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Goodbye Australia

Written on: Tuesday June 17th, 2008

A journal entry from: Australia

Hey everyone! We are in fact in New Zealand now, but I guess I can't talk about that until I wrap up Australia. So here goes:

As you last heard, we were in Cairns. Where did I leave off? Oh yes - hot, tropical, disgustingly humid. And we had a fantastic time. You could tell the city was a big tourist locale and a backpacker's party mecca. The streets were swarming with annoyingly loud drunk 20-somethings screaming at each other. We were so over that atmosphere. I'm of the opinion that people need to find better things to do with themselves if they're doing this every night (which in fact many of them were, a prime example being the barely comprehensible Irishman staying in our room at the hostel). So we did not visit any bars, or partake of any alcohol whatsoever during our stay.

Instead, we took a couple of amazing day trips.

The first was with a tour company called Uncle Brian's. Our tour guide, called Cousin Ky, just made the day hilarious. He had named and personified the tour bus (Gus) and it seemed to take a life of its own. The conversations between Cousin Ky and Gus were some of the highlights of the day, right up there among the waterfalls and rainforests. As if that weren't enough, we also had Elmo joining us as part of the team.

First, we went through a rainforest south of Cairns (the name of which I can no longer recall). It was just a short hike, but Cousin Ky made sure to sufficiently frighten us with talk of deadly snakes and spiders. We saw a beautiful place called Devil's Pool (which had been rechristened ?Evil Poo? on the sign by some silly visitor).

Next we went to a national park (Wooloomooran? I think?) to swim in a natural stream. Icy cold, but awesome. I've always wanted to swim in a natural pool like that. And not only was it beautiful, but there was a rock slide!! Yay! Lots of fun, and we have videos:

Then we stopped for lunch at some wonderfully out-of-the-way cafe and ate on the large back porch, enjoying the view of cows and sheep roaming in the open field.

Afterwards, was possibly the best part of the day. We stopped at Millaa Millaa Falls (in Aboriginal language : lots of falling water). Here it was definitely ICE cold and it was sort of drizzling. Everybody was freezing. On this tour you're supposed to swim at all these watery locations we stop at. But this day was very cold. So on the bus, Cousin Ky asked the group who'd be jumping in the icy water to swim in the waterfall. Only about 5 boys, plus me, raised their hands. I'm thinking, you just don't pass up an opportunity to swim in a natural waterfall. No matter how cold it is. Grow some, and jump in! So I handed my camera to a fellow traveler named Candy, and the boys and I stripped down to our suits and jumped in. The rest of the group watched from a large rock. We swam to the waterfall and then around and behind it (this was incredibly tiring, I suppose because of my muscles spasming for warmth). It was amazing. The waterfall was so powerfully loud, and it was surrounded by a wide radius of mist that forced you to nearly shut your eyes completely. Then we swam through the waterfall. This is scarier than you think, because Cousin Ky had warned us not to do this through a particularly strong part of the fall, as it might push you down pretty far into the water and disorient you. But we made it through. Then I turned around to face the waterfall and floated peacefully on my back, gazing up at it. I could just hear the falls rushing into the pool under the water, and that was all. That moment, quiet and alone with nature, was so sweet that I couldn't help smiling to myself.

Afterwards, I was definitely nearing death by hypothermia.

Our last official stop for the day was at a lake. Ironically, this was the warmest water of the day, but by then, no one was interested in swimming. At the last second, however, two boys decided to quickly jump in and jump out. Adam and I declined.

After a quick viewing we made our way to see if we could spot some platypuses. It took a few minutes, but we finally saw one swimming. Cute!

And as a little bonus trip, we stopped quickly at a curtain fig tree. It's a crazy looking tree, like it's made up of tons of rope, which is why it's sad that we forgot to bring the camera on this little side stop. Oh well, look it up. :)

The next day we took a day tour to Michaelmas Cay, which is home to a piece of the Great Barrier Reef. This is where Adam and I both snorkeled for the first time. Good place to start, eh? It was one of the most fun things I've ever done. We walked off the white sand of this tiny island and stepped into the crystal aquamarine water (which, thankfully, was warm) and I was not sure how great all this unfamiliar gear strapped to us would do. I had this idea in my head that water would undoubtedly leak into my mask the second I stuck my head under water and that this would remain a huge problem for the duration of the swim. Forget the fact that people do this every day with no problem. So when I stuck my head under water and my face remained dry and I saw brilliant colors all around me, I gasped. I continued saying ?wow? aloud at various things the whole time. So did Adam. When we were swimming along we kept slapping each other on the arm and pointing frantically at crazy fish and alien-looking plants. We saw giant clams and freakishly large fish. A stingray. And then we saw a shark. Adam promptly began swimming frantically in the opposite direction. I, for some reason, swam toward it. I wasn't in the same mind set. I just felt like I was only in a big aquarium, and nothing could touch or hurt me. It didn't seem real. It was only about 3 feet long and when I went towards it it swam away. No limbs were lost.

Later, after lunch, Adam and I had left the little guided snorkel group, which was being held out in the middle of the ocean (though it wasn't incredibly deep). We wanted to swim back toward the Cay, because we weren't seeing anything too interesting. We told the guide, and started swimming for shore. That's when we met the giant sea turtle. I absolutely loved the turtle, because it didn't mind one bit swimming right alongside us. It seemed just as curious about us and we were about it. It kept its eye on us the whole time, and the three of us swam together for about 5 minutes. It seemed docile, but we were still wary of touching it, even though we really wanted to! Finally we did. We each quickly touched its shell with our fingertips and jerked our arms back as if scared of it snapping its head around and biting our fingers off. I don't know what we were thinking, I don't think it was capable of moving that quickly.

We finally decided to resume swimming for shore and say goodbye to the turtle. But we had stayed too long with the turtle and it was time to go back to the boat; a crewmember brought a speedboat around to us to tell us to head back. Good timing, because that's about the time I started thinking about what a crew member had said at lunch time to Adam, when he had asked if that stingray we saw was dangerous: ?Mate, everything's dangerous out here.? I thought about the fact that I was in the middle of the ocean, with a boat a little too far away for my liking and an island a little too far the other way. And there was that shark...

But we obviously survived. Now here's the bad news ? we were cheap and rented a regular underwater film camera, instead of an underwater digital. I got too excited and took too many pictures at the beginning and ran out soon. So I didn't get a picture of the shark or the turtle. Plus they didn't turn out very well. Guess that was something we shouldn't have skimped on!!

And that was Cairns.

The next day we flew back to Sydney, because that's where our flight to New Zealand left from four days later. We were really trying to stick to a strict budget here, and I think we did a pretty good job of finding things to do for little to no money. We had a free voucher for the aquarium from our work abroad program, so we went there. And took a lot of pictures. We saw the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House light up the night sky. That night we met three guys from Canberra (Australia's capital; you thought it was Sydney, didn't you? Yeah me too) and joined them for the free beer at a nearby bar the hostel offered. It was actually quite fun. We laughed, we danced. We have pictures. And we did not spend any money. They did not manage to entice us to spend money to get more beer. Pat on the back for upholding the budget.

The next day we took a ferry ride in the Sydney Harbor to Manly Beach (great name). We did a little shopping, and a little looking at the beach, and went back (it was cold).

We walked around the city, we walked up to a lookout next to the Harbour Bridge and enjoyed the view. And before we knew it, our time in Australia was finished. If I had time, I might make and insert a cheesy video montage of our time there. Maybe I will sometime.

A plane brought us to New Zealand for the next great adventure. I can't wait to write about our first couple of days because I already love the place. And we're allowed a year here.

I can't wait.

 

* Not all the pictures up yet, and no captions. Hopefully will finish in the next day or two! So just don't look yet! 

 

From Courtney's Mom on Jul 6th, 2008

Great blog! Loved the pics. Glad you weren't eaten by a shark. That's a relief!

From Courtney's mom on Jul 10th, 2008

OK, guys...you are WAYYYYYY overdue for another update. Put down the kiwi and whatever fruit Adam is picking, and start blogging!!! :)