Treasures in the Tropics

It is Tuesday, 3:19 p.m., 12/18/07 in Sydney and we are finally a foursome (Em arrived this morning).  Next edition will be dedicated to spectacular Sydney and that it is.  But, here, we'll describe our experiences in Northern Queensland where we spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  This is the fastest growing part of OZ. 

We left Uluru for Cairns on Friday and followed the Coral Sea (James Cook Highway) to the Silky Oaks Lodge--a beautiful retreat in the rainforest where every guest's room is an upscale tree house (did you think I would camp?).  On Saturday, Andrew & Wendy headed off to the Great Barrier Reef (world heritage site treasure #1) while Wayne went on a Daintree Rainforest (treasure #2) aboriginal nature tour.  The Great Barrier Reef defies description--over 1,000 miles of reef, incredible sea life, glorious colors, amazing snorkeling, etc.  After a 90 minute catamaran ride out there, Wendy did the submersible (amazing photos) and Andrew snorkeled.  Then, we got together for an "ocean walk," a new attraction simulating scuba without certification.  Here's how it works.  You suit up, they give you weights to wear around your waist (those would be waist weights... say that 10 times).  You walk onto a platform and they put a big plastic bubble over your head which they pressurize and attach to an air hose.  You then are escorted by one of the divers to an underwater platform (16 feet under) where you view the fish (holding onto a handrail for dear life if you're not a scuba diver or great with deep water such as your editor here).  Anyway, the fish swim right up to you; perhaps the most fun was when they fed the fish and they swam up to our faces (or what seemed like our faces).  Great photo opportunity for the diving company; of course they try to sell you all the pictures and of course we bought a bunch (grandparents:  you will be the proud recipients of several).

Saturday night we had a wonderful dinner at the hotel with new friends who live on an island outside of Seattle (Mardelle / Jim:  please note). Wayne got adventurous and had not only a crocodile souffle as an entree (which means first course here) but also kangaroo filet for his dinner (called main here).  The setting (again in the rainforest) was marvelous.

Sunday, we were off for additional treasures.  First, to a wildlife preserve where we saw crocodiles (they were being fed chicken heads, ouch), cassowaries (a most amazing bird, said to be more dangerous than crocodiles because of their deadly talons) and uber-cute koala bears.  We left the preserve to go to Tjapukai (an aboriginal cultural museum dedicated to the history and culture of the rainforest Aborigines).  Unlike the aboriginal culture talk we'd had earlier in the week in Alice Springs, this was not at all patronizing.  It was beautifully done and featured Aboroginal performers.  As one of the activities, we tried our hand at boomerang and spear throwing; no comments on my (lack of) athletic prowess there. 

We finished our time in the tropics with an evening in Cairns--a tourist town that felt like Florida.  However, unlike Florida we found a wonderful art gallery where we treated ourselves to a beautiful piece of Aboriginal art which will go on our one remaining wall in the living room. 

Tonight it's off to the Sydney Opera House... a tour, dinner, and the Nutcracker.  Tomorrow, more touring of Sydney and then it's off to NZ.  We'll be back at you there. 

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