What never disappoints: the Aussies!

No matter how my plans on this trip could ever go astray, there is one thing that does not disappoint: the Aussies! All the Aussies I’ve met so far have been warm, friendly, and pretty darn hilarious at times. They have a rather sarcastic sense of humor and love to banter. They play hard rather than work hard, but they work enough to get by of course. I just don’t think they enjoy it so much… but I could be wrong. Then, again, I don’t care for it much myself.

I arrived in Port Douglas on August 9 and the next day, went out to the lovely and tranquil Mossman Gorge, Daintree Rainforest, and Cape Tribulation where Capt. James Cook sadly shipwrecked his Endeavor on a reef just off the coast. It was a great day out and we learned a lot about the local flora and fauna. Some of the plants here were around at the time of the dinosuars. Daintree is said to be the oldest rainforest on earth and this is the only place in the world where TWO World Heritage Sites meet: the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef.

I moved from Port Douglas (where I had been staying the last couple days) to Cairns on August 11 after having gone out on the Great Barrier Reef earlier that day. The weather was with us on the cruise and I ended up doing 3 dives on the Agincourt reef, a ribbon reef off the northern coast of Port Douglas. All went well and the operator I went with, Aristocat, did a great job. My dive instructor was outstanding and I felt totally comfortable with him. They were extremely careful about NOT leaving us behind and did several counts of all passengers periodically at each of the 3 dives sites we visited. Water clarity was quite good and I was able to photograph and film under water while diving. Saw a number of interesting and beautiful fish and coral and the water was relatively warm for this time of year.

After relocating to Cairns for my last two nights in the area, I went up to Kuranda Village and the rainforest yesterday. Took a Skyrail up and a train down. We stopped along the way in on the ultra-scenic Skyrail to explore some rainforest and do some ranger-guided walks. Once in Kuranda, I headed straight for my top 4 picks: the Butterfly Sanctuary (home of the rare and stunning blue Ulysses butterfly), Birdworld (where black cockatoos, cassowaries, and other birds abound), the Koala Gardens, and Venom Zoo (I don’t think I need to tell you what I saw there!). I won’t go into great detail here — there was so much to see at each of these locations. However, I have to say that my peak moment of the day came at the Koala Gardens where I got to CUDDLE A QUEENSLAND KOALA while the staff took my photo. Guess what’s going to be on my Chirstmas card THIS year, everyone?!? : > My koala’s name was Hogan and he was adorable and very patient with me. But MAN, what a GRIP he had on my arm! Just wait until you see the photos!

The most difficult shots of the day proved to be the Ulysses butterfly as they are quite nervous creatures, possessing no natural warning colors such as red, orange, or yellow, but only a gorgeous bright blue which makes them vulnerable to predators. Thus, they flit about as if on speed, never landing in any one place for long. I did, however, manage to get some shots of them! I found a little girl wearing a bright pink shirt and had her serve as “bait”. Sure enough, the Ulysses landed on her a few times thinking she was a huge flower! Hey, whatever works….

While in Kuranda I strolled the various shops at their Heritage Markets and picked up a little mascot along the way. She is a little koala like the ones I used to have as a kid — we collected and traded them and all the girls had to have them. You squeeze her and she clips on to stuff… like my backpack or cap… so she can go wherever I go! I have not seen these koala clips for years. Anyway, I’ve named my little koala Kuranda of course.

Last night, after the train back down from Kuranda dropped me off in Cairns, I cleaned up quickly and headed off for a night of entertainment at a rather touristy, but nevertheless FUN, theatre called Tjapukai (named for the Tjapukai Aboriginal tribe). At this theatre, tribal members performed fire ceremonies, talked about their culture, danced, and played music for us all. The audience even got in on the action and before I knew it, they were pulling me up on stage to dance and sing with them. It was a riot actually. Learned a bit about the didgeridoo as well and some Aboriginal dreamtime stories and beliefs. All very interesting. They also hosted a huge buffet for our dinner. So, it was a full night out, boomerangs and all!

This morning I arose at 4:15 AM to fly out to Uluru. As I sat idle in the plane for almost 3 hours, I reflected on the changing landscape. It got drier and drier, and more rocky and flat as we moved farther inland toward the Northern Territory, away from the Queensland coast. I also thought more about the Australian people and their personality styles (hey, look — the psychology background resurfaces once again… there’s no escaping it I guess). Apparently in Australia things are done quickly; decisions made spontaneously, and direction is dead on — no second thoughts. I, on the other hand, am the opposite in every way (which I’m sure those of you who know me well will recognize). I don’t think I could make it here for long — what with my chronic indecision. Then, again, the place has forced me to make some snap decisions — to “know what I want” and so, perhaps Australia may become a sort of REHAB for someone like me — a girl without much direction, who questions herself constantly. Aussies don’t seem to question themselves or anything else for that matter. From what I can tell, they’re not too philosophical, nor super reflective. They don’t second guess or regret decisions made. They just DO — with clarity and purpose — boldly, frankly, and sometimes with what I would view as great risk, but what THEY no doubt take as adventure. Is it courage? Or is it just that they are used to this life and don’t see the risks involved anymore? I don’t know. But clearly, they have evolved and adapted to the land here — which is so wild and treacherous in some parts. As so many animals must have their special adaptations to survive here, so too have the Aussie people adapted their attitudes, work, family life, and generally adventurous spirits. They are as rugged as Australia itself. Man, that’s “good onya”! You have to respect and admire them for it. And as travelers, of course, they are EVERYWHERE.

Did I mention that I tried vegimite on buttered bread last week and LIKE IT?!? Well, I did and I do! I know, most non-Aussies hate the stuff, but knowing it is concocted from vegetable yeast and is chock-full of B vitamins, I took one look at the stuff and thought it made for me! Vegetarian or not, however, Aussies seem addicted to this brown salty paste, and slather it on many a food item. Personally, I think a little of it goes a LONG way. And in the back of my mind I am still plotting how I will smuggle some out of the country to use back home as a substitute for the soy sauce I love but have become food intolerant to recently.

So, as I make my way to Uluru, I start another chapter in this trip — one of deserts and huge open spaces, of red earth and black flies (which can be quite annoying at some times of the year), of ancient rock art and rock formations, and of course the rock itself, rising out of nowhere: ULURU.

Stay tuned….

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2 Comments on “What never disappoints: the Aussies!”

  1. Laura Says:

    It sounds like you are having an AWESOME time. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to see some photos!

  2. Rita Says:

    Don’t smuggle. You can vegimite here. I’ll show you where.


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