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Australia Diary – Cairns - May 9 – July 13 – Tenth Week
Monday, July 17
I spent the entire day in Sydney and left for the airport at 4pm. Nothing unusual about this airport time or the flights, except that I had one of the only rows without a middle person. I had finished my book, so I bought two magazines and then spent the rest of the time doing the puzzles in the back of the flight magazine. I am becoming addicted to Suduku and am getting much faster at it.
As we arrived in Cairns, about an hour late, almost everyone needed a taxi. The line had at least 30 people, and the cabs arrived one at a time about 3 minutes apart. The thing that amazed me was that lots of single people got in and drove away without offering to share a ride with anyone. By the time I was at the head of the queue, a taxi van appeared. I asked and the driver had already decided to see if he could assist several groups of people at once. Another couple and a single man joined me. I arrived safe, the second stop of three and only $5. Not bad.
My room was very basis, had a bit of a smell of mildew, but considering it is a beach resort town, not to be unexpected. I turned on the air to help eliminate the smell and to drown out any noise, enjoyed some interesting movies on tv and turned out the light late. I love being on vacation!
Tuesday, July 18 – Thursday, July 20
Lovely weather, though a fleece felt good on your arms, but I was back in my sandals.
Nothing really remarkable to report. I am not sure if I am jaded about beach resort towns at this point, or just needing to focus on the time ahead. My days were spent walking into town, eating interesting food at different places, searching in vain for a bookstore and spending lots of time on the Internet and phone. I did not take in any museums, art galleries, or spend any time at the beach. Every time I went near the water, the tide was way out and there weren’t many places to sit right on the beach. I did see The Da Vinci Code and thought it was pretty good.
I have been trying to make flight and hotel reservations for South Africa and later portions of my trip. It is hard to believe that I only have 5 more places to go before I land back in the US. I have found ticketing with South African airlines to be a little confusing so far and never seem to be able to call when their offices are open. I can only get cheap flights on the web, but I need to make sure that they will hold the reservation for me, as they tend to want cash payment. Needless to say, I am still attempting to call to get clarification. I could book all the flights in Aust, but I would pay twice what I can on the web. I also was not eligible for a great coupon offer they have because they are in the UA network and I am flying AA. Sigh!
I made contact with Karin, from Eagles Nest, my next placement at the wildlife hospital. I will be picked up at 11am at the hotel on Friday, July 21. Yaah! I will be back at work and feeling in the grove again.
Friday, July 21
I woke to rain and continued to try and call SAfrica, but no luck again. Hopefully, I can call from my placement in Ravenshoe. (Ravens – hoe).
Karin picked me up with a wedge tail eagle in a carrier in the back of the car. The vet was closed due to a public holiday because the agriculture show was in town. (This is an interesting concept that I have seen in several cities/towns in OZ). Karin had not been informed about the closure of the office, but was still attempting to make the appointment today. As we drove to the airport to pick up another ItoI volunteer who was arriving with almost as little notice as they had for me, and I was in charge of the cell phone in case the vet called.
Karin phoned home once we made it to the airport, and then had to speed out to the airport as the vet would only be there for another 10 minutes. This left me with the cell phone, that did not work, and the sign for Melody, the arriving I to I volunteer. It was sort of fun and I got very good at deciding who might be a likely candidate as people exited with their luggage. Finally, I found Melody who had been 24 hours in transit from London through Singapore and Sydney. Karin returned, sans eagle, and off we went for a 2-hour drive to Ravenshoe.
After a short stop for a little bite, on we went through the Atherton Tablelands. It was lovely, even with the rain, but a little disappointing to see all the rain forest denuded of trees for agriculture. We finally arrived at Eagles Nest and from the road you could see one of the aviary enclosures with 4 huge wedge tail eagles roosting.
The facility is a long narrow rectangle of land with the huge aviary for the eagles, about 10 completed aviary cages and zoo like cages for the smaller animals and birds, and the frames for another 15 cages that need to be finished. Around the entire compound are wonderful plants that have been landscaped and two huge garden areas that were 95 % destroyed by the hurricane that came through in March. Up until the devastation, the facility raised almost all the fruits and veggies needed for both the animals and the volunteers. Now, they are slowing getting the garden back, but it is a lesser priority than completing the cages at this point. This also means that they have to purchase more of the foodstuffs, but they also have some help by the local grocers and restaurants with appropriate consumable scrapes and produce.
At the bottom of the grounds are the caravans (trailers that we would pull behind cars in the US) where the volunteers and Karin and Harry sleep. Behind us is one of the dunny’s (pit toilets) and the kangaroo pen. There is another port-a-john on the site and a warm water shower house and sink area close to the caravans. The kitchen is much like the one in Marlborough, but the eating area is outside under an overhang.
Harry (60 and originally from Austria) developed this facility in 1988. He was joined two years ago by Karin (late 40’s from Germany) who had been a travel agent for over 20 years. 2 years ago she vacationed for 6 months in Oz, returned home, quit her job, sold up and moved out here.
Karin said that there were only about 45 animals currently in residence, but it can grow up to 70 during the busy season. The current list include two kinds of owls, falcons, wedge tail eagles, kookaburras, quolls (carnivorous spotted little rat/weasel type animals), swamp, pretty face, agile and rock wallabys, grey kangaroos, wallaroos, bettongs, sulfur crested cockatoos, cockatiels, lorikeets, butcher birds, rainforest and open land possums and dingos.
I had forgotten or had not to thought about, but there are also lots of cages of food animals for the carnivores. Rats, mice, guinea pigs, pigeons, chooks, roosters, rabbits and the ever present road kill help to keep the recuperating wild animals and birds alive until they can be released.
Several of the eagles and other species will never be able to be released due to their injury or their ability to fend for themselves. Housed in cages meant for smaller animals, malnourished by well meaning, but unenlightened carers, and/or held too long before treatment was sought, some animals just would not be able to make it alone again.
The thing that I have learned from my time in OZ is the effectiveness of simple remedies with these wild animals. Tina, Peggy and Harry all use simple ordinary cures such as chamomile tea to cleanse wounds and organic honey to pack a wound before bandaging. While they also use the vet when they need to (x-rays, surgery when necessary, antibiotics when called for) I have seen first hand the healing and restorative power of mother nature at her best. If these were more widely used, there would be a lot of pharmaceutical companies out of business.
The caravans are clean and I am fortunate to have one to myself. I have two single beds that are comfortable and soft, a table, built-in seating and a counter for my stuff. No water in the caravan, but the shower/sink is near by and the dunny just around the corner. The other great thing about the caravans is that most of them have a collection of books to read. YAAH! I can add to my list and there will be no tv for four weeks.
Water is more important than gold here, so we have rainwater collected to the humans and river water pumped for the animals.
After a tour which also included the Bindi – the miniature cow, and the wild pig named Oscar, Karin showed us all those that would be in our care for the next 4 weeks. We also met Sarah, an Australian girl who came for a week between 8:30-3 for work experience and Ruth, ItoI volunteer from Leeds England. Ruth has been here for two weeks and will show us the ropes.
Harry is a chef and king of the kitchen and tonight was steak and chips. Very nice.
As we are expected at breakfast at 7, the alarm is set for 6:30.