Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cape Tribulation, Australia

Monday, Oct. 26

We went to the tropical rainforest, Daintree Park.  These are called eco certified tours.  We preserve rainforests and UNESCO heritage sites by tourism in the areas.  Since we are travelling in a group we reduce our carbon footprint.  Wow, being a tourist has never been so virtuous! The drive along the northern highway which hugs the shore is beautiful.  We had an Italian guide!  At times he was hard to understand, but he did love this area of Australia. 
We went to a gorge where it was finally safe to swim, since crocs don’t like cold or fast moving water.  But there was really only time for a plunge, because we had to rejoin the tour.  We ate lunch in the most beautiful setting at a lodge deep in the rainforest.  There is no electricity, but Australians have a generator and are now using solar power for energy.  You have to wonder who had the money and vision to build that beautiful lodge in the rainforest.   Every beach has a bottle of vinegar as first aid next to the signage warning about stinging jellyfish (which arrive in Nov.) The signs warn about the crocs which come to the ocean in the summer, in the winter when the ocean water cools down they retreat to the streams and forests of the shore.  So every paradise has its flaws and it makes the Canadian black bears seem much more manageable as a hazard. Signs warning you about the hazards are popular i.e. “be careful climbing on the rocks, people have been hurt and even killed in this area”.  But families are clambering all over them, so just when your sense of caution goes into overdrive, your common sense reasserts itself. 

We climbed the aerial tower and walkway in the Daintree Forest which had beautiful views of the rainforest. 
I was thrilled to travel up the coast and get into the remote areas of the rainforest. 
The group we travelled with seemed very nice.  Another traveler told me that some people she had just met on the Cape Trib beach told her they were with a private guide.  They had paid $100 000 to fly in first class from Victoria and stay in 1st class hotels all the way and visit the rainforest and places in the Gold Coast.  She said “I can’t wait to be retired.” I asked her how someone she just met on the beach had told her this information.  “I’m a hair dresser,” she answered. “Does that answer your question?” She finished the day by betting which women the guide would pick for a kiss goodbye.  He only kissed some of the women as he dropped them at their hotels. Luckily I didn't get one and neither did she! 

A day at leisure

28 October 2009

This hotel is fine and it appeals to my antique soul.  There is a picture of it on the wall from the 1880’s and the original structure is the same. The old doors have window transoms that are now painted that were used a one time to let the breezes through.  The breakfast room has the old mahogany shutters around and most of the old molding is there under paint.  The rooms are small but adequate, not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are only coming back to sleep they are fine.  My favourite part of the hotel is the wide veranda on the second floor where we have ‘breakfast with the birds; every morning.  There is a wide banyan tree that hosts all manner of birds; tiny curious sparrows; the distinctive black and white magpie, that visitors think are so attractive and Aussie’s dislike for their aggressive behavior; warblers, and fig birds with their startling yellow beak and eye.  They sing constantly and it feels like the tropics based on sound alone. They hop off and on the backs of the breakfast chairs looking for crumbs.  The wide pedestrian boulevard below has its own street theatre – this morning only early morning workers made their way through the tropical drizzle, while the birds took this opportunity to shower and preen their feathers. About 3 pnm the aboriginal workers spilled out onto the benches that line the pedestrian path and by 3:30 foreign voices started filling the bars and the birds were drowned out by laughter and conversation. There is a great $10.00 food value in the bars below with wine or beer included, but the tables fill up with young people who do not encourage 50 year olds to share the bench tables on the patio.  They are ‘saving the seats’ for people who have just gone into the bar.
With weeks of travel ahead we are trying to alternate restaurants with a way to eat that doesn’t break the bank or involve ‘chips’.  Today we found takeout steak pies and garden salad at a wonderful little bakery called Meldrum’s. According to their window they came second in the Great Australian Pie Bakeoff.  The food was delicious.  Another thing we try to find is quiet retreats for time to read.  Tin the casino in Cairns they have a beautiful rooftop terrace where we impersonated weary gamblers.  We had a beautiful view of oceans and mountains from the rooftop.
A walk along the boardwalk at dusk allowed us to see lorikeets flocking in almond trees for the night, the racket was deafening.  No wonder the natives saw they drive them wild.  We also saw a group (not a murder, a fishfry?) of pelicans on the flats for the night.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A day in the Rain Forest

Tuesday Oct. 27, 2009

Scenic Railway to Kuranda today.  We took the old gold mining and logging railway over gorges and through tunnels to reach the village in the rainforest. It is now known for crafts, artists and aboriginal art.  Some of the hand crafted items were beautiful.  I was tempted over and over to buy.  I saw some wonderful fish made of fused glass.  I would love to try my hand at that!  A new craft to try at home! I have to keep reminding myself that I do not need more stuff! – and that there is a weight limit on my luggage.  We went to the butterfly sanctuary.  We have wonderful photos of the butterflies native to the rainforest in this area.  We met a couple from Nova Scotia on the train.  He competed in the World Cup Games in Basketball and his team came 4th just missing a medal finish.  They were a lot of fun to talk to.  The wife from Nova Scotia said “we are almost ready to leave and we haven’t seen even a kangaroo in the wild”, so when we go to the zoo or a butterfly sanctuary at least you know what you are looking for it arms you with some knowledge about what you should be looking for in the wild.  In the sanctuary the butterflies landed within full viewing and camera range.  Now I know what all the flitty black shapes are supposed to be that I see in the rainforest. 
We went to Bird World as well. It is a free flying enclosed area, and the birds are very tame.  We saw a male cassowary sitting on 4 bright green eggs while the female takes off – her work is done.

Kuranda is a very pretty tourist town.  The park benches were made out of railway tracks and wheels.  It was a very imaginative use of historical waste that had an appropriate theme to the landscaping.  The railings on the stairs were made out of wrought iron in the shape of rainforest vines.  I think this is what Matt talks about in clever use of landscape architecture. 
Well, today I felt guilty at my life of indulgence and idleness! My most pressing decisioneach day is whether or not to wear my Tilley hat! Quite a change from the admin decisions I had to make at school.  Spud told me I would get used to it!

The gondola ride back to the base of the mountain was scary but magnificent!
I want to snorkel tomorrow and Spud wants a lazy day.  I wonder who will win?

Monday, October 26, 2009


 Sunday Oct. 26

We used the local bus to get around today.  We were staring at the bus sign trying to figure out routes and a helpful person approached us and said there was an express bus to Palm Cove in 10 minutes.  She was going there and we just had to buy our tickets on the bus.  With that mystery solved we decided to take the bus so we hopped on.  The people behind us were tourists studying their maps and they told us they were going to the zoo.  When the bus stopped there we also got off and had a marvelous day at the zoo.  Amazing to think that all those exotic animals and birds actually live in this country.  What a memorable day – up close and personal with koalas, cassowaries (the huge flightless bird with beautiful head coloring.) Imagine being warned to avoid them in the wild and it is something we could experience on our rainforest trip.  The birds were so beautiful, especially the plentiful lorikeets with their green backs, yellow necks and purple face.  Alligators are protected here, so most of the gators in the park were captured when they had done something like eat someone’s dog!  And we think coyotes in our parks are bad!
Between the warnings to take care because of sharks and jellyfish, freshwater alligators, cassowaries and snakes – land, sea and air are covered. I guess it’s not safe to do anything!

We carried on to beautiful Palms Cove, a suburb of Cairns.  This is what you imagine a beautiful beach town should look like.  It is the number one spa town in Australia.  It has a beautiful strip of beach, gorgeous palm tree lined streets and wonderful tropical architecture. Mountains provide a backdrop to the scenery.  It’s just beautiful!

On the way back to Cairns we decided to get off the bus at Tjapukai for a sumptuous buffet dinner and show in the Aboriginal Cultural Centre.  They painted our faces and we took part in a fire lighting ceremony with aboriginal actors.  I don’t know the constellations for the night sky here.  But I think I saw Sagittarius.  I’ll have to ask someone what to look for in the sky at night.
The weather has been great, but I’ve got blisters on my toes.  I’ll have to rest up for another day of spending.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009

Finally we unpack! We are staying in a hotel with typical Queensland architecture from the 1880’s.  Here is a picture.  The mountains are a surprise I didn’t realize they were so close to the shore.
This is a typical resort beach town that reminds me of Ocean Boardwalk towns in Maine from the 70’s.  There are gas BBQ burners on the beach for the tourists to use, so you can buy your own meat and cook right on the beach without all the hibachi stuff.  Some tourists from Australia shared their fries with us.  People seem really friendly.
We’ve booked a trip to the rainforest for tomorrow.   

Kangaroos on the Wing

Saturday Oct 24, 2009
Well, we’re arrived!  We landed in Sydney on Saturday the 24, at about 9:07am .  Considering our time in the air we managed alright.  The flight was long, but bearable.  A movie marathon, including episodes of “Space” with the title actor from “Sean of the Dead”.  We followed recommendations about not drinking – almost.  We only had one glass of wine in the whole 23 hours. 
We are sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to Cairns, so we are still in transit.  We have spent our first currency and broke out the strange Aussie dollars with their see thru spots so that makes our arrival official. Here is a picture of the airport in Sydney ..  As you can see the red dust cloud has lifted and it is safe to go outside.  A good omen for our trip.   Next stop Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Almost departed

We leave next Thursday for Australia, New Zealand and Bali.  We plan on diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and in Bali.  I will post photos and write a brief description of the places we visit.  Stay tuned for some exciting times.

Fall is a great time to look back on your garden success, but there’s still time left for most of us to do some last minute garden maintenance. Here are some tasks to do now, to make next year’s garden even better.

1. Enrich garden beds with compost or manure. 

2. Rake leaves and add them to your compost pile.

3. Clean bird feeders to get them ready for use. .

4. Cover water gardens with netting to keep the falling leaves out.

5. Keep trees and shrubs well watered until the ground freezes.

7. Cut back diseased perennials and remove all foliage. Do not put the cuttings in your compost pile.

8. Clean garden tools before storing them for the winter.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Urn workshop

Six people gathered on a rainy Friday in my garage to create the most beautiful fall urns. We used cedar branches, euonymus, magnolia leaves, birch branches and hydrangea blooms to create stunning arrangements. See the pictures of some of the creations.
The idea was to create urns that could be changed to winter arrangements by replacing and adding evergreen boughs and winter decorative elements.