Saturday, December 29, 2007


Sorry I haven't posted in a while; it's been really hectic with my parents and Emily here!

We have all been having an amazing time. I made it into Sydney on the 23rd after a 16-hour bus ride from Surfers Paradise and had a whole day to explore. Instead, I pretty much just enjoyed staying in a real hotel with a real bed and my own bathroom and no cockroaches (at least that I could see). I did go to Hyde Park and explored the shopping area, but other than that I wasn't really very exciting.

The next day I surprised my family at the airport, and after dropping the stuff off at the hotel we immediately headed out to see some of the city. It reminded me very much of New York, and it was definitely the biggest and most 'real' city of all the Australian cities I've been to. I apologise if this makes no sense; I am le tired.

We went to the shopping district I went to my first day, and then we walked to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The Opera House is so amazing to see and it never gets old. We went on a cruise around the harbour and saw some beautiful suburbs in North Sydney, and when we got back we went on a walk through the botanic gardens and saw heaps of cockatoos, lorikeets, and flying foxes.

The next day (Merry Christmas everyone!) we went to the Taronga Zoo and spent our time visiting all the Australian animals. We saw a keeper give a presentation on spiders and he was very funny and awesome. We also saw a platypus, which was very exciting because they are the cutest animals in the world. And as if they weren't cute enough, baby platypi (and echidnas) are called 'puggles'. Awwww!

The next three days are a bit of a blur. We crossed the Harbour Bridge and saw the yachts heading out of the harbour for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, explored some beautiful suburbs, went to the Australian Museum, and lazed around Bondi Beach. Mom, Dad and I even saw a presentation of the Australian Symphony Orchestra inside the Opera House. It was a compilation of various operas and the singing and playing was fantastic. The concert hall was just gorgeous and the acoustics were incredible. Here are some pictures of the race; Bondi pictures (and an illegal picture of the inside of the Opera House) to be had tomorrow!

Today we left Sydney early to head to the Blue Mountains. We stopped off at a wildlife park where Mom, Dad, and Emily got to pet a koala and feed the kangaroos. We arrived here in Katoomba in the early afternoon, and after seeing the Three Sisters rock formation we had dinner (where Dad and Emily got to eat kangaroo) and now we are back at the hotel. The place we are staying in has a very 'Shining' feel to it, and I am not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Sorry this was so brief; a lot happened in the past week and I have been terrible at keeping this updated. I promise I will be better now that we are in the Blue Mountains and I have internet access in my room :P

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gold Coast

Well, I am now in Surfers Paradise, an hour and a half south of Brisbane. I have actually been here for three days now, after an 18 1/2 hour bus ride from Airlie Beach.

Surfers Paradise reminds me of pictures I've seen of Miami Beach; the buildings and skyscrapers come right to the edge of the sand. I'm staying in a backpackers about 500 m from the city centre, and to get there I walk along the beach which is just down the street. The beach is amazing: the sand is soft and white, the water is warm, the waves are big and my hostel rents boogie boards for free. The weather has been a little cloudy, but this has not kept me off the beach.

The centre of the city is filled with shopping, most in the form of bikinis, board shorts, and surfboards, with a Tiffany's or Louis Vuitton popping up unexpectedly. There are also a LOT of restaurants to choose from, and I have had some really good Thai and Indian while here, but the little sandwich shops and cafes are good, too. No wonder I weigh 3000 pounds!

There is a big Christmas tree up in the centre of the pedestrian area, and it has seashells on it as well as more traditional ornaments. There are white faerie lights strung up everywhere, too, but it's weird to try and get into the holiday spirit when everyone is coming off the beach in their swimmers and heading straight for the air-conditioning.

Not to say that it's really hot here; it's actually been pleasantly hovering around the upper 70s lower 80s (I think... my Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions are still lacking, although I can pretty easily think in terms of Celsius at this point). This is awesome considering Cairns and Airlie Beach regularly reached into the 90s and had the added bonus of humidity.

So I have pretty much just been enjoying myself on the beach and shopping around here. No big tours, hikes, or adventurous activities for me. I *am* going to Dreamworld soon, one of the Gold Coast's many amusement parks. So I will end up getting my adrenaline in this trip, but afterwards I look forward to coming back and sitting in a chair at a local restaurant called 'Sushi Train', where the sushi actually comes to visit you on a conveyor belt and you choose which one you want. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whitsunday Islands

Sailing the Whitsundays was an awesome experience. I went out in the tall ship 'Romance', and the people were pretty fun. We started our first day slow and relaxed, heading out to anchor near Whitsunday Island. We saw a bunch of sea turtles on the surface, coming up for air.

When we woke up in the morning, our first stop was Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. We did a short hike to the top of a lookout to see the swirling silica sands. Super!

Then we were all hot and sweaty and just wanted to go in the water. We went down to the beach and the sand was so fine that it made a squeaky noise when you walked across it. Unfortunately there are deadly jellyfish in the water here, so before we went in we had to wear stinger suits (a full-body wetsuit, but lighter weight), hoods, and gloves. It was like we were ninjas on a secret mission in the ocean. The water was incredibly warm and beautiful, and it was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.

After the beach, it was time for our first dive! This is our ship from afar, the Romance. Its flag was a smiley face. Awww. Those nets at the front were my favourite place; I hung out there a LOT at night and when the boat was anchored.

Our first dive was pretty cool, but I didn't take my camera so unfortunately I have no pictures :( We saw a turtle eating a big jellyfish known as a 'Snotty' because they are squishy-looking and gross. Their sting is only mildly painful, as opposed to deadly, which kind of sucks because they are actually big enough to see and avoid, whereas the ones that will kill you dead in twenty minutes are the size of your pinky nail.

Anyway, the turtle was just floating there, taking lazy bites from the jellyfish, and occasionally lifting up a flipper to spin it around to a less-eaten area. It was really cool to see.

After our dives and snorkels we headed out again to where we were anchoring for the night. We all donned our ninja outfits and did some jumps off the mast, which was terrifying but a lot of fun. It was after this that I went on a night dive! It was awesome, especially because we saw big grouper (fish the size of me) hunting smaller fish, and when it ate them you could hear its jaws clamp shut. We also saw lots of crabs and prawns, and various big-eyed spiky night time fishies. We also sat on the sand, turned off our lights, and waved our hands in the black water. This agitated the phosphorescent plankton, who briefly lit up bright green. We were spelling things in the water with them, like sparklers.

The best thing about the night dive, though, was surfacing and seeing the sky completely full of stars.

Then, a party happened.

Later that night, we heard a big scuffle in the water and ran over to see a bunch of sharks swimming around in the moonlight. That morning we found lots of squid on our boat; they had jumped out of the water to try and escape and had landed on the deck by mistake. There was also squid ink all on the sides of the boat, as well.

This morning we went on our last dive, which I think was our best. The corals were really amazing and we went through what is called 'the maze', a passageway of channels and caves that housed amazing corals and awesome fish. I took some pictures this time! Sorry for the quality and size; the actual pictures look much better (especially the colours) and I accidentally resized them too small.

First of all, I can't post without showing you that I found some Nemos.

One of the channels we swam through (that's my buddy ahead of me, not wearing a hood and potentially being STUNG ON THE FACE by an irukandji).

Can you find the Nemo in this picture? He was a very dark, almost blood-red colour.

A Maori wrasse. This fish is as big as me!

Fish attack!

Empty giant clam shell.

Living (but small) giant clam! All of them were different colours, from this electric blue to deep, almost black purple.

Flat corals.

Parrot fish!
Well, that's it! I'm in Airlie Beach now for the evening, and tomorrow I am headed to Surfers Paradise, where I'm meeting up with a good friend and we will have many fun adventures, I hope. The end!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sorry, Mom.

Did a little more diving in Cairns...

My name is James Cook, and I will whine all around Australia.

I spent the last two days up at Cape Tribulation, so called because Captain James Cook had a lot of trouble with his boat and basically went on a whinging spree down the coast. The area also contains Mt. Sorrow, Cape Fear, etc. He was so angry!

Anyway, Cape Tribulation is the home to the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest continuous rainforest in the world. We stopped at a wildlife sanctuary and got to see a cassowary. These are the largest land animals in Australia, and this one is only half as big as they get.

Cassowaries are rare in the wild, and their biggest threat is cars. There are speed bumps everywhere to keep cars slow. The drive up was beautiful, and when we got there I promptly fell asleep for two hours because apparently I have not slept enough.

I woke up that evening to go on a guided night forest walk. We saw lots of spiders and centipedes and katydids and crickets, as well as possums and treefrogs and mountain dragons (big lizards that sleep on trees).

Bufos! Unfortunately, Cane Toads are a huge pest and are found EVERYWHERE. They’re still cute, though.

This morning was very relaxing. I got up late (8:30!) and went on a walk along the beach and into the forest. You can’t even put your feet in the water because there are deadly jellyfish everywhere this time of year. You get to the beach through a mangrove forest filled with walking trees. These trees can move up to 3cm each year by stretching out their roots.

On the beach and through the mangroves there were lots of little crabs. My favourites are the ones that dig by making little balls of sand as they move downwards. When the tide is out, the sand is covered with them.

I saw two huge monitor lizards on the way back from my rainforest walk. They were so pretty, big lizards with giant claws and yellow spots.

The walking trees.

Afterwards, I just hung out by the pool until the bus came to take us back. We stopped for some exotic fruit ice cream, and then went on a boat cruise. This was one of the most awesome things I did in the Daintree. We saw a big croc under the water, and some little yearlings hanging out on the banks.

Apparently, fruit bats grow from trees?

White lipped tree frogs are the cutest things ever in the world. I know I say that a lot, but I’m serious this time.

Here are five in a row. Awww.

Then we just headed back to Cairns, and I met up with a bunch of people afterwards for a big barbecue on the Esplanade by the water. It was very nice and a great way to end the day.