Oz, done like dinner

Trip Start Jul 26, 2004
Trip End May 31, 2005

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Saturday, December 4, 2004

Hello again and welcome to part deux of the end of our travels in Oz. When we last left off we were heading to Mission Beach, on the northeast coast of Queensland.

Our home for the next 3 days was a wonderful place called the Sanctuary in Mission Beach, or as we renamed it "Lara's Nirvana". It was set on the far edge of the beach town amidst the wilds of the rainforest. Our sleeping quarters consisted of a screened-in hut on stilts in the middle of the forest. The only thing that kept us from the lizards, cassowarys, wild turkeys, monitor lizards, and other nocturnal animals was a little bit of mesh. At night we would lay back and listen to the very loud sounds that surrounded us. It was truly a unique experience, but not for the timid. We regularly showered with insects the size of Lara's hands, and met a couple of interesting looking creatures on our nightly pilgrimages to the loo. Despite that it was fabulous.

The place also offered yoga classes which Lara partook in, and Chris readily did not. Unless they turn yoga into a competitive sport ("my downward dog kicks your downward dog") Chris will forgo it in favour of other activities. The Sanctuary also hosted an amazing restaurant that served delicious and HEALTHY food (a rarity for us during our travels). The staff were lovely and we met quite a few other travellers as it lent itself to socializing- no TV, and a beautiful long house with restaurant, bar, patio and sitting lounge overlooking the rainforest and water. We even met a woman who lived just one street away from our old place in Toronto. As she said, we had to travel half way around the world to meet our neighbours.

After leaving the Sancturary we boarded our last Oz bus to go north where we would be meeting up with Lara's parents. We spent one night in torrential rains in Cairns and hopped on a shuttle to Port Douglas, our 'home' for 5 full days!! It was aboard the shuttle that we had a tearful reunion with Ma and Pa Koretsky. Okay, only Lara cried. The next hour we spent exchanging travel stories and catching up on family news.

Port Douglas is a lovely resort town, something we were not used to. Our accommodations were clean, and they gave us new towels and made our bed everyday, which was decadent by our standards. Chris particularly liked that he didn't have to walk outside to another building to use the washroom. We were so busy, we barely had time to swim in the pools and lounge in the hot tubs.

While in Port Douglas we rented a car and visited the Atherton Tablelands. The Koretskys had a wonderful time at Coffee Works, a theme park for caffeine addicts. Chris enjoyed watching them in their wired state. At Coffee Works we learned how to grind and make the perfect cup of coffee. Along the way we stopped to view two magnificent fig trees and took a walk along a small river looking for platypuses. Unfortunately, we didn't spot any.

Seeing as Port Douglas is the city located closest to the Great Barrier Reef, no stay there would be complete without a visit. It was a Koretsky family expedition on a huge ship that moored itself to a pontoon on the outer reef. The trip included activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, rides on a semi-submersible and its own underwater observatory. There is nothing like being so far from land yet feeling so comfortable in and around the water. Lara and Chris snorkeled and played with the fishies (of which there were many of different sizes and colours) while Ruth and Allen had the benefit of being close without getting wet.

One day we split up and while Chris dived, Lara and Ruth went to the Daintree forest and Allen made friends with some of the locals in the rough and decidedly non-touristy town of Mossman, where the locals were drinking whisky at 10:30 in the morning. Of course, this was perfect fodder for his next novel.

In the Daintree, Lara and Ruth spotted some interesting wildlife, including a couple of crocodiles on the banks of the river (although they didn't get TOO close) and a papuan frog-mouth (a big, rather ugly brown bird that is well camouflaged in the trees.) Meanwhile, Chris skipped out to the reef again, riding huge swells caused by the 20-25 knot winds. Yes, Chris revisited his breakfast (three times!!!) but it did not stop him from jumping in and scuba diving. On one of his three dives he got to hold a sea cucumber (this is not a euphemism for anything else), found Nemo and other clown fish protecting their anenomes, and even got within three meters of a reef shark! A great day no matter how much he barfed!

Our time together soon ended and we sadly went our separate ways. Being away and seeing all of the amazing sites we've been lucky enough to see has been wonderful, but you do sense what you are missing when you get the chance to see your parents after three months of constant travel. We hope everyone is well because we miss you and all of the exciting and non-exciting events that are occurring in your lives.

We returned to Sydney and ran some important errands and spent a wonderful day on Manley Beach. The half hour ferry ride gave us a good look at the Sydney Habour, with all of its wonderful buildings and developments. The weather was a hot one (42 degrees!) perfect for lying in the sand, watching the surfers and cooling off in the crashing waves. We also had our last chance to shop at some of the stores in Manley and downtown Sydney. The only thing that tempered our shopping was the knowledge that we are not earning any money this year and big ticket items could shorten our stay in other countries ( not to mention our bags are completely stuffed. Those of you who have seen us can attest to that).

We have loved our stay in Australia. It is a wonderful collection of wild animals and spectacular landscapes. The spirit of adventure remains alive and true in Australia, whether you be in the Outback or surfing and diving. The people have been very hospitable and we've learned quite a bit about the country. Speaking of which...

Things we Learned in Oz...the finale.

1.Thongs( the shoes, not the undergarment) are mandatory wear for Australians and are not considered gauche at formal occasions.

2.The latest backpacking trend we don't understand is wearing a jean mini-skirt ( girls only) ALL the time- even when hiking the Olgas.

3.Sandflies don't bite you, they piss on you and depending on the individual, reactions differ. For example, an HR consultant may react badly, while a primary school teacher is apparently used to getting pissed on. Go figure.

4.Aussies keep all important items refrigerated. Beers are always served with a cozy, and chocolate bars can be found in the fridge at the corner store.

5.Pharmacists are the most friendly and helpful creatures in Oz. One never goes into a pharmacy without being approached and offered help in locating an item. This is great, unless you are looking for something of a more personal nature.

6. Go to your local music shop and pick up some Australian music. We're not talking INXS or Men at Work. We've come to believe that Aussie music is pretty great. Check out:
The John Butler Trio
The Beautiful Girls
Xavier Rudd
Missy Higgins (Chris can't stop humming her tunes)
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