Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hangin' on Holloways Beach

Anyone that has vacationed with a family or some sort of group of people knows that it can be tricky balancing everyone's wishes and walking the fine line between seeing interesting stuff and just chilling out and getting some rest. We've been happy to find that our spot here in Holloways Beach, a small town just north of the main city, Cairns, is quiet and relaxing AND interesting. The beach is dreamy, the pool is perfect, and we've met some neat people to boot! The little café down the street makes the whole thing even more groovy with the mango smoothies, hash browns, and scones that we walk down for each morning.

If we walk to the left, we can go about a mile till we get to the river that empties out into the Coral Sea. This looks to me to be the hippie stretch of the beach with old furniture strewn about in makeshift groupings around fire pits in the bush between the houses and the sand, and racks of surfboards and kayaks amidst the trees. A sweet dog named Sam joined us for our whole walk one day and as we headed back and passed what we assumed was her house, she simply took a right and trotted up the walkway without so much as a see ya later. Free spirits up that way, I guess.

Some of the local people come here for the little shells that burrow into the sand as the waves come in and out. They're very small but apparently you can cook and eat them. At least that's what they told me.

And if we turn right at the beach, there's a short stretch of public beach where the neighbors and others can fish or frolic, take your pick. If you haven't picked up on it yet, Trey loves fishing like peanut butter loves jelly. 

We stopped to chat with some older gentlemen who looked pretty serious. One lives two doors away and is from New Caledonia. Raise your hand if you know where that is. And extra bonus points if you know what language they speak there. His friend drove 4200 kilometers from near Melbourne in Victoria to stay for a few weeks with his daughter here. He's retired and has time to do that now and that makes him really happy. 

The two of them had nothing to show for their fishing efforts, but while we stood there yakking away, Trey grabbed New Caledonia's fishing pole that was getting some nibbles and reeled in a sting ray. NC was then very excited to show us the barbs, which I know firsthand having been stung by one on Anna Maria Island back in 1988. I didn't need to see that any closer as it was pretty much awful the first time. 

The excitement died down, the yakking started again and I learned about fishing in the area and how you're not supposed to fish on the reef as that is a wildlife preserve but NC's friend didn't know and pulled up a beautiful green fish. Whoops... 

Suddenly Trey and Laurel are both hollering and Trey is diving into the surf to retrieve Melbourne's pole that's quickly being pulled out to sea and after a good 15 minutes Melbourne pulls in this crazy looking bigger ray with the head of a dolphin. Don't even ask me what kind that would be because it looked like a science experiment that scared someone and got thrown out. 

 A sweet lady from down the street and her dog, Charlie, came over to see what they caught and we all had a jolly time trying to decipher the three different accents (four if you include ours). Melbourne was very happy that Trey saved his fishing pole. 


Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?

Hullo, all. Writing from Australia still. Three more days and then it's back to chilly Auckland but for now we're enjoying the sun and heat. It really does seem a lot like Florida here. I mentioned earlier that Queensland is called The Sunshine State, and there are a lot of similarities. It's kind of disorienting. There's this sense of familiarity in the surroundings, the architecture and foliage, the rather dodgy strip centers that line the streets. But then there's a sort of Mad Max feeling, too, which throws you off. 

It's a bit wild and rugged. Lots of people that look as if they might eat rattlesnakes for breakfast and hoards of older Landcruisers that are outfitted with these crazy looking racks, snorkel exhausts, and rammers on the front. I'll have to look up what this rhino horn thing is. I might need one for my Mustang.

What we're really loving is the very tropical feel to the area. It is tropical, of course, but you don't tend to think of Australia that way. There are beautiful turquoise water white sand beaches, palm trees galore, rainforests, creepy bugs (including an enormous centipede -- gazillion-pede?? -- that we found in the pool), papayas (they call them paw paws) that fall from the trees, and then the crazy stuff we've been catching on the beach. The hammerhead shark, multiple varieties of stingrays, signs for crocodiles, on and on. The rainforest-covered mountains start right at the beaches in many places. It just looks very foreign, and when you travel this far of course that's what you want, right? To feel like you've traveled a long way and damn it, it looks different from home!

These hideous little ants (we call them Kool Aid ants because the liquid in their little back sections looks like it) are everywhere and yesterday I stood for a minute in the grass taking photos of bats and then I had them all over my legs and feet and even once I got back in the car, there were more and they kept biting me and we had to stop and fully inspect and rid me of them. It was nightmare inducing. In fact, just writing about it, I feel like there's one on my leg. 

I know, the sunset photos are so clichéd, but is there anything much more beautiful than this? This was our first night here and it was such a lovely welcome.

Within about 9 seconds of arriving at the house we've rented, we began to notice a din (I think the word cacophony might be appropriate here, though I've never used that word before) that came from the backyard. There's a tree there filled with hundreds of medium-sized black birds and their nests full of babies. All very hungry! 

They are metallic starlings and they're really weird! The adults will suddenly and spontaneously leave the tree all at once and swoop through the yard, over the pool, and then return carrying leaves. I read that they use these leaves in the nests for their scent which repels certain insects. You have time to research things like this when you're on vacation. Anyway, they're interesting to watch from the chair next to the pool when I need a break from my very strenuous afternoon routine of reading and eating water crackers with this delicious chili crab and spring onion dip, which I will certainly have to import to the US once we go home.

Ciao for now, my friends. Someone's gotta get dinner together. Love from all of us!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Great Barrier Reef turtle stalking

Spent yesterday snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef a few miles out from Cairns, which would've been exciting any way you look at it, but we happened upon a couple of big sea turtles and followed them through the water. They were so beautiful the way they soared through the reef and we couldn't believe we were seeing them live and in person. I want to test out some video here on the blog, so here we are in full turtle stalking mode. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spring break in the Sunshine State, like ... usual?

G'day, mates! We've changed time zones again and so now I really have just given up on trying to figure out what day it is with you all, but it's Sunday morning for us. In our own little Bizarro World here, it's spring break and we're in the Sunshine State. That's pretty typical for us -- we're from Florida and we do like to get back there as much as possible during the cold Cleveland weather. But it's September and we're in Far North Queensland in Cairns, Australia. Small differences... it's all good! 

A few of our first clues that this would not be our typical Sunshine State vacation came from the signs we saw when we arrived. 

Then our first night here, Trey caught this in front of our house and I'm just waiting for its mama to come and find us. We're sticking to the pool for swimming...

I'd never heard of Cairns until Dennis mentioned that he'd really like to visit here and see the Great Barrier Reef, so I'm gonna include a map for you all. It's way up north by the equator. Warm and humid here, just like Florida. Makes us happy. :o)

Hope everyone's having a great weekend. Go Gators!! xo, K.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Auckland Museum, stormy Karekare

Kia Ora, happy fall to everyone in the northern hemisphere! A few photos from last weekend when we stuck around Auckland because of the big storm that tortured the whole country and made us cancel our weekend trip.

We keep reading and hearing about how the Auckland Museum is so fantastic so we finally went and it is! Only saw maybe half of it, and we'll go back on another rainy day to see the rest. Very cool Maori pieces like an enormous waka (canoe), necklaces and belts made of teeth and some amazing portraits of Maori chiefs from around 1900. The Kiwiana items are always neat for the kids -- old toys, books, games, etc. Check out their version of Monopoly where they trained their children to take over not just The Boardwalk and Park Place, but the entire world! 

Their featured exhibit right now is called Kai (Maori for "food") to Pie (they love their meat pies here) and it's all about the history of Auckland as it relates to food. Very enjoyable and interesting. 

The surf was all wild and crazy because of the storm so we headed over to the west coast on Sunday to see how things looked. No one got sick this time on the tiny winding roads, which was a relief. Had to actually walk through a bunch of water to get to this beach, Karekare, which is a bit south of Piha.

Hope everyone is doing great and enjoying some cooler weather. We're heading over to Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia tomorrow morning for spring break. A whole new country to shoot... xo, K.