Month: July 2017

This transfer from Alice…

July 18-19

This transfer from Alice Springs to Cairns went very smoothly. I got out of The Northern Territory without another canceled flight! Yay!!

On the 19th I did a walkaround in Cairns (pronounced CANS, really). Here is a model of the Bolands Center (inside the Bolands Center and looks just like it) built in 1912/13 and one of the many classic buildings to have survived the barrage of cyclones that hit regularly.

Heading out for the…

Heading out for the well-reviewed boardwalk, it didn’t look too appealing and I think part of the problem was the low tide that left just a long stretch of muddy shoreline.

This is a plover,…

This is a plover, two people here told me so and I checked it on the computer. Yes, a plover. Plovers are everywhere in Kauai and they don’t look anything like this guy.

What wiki says: “The masked lapwing, also known as the masked plover and often called the spur-winged plover or just plover in its native range…”

Then I took the…

Then I took the bus to the Cairns Botanic Garden (Flecker Botanical Gardens). This is their Visitor’s Center with a café and shops.

This plant name reminded…

This plant name reminded me of Alex and Carol who have retrieved their boat Nepenthe from Florida overland, and re-launched her in Long Beach to the delight of all their SoCal friends and friends from far and wide who will benefit from the welcoming generosity of A&L.

And you can speed…

And you can speed your way past the mosquito farms.

My Cairns accommodation was in an extremely nice hostel, the YHA. I would have nothing but praises were it not that they allowed smoking in the courtyard that permeated the whole area. It’s the first time I’ve run into a pocket of smoke I couldn’t escape, so really, that’s pretty good.

The excitement for today:…

July 20

The excitement for today: Kuranda, up by train and back on the SkyRail.

Wiki: “Kuranda is positioned on the eastern edge of the Atherton Tableland where the Barron River begins a steep descent to its coastal floodplain. Parts of Kuranda, particularly along its eastern edge, are protected within the Kuranda National Park and Barron Gorge National Park. Both national parks belong to the UNESCO Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.”

But basically the town of Kuranda is a funky little down-home shopping opportunity.

It’s sugar cane cutting…

It’s sugar cane cutting season in North Queensland and we saw these fields throughout the trip to Kuranda and again on the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas.

A nice view of…

A nice view of the Kuranda Scenic Railway. You can just see nine cars here and I was in car fourteen so the train is much longer.

I heard sometimes they run as many as seventeen cars, and there are four trains heading up every morning so in the busy season you can imagine the numbers pouring into the little town. But they have to go-go-go when they can because tourism during the wet slows considerably.

Here in Kuranda we…

Here in Kuranda we have several large markets with mostly craft stalls, and individual shops with crafts, and people selling crafts on the street.

There are also restaurants of many stripes and some attractions such as a bird place and a koala place…

…and this dinosaur place….

…and this dinosaur place.

I could have extended my stay by several hours and enjoyed a few of the many fine walks available from here but I didn’t have time since I was going on to Port Douglas today.

…Barron Gorge and the…

…Barron Gorge and the SkyRail just stops. In the air. High high up, stopped and rocking in the noisy hard-blowing way-up-here wind. For a short minute I calculated the odds…fine, I’ll be fine, these things Never break.

Captain Cook Highway joins…

Captain Cook Highway joins Cairns and Port Douglas and it is gorgeous along here, from a speeding bus with almost no light out a dirty window, but worth it anyway.

My hostel in Port…

July 21

My hostel in Port Douglas is the building on the left and we are completely full. It’s big and extremely lively but my room is big too, the biggest yet, en suite, with a/c so I’m not bothered by the lively, and a tv with five movie channels that don’t have commercials.

The main street is one up parallel to this street so I couldn’t be more central.

Everyone finished I think…

Everyone finished I think with no sinkers in this first round.

An hour and a half later (I didn’t stay…sooo sunny) there is a treasure hunt called The Battle of Mindil. The boats go out to find the treasure and bring it back to shore. What happens is a melee of stealing the treasure and from what I understand all the boats are ruined in the effort and the winners running to shore are tackled from all sides.

All the ground is…

All the ground is like this ground. Gorgeious red dust that must turn into thick red mud for a good part of the year.

There are two seasons up north and universally called The Wet and The Dry. From Australia.gov: “The tropical regions of Australia … have high temperatures and high humidity and distinct wet and dry seasons.

“The wet season is usually between November and March. It is hotter than the dry season, with temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees Celsius.

“The dry season is usually between April and October. Temperatures are lower and the skies are generally clearer during the dry. The average temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius ((it’s been 30-32 highs since I’ve been here)).

“The ‘build up’ is the humid time of year between the wet and dry seasons. It usually lasts for three or four months. Things become quite tense during the ‘build up’ as people sit and swelter in the humidity while waiting and hoping for the first rains to come. The humidity continues day and night with no respite, so when the rains finally do come everyone enjoys their cooling relief.”

But the relief is short-lived considering the difficulty of living through The Wet. Here in Broome most of the town simply shuts down.

There are no signals…

There are no signals in Broome as all the major intersections (major might be an exaggeration) are roundabouts. Roundabouts are nicely efficient, you just need to plan for the required land to make them happen.

Good MORNING! I’m…

July 11

Good MORNING! I’m in the bus, taking these pictures out the front window (yup, front seat!). The guide mentions how rare it is to have clouds during the dry.

Quotes from the tour brochure:

“Today you’re up early to get started on a day that you’ll long remember. Travelling on one of the longest roads in Australia, the Stuart Highway, you’ll see some of the most amazing terrain this country has to offer. When we turn onto the Arnhem Highway, the Marrakai Plains will provide a beautiful backdrop for your onward journey.”

What mostly happens in…

What mostly happens in Broome is people get sun-burned all day and drink beer all night.

Vast clubs are everywhere like this one for example…

More. Wow….

More. Wow.

“Covering an area of more than 19,800 square kilometres, World Heritage listed Kakadu is the largest National Park in Australia. ((Not so true I heard as the Great Barrier Reef is larger.)) The combination of mangrove fringed coastal areas, expansive flood plains, lowland hills, open woodland and forest habitats make Kakadu one of the most diverse landscapes you’ll ever experience.

“Be amazed at the population of wildlife in the water, on the land and in the air – Kakadu is home to a myriad of animals, hundreds of bird species and thousands of different insects and plants. Marvel at the concentration of rock art sites that illustrates Aboriginal culture found at Kakadu, some dating back 50,000 years.”

…and here’s the inside…

…and here’s the inside but three times as big as you can see.

The majority of the tourists are Australians. I’ve heard some German spoken but not a single American, which can be a relief and if you’ve traveled abroad you know what I mean.

This is where the…

This is where the internet works. I pay $3US per hour and it is so worth it not to keep getting disconnected at the hostel. This place is good because I’m the only person using the whole feed.

“Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre….

“Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre. The Bininj people are the traditional custodians of Kakadu National Park and after lunch in Cooinda we visit the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre to introduce you to their way of life, a ‘must see’ for all visitors to the region. See artefacts and videos that illustrate stories the traditional owners wish to share with visitors, ranging from personal histories to bush tucker.”

I’m a fan of…

I’m a fan of the pub vibe for lunch.

Aussie burger! It includes lightly pickled sliced beets (they call it beetroot and it’s a much more popular ingredient than in the US), grilled onions, bacon, lettuce and tomato, and a tomato jam that I think might be unique to each establishment. I like it!

Last night I ate in an Indian restaurant and had a large cheese and garlic naan which was delicious.

Also the previous night in Cairns I went nuts from the market and ate probably 4 or 5 ounces of wonderful Australian blue cheese, an entire tub of quince paste, and fabulous walnut crackers in remembrance of my time in Canberra.

Kakadu is a UNESCO…

Kakadu is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and according to the guide (I haven’t checked this yet) of the approximately 1600 UNESCO sites it is one of 32 recognized for both cultural or natural values of international significance.

Four Mile Beach, one…

Four Mile Beach, one of the prime attractions in Port Douglas. It arcs all the way around the bay and is quite beautiful.

The sand is so firm and the ground so flat, great for walking although I didn’t walk the entire four miles out and four miles back.

Regarding the name Kakadu,…

Regarding the name Kakadu, from wiki: “The name Kakadu may come from the mispronunciation of Gaagudju, which is the name of an Aboriginal language formerly spoken in the northern part of the park. This name may derive from the Indonesian word kakatuwah, (via Dutch kaketoe and German Kakadu) subsequently Anglicised as “cockatoo”.”

You know you’re staying…

You know you’re staying in a hostel when this looks really good.

I want to note how well I am feeling right now and how unwell I was feeling just 12 hours ago. FINGERS CROSSED it’s gone. I’m going to go back to my room and do nothing until tomorrow, just to seal the deal!

And I’m all caught up with pictures and correspondence. That feels amazing.

The one thing I…

July 4

The one thing I HAD to do in Broome was catch the sunset camel rides on Cable Beach. Not to ride the camels, just to take their picture.

These pictures are NOT MINE (NOT MINE all from the internet), I just wanted you to see the goal, the goal that was for me…

These guys were like…

These guys were like 6″ tall and adorable! I found his name! He’s a comb-crested jacana.

I have fuzzy pictures of so many birds, colorful and glorious. The boat was moving along slowly, but not slowly enough, and the birds don’t want to just wait until we can get a shot off.

…no chance of achieving….

…no chance of achieving.

At low tide the camels can walk on the sea side of the (grrr) cars to get them out of the picture and get the reflections in the receding tide.

But not for me. We were at such high tide the camels walked between two rows of cars. I think you might not have much choice when putting together a long itinerary, but it’s something to consider if you want to come to Broome.

…between the two flags…

…between the two flags is the only life guarded area and swimming in the ocean can be dangerous here.

Now it’s winter so it’s unlikely to find the box jellyfish, “the world’s most venomous creature”, in the water. During the summer months you can swim in the ocean only inside stinger resistant enclosures.

If you go outside the enclosures when the stingers are active you’d better be wearing one of the special head-to-toe full-coverage wetsuits or a visit to the hospital might be in your future.

What is protected in…

What is protected in the park:

Four major river systems: the East Alligator River, the West Alligator River, the Wildman River; and the entire South Alligator River

Six major landforms: estuaries and tidal flats, floodplains, lowlands, the stone country, the outliers; and
the southern hills and basins

A remarkable variety and concentration of wildlife: over 280 bird species, roughly 60 mammal species, over 50 freshwater species, over 10,000 insect species, over 1,600 plant species, some 117 species of reptiles

See how the foot…

See how the foot prints are under the little sand balls meaning the crabs that make those balls did their thing after the walker went by. I’d like to see how they do that!

Snorkeling at The Great…

July 23

Snorkeling at The Great Barrier Reef!

They had a -1.5 snorkel mask which was perfect for me. The mask never leaked and I never flooded the snorkel either. AND they had my favorite, shortie wetsuits with the zipper in front. Gear-wise, Perfect!

(Note for the future: the wetsuits were 5 mil and I might have been better off in a 3, I think, if I ever get around to buying one.)

Oh my oh my….

Oh my oh my. The water was definitely more clear than my week in the Galapagos so I can’t compare fairly.

Moved to the Pacific the GBR would run the distance from Vancouver BC to Tijuana MX, the entire west coast of the US and then some, so we saw less than a fingernail of that distance.

A pit stop. …

A pit stop. About 500 Indigenous people live in Kakadu and I don’t think I saw a single one, not surprisingly as it is a huge area and all the businesses are operated by white people. It’s a long story.

From NOAA’s website:…

From NOAA’s website:

“Coral reefs begin to form when free-swimming coral larvae attach to submerged rocks or other hard surfaces along the edges of islands or continents. As the corals grow and expand, reefs take on one of three major characteristic structures —fringing, barrier or atoll.”

And here we have the Great Barrier Reef although fringing and atoll reefs are also present.

“Be mesmerised as you…

“Be mesmerised as you wander the Nourlangie rock art site. It provided shelter to indigenous people for many thousands of years – and while taking shelter, the rock evolved into a canvas that illustrates their deep spiritual culture. The 1.5km walk around the base of the rock, led by your Driver Guide, gives you the opportunity to see many different forms of Aboriginal rock art.”

My Austrian table pals…

My Austrian table pals for the trip.

We did three different dives and between each place we had something to eat – morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea. Tea means tea, coffee, juice, fruit, and pastry. Lunch was a small but tasty buffet.

Wiki: “Aboriginal people have…

Wiki: “Aboriginal people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites. There are more than 5,000 recorded art sites illustrating Aboriginal culture over thousands of years. The archaeological sites demonstrate Aboriginal occupation for at least 20,000 and possibly up to 40,000 years.”

I’ve been letting my…

I’ve been letting my hair grow by default, not having got it cut. It’s usually back with a head band and not bothering me At All which is a mini-miracle.

All these close-up fish…

All these close-up fish I bought off the crew photographer. She was one of the five who ran the ship and who did a ton of other things as well as the photos such as giving a reef talk after lunch, helping with the gear, and hold the barf bags for the few who didn’t make it through the chop unscathed.

More. There’s another…

More. There’s another one too later on, trying to control the number of pictures I’m using!

She was using the exact same camera as I had and I got no fish picture even one half as good as these. But—she had done it 1,000 times, had the camera in a housing, was wearing weights, and spent most of her time diving with her snorkel. I need to learn how to do that.

This was the best learning experience ever photo-wise. As we all know, it’s not the gear.

My feeling about all…

My feeling about all the cars and trucks softened 90% when I saw how much fun the folks were having tailgating the sunset and that was sweet.

I got picked up…

July 12

I got picked up bright and early at the Crocodile hotel in Jabiru by a different tour company, one that had the necessary partnership agreement and ownership qualifications to go into Arnhemland.

It looked a lot like this for a couple of hours.

wiki: “A substantial proportion…

wiki: “A substantial proportion of the population, which is mostly Aboriginal, lives on small outstations. This outstation movement started in the early 1980s. Many Aboriginal groups moved to usually very small settlements on their traditional lands, often to escape the problems (alcohol, petrol-sniffing, idleness) on the larger townships.

“These population groups have very little western influence culturally speaking, and Arnhem Land is arguably one of the last areas in Australia that could be seen as a completely separate country. Many of the region’s leaders have called and continue to call for a treaty that would allow the Yolngu to operate under their own traditional laws.”

I’m going to talk…

I’m going to talk about coffee.

The Aussies have become, in far less than a decade, total coffee aficionados. Bad coffee is not to be tolerated. If you ask for coffee you might get asked back barista coffee or instant? You don’t see a lot of brewed coffee.

They also have a pretty uniform way to order coffee and I’ve got mine “skinny flat white”. There are two sizes, regular and tall so if you don’t say tall you are supposed to get regular.

For the first week or so I was going with “flat white” which was ok but really too milky so then I went with “flat white with an extra shot” which was nice with the extra shot but didn’t work in cutting the milk because they just added more. Now I’m getting “skinny flat white” which is working best. I don’t know what percent they use for skinny…I should find out! They don’t have the add-your-own-milk option so that’s why I’ve been working with what there is.

So one time I was in the mood for iced coffee and I saw “iced cappuccino” on the menu, which I ordered, and what I got was a cappuccino float! A cappuccino with ice cream added. Ok, I ate the whole thing.

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