phobia, but it still freaked me out and I had to move inside. When the waitress asked why we moved and we said "rats," she looked at us very disdainfully. What we thought were rats were really a rat-like creature called a musky rat kangaroo. It had a rat tail and looks like a rat, but carries its young in a little pouch. I don't know, it still freaked me out. The meal was great though. We ate a delicious antipasto plate of emu, kangaroo, and crocodile for an appetiser and had an amazing barrimundi (delicious Aussie fish) for the main.
The first full day we were up there we explored the various beaches, the rainforest, and creeks. We had to be a little careful swimming up there because the crocodiles often come up on the beach in that area. We were definitely swimming at our own risk. The nicest part of that day for me was sitting on the creek's edge and skipping stones. It brought me back to my childhood, and was lovely.
On Sunday we went on a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. We took a sail boat out there called the Rum Runner. There were about 40 other people on the boat. The seas were uncharacteristically rough and the trip was somewhat nightmarish. On the way out there I was sick and heaved what little breakfast I managed to get down over the side of the boat. When we got there we did some snorkeling. The reef was gorgeous and I saw a stingray and lots of amazing fish and coral, but the current was very strong and the choppy waters made snorkeling quite the challenge. When we got back onto the boat (after about 45 minutes), Peter had his turn over the side of the boat. We were both positively green. To top it all off, it was raining much of the time and we were both soaked to the skins and freezing. I was never so happy to get on dry land and into a hot shower. The whole rest of the day I felt as if I was still rocking back and forth. To be quite honest, 24 hours later I'm still rocking
We came back today, taking the slow route back to Cairns airport. We stopped several times at various lookouts and ate lunch in the quaint seaside town of Port Douglas. We then got to Cairns and hung out for a little while near the waterfront. It was a perfect trip.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Living the Wild Life

Today I cuddled with a koala, strolled along with peacocks, and had kangaroos literally eating out of my hand. We went to Featherdale Wildlife Park outside of Sydney. It was soooo cool! It was a huge petting zoo (you couldn't pet all animals (you wouldn't want to!), but many). There are over 2200 animals in Featherdale -- birds, reptiles, mammals. I got to pet koalas, kukkaburras, dingo pups, peacocks and feed wallabies, emus, and kangaroos (I even got to feed a baby kangaroo from right in it's mother's pouch!). I will try to post pictures tomorrow. In addition to the animals you could touch, there was a crocodile (rather sleepy), tasmanian devils (they were devils as they raced around their cage and screamed), snakes (Australia is home to all 10 of the most poisonous snakes in the world and most were here), various birds (lots of parrots, cockatoos, and all sorts I'd never heard of before), wombats, etc. I'm still buzzing from the day. It was just too cool for school!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sunday in Sydney

We went running in Centennial Park yesterday. In a way it's a lot like any other park -- trees and grass and graceful lakes. However, it's pretty wild to go for a run in a park and see cockatoos, parrots, and pelicans strolling around like common pidgeons and ducks. It's little things like that which remind me that I'm in Australia and it's wonderful.

Today, P's little cousin is celebrating her 8th birthday and P's mom is singing in a Chorale concert. We've just come from the party and will soon be going to the concert. I think we're ending our day with bowling and steaks with one of P's old friends and his kids. Family day in Sydney. Life is good. :)

I figured out how to upload photos. Here are a couple pics of me with each of P's kids.

Teo and I with the Harbour bridge behind us.

India and I in front of the St. Mary's Cathedral.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Australia Fair

"Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free,
We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare,
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair."

-From Australian National Anthem

We've done so much, that it's hard to know what to say. I'll try to provide the Cliff's Note version. P. is here with me and is helping me write this post.

Generally speaking we've been lucky with the weather. We had a bit of a torrential downpour yesterday, but for the rest of the week the weather had been sunny (though often brisk). Today, it's sunny and we're heading into Centennial Park (Sydney's Central Park). Yesterday (during the rain) we went to the Gallery of New South Wales. It was great to check out some Aussie art. I'm a particularly big fan of Aboriginal Art. It's at once very simplistic, but deeply fascinating and complex.

Thursday we went to the Blue Mountains -- saw the Three Sisters and took the steepest railway in the world. It was beautiful. It felt like New Mexico if it had rainforests.

I'm in P.'s cousin's house right now and people are clamoring for the laptop. I'm signing off now. I'll try to post soon and include pics.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Greetings from Sydney

"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."
Lao Tzu

I arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning (Sydney time). It's so strange to leave Friday and arrive on Sunday. I flew right over Saturday. Cool, eh? We've been spending a lot of time visiting with P.'s family (his folks and cousins). We haven't seen much of the city yet. We've seen some beautiful Harbour Views and have been to Coogee Beach. We also checked out the Australia Museum which has some really cool exhibits -- especially the Search and Discover Exhibit where you can touch and play with models of all sorts of Aussie animals (koalas, kangaroos, snakes, dingoes, etc) Today we're making our real first foray into the City. We're going to check out the Opera House and take a ferry to Manly Beach.

The weather (until today) had been beautiful and warm. Today it's overcast and cool (more typical late winter weather). Hopefully it warms up as we head out on the harbor.

We're heading out now. Will get back on and update more later.