29 March, 2013

Cairns, Australia

After a short flight we were at Cairns (pronounced Cans, but why or how I do not understand). It is a beautiful tropical looking land - I didn't think it would look like this. Very different from the Sydney and Blue Mountain area in Australia.

Courtney did great with the rent-a-car and driving on the left-hand side of the street. It was great practice to help get ready for driving the RV in New Zealand. I loved all the round-a-bouts. They use them instead of traffic lights - I think outside of cairns we passed through a total of three lights in all of our travels. There is a whole thought behind how round-a-bouts and curved roads make people drive safer than straight roads, stop lights, stop signs and speed bumps that they speed pass.

Our living arrangements were a nice three bedroom house in Kewerra Beach a sub-division outside of Cairns. It so reminded me of the sub-division in St. Petersburg where my grandparents lived. Same style to the outside of the houses and same perfectness of the green lawns, tropical plants and palm trees. But inside, it was much more our style of design than my grandparents! The kids loved it - there was a trampoline and a swimming pool. The first few days they almost lived in the pool.

Our adventures ... Can you believe that we held a koala and feed kangaroos and wallabies in Kuranda? Then hiked through a rainforest and learned from the aboriginals how they lived on the land at Mossman Gorge. Then went and snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef?

Plus got an amazing aboriginal piece of artwork from a gallery in Port Douglas - of the Seven Sisters constellation. Only one tribe of aboriginals are allowed to paint the Seven Sisters. I'd love to tell you more about the artist, but the gallery owner packaged up our art so well (got it ready to ship back to the states for us) that I dare not open it! We have to mail it in New Zealand - if you take your purchase out of Australia and mail it back home from another country you get back the tax that you paid on it. So in return for a nice piece of change back we are carrying it to New Zealand ...

The Barrier Reef - how to explain that? it was amazing, awe-inspiring, quiet, contemplative, beautiful.

We splurged on the tour and had a very nice catamaran that we rode (with a host of others). First stop was Green Island for a quick snorkel off the beach there - a little warm-up. We had to get "stinger suits" because the jelly fish (marine stingers) are in season. The added benefit was that it protected against the sun and provided a little extra warmth. And we got to look like Inspector Clouseau from the Steve Martin remake of the Pink Panther (when he is "blending into" the drapes). The Pink Panther movie was a hit with the kids at the Cairns house. I think they watched that DVD a million times.

Next up, we boarded the catamaran again and headed out to the pontoon. It was a pretty big landing strip for us to wander on, eat lunch and catch the sun. We got on the first submersible tour (a boat that had a submarine bottom, so we could sit and see underwater all around us) to get a tour of what we were going to see. Then it was back up - and on to Nazeriah's favorite - LUNCH! After lunch it was another stinger suit and snorkel gear and we were off! It was so incredible. Kaija discovered a humongous living clam; plus she and Courtney got to hug Wally, this fish about the size of Chayton. We all got to go out two times before the whistle sounded for us to board back onto the catamaran. Once on board it was time to head back home and for tea and cake - yum!

Kaija still talks about holding the koala.