Posts Tagged ‘Queensland’

As many of you may or may not know I do not contribute a great deal to this blog and this fault is mine alone. Of course I am part of this amazing journey with the best partner anyone could ever wish for but I do feel like I can’t live up to her amazing blogging abilities. This wont keep me from giving it a go every once in a while so let me take you on a journey deep into the world’s oldest rainforest.

Laura and I spent 4 hours in the rainforest and were informed by our guide that we were 1 in a handful of couples a year that journey that deep into the rainforest ever year. To put this in perspective we were 2 of like a dozen people that year that got to experience the awesomeness of the Daintree World Heritage Rain Forest. Yes I am bragging because this is a chance for us to say that we have done something that very little people do.

We experienced cassowaries, dinosaurs, snakes, spiders the size of my hand or others that were completely unseen until our guide nearly poked them due to their amazing camouflage capabilities and a multitude of fauna species.

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Walking through the forest with our guide, Neil, we were not only stimulated by everything the forest had to offer visually but also through sounds and Neil’s amazing intellect.

He spoke of how everything was tied together in one big chain. Everything had a purpose, minus the cane toads and wild pigs because they either were food for something else, helped pollinate the plants, or simply added to the constant recycling of the organic material that kept the forest growing.

The plants and trees in the rainforest have very shallow roots and this is due to the fact that all of the nutrient rich material is coming from the living animals and plants above ground. The trees are not strengthened by deep roots but by being interconnected by massive vines that intertwine the canopy into a giant rug of green. The plants below the massive canopy have developed over the many years to live in a low light environment and although they are small they could have been around for several 100s of years.

Like I said everything in the rainforest had a purpose; case in point, the plant below if touched by an animal would cause the animal stinging pains for 3-4 months and that is only if you were dumb enough to ignore its strong chemical signals like us humans telling us to stay away this part of the rainforest is under repair. This plant’s purpose is to help heal the canopy above that had been damaged by the most recent hurricane Yasi by keeping animals and insects away allowing the new plants and trees to grow and fill the space.

Laura and I have both agreed that this was by far our favorite part of the trip and I could go on for several more pages but alas this is a blog and is meant for short stories and not novels, so Laura tells me. 🙂  I hope you have enjoyed my rambling, our amazing photos and that this whets your appetites for adventure and exploring the unknown / little known about the world around us, only please do it with a knowledgeable guide like Neil!

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Ever read a book or see a movie or have a conversation in which you have so many  ‘A HA’ moments that your worldview has changed forever?  It’s happened to us a lot lately…chalk it up to nearing our (gulp) thirties.  Whatever the experience is, I know I could never go on pretending that I didn’t know what I know now.  These experiences make us face our lives in a whole new light; either armed with more information or more questions and often times both at the same time.  Game Changers.  Know what I mean?

This is the perhaps the best way to describe our 4-hour long adventure with Neil from Cooper Creek Wilderness tours in the Daintree Rainforest.  Neil and his family have lived in the Cooper Valley part of the rainforest for over 20 years.  He knows his stuff and (I imagine) blows the pants off of those guys giving scripted tours at some of the cheaper places doing day trips from Port Douglas or Cairns.

There were too many things that we learned and experienced to capture them all here.  In fact, we spent several hours after the tour frantically writing everything we could remember in my little notebook and I’m still fretting about things we may have forgotten.  The pictures from below aren’t all from the tour but were taken during our time in the Daintree.  Nevertheless, here are a few general highlights:

  • The Daintree or Gondwanan rainforest is the oldest-surviving rainforest in the world having survived over 135 million years.  Neil usually does 2 hour, eco-friendly, tours but we were unique in choosing the Greater Wilderness Tour which lasts half a day.  I think Neil said 20 couples/year choose the longer tour so summarizing his words, we were two of twenty people in the world to trek that deep into the longest surviving rainforest that year!

Fan palms and strangler vines

  • The Daintree is also a World Heritage Area meaning that this place in far North Queensland is one of the only places in the world where two World Heritage Areas meet.  “Where the rainforest meets the reef…”

Noah’s Beach – Daintree

  • EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.  EVERYTHING HAS A PURPOSE.  Rain to plants to insects to animals to humans.

Canopy of Fan Palms

  • Half of what Neil sees on his tours he’ll never see again.  Neil has found wildlife that had not been previously found and as of yet remains unnamed by the scientific community.  Our wildlife pictures will follow in an upcoming post.
  • The rainforest needs our help.  For reasons still unclear to me, the government has done everything in its power to squeeze tourism out of the Daintree and before you think there might be some noble cause behind it, I assure you it has loads to do with money.  But without going to far into negative town, let me just say, VISIT the Daintree.  If you’re going to Australia, make it a priority.  It should be on the top list of places to visit in Australia alongside the the Reef and Red Centre/Uluru (which we’ve yet to visit).

Ryan and I were both so deeply affected by the rainforest that he’s written his own reflection HERE.

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Confession Time…

Sometimes we get so busy chasing happiness that we forget to just be happy.

Sometimes we plan for the next three (or five or ten) years and we don’t cherish the present.

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut complaining about things in life that aren’t perfect instead of focusing on the things that are.

And then…THEN there are the other times; like the portion of our Anniversary trip where we spent three days and two nights at Frangipani B&B in beautiful Port Douglas.

We walked into a beautiful B&B in Port Douglas and our cheeks hurt from smiling because the place is every bit of beautiful and peaceful as we had hoped.

One afternoon we did nothing but play cards for hours, listen to the birds, and occasionally look over the balcony at the beautiful pool retreat.

We played table tennis/ping pong one morning (who makes time to play anymore?!) and then biked along Four Mile Beach on the vintage bikes that Leona and Bob provided.

We had gorgeous brekkies full of fresh and tropical fruit.

We were relieved to find that great ol’ fashioned customer service is not dead.  Leona and Bob made every effort to ensure our stay was perfect.  They allowed us to do a load of our salty laundry from our snorkeling and boat trip and had left a bottle of sparkling wine in our room to help celebrate our anniversary.

We can’t say enough about the beautiful accommodation and service but more importantly, our restful and relaxing stay there reminded us that…sometimes WE can just BE.

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To kick off our Anniversary extravaganza we spent two days and one night on a sailboat (yes, sailboat, you heard right) at the Great Barrier Reef.  We booked with Vagabond Dive ‘n Sail per a recommendation from a fellow ex-pat blogger who had done the same during her family’s visit to Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of over 900 places in the world to be deemed a World Heritage Site, in other words, “part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.”  We were beyond excited for this stop on the trip.

We ran into a few hiccups and without dwelling here let me just say that a torn sail, rough waters, a bit of seasickness, and sunburned feet did not get in the way of this amazing adventure.  That attitude is the only way to approach trips of this nature.  They are once in a lifetime for a reason and we chose to focus on everything incredible and inspiring from the journey.  After all, we were two of only a million people who get to snorkel the reef each year…that’s out of the over 7 billion people in the world.  WOW.

We left Cairns on the Vagabond early in the morning and departed for Fitzroy Island (due to the poor weather).  We snorkeled for a bit, took a nap on a nearby beach, had a lovely conversation with other guests and the crew — Skipper Paul, Bel, and dive instructor Jannick — ate dinner, watched the sunset, and then headed to bed.

On another major positive note, my dear husband has changed his mind about the necessity of buying a sailboat upon our return to the US.  Let’s just say that sleeping on a boat is not our thing and the smile is still on my face for dodging that bullet.

Snorkeling was, of course, awesome.  I laughed at myself several times thinking that we were swimming with the fishies, in a non-mafia-movie-sort-of-way. *Sorry about the poor photo quality.  Our underwater cover for our little digi-camera worked okay but those darn fish move around making it really hard to capture the awesomeness.

The tropical fish were expected but I was not at all prepared for the other incredible marine life, aka the reef.  Some of the reef looked like things you’d see under a microscope in a biology class but with more vibrant colors.

Each time I popped my head out of the water I couldn’t fathom that all of that life was just under my toes.  It’s a little unsettling but in a good way.  The next morning we woke up for brekkie, did another round of snorkeling, and then headed back to Cairns.  Because the Reef is a World Heritage Area no one is allowed to take pieces of the reef home for souvenirs even though there are tons of pieces and shells on the shore.  We as law abiding citizens left the reef intact for the many future generations and who knows, maybe we’ll be back for our 25th anniversary.

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We wanted to showcase some of our favorite pictures we took at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  This posts features koalas relaxing and eating.  ENJOY!

A joey koala…adorable, even from afar.

Koalas eating…

This guy knows what he wants…

This cannot be comfortable…

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Here it is…the long-awaited post about your favorite and mine…KOALAS!

Before I get into it, let’s get one thing straight: Koalas are not bears.  When visiting Brisbane, we spent a half a day at the Lone Pine Koala (not bear) Sanctuary and it clearly said on several informational plaques throughout the sanctuary that koalas are not bears.  Turns out,  They’re actually a marsupial mammal and more closely related to the kangaroo than a grizzly.  I learned quite a lot about marsupials from these articles from Australian Wildlife and (although somewhat shamefully) Wikipedia.  I’ll let you dive in to some of those details while I get to the best part – the pictures!  And PS, I will probably still refer to them as koala bears.

This was not like the typical US zoo that we’ve been to where the animals are caged.  This sanctuary had hundreds of koalas in open “displays” throughout the sanctuary.  There were no cages or panes of glass between you and the koalas.  It was pretty incredible.

I was pretty enamored with them and could’ve watched them all day.  I think they felt the same about me.  This guy, in particular, couldn’t get enough of me.

There was the option pay a sum of money that could’ve fed the whole country of Tuvalu for a year in order to get your picture snapped holding a koala.  We were not takers that day but among those who previously couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cuddle a koala were Eric Clapton, Janet Jackson, and Hayden Panettiere.  The wall of photos made for some good entertainment.  Where else could you see a collection of related pictures that included Taylor Swift, Slipknot, The Queen Mother, and Pope John Paul II?

The next few posts are going to include our favorite photos –although it was quite hard to choose — that we took at Lone Pine.  This includes reptiles, birds, kangaroos, and, of course, koalas doing what they do best; eating and chilaxin’, playing, and sleeping.  We wish you could’ve been there with us!

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Brisbane evenings were just as they should be.  I’d anxiously await Ryan’s return from work as the not-so-patient wife and immediately have some ideas for our “relaxing” night together.

Two of my favorite little hangouts while on the South Bank were Little Stanley Street and Grey Street.  Full of cafes and restaurants of all ethnicities –including one called Beastie Burgers, which you KNOW we gorged on one night– and just a few minutes walk from our hotel, these two streets were the “it” place for me.

When Ryan returned from work each night we’d meander to this area and pick a restaurant for dinner.  One night we had dinner outside at a jazz café while listening to familiar tunes like, “Georgia on My Mind” and “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” and the following night we dined at a lovely Chinese restaurant, called Obsession.  I consider this serendipitous  as it’s quite the appropriate word to describe my feelings towards this type of food.

On the afternoon of a different day, I grabbed a cuppa, did some work, and watched people work diligently to set up the tents for the market later, which we were able to enjoy, later that evening.

Little Stanley Street also was home to Movenpick.  A Swiss Ice Cream shop that could rival (and please don’t come after me for this statement) even the best gelato. Ryan [cough cough] insisted that we get ice cream on our first night in town and we stumbled across this amazing little gem with to-die-for Mint Chocolate and Crème Brulee ice cream.  We, of course, had to return the following night.  I am either the CHAMPION of Lactose Intolerants everywhere or the dumbest of them.  I’ll let you decide.

And because dessert is such a staple to any meal of mine, one night we visited the gourmet chocolate cafe called Max Brenner, which invites you into the cafe by a bright lit-up sign outside that says, “Chocolate by the Bald Man.”  How could you resist?  Inside you’re met with quotes devoted to chocolate, including this one in the photograph below.  

I SO hear you, Max.  Ryan and I indulged ourselves with a dark chocolate truffle and a dark chocolate raspberry bite.  Every bit as gourmet (read: expensive) as I would’ve guessed.

I didn’t mind, however.  It was well worth it for the beautiful atmosphere and experience of Little Stanley and Grey Street.  Silly me, I guess that’s what they’re counting on.

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I’m one of those people who hates being a tourist.  I like to know what I’m doing in a city or at least look like I know what I’m doing.  But since we had such a short time in Brisbane, we decided to take one of those City Sights Tours that brought us around to all the hot tourist spots by bus or by boat.  We could get on and off at any stop and it was all at our own pace.

It was a rainy day but we made the best of it.  One of our favorite stops was the Mount Coot-Tha Lookout, which was very similar to the Melbourne look out except that you looked out at a different city…go figure.  It was called Mount Coot-Tha in respect to the Aboriginal people who used to come to the mountain to gather “ku-ta” (honey).

Once down from the mountain we hopped aboard a CityCat, which is a dream of public transportation consisting of several boats that float up and down the river all day at regular intervals.

We stopped at the Boardwalk Bar and Bistro located on the famous Eagle Street Pier for a cuppa…

We took in the sights of the city from the river…

And we found our future house and boat.

Cruising down the ocean we really got a taste for the city.  There were mansions like the one above that lined the banks of the river and very much reminded me of the views I’d seen many summers boating around Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota with my mom and dad.

There was “old” among the “new” which really gave the city a unique flair.

We stopped for lunch at The Jetty near the Bulimba dock and shared fresh chicken quesadillas and rosemary salted chips (fries) with garlic aioli and tomato relish.

We had one last stop on our tourist-trek that day.  We attended mass at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was a perfect way to end the day with so much to be thankful for.

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Brekkie is one of my favorite meals.  There’s something about knowing that you’re fueling your body with the energy it needs for the day.  There’s also something about pancakes, croissants, and bacon, if I’m being honest here.

I love to indulge in nice brekkies, especially when on vacation.  I think it stems from my travelling in Europe (and no one hosts tourists like Europeans) where breakfast consisted of mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, ham, etcetera, etcetera.  My travel companions and I would eat large breakfasts because we knew we’d be walking all day and (presumably) walking of our large breakfasts.  I highly doubt this theory is correct and that not all calories are effectively burned off but it’s an age-old saying so who am I to reject fact?

In Australia we’ve found the same sort of breakfasts at our hotels.  We spent the past several days in the lovely city of Brisbane.  On our first morning in Brissy we feasted on a spread large enough for a king; complete with a pancake grill and custom toppings…

An assortment of sweet rolls, croissants, and FRESH honey…

Mini fruit smoothies and yogurt parfaits…

And of course, bacon, salmon, onions, cheeses, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cereal for those would even dare.

The problem with these types of buffets is that they’re so expensive that you feel like you have to “eat your money’s worth”.  Therein lies the rub – as the expression goes.  As I bravely soldiered on (aka went back for my second helping) I could hear my mom saying, “Food is fuel” and shaking her head at me.  When in Oz, I thought.

In the end, I should’ve nearly been carried out in a wheelbarrow but  I somehow think that would’ve been frowned upon.  And anyway, it didn’t matter much since I knew I’d burn it off walking around all day, right?

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