22 August 2009

There's Life in Them There Mud Flats!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

I was already awake before the real alarm rang, so for once I showered, dressed, and packed before I did anything else (translation: before I even opened my computer!)  Packing was somewhat of an issue, because even though Rex was allowed to bring two 70 pound suitcases and two carry-ons, and I could bring two fifty pound bags and two fifteen pound carry-ons (different rules for different airlines…), the rules for domestic air travel in Australia were more stringent and for some unknown reason, the train was the rate-limiting factor.  On the train we would be taking from Cairns to Brisbane later in the week, we could only have two 20 kg (44 pounds) bags each.  No mention of carry-ons…  So, I left all of my 'convention clothes' at Shelley's, as well as my fleece, even though I will need it in Melbourne.  But good news – Shelley is flying to Melbourne on the same day we are due there and will get to go with us on the Great Ocean Road and beyond!  So I'm counting on her to bring my fleece!

All that to say that I'm hoping we can get where we're going with what we brought and that we brought what we will need!  And I want you to be impressed that I have one suitcase and one small valise.  Rex has one big suitcase, one medium suitcase, and his backpack.  Ha!  But he had extra room, so I used it!

We got to the airport in plenty of time, except that the check in queue was LONG!!  And not moving.  And then it really stopped, for ten minutes, because something went wrong with the Qantas baggage computers.  Thankfully, we had printed our boarding passes the night before and got to go to the head of the line.  No worries!  I wish our US airlines ran like Qantas does!  Real meals, which we didn't eat since we had breakfast (muffin for Rex, scone for me – I'm hopelessly addicted) at the airport, not believing that real food would be available on our flight.  Shelley tried to tell us.  The flight was uneventful, I suppose.  I slept the whole time until they passed out fudgecicles.  Yum.  We landed in Cairns to a gloriously warm and sunny day!  Did I say that it was cloudy when we left Sydney?  In the words of Jimmy Buffett, take the weather with you!

We caught a cab (a Prius, no less) to take us to our hotel, but when the driver asked us which Best Western, we were stumped.  Who knew there were four of them?  But we (with the cabbie's help) guessed right and soon we were checking into our apartment.  More than we needed, but the price was right.  Rex called to see if we could get a ride to Kuramba on the scenic railway, but we were too late.  We did score on a tour of the Daintree Rainforest the next day, though.  No worries, we decided to walk around and explore Cairns and check out the Dome 'zoo' on top of the Casino that we had heard about.

Cairns is an interesting place, good mostly as a jumping off place.  If you've ever been on an Alaskan cruise, think Skagway.  At high tide, the waterfront is nice, although the water comes all the way up to land.  At low tide, it's one HUGE mud flat!  In other words, NO BEACH!!  Evidently there once was a beach, until they dredged the harbor.  Big mistake.  So now there is a 'lagoon' (big public swimming pool, right at the edge of the shoreline) and things like casinos with zoos on top of them.  We lucked out though, and there is an art show going on along the Esplanade, so that was sort of fun.  And there's a funny thing about mud flats – they aren't good for sunning or typical beach activities, but there is a lot going on in that muck!  Cairns is home to over 200 species of birds, and you would not believe all of the crabs (at least a dozen different varieties) and the strange fishy things (mud skippers?) we saw in the mud.  Just have a look at the photos!

Now for the question of the day – is there a word that rhymes with Cairns? The 'r' is not really pronounced, but it sort of is.  Rex keeps saying 'cans' or 'cons' like we were in France or something, but if I could figure out what it rhymes with, it might help.  It's not 'canes' but it is sort of between cans and canes.  Sort of.  Maybe something like KAY-ens???  If my sister didn't live on a street called Cairn (and pronounced like it looks) I might get it.  Help!  I only thought we spoke the same language!

We had seen the highlights of the mud flats, including some strange man who was out in them up to his THIGHS and then 'walked' back to shore, peeling an orange like it was something anyone would do any day…  To top it off, he was wearing a very strange combination of  boxer briefs and budgy smugglers (google it!) and I'm quite sure he was really special!  Since there was nothing more to experience here, we headed for the Casino and the wildlife housed there.

The Wilderness Dome was pretty cool – the first thing I saw (if you are squeamish or hate snakes, fast forward to the next paragraph – this is your only warning!!) was a pair of pythons who had just been fed.  By fed, I mean that a big mouse had been dropped into their cage.  An interesting spectacle ensued, or at least to me it was about 25 photos interesting!  Suffice it to say that the mouse has breathed his last, and that humans are not the only ones who play with their food.  By the time I got back to the snakes, the mouse had been taken away from them.  Lucky for you, I'll only post a couple of pictures of this – don't look if it will gross you out!

The dome had several crocs, a number of lizards, a koala or two (sleeping), some frogs, a variety of marsupials, and LOTS of birds.  I got some great shots of colorful birds, and we had fun just taking our time in there.  We went to the 'Furry Friends' show and got to pet some baby gliders (sort of like flying squirrels) and then watch some strange marsupial crawl up on the handler's head and then pee all over her.  Never a dull moment!

When we left the casino around five, we were starting to get hungry (I know, a common theme, but remember – no lunch for us today!) so we found an Australian restaurant on the 'pier' (try shopping center built next to the water/mud) and went in for supper.  Alas, no dinner until 5:30.  Okay, so they forced us to drink.  I had a mojito and Rex had wine, and we both ordered iced tea.  Really, what is so hard about putting ice in a glass???  You would think they didn't have freezers here or something.  I have yet to see my first ice maker of any kind – ice trays abound.  Ed, there's a market out there – want me to be your first Australian rep?!?  The servers took pity on us and brought us a tapas plate of several kinds of bread and a black olive tapenade, a red pepper spread, and guacamole (sort of).  It was all good!  For dinner, Rex had the Australian fare – emu sausage, kangaroo steak, buffalo, crocodile kabobs, and barramundi, all served with roasted sweet potatoes -  which he kindly shared with me.  I had a scrumptious pasta dish – spaghettini with avocado, cherry toMAHtoes, caramelized onions, black olives, and feta cheese.  It all hit the spot!  We thought we were being so good by not ordering dessert, until we had to walk past (well, okay, we stopped first) an ice cream shop.  I had maple walnut and really good dark Swiss chocolate and Rex had something so ordinary that we can't even remember what it was.  But hey, it was ice cream!

We had an early morning ahead of us, so we walked back to our apartment and I tried, most unsuccessfully, to upload photos.  So now I'm really behind, but at least the blog is almost caught up.  For now!

Clear as mud,


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