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Entry 26A - Wildlife Hospital - Second week

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26A - Australia Diary – Hospital #2 May 9 – July 13 – Twelfth Week


Saturday, July 29 – Day off

Up as early as possible to get the day started. By the time I joined Ruth, she had finished everything except two watering duties.

I asked Harry for the car registration and a letter authorizing me to drive the car, which he said was not needed, as he was not the owner. I met the owner yesterday, Jacko, a man who came to visit just at dinnertime.

Off we went in a 20 year old Holden with 190,000 miles. Oil was full, gas was full, water was full and I kept forgetting and trying to shift with my right hand. Co-pilot Ruth was good, but her hat kept getting in the way. The shift was a tradition modified H with reverse up high on the left. The H was very close together I kept going from 1 to 3. The ballet moves it took to get the car in reverse were considerable, so I got very good a making U turns whenever I could.

We traveled over very twisty roads that were very narrow but we made it to Atherton within one hour having traveled 50 km. First stop was at the information center for maps, then to a coffee shop for a lovely coffee and nougat. Mine was pretty good, but the others were not as pleased with theirs. We did lots of window-shopping and ended up at Brumby’s Bakery, a chain in Australia, for lunch. Yummy flakey pastries and breads. I finally got to the internet and made my flight reservations for South Africa. Within one week, the price had increased $170. We stopped at a liquor store to pick up champagne, as both Melody and I will celebrate birthdays at the hospital, her 21st and my 47th. This is the second birthday I will have celebrated in Australia. (the first one was my 12th.) As we were paying for the bottles, a young man of aboriginal descent chatted up Melody. That should be quite a journal entry for her.

We are in an area called the Atherton Table lands that are high roads that fall quickly into verdant farm valleys with dairy farms and a sprinkling of sections of rain forest full of water falls. We are here during the winter, which should be the dry season, so the waterfalls aren’t at their peak. Considering how dry most of the continent is, I was amazed they even have waterfalls.

Our first stop after Atherton was to see the Curtain Fig Tree. The most amazing thing about these trees is that a bird deposits a fig seed high on a branch. The seed sprouts and then sends roots both into the tree and then down to the ground forming almost a ladder with anchor roots to the trunk of the host tree. Finally, the fig is so large and has a strangle hold on the host tree and the host tree eventually dies, leaving the fig tree still standing. Absolutely amazing.

PHOTO – 3 at the fig

Next, on to Youngaburra, a charming little town where we were one week late for their famous market. Quaint, but not much open at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. We were in search of waterfalls.

On the way to the first water fall, Ruth had expressed an interest in seeing the swamp listed on the map. We turned off and again, were heading along a high ridge. Just as we past the overlook for the swamp, I spotted the sign. We were on a ridge on a ramp that looked down into a pasture with cows and white birds at the bottom and several patches of water surrounded by green grass. Not what any of us at expected as a swamp, but I guess it qualified.

Off to the Malanda Falls, which to my amazement had cement sides and terraces, a concrete walkway over the narrowest part and a ladder for you to enter the water from the side. It looked rather inviting and Ruth hopes that we have another day off where we can use the car so that she can return and swim. Across the road from the parking lot was a conservation trail that was paved and track going into the woods with interpretive signs along the river. We spied lots of water turtles that were hoping for handouts, but no platypus. Maybe the next water fall.

Back in the car and a short side trip up the wrong road to Willa Willa. Harry had told us to take the bus ramp to the parking lot and this delivered us to the base of the waterfalls. This was a lovely waterfall, high off a cliff into a pool. A knowledgeable photographer who was patiently waiting for people to get out of the way of his shots laughed about the signs warning bathers about the germs in the water. He wondered why they weren’t mentioning the leeches that would be more of a concern to most people, especially in the summer season. Glad I left my swimming suit at home, thank you very much!

Another short detour up the wrong stretch of road, when we finally located the scenic drive back to Ravenshoe. As we turned on the road, a sign said would be 24 km of twisty roads again. It was 5pm and the light begins to fade by 6:15, so I was intent on getting back before the dark. The roads in this area had a tendency to become very narrow (really only one lane), although there was a single lane of cars going in each direction. I got very good at hugging the left side of the road. The angels were flying with us all the way.

As we got closer to Ravenshoe, we were on the backside of the wind farm that we had passed this morning to the way to Atherton. They are amazing looking, but a little weird. For whatever reason, they remind me of a scene in the Planet of the Apes movies from the 60’s with Roddy McDowell.

We were glad to be home and as I was pulling down the back driveway and around the corner to the caravans, I scrapped the left side of the car on the large landscaping rocks. SIGH! 170 km with no problems, and I scrape the car in the driveway. Harry was very nice about it.

Melody and Ruth go to the markets tomorrow and have to be at the gate waiting for their ride at 5:30. I will stay home and take on a little more work, but I must admit, I am looking forward to a little solitude while I work. Maybe some more gardening or mulching, which does not need two people for the task.

Off to bed with a new magazine.

Sunday, July 30

Ruth and Melody had to rise at 5 to be ready at 5:30 for their rides to the markets. I must admit, I was pleased not be going and looked forward to a productive day at the hospital.
As I began my day, I went off with 5 bottles to feed 4 joeys by myself. I had found that at least one of the recipients was slow to come, so I figured, by the time I had the first two done, I could do the last two. NOPE! All 4, plus an interloper decided they all needed their bottles simultaneous. First was Mr. Greedy (Seddy), who normally gets 1.5 bottles. I got him started on his half bottle, got Skippy’s bottle going for him and tried to rest it on the other stool, while I fed Roy his bottle. It worked for about 1.5 seconds and then Skippy’s bottle fell and Roy needed assistance. Add to this, Skye, who had not appeared for days for her bottle, and usually had to be coerced to take it in the field, was in the group demanding hers and trying to steal someone else’s. Last but not least, the swamp wallaby that does not get a bottle, decided today he needed one. I finally had Seddy’s bottle between my knees, my right hand feeding Skippy under my left arm and my left hand feeding Roy under my right arm. Once Roy had had some, I disconnected him and let Skye have the rest of his bottle. I figured I would give Skye’s bottle to Roy later. Roy was very patient and waited for someone to stop so he could have some. About this time, Seddy was bored sucking on an empty bottle so I had to let go of one bottle in order to hook him up with his larger bottle. Well, long story short, everybody got some milk, not necessarily from the correct numbered bottle, but in the end, everyone had a full stomach and was happy.

When I had finished with the joeys, I found that Harry and Karin had already done all my other feeding jobs for me. HMMM? They are very efficient. I had hoped to do the rabbits by myself and to get to spend some time with them.

I did need to add hay to the rabbits so Karin and I went into the roo pen to get the last of the hay before Tuesday to see how far it would go. As she began moving they hay into a wheelbarrow, she found a large nest of wild rats. She began picking them up by their tails and putting them in a large feed barrel. She was not able to collect all of them, but did end up with 9 from large to pinkies that will be fed to the raptors. We moved the hay to the rabbit area, and I began to fill in the gaps of the cages. Some of cages have nesting mom’s so I had to be careful around the little piles of fur where the tiny bunnies are. Most of the rabbits loved the hay and began munching it right away. I did dig out completely a few of the pens and they were awfully soggy. Amazing as they had only been done 6 days ago. We will do a thorough cleaning of these when the hay arrives.

After that, I watered the clippings I had planted and not much life to be seen from the pumpkins yet. About 75% of the sweet potatoes seem to be holding on, but several look very wilted. We will see. I then followed Harry around with the wheelbarrow as he pruned all the bushes. I would then take the load to the burning pit that he had started. In it was the poor eagle that had not made it. Back to the ashes.

After lunch I decided to spend some time with eagles. Harry had said that I would be able to get closer to them if I remained outside the cage. I have had to enter the cage daily to add water to the pens, and had no fear of them. They avoid us and try and stay as far away as possible. I have not been around when Harry feeds them, so I don’t know if they ever approach a human. I sat outside in the shade of a little tree and with my binoculars. I was able to see all 5 of them at least part of the time. These magnificent eagles can be up to 3 feet tall, between 5-10 kilos (12-25 pds) and are generally dark brown/black with some copper colored feathers in different locations. I noticed that 4 of the 5 had copper colored feathers at the back of the head that swung like long hair when they moved their heads. One of them did not have the copper head feathers and seems more of a dark, smooth head. I could not discern any difference in their beaks or talons.

PHOTO – Eagle

There was a pair of eagles, one of the copper headed and the smooth dark head and seemed to be buds. Harry told me later that these were Freida and Freddy Kruger. Freida can fly, but I am not sure about the rest of the group. They sat in such a way that if one was looking forward the other was looking back, so that they had a view of the entire cage between them. They were lovely and stayed put the entire time I was with them.

Next are the two who couldn’t decide if I was a friend or a foe. Butch, (or the one eyed eagle) walked up a ramp made of a log to a higher vantage point and again, kept his good eye to me, as well as the rest of the cage.

Eddie as I arrived was trying his best to get on the same perch that Frieda and Freddy had. There was plenty of room and it was only about 4 feet high, but he was having some difficulty flying even that small distance. I watched him make several attempts and then finally in frustration (my words) disappeared behind a bush where I could not see him. Finally, after I had spent some time admiring Frieda and Freddy, I looked around at Eddie was on the other side of the pen and working his way up the log ramp that also housed Butch.

Harry had told us that in the wild, male eagles are very territorial and would not spend time with each other. In captivity with adequate space and housing and nesting spaces, they quickly become comfortable with the other’s presence and don’t seem to worry each other. Eddie got right up next to Butch and Butch sort of tried to let him pass to an even higher perch, but Eddie stayed put.

Within the eagle enclosure, about 1/5 of it has been sectioned off with a half wall and gate to allow injured eagles a little privacy. This is were the not-name eagle has been housed and even though he can get on the perch and is doing much better with very short distances, he stays in his little area even with the gate open. This was the area that Harry had put Captain, the eagle that did not make it, and it was where I found him. At one point, not-named had managed to get into the other side of the pen when the gate was closed. Poor Captain, no one wanted to be with him.

I had a wonderful hour and half with the eagles and will go back at different times of the day to see if there are doing other things. I had taken off my glasses to look through the binos and as I got up the leave, found that grass had been in front of my graying lenses and had formed a pattern on my right lens. I hoped it was not permanent as I would have had to look through this strange set of lines. Luckily, once I went back in, they readjusted and gave me no problems.

PHOTO – eagles
Ruth and Melody returned from their markets and the attendance was underwhelming at Ruth’s, only 9 tables and $55 for donations. Melody’s was larger and farther away and she went with a tremendous volunteer who is very voluble and great at getting donations. No final numbers from that one at this writing.

During the day, Harry had several visitors and one left $20 as a donation, which is always nice. He usually spends upwards of an hour per visitor.

Around dinnertime, it was time for Harry to force-feed the Little Sooty Owl who is now in it’s own cage. I got to hold her again, and she is so soft Harry fed the baby pinkie rats to her and we found that they went down better dipped in water. We also found out that she was very thirsty and took dropper after dropper full of water. We hope that this shows she is still interested in eating. We will feed her daily now and see how she goes.

After dinner, Melody finally made good contact with Raja, so now the kitty has two friends. I am pleased that happened, as I did not want her to become dependent on me, and if she accepts Melody, then maybe, other volunteers will visit her when I am gone.

I finished another mystery which was mediocre and started My Sister’s Keeper, a book I had seen in NZ and wanted, but did not want the extra weight at the time. It is a story about a younger sister who was conceived because her older sister had leukemia and needed a close family donor. When I finally picked it up, I thought it was non-fiction, but it is fiction. When I first heard about it, I thought I knew how I felt about the topic. I am only half way through and each chapter is told by a different character, child, mom, dad, sister, outcast brother, child’s attorney, child advocate, etc. I will let you know what I find at the end of the book.

Light off late, could not sleep and took a pill at 11.

Monday, July 31 – HOT HOT HOT today!

My tasks today was watering and I ended up doing the rabbits with Ruth. This is our first day back after three partial days off. Ruth and I are wondering how it will go.

New tasks today included cleaning the feathers out of the eagles enclosure, out of the falcon pens, collecting dried cow pies for compost and the ever popular and back challenging, breaking up the garden and weeding the beds.

Ruth took the eagles, I took the falcons and Melody took the weeding. I had three enclosures with falcons and kites to clean. The first pen had only one falcon and it was hard to pick up all the little feathers. What amazed me was how few bones were left after they had eaten. They obviously are very efficient eaters. My second pen had two falcons, one high and one constantly skipping about on the ground. This pen had twice the number of feathers and it was even harder to get it clean. The hardest part was coming across the little numbered bands that would have been on the pigeons. Well, raptors don’t eat at McDonalds. My third pen had a kite, a smaller raptor. No feathers at all only a partially eaten rat. I asked Harry and he said that the kites don’t get the larger birds, only the young chicks and obviously their feathers go down okay. I must admit, I was a bit queasy after the first pen, but I think it was partially due to not enough water and too much sun.

Ruth had the same experience, both on finding bits of things in her pens and also the heat. We have discussed it with Harry, and if it is hot again in future days, we will rest between noon and two and then work form two to four in the afternoon.

As I mentioned before, I had somehow forgotten that wild animals eat live prey. As I work with them and clean up after them and daily feed, water and clean up after their prey animals, I am thankful for the seminar I took with Terri O’Hara and her discussion about the agreement between animals and their prey animals. On one hand, it is still hard for me to look at the cute little things and realize their destiny. On the other hand, I feel I have a better understanding of the dynamics of nature and the wonderful cycle that all life has. It is not right, it is not wrong, it is what it is. Mind you, I am not cuddling the rabbits, playing with the guinea pigs or making friends with the mice and rats. But I do give them my care and attention and make sure that they are fed and comfortable as I can make them.

The final project for the day was cow pie collection to add to the newly created compost pile in my garden plot. As we clean out the rabbit cages, all the stray, excess food and little rabbit pellets go into one of the numerous garden beds of border areas. Nothing is wasted and everything, with the exception of plastic is recycled or reused.

Bindi, the little cow I think I mentioned before, loves to eat vines and so in addition to the cow pies, I also sent all the stems back over the fence to be burned in the pit. My mother would be shocked to hear that I willingly picked up dried cow pies and put them in a wheelbarrow for the compost. By the time that Ruth and I had sod busted and weeded the last bed, it was too hot to continue.

Melody had been put on caravan painting and we joined her for the rest of the afternoon.

The hay arrived a day early and we expect tomorrow to be a massive cleaning day in the roos, rabbits, and guinea pigs area.

Dinner was a stir-fry by Karin and we all retired early.

Tuesday, Aug 1 - + two wwoofers arrived today

With the hay delivered yesterday, we knew it would be a big day of heavy cleaning. Luckily, we were expecting two additional people to show up. They are WWOOF’ers ( Willing Workers On Organic Farms) and normally, they work in return for meals. It is an organization that is active in Europe, Australia, NZ, Canada and growing in many other countries.

Harry had asked me today to assist with the daily assignments and co-direct the team. Melody, when done with her standard am tasks of bottle feeding, bird island and the water in the roo pens, was to report to either Harry or I for other assignments. One task that Melody will take on by herself will be all the dishes during our stay and has an ongoing assignment to paint the outside of the caravans when no other areas need extra assistance.

Ruth was still not feeling well but we went off together to bottom out the rabbits. I had developed what in my mind was a fantastic plan of how to clean all the cages efficiently with two people, but it ended up that one of us stood around while the other worked. HMMMM? Not my best plan. Normally one person does the rabbits and it usually takes all morning. As the hospital had not had hay for some time, most of the cages were at least 3 inches deep in matted straw and poo pellets. Once the wheelbarrow was full, one of us would take it to the new compost bin in the garden plot I am watering daily. Two of the beds are very hard and need lots of mulch and constant working to keep them workable. Needless to say, by the end of our rabbit and composting exercise, we needed a bath. We constantly have to move the rabbits around as several pens of Mrs. Rabbit present us with 1-4 little guys. Most of the pens are overcrowded now, so it looks like rabbit will be on the menu for the raptors a lot this week.

Adam and Janet, from Holland, arrived just as Ruth and I were ready to take our am break. They are in their 50’s, have two grown daughters in Holland and they have quit their jobs, come to Australia for a year, bought a mobile home and are wwoofing around OZ. He was in construction so Harry is very excited to have his help on numerous building projects. Janet is very willing to help and was using wheelbarrows and driving huge bales of straw all over the compound. I found at one point I was starting to direct them at work, which was not appropriate. Luckily, I caught myself early and realized, it was not mine to do. What a relief!

My last task for the am was to clean out the guinea pigs pen. What a mess. They were very cute and so wanted to get out of my way. They kept up constant communication between the groups and ran hither and thither as I tried to pry up the matted, wet straw from the far end of the cage under a very short roof. I wish Ruth had been there with my camera. They loved it when I added the straw and they all immediately hid under the mound.

It was a long exhausting morning and I know I looked a mess, but it was a big accomplishment and good to get it done. With the new hay, the pens should not get that dirty again.

After lunch, I watered my garden and the pumpkins are still being elusive. Not one up yet. The sweet potatoes are holding their own, but I will water them daily. I then picked some beans that Harry will use for new plants, tidied the garden area, and watered everything including the beds that needed work and the new compost pile. I forked through some of the bed, but Harry said to call it a day.

I arrived back at the caravans to find Melody not very far along. Ruth had excused herself and was taking a rest, so I helped Melody with the painting and showed her Dad’s techniques for even painting, proper use and storage of paint and brush cleaning. Thanks Dad!

My shower was wonderful and I rested for the rest of the afternoon.

For the last three nights, Harry has been force-feeding the Little Sooty Owl and it was my turn to hold her. 4 little ratlettes tonight and more water. She is really catching on. Harry says her one eye is permanently damaged, but it is too early to decide if she will be releasable or not.

I find I am in the routine here now and feel pretty comfortable. This placement is another one with more work to do to support the animals rather than working with them directly. I find I really appreciate the time that I do get to spend with them, and prefer the jobs like gardening for the food source over the enclosure maintenance and construction. As with so many animal jobs, there is nothing glamorous about moving hay, scrubbing out water containers or taking the wet and smelly straw to the compost bin. But it is what needs to be done for their care.

I took a little time today to review the current member/donation brochure for the hospital and will offer my suggestions to Karin and Harry. They have a committee meeting on site on Sunday and they can bring it forward if they choose.

Tomorrow, with the extra people around, we will most likely reposition one of the cages that has not been wired yet and try and get the mesh netting up over three aviary cages for more raptors.

I better get my sleep!

Wednesday, Aug 2

I am finding that I am getting through a book every two days. My read list will expand considerably by the time I update my list. They are mainly novels, but sometimes, I find a real peach.

Today was a pretty normal day, with the exception of moving a frame of huge cage from one location to another. A snap when you have good directions and 5 people working together.

My day was spent wiring doors for the cages we finished last week. Janet and Adam are great and work solidly along moving rock, digging trenches and otherwise doing a lot of the heavy work. Harry was so sweet, as Ruth and I were doing doors, he rigged a shade for us. I think I might have seen the first hint of a pumpkin coming up. I keep my figures crossed and wished I knew who is the patron saint of gardeners. I will email David Maurek and find out.

It is getting hotter and hotter and it is not even close to spring here. I cannot imagine being in OZ in the true heat. My arms are very brown, my face is spotty red and my legs are very white. The only way I could catch my tan up would be to wear elbow length gloves and nothing else. As you can imagine, something will freeze over before that happens!

Ruth is feeling better which is great for both her and all of us. We worked today on my computer on suggested revisions for the hospital’s brochure and sponsorship information.

Melody’s painting continues and today Harry worked with her on the table and chairs outside of our caravans.

Thursday, Aug 3 – Doors, doors and more doors

Today, Ruth and I focused on the doors and also training the wwoofers on the feeding duties. We have a partial day off tomorrow and may need to leave before all the early am feeding was done.

Another hot day and I worked away on finishing my fine mesh door, under my shade umbrella. I ignored a vibe not to cut an overly long piece of wire, and ended up having to patch it back together twice before I had finished my door. I find back to back days of wiring exhausting on my hands and fingers, and as I fatigue, my ability to maintain balance and remember that I am having fun hard to remember. Luckily, Harry understands when we take breaks, and there is normally something else productive I can do during my time away from the wire, such as watering the rabbits or the garden.

Days are running together in the routine and I am usually in my caravan to 7:00 pm for blogging or reading. Tonight, I completed The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.

It turned out to be a very cold night and I was up numerous times to go to the dunny, and to don more clothes in order to get back to sleep.

Friday, Aug 4 – Day off and off to Cairns for a new volunteer

Up at 6:20 and out the door at 6:35 to begin the am chores. I was freezing by the time we left and had on a long sleeve shirt, fleece vest, fleece jacket, scarf and socks on under my sandals. I KNOW! Soon all the fashion houses will be following my lead! The three of us were looking forward to a day away and me especially, to return to Cairns and have time on the computer. It was a 2.5-hour drive on very curvy roads, but the scenery is interesting and changeable.

We were also dropping off the eagle that had surgery two weeks ago for a broken wing for a check up. Karin was to do some shopping and on the way back home, we were to pick up another volunteer at the airport.

As we arrived, Ruth and I headed off to the computer connection and Melody to the bank and the mall. Lots accomplished, the unhappy part, was that I realized that I had made a wrong flight reservation for South Africa and will now have to change it. Sigh!

Ruth looked at some tour options and when we met Melody and Karin, we found out that the volunteer had missed her connection out of Hong Kong and we were not sure when she would arrive.

Back at ranch, we talked through the plans for the rest of the weekend and projects to accomplish. As we don’t know when the volunteer arrives or how long the wwoofers will stay, Ruth and I have come up with a short list of things that we as a pair want to complete before she leaves.

Not as cold tonight, but I put on an extra blanket just in case.


Push Bike – bicycle

Sook – sweet and needy, like a young child who clings to mom, but once comfortable, you can’t get rid of.

Posted by ladyjanes 01:06 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Entry #21 - Wallabies - Early days

I am in love, I am in love, I am love, I am in love with a wonderful wombat!

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Tuesday, May 30 – Bus to Rockhampton

I realized when I unpacked my laundry that I was missing my sleeping tshirt, and I planned to go back to the laundry that was literally right underneath my room in hopes that it was still there. It was and with a tea in my hand, I went back to pack.

Katie had wanted to meet me for breakfast and had asked me to call her when I wanted to meet her. I went to the grocery store to pick up some fruit and cheese for the bus trip today as I felt I had not had enough nutritious food in the last few days and then called Katie. I finally ended up knocking on her door, as the phone was not answered. She indicated that she had gotten in late and would need to catch up with me in Sydney. I left my bags at the hostel and went a little way down the sidewalk to a café. Right next to my table on the ground was what looked to be a young dove that was not well. One of the ladies as the hostel was a wild life rehabilitator, so I went back and caught her eye and between the two of us, we caught the little dove. She was very soft and the woman confirmed it was a broken wing, but would take her back and put her in a box for safety until she could determine how to help her.

Then, along the sidewalk came Katie, who decided to meet me for breaky after all. She was the person who had the unwelcome late night visitor and told me that after that incident, she called another friend that she knew was in town in order to get away from the room for a while.

It was time for me to get to the bus station and I found that I also had Carl on my bus to Rockhampton (Rocky). Carl’s alarm clock was not functioning and he only just made the bus. I offered him a bottle of water and a banana. The bus trip was unremarkable and the movies were not that great, but hard to avoid due to the volume of the soundtrack. Garfield, Dirty Dancing Havana nights and Duma (about a cheetah cub and boy). Needless to say, I spent a quality day with my ipod and enjoyed the scenery.

When we arrived in Rocky, I had to call a cab as my motel that was on the outskirts of the city. I agreed to meet Carl for dinner the next night. The motel is good, just a little removed from the main town, but very close to my travel agent who I will meet tomorrow face to face.

Wednesday, May 31 – Rockhampton

A doodle day – slept late, lunch and a little shopping, bloging, travel agent meeting, cab to dinner with Carl. Carl was going to be over two hours late returning with his tour, so I had a cider at the bar and went back to my hotel. Watched a British movie called Deep Blue that was mainly a documentary with various sea animals. Boy, do I hate watching Killer Whales eat! Their food is always so cute.

Tomorrow I find the Internet café in Rockhampton – Not wireless, so still can’t post, but at least I can check e-mail. Also, need to buy a sleeping bag for the next two placements.

Thursday, June 1 – Rockhampton

This was to be my last day in Rocky before I headed out to the wallabies. I buses into town, always an adventure in a new place and walked to find the internet café. I ended up making an appointment at the library for a free half-hour of connection time. Before that I found a discount place and bought a sleeping bag, foam pad and daypack for $29.99 Aus. Not bad. During my internet session, I finally remembered to pull off the contact number for the wallabies and called Tina. She indicated that I could come today, and it sounded like that would be easier for them as her partner, Pete, works at the Rocky zoo and could pick me up after work. This shifted my plans slightly as now I had to pack and get ready for my two weeks on the farm.

Pete came and got me for our 1.5 hour drive north towards Marlborough. The sun was setting and it was a lovely drive. As soon as I got out of the truck, there was Tina and a young eastern gray kangaroo named Sugar who was sucking on her pants. I was greeted by three barking and very excited dogs, Mini (black wirehair), Cooper (Jack Russell with broken back leg) and Missie (Red Kelpie). Others in the menagerie include guinea fowl, a friendly Plymouth rock hen, 2 Havana Brown cats (Chico and Kitty Cat) and a lavender point Siamese, (Daisy) and a Galah (beautiful bird and sort of a parrot pink, gray and white) named Sport, a brahma heifer, a sugar glider (flying squirrel) named Simon, tons of bridle nail tail wallabies, 2 Bettong’s (sort of a large rat) and the most adorable and cuddly southern hairy nose wombat named Wiggles. I got to hold Wiggles and she is about the size of a hairy, gray bowling ball when she curls over and sucks her hind toe. She is cute as a bug’s ear and I want to bring her home to the cats. I am sure they will all get along splendidly. Next, I got to give Sugar a bottle. Sugar was here to recover as he was weaned too early and they attempted to release him into the wild. Tina put him back on the bottled and got his weight back up. He was a good baby and took his bottle like a pro. Because he was weaned too early, he likes to suck on things, such as your pants, your pillow or anything else in reach. He is very sweet, but I wonder if he will ever really be able to be released.


Late in the evening, I also had an up-close and personal experience with Simon, the sugar glider (flying squirrel). He is very oral and loves to chew on fingers, as he is climbing down your arm to get to your shoulder, he pees the entire way (marking his territory) and finally climbed into my fleece vest, lodged under my left breast and took a wee nap. As I was going to bed, I put him up a tree and he kept trying to get back on me. I found out the next day the territorial brown possum was in the tree and he does not like to go past her. I smell like Eau de Sugar Glider, but they have a washing machine, so I should be right soon.

Pete and Tina’s two daughters and new granddaughter are also in residence and Marty (Martina) and baby Kasia are visiting from the Gold Coast. Jessica is coming up to 18 and is working part-time at the zoo. Also in residence is an Australian man who is a semi-permanent volunteer, Matt, who pretty much stays on the farm unless there are lots of volunteers. When the volunteers leave, he comes back to help.

I was pooped, but there was so much to see and touch that I kept wanting to pet things. Finally, I went to bed and set the alarm

Posted by ladyjanes 00:29 Archived in Australia Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry #20 - Great Barrier Reed


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Friday, May 26 – Mackay – Airlee Beach – boat

I got up and got ready to leave McKay. It was a lovely rest stop and I left feeling that I could have used at least one more day to really relax. I guess I still have that lesson to learn.

I took a cab to the bus station and had time to go find a cup of tea and a cookie for the ride. Greyhound bus, I haven’t been on one of these for years. During the ride, the bus driver put in the movie “How to loose a guy in 10 days”. I didn’t plan to watch it, but I was so close it was hard to miss. Any time the bus went over a large bump in the road, the VHS stopped and the girl sitting under the player had to restart the machine. She had to get up a lot.

Two hours of a ride and I arrived in Airlee Beach right on the water. The bus terminus was in a parking lot and when I asked directions of a backpacker van, they indicated a convoluted route with me going up and over a hill and then around. I knew they were pulling my leg, and it turned out to be a mere 200 meters down the sidewalk. I left my big piece of luggage in storage and went to check in for my 3pm departure to the boat. Upon registration of the office, it was obvious that I had way too much luggage in the wrong type of bag. They gave me a little synthetic bag for some of my stuff and I went back to the hostel to repack, drop off my computer and pick up my towel. I also stopped and picked up a beach towel, new sun hat and a beach wrap. Caught a quick lunch and then went to the bus stop. There was a collection of people already waiting. By the time the bus arrived, most of the group was assembled. Early research showed guests from Canada, US, the UK, and Australia. We were to be a total of 20 guests on a boat that can hold 24.

We were delivered to the wharf and were told that no alcohol would be supplied and if we wanted any, we could buy it at the marina but it must be in plastic or boxes, no glass. I bought a few more bottles of water and a little chocolate. It was low tide, so the vessel was moored out in the harbor. Before we got on the boat, we rented our stinger suits, basically medium thick wet suite for two reasons – it is the end of stinger (jellyfish season) and the water is a bit cold. We were “tendered” out to the ship 6 at a time and most of us had soggy bums by the time we arrived at the boat. Up the ladder and surrender your shoes into a large sack. YAH no shoes!

The ship/boat/vessel was called the Spank Me. It has the unique honor of being the only sailing vessel from Australia that has won the America’s Cup for Australia. (This fact needs to be validated) Originally built by Alan Bond from Aust in 1989, it is a 25M craft and is now owned by an American Company. At the back (stern) of the ship on the top deck were the air cylinders for diving. Immediately in front of that were two wheels so that the skipper can stand and sail on either side depending on how the boat is leaning. Next to the wheels were two metal triangular steps. They are in place so that when the boat is leaning all the way over, the skipper has a stable platform to balance on. In front of both wheels are dual controls and gauges along with the deck that runs from the back to the middle of the ship and the steps that go down into the hold. On this part of the deck, we spent most of our time talking and watching things go by. In the aisle way between the benches, were 5 different cranks that the guests and the crew used to raise different sails. It took 8 of us to raise the mail sail with 4 grinders in use and a pair of people facing each other. One person would be grinding overhand or forward and the facing person would be grinding underhand or backwards. ¾ of the way to the top, the crewmember would say, stop and reverse and then the team would reverse their hand movements. With the reverse, the gears were changed and it became an easier task. After the main sail was up, 4 people would help to raise the fore sail. Same technique and frankly a harder task. Just in front of the steps into the hold was the main mast. In front of the mast heading to the bow of the boat, the deck came to a point. On the way to the point, there were two panels that could slide back and let air into the forward cabin where 8 people were sleeping.

The crew was Dave as skipper (who I called Mr. Skipper Sir, until I could remember his name. He said he preferred Dave!), Murray as deck hand and tender driver, Brice our dive master who also helped with the sailing, and Adam, our chef and host. Adam was low man on the totem pole and had all the menial tasks. He would like one day to be skipper, if for no other reason that he would not have to handle the toilets when they clog up. During our trip, none of the crew drank any alcohol, as they could be fired if reported. Nice men, all of them.

We were told that were not enough single berths for all of us, so they asked couples and people traveling together to come forward. That left about 5 of us. I located a lower single bunk across from the galley and Carl (37 yr old Brit) took the double above me. Kate from Perth/Sydney on the other side of the galley and Lucy and Marie in the very narrow doubles directly behind the galley. The crew had the stern of the boat for quarters and writing area. The other couple that shared our hallway was a pair of African-American sisters, Tavia and Leah from Iowa. They were a stitch and when one was out of eyesight of the other and she wanted her attention, you would hear “SISTER” at the top of her lungs. They were darling!


On the side of the galley just at the bottom of the stair, was the engine and the cover that was used to serve us our meals. There was a semi circular bench and the two heads (bathrooms) that also doubled as our showers. We had detailed directions on how to use the head. 1. Do what you do and only three things go down the very narrow pipe – 2 from us and paper. 2. All other things go into the rubbish bin. 3. When done, turn on the salt-water tap. 4. Turn on the 15-second masticator that sucks down the stuff and grinds it up. 5. When the timer is done, turn off the salt-water tap. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO TURN OFF THE TAP OR YOU WILL FLOOD THE BOAT. When you want a shower, there was a faucet on the sink (only 1 temperature) and fresh water came out of the hose. There were 4 cabinets in the closet sized room where you could hide your dry clothes in hopes they would stay dry during your shower. If we clogged the toilets where they could not be used, we would have to return to shore. If we used up all the fresh/drinkable water, we would have to return to shore. Therefore, with everyone listening and taking care with only 1 short daily shower, we should be okay. In front of that area, at the bow of the ship, was a compartment that had 4 double bunks for 8 with the two panels above the closest bunks for air circulation and stargazing.

Back up upstairs we heard about our itinerary and then raised the sails. I was on one crew and I think it would be much easier with a guy as your partner. I will try and arrange that for the next time I help. Then all there was to do was lie on the deck, take pictures and get hungry for dinner, which was very good spaghetti.

img=http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/36046/THE BOAT1.JPG]

I had not brought any wine and Carl had not brought any chocolate, so we agreed to trade. For most of the time on the boat, there was someone’s ipod connected to the speakers and we had the most eclectic selection of music. I had left my Ipod on land so the group missed the show tunes, ragtime piano, Secret Garden and classical selections. Maybe next time. I will also know in future to bring a lot more quick drying sailing shorts and tops.


It had been a short night the night before and with the cafuffling with the luggage and getting to the boat I was pooped. It was also a cold wind and I already had all my clothes on. I went down to rest for a bit and try and get warm. It was only 8pm and I expected to go back up. I ended up waking up at 2am and found that the radio was still playing softy and there was loud snoring going on around me. I managed to get back to sleep.

Saturday, May 27 – Over the Fringe Reef – Partially cloudy

After breakfast at 7:30, we were tendered to the island to walk around the beach and over the knoll to the backside with the picture postcard waves in the sand. There were two Australian girls who were with the group, Kate and Leanne from Sydney who were very nice and friendly. We had been given our shoes as we entered the tender and upon arrival to the island, Leanne found she had two left-foot brown thongs. She asked Murray to bring the other shoes when he returned with the last group. Over cast and threatening rain, we went and stood at the look out point for a marvelous 360 of the island and then down the backside of the island to the famous beach. At the lookout point, two people from our group finally managed to have one complete set of brown thongs each, 1R and 1L. The sand was the whitest I have ever seen and so powdery, you would swear it was talcum powder. I have a picture to show that my legs are not the whitest things on the planet, the sand on Whitsunday Island is!


The water had receded in places and you could walk quite a ways out on the sand bars. There were also some rocks that Gil (pronounced Z – heel, aged 30 from France) and Carl posed on. Then as we were gathering to go back, we found William (Britain) who was working with a set of poi. Poi are two weighted objects on the end of a chain with finger holes which he was twirling them at his side, eventually in front of him, and then alternating in front of him in a figure 8 pattern. It reminded me of the NZ Maori movements that the women do with the white-feathered balls. I got to try it and had finally managed to use only by wrists to make the motions. It was quite fun.

As we motored and eventually sailed away from Whitsunday Island to the outer reef, we had a lovely day of lying on the deck and hoping that the sun would peak through.

We finally dropped anchor in a bay at Hook Island and had lunch before the first dives. Carl, Katie and I were the only certified divers. Brice checked our cards and took it at face value that we knew what we were doing. Katie opted to go with the beginning group to refresh her skills. (She had certified 2 years ago). Carl had just finished his advanced certificate in Cairns. I had certified over 15 years ago and hadn’t dove in 10+ years. I decided to go with Carl for two reasons – I felt pretty confident from my snorkeling on Cook Islands and if I did not go, Carl would have had to tag with the intro divers too. (NOTE TO SELF – Not good enough reasons for me to not have gone with the intro divers.)

We were put into the tender with our equipment – stinger suits on and mask and fins with us. We were driven out to the reef area and Murray helped us get into our gear. Then we did a back roll entry into the water with me doing a complete summersault from the weight of my tank. We were told we could go along the reef for 20 minutes in one direction and then return. I had the dive watch for time. From the first entry, I could tell that this was not going to be the same experience I had in Mexico or Florida. First, the visibility was only about 25 feet and in overcast skies, not much light from the top. Two, we were in a bay close to an island and there was a lot of silt coming off the mountain into the water. Third, the coral heads were very close together and when we began to descend, the coral was directly beneath us. Still, coral is coral and fish and fish and I could see there were some interesting things to see. Carl quickly went to the bottom and began poking into tiny crevices and looking under ledges. I hovered close to the top and attempted to get my breathing regular and smooth. As I dove, I remembered that this was my preferred position, somewhat closer to the top as you have the best available light as most of the cool stuff that I want to see is found around coral heads. Carl likes to wander and cover as much territory as possible. Looking back as I see it, we might not have been the best buddy pair simply due to a difference of agendas. There was one fish that kept giving me a start, a large batfish. Think of a large square fish of white and black, like an angelfish but no wings. He was very interested in Carl and kept circling him from distance and angling so that one eye was on Carl. He would appear unexpectedly in my field of vision and take my breath away for a moment. I realized I am not as agile as I was 15 years ago and due to that and my nerves, I tend to hold my head in one position and not look around too much. Therefore, if I happened to be swimming close to a wall or coral head, when I shifted my gaze, I am surprised at how close I was. It is considered very un-cool and environmentally unsound to touch the coral even inadvertently so I try as hard as I can to give myself plenty of distance. I did see many old favorites like the colorful parrotfish and the triggerfish. Also the minute-ly aggressive Sergeant Majors and the plentiful yellow fish that I can never remember their names. There was one type of coral that I could not identify but looked like brown fingers with blue fingertips. Close to the end of the dive, Carl disappeared into the depths and that scared me. What I realize now was that I was ascending faster than I had expected and he had remained at the same level. Sigh! He was very generous as I apologized. Carl dove to 10 meters (30 feet). It is safe to say that I probably only got to 15 feet.

As we gathered together, the intro divers were very happy and loved what they had seen. Many people took every opportunity to jump back in and snorkel for a bit.

One of the things that had been discussed with us as we arrived on the boat was that there was to be no plastic on board that might blow over. Cigarette butts were to be properly placed into the trashcans. Any infraction would be met with a Vegemite fine. Tonight, two fines were leveled (the Italian pizza chef, Daniel and one of the young American boys) which meant that the offender was given a tablespoon full of vegemite to eat. Vegemite is an Australian staple and an acquired taste. The best description would be a spoonful of vegetable bullion on a spoon – VERY SALTY!

This night, the music of choice was 50’s music and almost everyone was in a great mood due to the successful day of diving and snorkeling. I shared my chocolate and received a glass of wine and even danced a little on board. The burritos were great. I decided to not chance fate with the possibly phantom snorer again, so with a sleeping pill, I went off to sleep.

Sunday, May 28 – Over the Outer reef – Cloudy and rain

This morning we were going to sail to the outer reef. This meant that we had to be underway around 5:30 in order to get to the reef and then back into the island bay that night.

I joined in at the 5:30 sail hoisting. Luckily, my partner was Podrick (Irish and married to Caroline). It is much easier with a guy as your partner, but it still takes it toll. We stumbled back to bed and rose around 7:00 for breakfast.

This day it pretty much sprinkled or rained all day. Under the main sail were two tent awnings that we opened and tied into position. It did not entirely protect us from the rain if the angle of the boat or the wind shifted, but it was better than all of us stuffed in downstairs.

Today would be the longest dive for the certified and Brice would accompany us. Before I suited up, I managed to clog one of the heads. Adam had to come to my rescue. Not the first time today that one of the crew would help me. With that slight embarrassment to my credit, I went to suit up for our dive.

We were at Bait reef for a 40-minute dive. This time, we tendered out to the site and put our tanks on in the water. I told Brice I was nervous and he said it would be better under the water.
We began the dive and it soon became apparent that we would be doing a wall dive – a dive where the reef is on one side and due to the depth to the bottom, the other side is limitless blue below and to the side. (Not one of my favorite type of dives). We were down about 10 meters and I was feeling pretty good, but again, the group was going much farther and faster than I was comfortable. The visibility was at least twice what we had the previous day. Finally we were going through rather narrow canyons of coral. At this point, I realized that I was hyperventilating. I was still tailing the group so I caught up. Brice was doing a head stand in the water facing me when I gave him the something is the matter signal. He was right side up and over at my like a shot. I signaled I wanted to go up. I couldn’t tell him that I just wanted to rise a little bit. He kept checking in with me and his instruments as we rose a few meters in the water and when I felt okay and he saw that, he tucked my hand under his and we continued. At this point, it became a much better dive for me because we were going slower and I could even see things on the coral heads as we passed. I finally found the coral I had a question about and pointed it out to him. When we finally rose to the surface, we had done a 35-minute dive to about 16 meters (48 feet). Katie said my eyes had been the size of saucers just before Brice came to my assistance. Brice told me that I was looking at Staghorn Coral. This was a good lesson for me to remember my preferences for diving. I had forgotten how I like to dive and therefore, it did not even dawn on me to discuss my preferences before we got into the water. I know now that before I dive again, I will take a refresher course.

The afternoon was mellow with lunch and a rest and there were lots of people who wanted to snorkel over the reef again. I was going back and forth about going snorkeling, and when I checked with vibes, they said go. I had joked with Dave the skipper about the money back guarantee if we did not see a manta ray. A group of us went out off the boat and swam off into a new direction and again, although my breathing was elevated, it was because I was working to get to the reef. We had a lovely 20 minutes over the coral and saw many fish. There was something large and fish shaped to my left, but I could not get a good look at it. Dave was in the tender picking people up and he had previously snorkeled close to where we were. As we approached him he said he had spotted some manta rays so 5 of us piled into the boat. There was still one in the area when we got to the spot, but I couldn’t really see it on the surface. In we went, Carl, Melissa and I and as soon as it was spotted, I grabbed Carl’s hand and Melissa with the other for two reasons; I needed a little reassurance and I didn’t want any of us to scare him away. THE MANTA RAY WAS ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT! He started very far from us, but as our unit stayed still, it circled closer and closer. He would bank to get a good look at us and then as it passed, would turn up and show us it’s belly with the 7 little gleaner fish swimming in perfect precision. Finally it was coming so close that as it would finish the bank and face us, it appeared that it’s horns would be coming right at us. It swam within 5 feet of me, but I did not feel it was my place to reach out and touch it. Finally, it went a little bit away and we headed back to the boat. At this point Lisa and Katie were in the water and wanted to see it. I had Katie on my left when it returned and she squealed with delight. I was the last one in the boat and it did one final pass and very close to me so that I could say goodbye and thank you for sharing it’s magnificence with me. THANK YOU VIBES! I found out later that Katie’s reluctance to enter the water was that she thought that Manta’s had stingers like stingrays and Lisa was not a strong swimmer which is why she held back. I was so jazzed when I got back on the boat, it more than compensated for any bad feelings I had about myself from the morning.


Dave relocated to a new island for night dive and berth for the evening. Carl was keen to have a night dive and I already knew before this dive that I would not be going. Luckily Katie wanted to go, but I am sure that Brice would have gone if needed.


Adam made lovely Indian food for dinner and skipper Dave even fried papadoms for us. I had had a sip of my milk coffee drink I had brought with me that I had not refrigerated. It had the consistency of yoghurt, so after a little sip, I pitched it. My stomach was a little iffy at dinner so no papadoms for me.

At 7:30 the night dive was supposed to commence. Just prior to the divers loading into the boat, Murray had put raw chicken into the water next to the boat and it drew a few small sharks. The talk surrounding it was not doing much to calm the two divers, but they loaded into the tender and went over the island. I promised them chocolate when they returned. Gil was surprised that I did not go with them, as I was a certified diver. I told him that I had done them before and that they were okay, but not that interesting to me. You get to see things that you don’t see during the day like crabs, lobsters, octopus and the coral is a lot more active at night. With my anxiety today, I did not feel it was the best use of my diving and my money to do that dive. Brice had said that on our final dive the next day, he would be doing some fish feeding and we would get to meet a huge friendly fish named Elvis. That sounded like more fun to me, especially as it might be in better light and therefore, better visibility and colors under the water.

The night dive was only about 25 minutes because the tanks were pretty low at the start. Katie enjoyed her first night dive and admitted that she held on to Brice the entire time. It really is the way to go as you can focus on what is around you and not your buoyancy and equipment.

With another sleeping pill, off to morpheous' arms I went.

Monday, May 29 – Back to Airlee

I was up early to get on deck to see the sun rise. It looked like another cloudy, overcast day, but there was some hope of clearing. This was our last chance to dive and we were berthed at Blue Pearl Bay. The dive was scheduled for 7:30 and it was a very reduced number of divers, some for monetary reasons and some preferred to snorkel. Brice had 7 of us, 3 certified and 4 intro divers. We tendered to the beach and put on our equipment in waist high water. The rocks and coral were hard on the feet and we were glad to be in our fins. (NOTE TO SELF – if there is any chance I will dive on a trip again, in addition to the dive skin, I will always bring my dive log and booties) As we descended, it was obvious again that we were very close to the coral and there were lots of fish. Not enough sun to really pop the colors, but still better than either of the other days. Almost immediately, a large dark fish appeared and he was Elvis, a bump headed wrasse close to 100 kilo’s or 220 pounds. The intro divers were very excited and had a hard time keeping neutrally buoyant and kept rising and dropping and swimming under me. They all had underwater cameras and wanted a picture of Elvis being fed. Added to this we had Gil who was snorkeling above us and he kept diving down to get a closer look. I kept trying to get far enough a way to watch and yet see what was going on. Way too many people at one time to be diving in such a small area, but I know that we were on a time limitation. Still enjoyable and Elvis passed me several times and let me touch him. He had a bit of a scar on his left side and he was a little slimy. I told him that he was handsome and thanked him for flirting with me. So, now you know, Elvis is alive and well and living off the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. Visibility 15 meters.

We returned to pack our bags and then sail into the marina. We were in medium seas with wind of about 25 knots. The boat was leaning considerably and yet, most of us were on deck sitting and getting soaked by the splash and spray. We had several seasick passengers and it was very hard to stay upright. You tended to go from handhold to handhold and even with this, I scrapped myself going down stairs.


We finally got into the marina and everyone was very pleased that we would berth and not have to be tendered in with our baggage. My sandals were soaked. All of the crew expect Brice had to turn the boat around and go back out that day with the next trip. Brice invited all that wanted to meet him at a bar that evening for drinks.

We all vanned into town (only a ten minute walk from the marina) and I checked into the backpackers. Oh, the joy of a warm shower that you stand upright for and use the toilet without hassle. I took a walk in hopes of buying a t-shirt from the boat, but they were all out except for very small children sizes. I also did laundry, as everything that I had on the boat was soaked and beginning to smell.

As I left the hostel for the bar, I came across Carl and Katie and joined them for a drink. We went to the bar and the entire group was there with the exception of a couple from Germany. At this point, I had one wine in me and the first thing I did was loose a bar game where I inadvertently submerged the glass in the pitcher of beer, which meant I had to drink the glass. Well, I did it, yuck! I don’t like beer. I ordered two appetizers, as I knew that I needed some food in me. The group pooled our money and Brice facilitated reduced cost drinks. There were pitchers of something called snake bite (lager, cider and something else red) and I had a glass of that. After that I ate my appetizers and drank lots of water. I watched some of the group play drinking games and watched the others in this large bar. I ended up leaving at 10, as I knew that I was done and had said goodbye to everyone. They were surprised I left so early, but I told them I had already stayed up two hours later than I had on the boat.

Ah bed without sleeping pills.

Around 2:30 I heard noises in the hall and some one cursing and asking to be let in, and then apologizing for scaring the occupant and finally leaving. Hmmmm?[

Posted by ladyjanes 00:29 Archived in Australia Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry #19 M - The Great Platypus Adventure


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Entry #19M - Australia Diary – May 9 – July 13 – Third Week – Between koalas and wallabies.

Wednesday, May 24 – Mackay

Sort of a doodle day, which was wonderful. I slept in and did a little internetting. Mark and Dawn had recommended a hairdresser and I had an appointment. It looked like Dawn and I would go together, but it ended up that Mark needed a haircut too, so he drove me over and brought me back. I had a wonderful oil treatment and boy, did my hair need it. (I must admit that at times during the trip, when I had forgotten my shampoo, I had to use bar soap that did nothing for my shine and bounce! I know, I know, you can stop cringing!) She took quite a bit off, but I can still pull it back into a ponytail, which is my preference when I am working with animals.

I also did a little shopping and visited the Artspace that had a great photo exhibit by a Chinese/Australian. There were sections on Bondi beach (pronounced Bond – eye), Aussie food (even roasted echidna’s), Aussie celebrities, Chinese/Aussies, and a very poignant section on the gradual decline and death of a friend/partner to Aids. Bits of it reminded me of my dear friend Steve.

Delma met me at my motel and we went downtown for dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was the Point of Origin Game (Aussie Rules football (I think) where players had to either play for New South Wales (NSW) or Queensland (OL) depending on where they were born). Huge rivalry and apparently in the last minutes of the game, NSW got the deciding field goal. Queenslanders were not impressed.

Back in my room, I watched a new movie, The Island, sort of a remake of Logan’s Run and included favorite actor, Sean Bean. I find that when I have a tv in the room, I stay up too late. Good incentive to get into a hostel when I can.

Thursday, May 25 – Mackay

I had been encouraged my Delma to get to the Eungella National Park (pronounced Young- gula) with Jungle Johno’s to see a platypus. As I boarded the bus, I was met by Keith, the driver, and the only other customer, Martin (Belgium). I am constantly amazed at how the tours go forward with only one or two customers. Good for me, but I can’t imagine they cover their costs this way.

The tour would include a bus ride through the cane fields, a stop at the Pioneer Hotel to sample one of their wonderful meat pies, and the Eungella National Park. Keith in his other life is a cane farmer and belongs to the local Co-op to process the cane into sugar products. The fields were very high and the crush will begin soon. Queensland processed cane for two markets, JA for the Japanese who prefer a sugar with higher molasses content and QL – Queensland Standard that is exported as raw sugar to many countries including the US.

The Pioneer Hotel was very small and the beef curry pie that I had was marvelous. The chips were less so. Off we went to go into the National Park and the overlook. Lovely views and you could even see the islands off the coast from that height. Finally we were on the ridge and driving across to the river to see the platypus. Keith told us that they were only 300-500 millimeters (11 – 19 inches). I keep thinking that things are going to be much bigger than they are. With that gauge in mind, we arrived at the platform where they are normally seen. Previous days they had been waiting for the bus, but today, they were shy. Keith left us with a two-way phone and bino’s and went back to the bridge to see if he could spot any. 4 other couples joined us. As we waited there were turtles, ducks, black loons, and very loud cockatoos to look at. I had positioned myself right in front of where a stream entered the river. Keith had told us that you could usually spot them by the bubbles they make just prior to surfacing and from the cloud of mud that they stir up as they fish. They are only on the surface a very short time and then dive again.

Finally, my patience was rewarded and I noticed a change in the ripples coming from the little branch stream. It as moving much faster than I had expected, but when I rose and went to watch, the ripples came closer to the middle of the river and a little female platypus broke the surface. She couldn’t have been more than 9 inches long and was never on the surface long or close enough for me to get a photo. So I put the camera away and enjoyed the show. I was very happy to be the first one to see her. She put on a great show and did a loop very close to the platform before she turned and went up the river and under the bridge. We kept up with her and followed her until she disappeared around a bend in the river.

Platypus is one of the two monotremes in the world. Monotremes are egg-laying mammals. After the eggs have hatched, the babies are kept in the borrow and suckled. The female does not have nipples, but the milk is released from glands on her chest and the milk is caught on the hairs and sucked by the babies. The other monotreme is the echidna, sort of a little spiny anteater/porcupine that I will work with on Kangaroo Island off the coast near Adelaide in about a month from now.

Keith was nice enough to stop at a local take-away so that I could buy postcards. He also stopped by a large cane field on the ride back so that Quen and I could have our picture taken. No cane toads in sight, drat! I had heard about the poisonous cane toads that were brought in to eradicate one pest and ended up being a bigger pest themselves. They are toads that have poisonous skin and when attacked, they end up killing their attacker by their poison. Keith said they aren’t as rampant or as toxic as foretold, otherwise Australia would be without dogs, cats and other small animals, which we know is not the case.

Quen   Cane.JPG

It was a wonderful day.

Posted by ladyjanes 02:30 Archived in Australia Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry #18 B - More New Zealand

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This YHA was the most remote one I had stayed at and in many ways, had the least amenities. It did have a full restaurant, at which I had excellent pizza, salad and wine for dinner. Towels were only given to you if you had a YHA card, otherwise you had to rent them. Kitchen utensils were also doled out at the front desk. A little strange, but I was only going to be there one night.

The next morning, I left my luggage at the YHA for safekeeping and took my towel with me for black water rafting.

I had thirty minutes to spare before I started my tour so I found a little internet café. From behind me I heard the words, ‘I knew it was you by your hair” and it turned out to be Robert and Ron from Doubtful Sound. They had done the cave repelling the day before and thought I needed to do that. It was lovely to see them and I know that I will make sure to contact them when I am in Adelaide

Black water rafting/Glow worms caves – Sue Karutz was right, it was hysterical to watch and very fun to do. We were bused (8 of us, 3 from Japan, 3 from Aust, 1 from Wales and me) 15 minutes to the shed were we changed into our wet suits. Bottom layer, your swimsuit and socks. Next layer, a clammy, cold farmer john wet suit. Next layer, your wet suit top and your very fetching, white Wellington boots. Finally, your white helmet with headlamp. We had to walk down the “wee hill” to the staring point and they pointed out our exit point to our right. We went down a ladder into a black pit and the adventure began.

REady for the wet.JPG

It was probably a good thing that they did not give detailed explanations of all the things we would have to do, because some of us would not have gone down into the hole. We began by walking in the dark down the river to the stop point. We had two guides, a Maori named Dee and Dangerous Dan. Eventually we were walking chest high in the water and holding on to the walls. We came up through a tight area and then they helped us up onto a rock on our stomachs. Since the rock was covered in mud, they pushed us and we slid down a slide of mud on our bellies. I ended up scrapping my hand as I landed, but not bad. Then we ended up crawling through a narrow muddy tunnel on our hands and knees to be surprised by Dee on the other side telling us to smile at the camera. The mud was light yellow. Dee said that there were eels in the water but if we painted our faces with mud, they would avoid us. We painted our faces. Then the guides told us how the wet suits work. You have to get a small amount of water between your skin and the wetsuit. You then close the wetsuit and your body heats the water and keeps you warm. In order to do this, we had to stand in a circle in three feet of water, open our jackets at least 8 inches from our neck, hold hands and then all squat completely into the water until our heads are covered. VERY CHILLY, but it worked. Once the water was there and the jackets were closed, we did feel warmer.

Then some more hiking in the dark until we came to a place where a glow worm was right above our heads. Glowworms are really fly larvae that do not have a butt and have bioluminescent poop. They weave webs like a spider, but they look like laundry lines with threads hanging down. The catch their dinner and eat for about 8 months. Then they cocoon, come to life a as a fly, breed like mad for three day, lay eggs and die. Hmmmm? I don’t think I will choose to come back as a glowworm.

At two points, our guides sent us up a track by ourselves, once with me in the lead, and we ended up turning around as we hit a dead end. After that, I became very wary of things that they encouraged us to do.

Finally it was time to see the glowworms we each grabbed an inner tube and lined up for launching lessons. Step one, climb up three steps with your inner tube. Step two, face the wall and put your inner tube on your butt with the thickest part on your back. Step three, bend down, stick out your butt, tuck your chin and jump backwards into the water at least 6 feet out to the avoid the ledge you just climbed up and land butt first in the river. It sounds harder than it was and we all made it no worry. I have the picture to prove it.

The guides wisely advise you to not wear your glasses, so knew that I would not get to see them very clearly. They were so high above my head, so it was a good thing that I got to see them up close earlier.

In our inner tubes and holding on the rope, they formed us up into a little train with me as the caboose. I put my feet on the inner tube in front of me and that person put her arms over my feet. We held on to the rope on our right and down the channel we went. It was like looking at constellations at night. It was beautiful.

Out of the inner tubes, we hiked a little more and then it was time to run the rapids. We could hear a little waterfall and they had us step down into a hole and at the bottom, we had to face our feet down the water and cross our arms over our chest and they pushed us feet first down the little water fall with very narrow rock walls on either side of us. Our next mission was to swim, without using our legs about 20 feet because it was too deep to walk. If you used your legs, you lost your boots and then had to dive down and get them. No one used their feet to kick.

A little more hiking, look at the huge Weta (large cricket type insect only found in NZ) then we were out in the rain. Again, just a “wee hill” to climb to get back to the shed. We took pictures to prove we had made it and then the bus ride back to Wiatomo.

Bottom line – the next time I am back to NZ, I want to see the other glowworm caves and see what they have to offer. It was fun, a little cool, a little scary at times, but I never felt in danger and had any of it had seemed like too much for me, I am sure they would have been able to offer me a less challenging alternative. IT WAS WAY GOOD FUN. DO IT AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CAMERA.

Because of my YHA member, my copies of the photos were free. YAAAH!

After the caves, I had a quick lunch of a curry meat pie and tea, did a quick gallop through the cave museum and learned all about the life cycle of the glowworms and then caught the shuttle to the town of Tirau where I would be picked up by another shuttle and taken to Auckland. Nice scenery, very hilly and lots of sheep.

When we stopped in Tirau, Pete of Guthrie’s Coaches met me and the buses name was Tilly. We would have a two-hour drive to Auckland so we took a dinner break. During the dinner break, I took pictures of the local architecture with buildings made out of corrugated sheet metal and made in the shapes of a sheep, sheep dog and Pukaku.


Pete was very talkative and kept up a commentary for most of the way. We hit dark a half hour into the drive, so not much to see. Pete was originally from England, had been in NZ for 30 years and was really a good egg. He said that when he makes the run by himself (8 hours between Auckland and Wellington) he never listens to the radio. He uses that time to think. He was good fun.

When I arrived, Bette had left the key under the mat, as she had a work engagement. I read and went to bed early.

Auckland with Bette

I woke up the next day and found I was pretty sore from my BW rafting. A good sore, not a devastating sore.

Rachel’s 40th at the Wiaheke Island Winery – I was invited and accompanied Bette with 13 other people to the ferry for the crossing to Wiaheke Island to celebrate Rachel’s 40th birthday. The weather was absolutely lovely, sunny, breezy and mild temperatures, very rare for this late in the fall for Auckland. The party had been arranged by Mandy and she carried a mysterious shopping bag with her. The winery was up on the hill and had beautiful gardens with lavender and overlooked the harbor. We were all at one table right next to the window and I had the prime view from my seat. Rachel is very vivacious, was given a beautiful pink maribou tiara to wear and as the wine flowed, the jokes and giggling got higher and higher. At one point, Rachel was lured away from the table and the shopping bag was opened. We were each given a fan on a stick and the fan was a life size color photo of Rachel smiling face and a similar pink tiara. She was a very good sport about being met with a sea of her face and the party continued. There were many jokes where the Rachel faces would talk to each other and by the end of the lunch, the shout to “Raise Your Rachel in the Air, As if you Didn’t Care”, would illicit 14 Rachel faces waving in the breeze. The food was wonderful. After lunch, we taxied back to the wharf to wait for the next ferry and ended up in a bar with the Reggae band that had shared our ferry across. By this time, I was getting late and several of the ladies had dates for the evening so we boarded the ferry. It was a fun time, but I admit, I was pleased to be home for a quiet evening.

Put your r..the air.JPG

Travel Dr - My Rabies titer came back elevated, but not enough to show protection. So, up went the sleeve for another rabies shot. I decided to do the doxy, as it was so much less expensive. I will just need to invest in lots of sun block when I am taking my malaria pills.

Today was a day where I had lots of errands and some last minute shopping. I went to the Apple store and bought a flash stick, screen cleaner and head set so that I can use SKYPE and talk to Bette for free. It is a free service where if both parties are signed up, on line at the same time and have a headset that has a mic, you can speak as you would on the phone for free. I also had to go to the post office and get the forms so that Bette could mail my three packages home. After those errands, I was up at the side of town were the Benediction, one of my favorite restaurants. As I sat eating my chicken salad sandwich, ginger crumble and latte trim, Mandy who had arranged Rachel’s fortieth B-day party, showed up. I have to admit, I love seeing people that I recognize along the trip.

On our last night together and my last dinner in NZ, I treated Bette to dinner at a restaurant very close to home. The food was great and we had a lovely evening. Before dinner, we were in the bar area having a wine and our diminutive waitress came out with 4 large glasses on her tray, 2 water and 2 wines. As she unloaded Bette’s wine, the tray slipped dangerously and down came the other three with a crash and a splash. We moved to another table and had a different waiter for the rest of our stay.

Bette is such a good friend. I loved her infectious laugh, her love of life, her zest for adventure and her lovely heart. She is also an excellent cook, knowledgeable vacation consultant and an excellent cool head and clear thinking when you become fuzzy. I look forward to our next time together.

New or Different New Zealand Vocabulary

Hotties – Hot water bottle, usually with a very colorful cover
Good as gold – it’s all right

  1. 8 Wire Technology – Similar to our reference of you can fix anything with bailing wire, means that Kiwi’s rise to any occasion and can fix anything with #8 Wire.

Stunties and Digities (Acties?) – there seem to be a pattern of using a diminutive ending on many things in NZ and Oz as well. These references were from my LOTRings Tour where stunt people were called stunties, digital wizes were called digities and therefore, I took a leap an assume actors would be called acties.
Gorgeous – Describing something that is delicious – the dinner was gorgeous
Cheers – Often a response when we would say Thank You.
Brilliant - a superlative - My interpretation is used when we might normally say fabulous or wonderful.
Misrepresentations commonly made by Kiwi’s –
1. It is only a wee hill – do not believe them – it is a huge hill!
2. It will only take 30 minutes – do not believe them – it will take longer!

What I know of myself after NZ

Nation of two people – While not a 100% all the time, this appears to be a nation where both races are in harmony and take/accept/understand what is the best of both and yet maintain their own identity. The European Kiwi’s know the Maori songs and do the haka (the Maori War chant). At the start of the sporting events, the national anthem is sung in both languages.

After three months of traveling in different countries, I needed a place where I could drink the water and understand the language. I also very much needed a break from the blog and just time to doodle around. I spent a lot of time reading, walking and looking at things. As Bette and I looked at my photos, I am generally more rested looking and relaxed in cooler climates. I guess I really am a cooler weather girl at heart.

I got pretty lonely one day, but had not been able to express it to myself or to anyone around me. I felt I was not being effective in my vacationing and felt I was wasting time. There wasn’t anyone I wanted to play with, but I was lonely. (I just realized, the night before that day I had dinner with Kirsty and it was so much fun, it put the next day at a supposed disadvantage). What I learned from this was that I should not to read my email when I am having a down day, or for heaven’s sake, don’t answer it! As soon as I had sent the disastrous emails and realized I really needed people around me, I went down stairs and booked myself on a LOTR tour of Wellington. I instantly felt better and then went to the theatre that was fabulous. What a difference a few hours and decision-put-into-action made and how much more balanced my email responses would have been. I am not sure why I continue to surprise myself when I find out that I thrive on a schedule and planning and get lost (emotionally) without it. My profound apologies for anyone who received a response to their email on the date of May????

ISites – still excellent information – vary on if services are free or if they charge for local brochures and booking. Some offer receipts and coupons, others just the voucher that you must surrender to the supplier. Bette explained that they are all funded differently and some struggle and that there is no overall umbrella organization that standardizes forms and procedures. Some of the larger shops had better and more in depth information on both islands, where most of the smaller ones had more experience with their locale or only their island. STILL YOUR BEST BET FOR INFORMATION AND BOOKING ASSISTANCE WHEN YOU ARE IN THE COUNTRY. They are a can-do group of people and everything they set up for me was seamless!

YHA Membership – Global lodgings available and definitely worth the price of admission $30 US annually. Discounted first night, $10 phone card and with due to the membership, I received free photos from my blackwater rafting adventure.

Rankings of the YHA’s I have used to date.
Queentown – best room with tv and in-room tea service, centrally located to everything that was fun to do in Qtown and very friendly/helpful staff – downside noisy Sat night
Wellington – best bed – very comfortable and best sleep, able to pick up small breakfast needs at front desk – resident cat Thomas, centrally located and very close to food store, downside – not evenhanded on who they suggest as options for tours.
Wiatomo – best on-site restaurant – pizza was marvelous, since it was remote, beautiful views and quiet for sleeping. Downside – squeaky bed, you had to collect your towel and dishes from the front desk, no soap in the room, and desk staff sort of vague and not incredibly helpful.

Let people help me – Man do I have a control complex! Bette very generously offered to assist me with getting my packages to the post office after I had already left the country. I spent the last day getting all the forms necessary and trying to see how much they would cost. Considering that I had three boxes and two that were heavy, it was a very nice offer and I gladly accepted.

Items that are no longer in my luggage as I get ready to go to OZ.

Nine items of clothing including my spare baseball cap and bandana, umbrella are being mailed home.

Bette is holding on to the additional supply of contact lens that I had brought with me, in case I need them later.

Items that are no longer in my possession (wash cloth that was left in Dunedin) include the outer coat I had brought. Although I will miss the 7 pockets, practicality indicated that it was unwise to continue to carry a coat that was not water repellent. My extra dental floss, extra MK EE night cream, emergenC and my Peruvian toilet paper are now in Bette’s possession.

Both pieces of checked luggage were then only 27 kilos together. Yaah.
I find I fight with myself a lot of the time on this trip, feeling I should be able to do my trip with only one medium size suitcase and alternately wanting to travel with steamer trunks of wonderful and multiple sets of clothes. Next trip, who can tell which it will be. As long as I don’t have to always travel one way, I know I will be fine and will enjoy the travels for years to come.

Kia Orana, NZ. You are still one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Posted by ladyjanes 04:06 Archived in New Zealand Tagged postcards Comments (0)

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