CRT+RPK=RTW – Australia 8

Australia is gorgeous! “Crikey!” is something that is now a part of our daily vocabulary simply because you’ll be going along and something will appear like a spectacular sea cliff, a mesmerizing sunset, a blazing red sand dune, a mist covered mountain, a spontaneous bush fire, a 15 ton whale, one thousand bats just overhead, and really the only thing that your brain can do is make your mouth say “crikey!”

After about 24 hours of flying, we arrived in Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef, on Monday afternoon. Customs is really strict when you land in Australia, they ask you lots of questions and you’re not even allowed to bring in trail mix. Luckily there are posters of the Croccodile Hunter himself, Steve Irwin, standing next to an array of things that are not allowed into the country, with a caption that reads: Crikey, quarrantine matters!” to help yu understand what is not allowed. In case you are wondering, Kit Kat candy bars ARE allowed however wooden tribal masks are not. After we passed the test, we made a beeline for the Avis rental car kiosk to see what kind of a car we were taking on our East Coast Aussie road trip. I’m probably the only person in the history of renting a car that jumped and squealed with joy when the guy handed us the keys to a Toyota Corolla. Since that’s what I drive at home, I thought it would make driving a little easier. Oops. I forgot that not only do you drive on the left, the steering column is reversed so it’s on the right. The biggest problem we’ve had is that anytime we use the turn signal we end up activating the windsheild wipers instead. It was funny the first seven times it happened, then irritation set in and now we’re finally gettng it right (75% of the time anyway). I’ve also reached up to my leftshoulder for the seatbelt which HA! is never there. Driving is a little hair-raising. The person in the passenger seat always thinks that the driver is about to hit things on the left shoulder and the driver feels like you’re about to collide with oncoming traffic. Most of the roads are just 2 lanes, coming and going. But we’ve stuck to the advice that the thia moped ladies gave us :go slow, and we’ve been just fine. There’s a national radio station called Triple J and they play some familiar tunes as well asa ton of world pop music. Ryan admitted to me that he’s actually starting to like some rap. It’s not like US rap though, it’s girls with thick british accents rappeing about how they’ll burp in your face because they “don’t like fancy champpy, stick to heniken beers” -it is pretty great. There’s also candid movie reviews where the DJ’s actually say what they think and not what Clear Channel has paid them to say. if they think a song sucks, they’ll say it. That’s something about Australia that really love. People are open and candid about things. It’s not all smiles and fakey fakey. There’s a “tell it like it is” attitude that just comes naturally without feeling agressive or hurtful. Nothing is taken too seriously, there’s lots of joking around and sarcasmand so things that are actually serious are given the weight they deserve. All you have to do is watch a news report to see that. The newscasters actually get to comment on what they’re reporting and get this, some of them even have different ideas! There’s a strong sense of individuality here but no one tries too hard to show it. It’s just understood that there are inherent differences and it’s a good thing. I dig it.

So anyway we started our road trip in Cairns (pronounced “cans”) and signed up immediately for a Great Barrier Reef snorkeling trip and introductory scuba dive for Wednesday. Monday night we crashed pretty hard from all of the travelling, a little jet lag maybe and woke up late on Tuesday feeling rested. We made a little afternoon drive up to a small beach town called Port Douglas which was great. We picnicked on 4 mile beach and laid on the sand. It was the first beach we’ve been to that i thought really felt like a beach. The others on the trip have been nice, some even beautiful but the problem with the others was that you couldn’t just be, you were bothered every 5 seconds by someone trying to sell you something. This was just sand, water, sunshine and it was perfect. The drive to Port Douglas from Cairns has some amazing coastal scenery and it was a lovely afternoon. The next morning we headed out to the Reef. The reef is much farther off the coast than I thought it would be. And it’s huge. It stretches for hundreds of miles along the east coast. The scuba dive was really cool. Something I didn’t think I’d ever do. And it was great, pretty short, only about 25 minutes and 25 feet underwater but that was enough to find Nemo and some of his friends. I actually still prefer snorkeling because you have more freedom in the water and less stress. I’m glad I can say that I dove in the Great Barrier Reef but i don’t think it’s something that i’ll have to do again. Ryan dove twice but his second dive was cut short because he ran out of air. We’re not sure if his tank was low to begin with or if he was breathing too much but it kind of bummed him out especially since we’d rented an underwater camera for the day and didn’t get any great shots. I snorkeled at the second spot and saw an incredible variety of fish and coral. I’ve been snorkelling a bunch of times in Hawaii and then wen we were in Thailand too and this was 100 X better than those. So many fish and really clear water, plus the coral is still thriving. I would have said “Crikey!” but I had a snorkel tube in my mouth. Next morning we packed up the car and headed south to Arlie Beach . People always say that Australia is a lot bigger than it looks and they are right.I thought we’d be there in a couple of hours, definitely by mid afternoon. 8 hours later, there we were in Arlie. We’ve been spending a lot of money on activities and so we decided to go for the cheapest housing we could find. Though I was immediately sketched out by Magnums, I couldn’t argue with Ryan becuase it was ten dollars cheaper than the place I wanted to stay at. Let’s just say that after spraying bug spray all over the room to cover up the smell of urine in the carpet (or the bed?!) we tried to stay out of the room until we were comepletely exhausted. We would have drunk ourselves silly to pass out but alcohol isn’t in the budget so we just wandered aorund in the dark. Magnums was offering an all female “Jelly Wretling” tournament with the winner receiving 500$. I thought about it, but in the end decided that actually, No. I wouldn’t. Although with the 500 bucks we could have stayed somewhere else. The place was pretty gross and we were woken up in the night by what i can only assume was post jelly-wrestling revelry but it was only one night. Early the next morning we got on another boat to explore the Whitsunday Islands. This was one of my favorite days of the trip so far. We snorkelled, saw jellyfish, lots of fish and coral, spotted a mama humpback whale and her newborn baby, watched a huge manaray chilling on the surface, did a mini bushwalk up to a gorgeous vista of clear water and swirling sand, laid on a 99% pure silica (basically like powdered quartz) sand beach (whithaven beach, prettiest place i have ever seen!) the sand sqeaks when you walk on it. I got to show off my footballing skills with some in water footy(I think Ryan was impressed with my throwing abilities -Not sogood at the catching part, thuogh), and tossed a frisbee for about an hour knee deep in clear cool water at this mostly empty, fantastic beach. We came home exhausted but hopped in the car, southbound for MacKay to spend the night before heading even further into Queensland the next morning. Yesterday it seemed like we drove FOREVER and saw beautiful Australian countryside. The landscaped changed quite a bit over the day from banana trees, to a eucalyptus forest with Koala’s next 5km signs (so cool! we looked and looked but no koalas). Unfortunately for us AND them, our first koalas and kangaroos have been smushed on the side of the road. It’s like the dear and squirrel of australia i guess. We stopped for lunch in the Beef Capital of Australia, Rockhampton, got called “lovies” ate some cow, saw the giant cow statues all over the city and drove on to Hervey Bay. Last night we watched part of a Rugby match with a some locals who explained a little of the game but more importantly saw our first Haka (hucka). It’s like a war dance and chant that New Zealanders do instead of a national anthem. It was pretty fierce and apparently it worked because the NZ All Blacks beat the Aussie Wallabies in the Bledisoe Cup. Imagine a rivalry like the Red Sox/Yankees and muliply by 1 thousand. Really cool to watch.

(Shoot, the internet shop is closing and I haven’t even told you about the Fantastic whale watch we did today. Sorry, but y’all will have to wait a couple of days.)

Love you all and miss you too… more in a few. CR
Posted from Australia:

posted Sunday July 2006