Friday, August 12, 2011

Home Again Home Again ...

Tuesday, August 09
Well, after about 30 hours of travel - I left Adelaide at 615am (Adelaide time) - flew to Brisbane where my one hour layover was extended to two and a half hours -- making my connection in LAX very close!  After crossing the international dateline - I arrived LAX at 815am (PST)  - still on TUESDAY - finally got my luggage to complete customs and made it to my Orlando connection just as they were boarding the plane for an on time 1010a (PST) departure - on to Orlando where we landed a bit early (~6pm EST) and I drove home to Gainesville for a 9pm arrival!  I was SOOO happy to see my puppies!!  (And of course my family members who moved in while I was away!)

I have been home for a few days now and my body is about to catch up with the time!  My next adventure will be to the US Open in NY for Labor Day and soon after (if not before) off to the metropolis of Ashland, KY to meet my new grandchild who had the audacity to be born on the day I was flying off to Australia!  Welcome to the world Makenna Ryleigh McLaughlin!  Congrats Cody and Tiffany!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Adelaide with my favorite Aussie family!

Today I explored a bit of the city of Adelaide with my favorite Aussie family - Maree, Jono, and Jedediah (my favorite baby boy) McGuane

This evening Ree took me to my first AFL(Australian Football League) game -- that's Footy for you yanks - real football - Lot's of fun even though the weather sucked and so did one of the teams - that's what happen when you have the division leader and last in the division pair up -- and add a wet sloppy oval on top of that.

Next, Barossa Valley for some wine tasting!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Atherton Table Lands with Martin

Monday, August 01

Today we met our next guide, biologist Martin Cohen.  Martin’s book on the 101 Animals of the Wet Tropics and 101 Plants of the Wet Tropics had been acting as our guide for our plant and animal spotting. These days are packed with activity as we had a few target areas but Martin wants to be sure we see as much of the Atherton Tablelands as we can.

Our first stop was in the Wooroonooran National Park and the Josephine Waterfall.   
Laurie @ Josephine Falls
Then we decided to add a stop at the Mamu  Rainforest Canopy Walkway.  This was a great way to explore the canopy of the rainforest and get a new perspective.  It was a beautiful walk with up close look at various basket ferns and birds in the canopy but the highlight came towards the end of the walk. 
Ma-mu Rainforest Canopy Walkway

 We were still on the look  out for the elusive Cassowary and just as our guide, Martin, said, “It is not beyond the realm of possibility that we may see a Cassowary here”, we heard a crashing on the forest floor below.  After a few moments. A Cassowary briefly showed himself.  Yvette saw him and I would have claimed to this day that I did as well if it wasn’t for the viewing I actually had a few minutes later as he walked into a bit of clearing.
Cassowary in the wild
This large bird, with an inner talon that could rip a man’s throat, the majestic crown on his head, and the vivid blue and red of his face and neck, was an awesome site to see in the wild.  With this unexpected find by Martin – I almost forgave him for never finding a tree kangaroo in the wild for me.

From Mamu, we drove across the dairy lands to Mangelli Creek Dairy for a wonderful lunch and ice cream. (They make excellent Greek Yogurt as well according to Yvette and Marylin.)

Next was a visit was to Millaa Millaa (Water Water) and the waterfall circuit.  Our first stop was at the cascading, Ellinjaa Falls and then on to the plunging Zillie Falls, before ending up at Millaa Millaa Falls.
Zillie Falls
Millaa Milala Falls
Ellinjaa Falls

Laurie, Marylin, & Yvette w Cathedral fig
Cathedral Fig
Our next stop was the more than 500 year old Cathedral Fig. The fig vine attaches itself to a tree and uses its growth to reach the canopy.  It is not a parasite – as it does not take nutrients from the tree – but it does literally strangle the life from the host tree.  Roots from these “strangler figs” can be over 40 meters in length.  

We then took a brief break for a Devonshire Tea (tea and scones w jam and cream) at Lake Barine.  This is one of the 3 volcanic crater lakes in the area.  One is really more of a swamp now as the forest surrounding the lake has been cleared and the lake itself did not survive. 

After tea, we continued on to our lodging for the night, Rose Gum Wilderness Retreat.  This is a lovely, eco friendly accommodation with well appointed bungalows and a breakfast hamper for a self catering "brekky". 

This evening we did a bit of night spotting in the “cool” air of Mt. Hypipamee National Park.  We spotted 3 of the 4 types of opossums in the area – the green ringtail, Herbert River ringtail, and the common brushtail. 
Herbert-river opposum
Common brushtail opposum

We also had the opportunity to enjoy a clear crisp evening and the magnificent sky – the Milky Way and the Southern Cross were vividly evident.

Tuesday, August 02

King Parrott
We began the morning on the deck of the Rose Gum owner as she set out seeds for the area King Parrots and beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets.  As soon as she put the seeds out they came swarming from the trees.  These are truly spectacular birds.  (Many Parrot Lorikeets were also seen along the boardwalk at Cairns as they return in the evening.)

After a brief stop and unsuccessful search for platypus at Millanda Falls, we headed towards the Outback for a visit to Woodleigh Cattle Station.   We had  a tour of this working cattle station and the original homestead from the 1800’s.  The farm has been in the owner, Kate’s, family since 1913.  After an Aussie BBQ, we received a quick explanation of what happens at the station after a cattle muster.  We also tried a few macadamia nuts from the tree on property. 

Woodleigh Cattle Station


From here we traveled back from the grassland regions to the Nyleta Wetlands and Hastings Swamp.  Here we viewed birds and ducks from a hide and came upon a large flock of Magpie Geese. 

After leaving the swamp, we made our way to the Atherton area for a surprise visit to the Tolga Bat Hospital.  Luckily, Jenny had just taken a break from her computer and was pleased to welcome unexpected guests.  We also luckily arrived at feeding time.  Jenny gave us a great explanation of the work that the bat hospital does and we were able to get up close and personal with many bats. for more information.


After a farewell to Jenny, the bats, and her lovely dogs, we headed towards our next stop with Phil and Pat of the Ngadjonji aboriginal tribe.  Phil and Pat host students on their property for overnight camping and a demonstration and explanation of their culture.  They also show the students how to create and play a didgeridoo.  Phil observes the participants and assigns a “totem” animal for them.  In our short visit, he assigned each of us a totem and offered a boomerang with our totem painted on them.  I must say, with Phil’s description of why he chose a lizard for Yvette, a dolphin for Marylin, and a butterfly for me – he was eerily right on.

We left Phil and Pat and headed for our last chance to see a platypus.  We bypassed the “tourist spotting spot” and made our way to Martin’s special pools.  After a few minutes, a platypus appeared.  They only come to the service for a short time before diving back under to forage for food.  We were lucky enough to see 3 platypus during our short visit. 
Playtpus --- I Promise!

  -- Come on – you see him in the photo – don’t you?

One final stop before dinner offered me the opportunity to recreate one more photo from my 1985 visit as we stopped at the Curtain Fig – another iconic 500+ year old strangler fig.  

After a wonderful dinner at Eden House, we headed back to Rose Gum for the evening.

Wednesday, August 03
An early start to the day for a rainforest walk around the volcanic crater lake, Lake Eacham.  This was a lovely 3.5km walk through a higher altitude rainforest.  From Lake Eacham we headed to Granite Gorge.  The giant boulders are an awesome site but the focus here is the Rock Wallaby.  These are wild free range animals but visitors have the opportunity to feed them by hand.  These rock wallabies were quite endangered and the work at this nature park has helped rebuild this community.  You have an opportunity for an up close experience.  There were a couple of moms with their joey sticking its head from her pouch  .. so cute..
Rock wallaby Joey

From Granite Gorge Nature Park, we head back towards Cairns with a brief stop at Karunda Village for lunch and a bit of shopping.  I visited this area via their a scenic train back in 1985.  The town has changed a great deal.  The area can be accessed by car, train, or the new Sky Canopy Cable from Cairns.

We bid ado to Martin as he returned us to Cairns around 2pm. At 230p Laurie Pritchard picked us up and took us to Trinity Bay High School.  Here we had an opportunity to tour the school and meet with a teacher to discuss the Australian school system.  In Queensland, the rule is until age 17 – you learn or you earn – if you leave school before 17 you must have a full time job.  This was a very interesting and enjoyable visit.

This evening we were on our own for dinner so we walked to the end of the boardwalk and enjoyed a nice waterside restaurant. 

Thursday, August 4

Today we were on our own until 12n when Laurie P. picked me up for lunch and a few accommodation inspections – have to work some time J.  This evening – we joined Laurie P.  and Maggie for one last dinner.  Maggie is the marine biologist/zoologist that our partners work with here in Cairns.  She was a joy to meet.  Now – it is 11pm on Thursday evening – and the car comes for us at 415a in the morning – I still need to pack – so I think I’ll sign off for tonight.

Tomorrow my faithful companions, Marylin and Yvette, head back to the US and I head southwest to Adelaide to visit with my friends Maree and Jono and get a few snuggles from their 8 month old son, Jedediah!

Daintree Rainforest

Today begins our last day in Cairns.  I’m a few days behind in my blogging – so let’s see if I can get you caught up on what’s been happening the last few days.  

On Saturday, July 30 we were picked up by our naturalist guide, Alan Gillanderes who takes care of us the next two days.  Our first stop is a visit to the Cairns Swamp.  Here we get an introduction to the area plants and birds.  Our first spot was a beautiful Blue-winged Kookaburra. 
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Later we came across a green ant nest. So naturally, the thing to do was to pinch one by the head and bite off the abdomen.  Tastes like lime.  Maybe we should pocket a few to go with drinks later.
Green Tree Ants (Yum)

From here we continued to the Mossman area for a rainforest walk with Robert, a member of the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal tribe.  “Kuku” refers to the main tribal name and “Yalanji” refers to the language spoken by a particular group.  The tribes are divided geographically by language group.  Robert showed us how his ancestors used the plants in the rainforest and how they made paints.  He also told us about the initiation for the boys, what happens when someone did something viewed as wrong, and how ladies used a cold stream for birthing. 
Dreamtime walk
After a tea and damper (Aboriginal bread), Robert showed us the 4 different techniques used in playing a dijeridoo. 

After a quick lunch, we were on to the Daintree Rainforest. We stopped at a few spots for a view over the Coral Sea. We had a few really nice hikes through the forest identifying plants and birds while being on the look out for the elusive Cassowary. 
C assowary Crossing
We checked into the Ferntree Rainforest Lodge and walked to dinner.  It was a nearly dusk and as we walked down the street, I suddenly saw a huge bird fly overhead – oh wait – that’s not a bird – that’s a bat!  The Spectacled Flying Fox group were heading out for their evening forage. 

Sunday, July 31
The next morning we awakened to the bats’ return as they came to roost in the tree near our window.
Spectacled Flying-Fox (BAT)

Dubuji Beach - looking back towards Cape Tribulaion
After a morning walk on the Dubuji beach (above), looking back towards Cape Tribulation,  and another quick look for a Cassowary, we were off to Port Douglas.  In Port Douglas we visited the Wildlife Habitat Park.  First up – renewing that 1985 Koala photo.
Laurie and Glen the Koala
This park is divided into habitats – Rainforest, Wetlands, and Grasslands.  Koala, Tree Kangaroo, Agile Wallaby, Red-legged Pademelon, Grey Kangaroo, and, finally, the Cassowary! 
Tree Kanagroo
Agile Wallaby w Joey

Agile Wallaby
Grey Kangaroo

This afternoon was spent at Cooya Beach as we joined Linc, Kuku Yalanji tribesman, on an exploration of the tide pools and the mangroves.  We were joined by a few families as we learned to throw a spear, hunted for mud crab, and searched the mangroves for mussels, periwinkles, and other edible goodies. 
Marylin's spear throwing technique

Mud Crab

Our guide, Linc, w the children
After pulling our legs out of the mud of the mangroves, we walked back through the tide pools to the beach entry point and headed back to Cairns.