January 30, 2012

Australia Redux

Our son has always borne a grudge that we came home from Australia to have our baby (which turned out to be him), thereby cheating him of the chance to live down under.

Being the excellent parents we are, we rectified that situation a little for the New Year and took him to Queensland for a dose of G'day Mate!

We forced him to relive our years there (...and whoa! modern countries change a LOT in 20 years) and spend time with some of our old friends, but then we took him to our favorite kangaroo and koala preserve and the Great Barrier Reef for some diving, so a lot was forgiven.

 This guy was protecting some pellet food from the ducks.  The one 'in flight' had just had his clock cleaned by the 'roo.  The one on the left was complaining to management.

   Think about this next picture next time someone complains to you about their grown child moving back in...

I'll spare you the details of our old house and neighborhood because I know they would interest you as much as they did our captive passenger, who got soft tissue damage from eye-rolling.                                                                                                                 

When we got to the reef, in time for New Year's Eve, we found our "omg we forgot to get a hotel until November!" booked room was actually in a very nice location...

...and that we had arrived smack in the middle of breeding season for the protected Mutton birds.  They are also some kind of Shearwater Something or other, but we are not bird fans, so we didn't really pay much attention to the particulars.  

The birds, however, we did pay attention to, since they were everywhere.  Birds in trees, birds in underground nests, birds on the sidewalk, birds on a wire... it was like a Hitchcock movie without the fun.  The carnage was non-stop; sea gulls eating babies fallen from nests, bird poop raining from the sky 24/7 and bird sex all over the place. 

Then at night, these guys (the aforementioned Muttons) would start pining for something and making a sound that was somewhere between a baby crying and a cat in heat....

and I'm not talking about after dinner night, I'm talking about 1am night.  But they are a protected species so we weren't allowed to go out and punt birds.  Even though they were dumb as stumps and frequently took off into the sides of buildings and poles. 

But, that didn't spoil our snorkel/diving adventures.  On this trip I got to see a whole new kind of starfish!

It's a starfish, I swear!  We had just learned about these at the island research station, and then I might have accidentally flipped it over with my fin to check it, and it was light as air.  Very cool.

In one section of the beach off the island, there was a place that rays liked to rest and as I was lazing my way back to our room I found this guy...

...just lying there, watching me swim up.  I got all verklempt and started fumbling around with my camera, trying to turn it on and get the shot before he zoomed away.  

I needn't have worried.  His right eyeball never stopped following me, but this is the position he was in when I looked back later from 20 feet down the beach... I guess he was too tired to zoom for yet another stupid tourist. 

The best part was, our island is home to Loggerhead and Green turtles, and it was egg laying season!  Yay us! Finally we showed up someplace in time for their big show! 

This entailed getting out of bed at 2am and wandering down to the beach in the hope of seeing a laying turtle.  

We walked to the end of the boardwalk in the picture above and POOF! there was a mother flipping sand everywhere.  We stopped and stood still so as not to disturb her while we mentally flailed about wondering what to do.  Finally we backed slowly up the boardwalk and returned to the beach on another path.  

Our luck continued that night when we hooked up with a pair of volunteers who work with the research teams, counting eggs, checking turtle tags, etc. and they gave us lots of information and helped us witness the whole thing without disrupting the turtles. Yay!  

They had lights and knowledge and we were able to rub a turtle, hold one of her eggs, and watch her lay as they held up one of her back fins.  The beach was alive with the sound of these giant heavy turtles dragging themselves up to the top of the beach to dig a hole, then fill it back in and drag themselves back down the beach.  It was amazing and worth the 2am trek out of a cozy bed.

In the morning, the beaches were covered with these tracks...

And although this is a good deal smaller than the laying turtles we encountered, here is a turtle "on the hoof" so to speak.

 After we left the island, we moseyed back down the coast to Brisbane stopping on the way to run jet skis up the water behind Bribie Island (which used to be one of our favorite weekend getaways in our 4WD 20 years ago), that fulfilled another of our progeny's desires (even though we had a ski boat in the U.S. he would complain that we should be towing a jet ski as well, "just for fun").  

Here's my scale model and his scale model on their toys as we sit in the calm brackish waters and gaze at Queensland's Glasshouse Mountains (actually just big hills, but in Queensland they are tall, so...).

Are we having fun, or what?

We had a good time, the man boy got to drive on the left side of the road and the right side of the car, (all the while saying "This is so wrong.") and we got to spend time with old friends that we don't see nearly often enough.

The parting shot is the Great Barrier Reef in January.  Can't beat it, really.