Tuesday, 24 January 2012

IATTOUR January 16-23 Oz Wk 1

IATTOUR January 16-23  Oz Wk 1
Monday: Well January 16th never really happened as soon as we departed Rarotoga, we lost a day and went into the January 17th crossing the dateline.  It was sad to leave the Cook Islands as it is such a spectacular place, but that’s why you travel to find out where you want to return.

Tuesday: Landing in Auckland was like coming home to Vancouver, alternating between drizzle and steady rain and much cooler.  Our stop was short and soon on our way to Brisbane.  It is very nice to have a welcoming party- Tex(f) and Gordon, to us on arrival, taking all the stress and guess work away.  It was great to see them after many years since they came to Canada to see us, along with Alia and Nick.  Brisbane was also raining but much warmer.  The city has grown since I was here 10 years ago, not much seems familiar.

Tex’s had gone all out to get our room ready for our arrival; after a shower we’re almost feeling human again after 2 x 4 hour flights with a 4 hour layover, now add another 4 hours time zone change; our bodies are pretty mixed up.  We get caught up on our lives and families over a few bottles of very nice white wine, followed by some great lasagne.  Tony’s eyes are drooping by 2100hrs and is not long for the world..

Wednesday:  Tex and Gordon took the day off (an exceedingly rare event) and drove us north from Brisbane to visit Steve Irwin’s (he of Animal Planet/Real Croc Hunter fame) Australia Zoo.  What an amazing place—a-not-to-be-missed stop—with acres of natural parkland for a huge variety of animals.  The zones range from local (Saltwater Croc territory) to distant (African savannah—with a Rhino family).  Although Steve passed away a number of years ago, his family—Terry, Bindi and Bob—were there to run and narrate the big Croc Show.  We spent the whole day there, taking in shows (Birds of Prey and Croc feeding), petting Koala, feeding Elephants and exclaiming over the magnificent variety of Australian flowers.  

It was a wonderful day, topped by meeting Tex’s youngest daughter, “Libby” (Olivia) at her nearby “take away” restaurant.  Tex had cooked up a special prank for Libby—involving Tony and I to request $2 worth of chips; the kicker was to ask if there were 50 chips in the basket!  Elaine carried it off with a straight face; Libby looked a bit confused but did not get flustered then her mom Tex popped her head in the shop and shouted Gotcha!

Thursday:  We catch a ride with Tex into town to spend the day in the CBD.  We had arranged to meet up with a previous co-worker of Elaine's from SIDES, Todd Milford who has just moved to Oz for a 3 year lecturing position at Griffin University for lunch.  Todd suggested a Hari Krishna veggie restaurant that he had found on one of his previous wanderings.  It was great to catch up and hear that things are going so well.  His Michelle and daughter Ella will soon be joining him from Victoria.  He is expecting Maryann and Myna to make the trip to visit them soon. 

We spend the late afternoon (at Tex's BeLoved Flowers) admiring Tex's handiwork.  (I am always astounded at her amazing creativity and skill with everything from flower arranging to home decor.)  We were going to head out tomorrow, but elected to stay to have an evening out with Tex and Gordon tomorrow night.

Friday: Even when traveling, you need a day to catch up on laundry, bills, onward travel and so on.  Fortunately we were well situated to get all accomplished.  Had a great evening out to the local RSO club with Tex and Gordon for dinner, music and a few Pokies (Tex was the big winner).

Saturday: Off we go into town with Tex , bags in tow to pick up our rental car and head up to the Sunshine coast.  We manage to survive getting out of Brisbane unscathed and putz along the Sunshine coast communities to see surfers, kite surfers, markets and lots of holidays.  On the way, we catch the end of the famous "Eumundi Market" and speak to a craftsman who is heading off to North America (Saskatoon!) to take part in an artisan's conference.  The evening finds us in a small community called Boreen Point where we find a great little motel walking distance to the lake, bottle shop and take out--a very quiet end to the day. 

Sunday:  Next morning, we head off through to the bottom end of the Great Barrier Reef (Agnes Waters/1770) with a few stops on the way.  One of the small towns we bump into, in this country of sugar cane fields, is Childers--infamous for the fire in the local Backpacker's Inn.  The memorial to the 15 young international travelers is beautiful, as is the surrounding artsy community and the wonderfully friendly people.  Well worth a stop! 

Next to Bundaberg, we stop at the Rum Factory, but elect to give the tour a miss.  We pick up ginger beer at the local  factory and then aim for the coast.  

In a short time, we hit the coast  in the town of 1770 and Agnes Waters.  See the photo above to get the explanation of 1770's name.  We book ourselves for next day's trip to Lady Musgrave Island.  Tony is more than pleased to find that the booking agent is able to pull up his PADI certification from 1978--far surpassing her estimate of 20 years worth of certifications online!  Back at the Motel, we bump into Murray and Heather who are traveling from Winnipeg through Aus, NZ and Thialand for 3-4 months.  Following BBQ and drinks, we all decide to stay another day to enjoy Agnes Water's access to golfing and coral cays.

Monday:  The Catamaran trip to Lady Musgrave (labelled one of the 7 Natural Wonders) headed off at 8:30 so we are there by 7:50ish--very excited!  After a bouncy trip across, we spend the day diving (Tony), hiking on the island (Elaine) and snorkeling (both).  The sea life and the coral are exactly as shown in brochures--bright, beautiful, plentiful--it is a fantastic site!  We are so thrilled with what we are seeing, we are the last people back on the boat.  Good thing the staff carefully do a triple count before we head off.  

we saw a heap of these critters!

Back at the motel, Heather and Murray have had a fabulous day golfing amongst the kangaroos and recommend playing there the next day.  We enjoy a wonderful potluck BBQ and more conversation with them before turning in.

Tuesday:  Well, the skies have opened!  Gordon and Tex warned us that we were visiting during the rainy season and should be careful.  We are heading to Rockhampton, but this caution turns us around and we elect to stop in Bundaberg.  We can't risk being stranded on the Sunshine Coast (like BC's Sunshine Coast at this moment!) when we are due to fly out on Saturday as all road signs warn that "roads flood".  We'll check again in the morning to see what tomorrow will bring.

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