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Australian Wrap Up

Technically, we’re back in Canada now, getting over some major jet lag, but I kinda lagged a bit at the end there in making posts. It got a bit complicated with all of the traveling. So, I’m going to use this post to go over some of the stuff we did in our last few days down under.

On our last full day in Cairns, we decided to go check out the Cairns Aquarium. It included some terrarium stuff too, so not everything was wet. Let’s start with a doozy of a spider.

This spider was so big, that if you laid her on top of a cantaloupe, her legs would cover a full half of it. The one beside her wasn’t all that much smaller either.

These next ones are giant armored cock roaches. I’m sure you’re very happy to see them.

Of course, no trip to Australia would be complete without some pictures of crocodiles. It would have been nicer to get some pictures of them in the wild when we were on our rain forest tour, but that wasn’t to be.

Moving on to the more aquatic life, this is a picture of a crayfish.

Yes, he’s about the same size as a spiny lobster from down in Florida. I don’t know what the distinction is between a crayfish and a lobster, maybe it’s colour, cause these guys were pale blue.

Next we have a general bunch of fish.

Honeycomb moray eel, conveniently sticking his head out so we can see him.

The reef stone fish. Also known as the most venomous fish in the world.

Moon jelly fish. These were the things we swam through out on the Great Barrier Reef.

Another pleasant aquatic scene.

Big sea anemone with fish in front of it.

I don’t know what this next thing is, but it looks like a bright purple hamburger patty with bright neon-green hairs. How could you not take a picture of that.


More sharks!

Sting rays too.

That’s it for the aquarium and that was it for Cairns. The next morning we flew down to Sydney to spend two nights there. We arrived in the late morning so Kat and I decided to go on walkabout.

We didn’t have to go very far before we ran into more greenery, which is good because Sydney is a typical big city with all of the traffic and hustle and bustle. It turns out the Royal Botanical Gardens weren’t all that far from our hotel and it being a rather lovely sunny day, we indulged.

Here is the entrance.

We encountered a lot of these birds, and not just in the gardens, but all over Sydney. I don’t know what they are called, but they kinda remind me of Gonzo from the muppets.

Huge leaning tree.

Of course, if you’re going to wander around some botanical gardens, you should stop and smell the flowers while you’re there. Like this rose.

Or maybe this one.

I caught Kat just after she had been on a sniff-a-thon.

Here is me being overwhelmed by the size of these aloe plants. That is what we assumed they were, but someone suggested that they might also be agave.

Picture from above looking down in to the parkway.

This little fellow is a kookaburra. He was quite used to strangers too. Kat was able to get close enough to tickle his tail feathers, but he drew the line at that and flew away to another perch.

They have some ginormous trees down there.

Here is Kat beside one for perspective.

Here is another example of one of those trees that are made up of lots of little trunks.

Coming out the other end of the gardens, we came upon a rather famous Sydney icon: the opera house.

It was fascinating to see it up close as you really don’t get the feel for the scale when you see it in pictures. It’s rather huge.

After that, we wandered back to our hotel. I have to take this moment to point out an interesting difference between the light switches down there and here in Canada.

They are tiny, and they work backwards compared to ours. When the top part is pressed in, they are off. I think that may simple be that they are on the underside of the planet and everything there is upside-down.

We had one more full day in Sydney before we needed to fly home, so we used that opportunity to go visit the zoo. This gave us a good chance to see all sorts of really lazy and tired animals because it was the middle of the day and it was too hot to be moving about.

We can start with a Komodo dragon, which technically speaking, isn’t native to Australia at all.

Lizard in a tree.

Really big python.

Iguana just hanging out.

A pile of gila monsters. Pink and black are great colours for these guys.

Another iguana, up in a tree.

Taipan, a really, really poisonous snake. He was up and moving around too.

Not sure which snake this one was, but he totally looks like a worn out bicycle tire inner tube.

Did someone say giraffes?

Not to worry, it’s just a mere-cat.

They also had two Sumatra tigers, which are on the severely endangered list as there are only about 400-500 still in the wild.

Big horny herbivore.

This is an otter that has the tail of another otter stuck in his mouth. All three of the otters were playing around.

This is a fishing cat.

The infamous kangaroo who just seem to be chillin’ in the afternoon heat.

Emu alert!

The third largest bird in the world is a cassowary. The tour guide for our rain forest hike was really hoping we would see one in the wild, but they are pretty rare. Fortunately, they had one at the zoo.

Wooohooo!! Lemurs! Who doesn’t like lemurs.

If you go into the gift shop, they have all manner of stuffed animals of all sizes that you can buy. Including this rather huge stuffed octopus that was putting the moves on Kat.

This is a red panda. Apparently the word “panda” literally means bamboo eater.

We took a selfie of ourselves as well, just to show that we were there.

That pretty much wraps up the whole trip. We caught our ride to the airport at 8am the next day and then hopped a flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. That took close to nine hours. We had a short wait in HK then a 14 hour flight from there to Toronto.

Get off in Toronto, do all of going through customs stuff, get your luggage, recheck your luggage, change terminals, and then hop another flight to Ottawa. Easy as cake.

Except for the fact that we have some hardcore jet lag going on right now. Waking up at 3am and crashing at 3pm has happened several times.

Oh well, it was all worth it.


Heading Down Under

It’s been a few days now and lots of things have happened. I will start where we left off last time.

We arose on Jan 29th to a lovely sunny day. It was lovely, but super windy. We had the highest waves we’ve seen yet on Kenawa island.

We boarded up the Earthship as best we could and then headed over on the boat later in the morning to Poto Tano. The wave action made that quite interesting.

We met up with Suji one last time and he showed us where to buy the ferry ticket. For the two of us it was 34k, which is a lot less than the 200k the taxi driver got from us to buy our ferry ticket on the way over. The taxi drivers at the airport will all try to rip you off.

Fortunately, Katrina recommended a smal B&B to us that would pick us up at the port, drive us there and then take us to the airport the next day, all inclusive for 700k. Thats rougly $70CAN. It is a really good deal, the driver and owner of the B&B speak English quite well, and they don’t try to weasel more money out of you.

I snapped this random picture during the ride there.

Yes, that is a scooter coming right at us in our lane. This picture doesn’t even show half of it. Instead of sticking to lanes of traffic, it works closer to a flocking pattern. Yes, they generally stick to the left side of the road, like the UK and Australia, but there is no speed limit so there is lots of passing and being passed, not to mention other vehicles parked on the road, pot holes and random crowds of people.

That being said, the speed is never very high. On the more major roads, we might get up to 80kph, but that was the top end. We asked about accidents, and we were told that it happens a lot less than what you might think. I guess when you grow up in a culture where spaces are small and cramped that you’re just used to the roads being the same way. They figure it out as they drive.

We made a few stops before arriving at the B&B, but for those details, you will need to check out Kat’s post. By the time we made it to the B&B (called “Sama Sama”, which translates to “You’re Welcome”), it was really pouring rain. The car driver parked as close as he could to the door and we made a dash for it.

They don’t usually serve dinner, but because we couldn’t go out due to the rain, they served us a really nice veggie curry dish, with fried egg and rice. It was great after so much rice and fish.

The rain eventually calmed down enough for us to make the trek out to our cabin, but it was full night by that point. As a result, all of the pictures you’re about to see we took the following morning.

This was the hut that we stayed in. The sleeping pad is just big enough for a standard double mattress and a narrow walk way beside it.

There is a doorway at the back of the hut, with some stairs that lead down to the toilet and shower. The shower water is not heated, nor is there a sink or mirror. We were pretty cozy while the wind howled around us.

It was much nicer the next morning and we were able to get a view of our surroundings. Like all of these fun signs.

During our ride with the driver yesterday, he put on some music. The first song was Indonesian but after that he played stuff from North America. The first American song that came on was “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns and Roses, which we thought was rather apt for the location.

You can see a bit of the mountain in the background between the trees there. Kat looked it up and it is an active volcano with around 12,000 feet (3650m) of elevation.

You can’t really see it too well in the pictures so far, but there is a sheer drop right in front of the path that goes beside the huts, probably 3 or 4m (9 to 12 feet). Right on the edge of that was this swing that was attached to two trees. Here is Kat trying it out.

I tried it too, but that picture is on Kat’s blog.

Before breakfast we took a short walk down the hill, to experience the Indonesian wilderness. We discovered this small stream at the bottom.

Looking back up the hill we just walked down looked like this.

Fortunately there was a path with bamboo steps in it to prevent all of the dirt just washing away in the rain. That made the trek pretty easy.

We came across this guy lying beside the path. It’s a land snail and not a small one either. That shell is longer than my hand is wide.

Here is a close-up of the stream.

And the little waterfall going the other direction.

Beyond the stream was a little rice paddy. There are tonnes of these all over the area.

After we made our way back, we found this little toad just hanging out in the dirt.

Some other fun things that were growing right on the property of the B&B are these.

Yup, bananas. Lots of coconuts too. I even found one of these trees.

It is a bit dark, but I think you can see the papayas hanging from the top there.

That was it for our little forest foray. We had banana pancakes for breakfast. No maple syrup here, just chocolate sauce.

We wanted to have lots of time at the airport, so we headed out on another lengthy drive. It took about 1.5hrs to get there, but the weathere was nice and we didn’t have any misshaps on the road.

We had to wait to check in for our flight as we were a bit too early, but it wasn’t too much.

The previous flight from Bali to Lombok was on a propeller plane and took about an hour and 45min. We were on a jet this time and it was under an hour. We arrived around 14:00 and our next flight wasn’t untill 23:00 so we had a bit of time to kill.

Eventually, we made our way through the first security check, to then line up at the check in desk with about a thousand other people all going various places. It was divided up by destination so we didn’t have to wait too long.

Once we made it through that, there was another checking of our credentials, then we had to go through Indonesian exit customs. I guess they really want to make sure you do actually leave when you say you are going to.

From there you walk through a massive hallway with the most glitzy shops you can imagine, selling things like perfume, watches, luggage and jewelry. All the things I go to the airport to buy 😛

At that point we stopped to have a bite to eat before heading to our gate.

The weird thing I noticed about our gate number, was that it was the same gate as several other flights scheduled at roughly the same time. All we could do was head over and see what was up.

When we reached the gate, they had all of the waiting area blocked off and you had to go through another security check. This one mainly for confiscating any water or other liquids you may have just bought on the way through.

It wasn’t setup very well as if your flight wasn’t one of the immediate ones being loaded, they wouldn’t let you through. Also, nothing was labeled so you had to get in a line and get rejected before you could figure this out.

So, not only did this create more lines, it created a lot of confusion and congestion between the passengers milling abount trying to find out when and where they needed to be.

Now I get the whole security thing, but if you’re going to take everyone’s water away, and then charge money on the plane for any type of service or beverage on a 4+ hour flight, that’s a lot like extortion. I wasn’t impressed.

Once we made it through that process, and they strarted to load the plane… or at least that’s what we thought they were doing. They did the ticket scanning, we went through the gate and then we got on a bus.

The bus drove out to the middle of the runway, they glued on some wings, and then backed the bus up into a huge elastic band. The band let go and we were launched into the stratosphere. We now know what it’s like to travel by Airbus.

Okay, that last paragraph was a bit exaggerated, but they did bus us out to our plane, which explained how they could load several flights from the same gate, just by directing you to a different bus.

It was an overnight flight, so we had planned to sleep most of it, but it was tough. I have slept on many flights, but this one it was really difficult to get in a position that was either comfortable or wouldn’t make some part of my body go numb.

We landed in Cairns, Australia just before 6am local time. Went through customs, got our bags, and found our driver to take us to the hotel. It’s nice having someone waiting for you.

Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t even open at that point, let alone have our room ready. We waited a bit and when they opened up at 7am we were able to stow our luggage there while we headed out and did other things.

First thing we did was have breakfast. There are a lot of shops and things closed that early in the morning but we were given directions to a breakfast place. It was nice not having fish, for a change. I had eggs benedict, with ham and spinach. Definitely worth it.

After breakfast we had a lot of time to kill, so we wandered around the neighborhood until we came to this park.

We had been walking for a while at this point and needed to sit. They have these really big trees here too.

I say big tree, but really it’s several smaller trees all combining together like some wooden Voltron to form a super tree.

Here is Kat acting like she is having and amazing time, while secretly suffering from sore feet.

As we continued to wander we ended up out by the harbour. We came across these lovelies just hanging out on a post sticking out of the ground.

These next two guys are mud skippers. They’re a bit like a cross between a fish, a tadpole and an eel. They skip along the water and then hang out on the rocks.

Last, but not least, there were a bunch of pellicans just hanging out waiting to have their picture taken.

These are not small birds. The tops of their heads would probably reach the top of my thigh. They didn’t seem too concerned with people taking their picture.

That was a lot to cover, so I’m going to leave it at that. We have a trip to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow and a rain forest tour on Friday. We should have lots to tell after those adventures.

Earthship Island, Day 9

Wow, we’ve already been here nine days. We’re a bit more used to the temperature and humidity, but that will make going back home that much more difficult.

We had our first really hard rain last night. That will help fill up the cisterns. For all that it is the rainy season, it doesn’t rain here on the island all that much. It does rain on all of the islands around us though. That’s mostly due to the fact that there are mountains on the surrouning islands that the clouds run into and dump all of their rain on. I don’t think there has been an evening yet where we haven’t seen lightning off in the distance.

In other news we received some new batteries for the second Earthship yesterday so Katrina now has power. Now all we need is a cordless drill so we can build some shelves and other furniture.

Moving along, if you look out from our front door, as the tide is going out, the waves will start to break over a shallow section a fair distance from the shoreline.

Having been out there, the shallow section is made of a big long strip of dead coral. Despite this, there is still lots of live coral to explore.

Speaking of exploring, we decided to circumnavigate the island at the shore line a few days ago. The north-west tip of the island has quite the rocky parts. These next set of pictures will appeal to the rock climbers out there.

The cliffs aren’t super tall, maybe 5m at the highest. There are a tonne of hand-holds too, though you do need to be careful what you grab as some of it is quite flaky.

No, I didn’t actually climb to the top. I don’t have proper gear or saftey equipment and breaking bones this far from home isn’t really all that appealing.

We came across a few chimney’s and gaps between the rocks as well. Here is Kat stretched out inside one.

Katrina scrambled up to sit on the rocks for some photos.

If you look closely at this next one you can see a crab sitting on the top corner of the rock. They are pretty skittery so tough to take a photo of.

We came around the far side to where the mangrove trees are.

We ventured through the trees and came out the other side. We do a lot of shell collecting, which I will probably show you pictures of in a later post.

Sometimes we find odd things washed up on shore, like this.

That is a full bulb of garlic that has been fully brined by the ocean water. Pretty bizarre.

We also came across this little guy whom Kat really needed a picture of because he was so damn cute.

This next one isn’t so cute, and you’ll want to avoid it if you can’t stand spiders.

This is an Hawaiian Garden Spider that has made its home off the overhang of our Earthship. It’s pretty big, maybe 6-7cm. It’s also harmless to humans so don’t get into a panic. It’s helping to reduce the mosquito population, so we don’t bother it.

We also have a squadron of dragonflies who like to hang out in front of the Earthship, so that helps us even more.

Anyway, I think it’s time to go snorkling again. Until next time, stay warm. I know I will.

Earthship Island, Day 5

Here we are at day five already. I thought I would start out this post by introducing some of the locals. Here is a picture of “Mama Kenawa”, along with Katrina (our fellow Earthshipper) and Kat. Mama Kenawa’s is where we go to eat everyday, twice a day. She and her family live on the island and sell snacks and drinks to the tourists.

The cost of the food is really cheap and it means we don’t have to worry about buying groceries and preparing meals ourselves. This is good because there aren’t any kitchen facilities in the Earthships. Breakfast and dinner, for three people, all together runs about $20CAN. We have rice at every meal, and a lot of local fish too.

Next we have Suji. He is our main guy to go to if we need help with getting things for the Earthship. He is the one who contacted Earthship Biotecture and got them to come build the Earhthships.

Without posting everyday, the pictures are piling up. We may need to do a few post trip posts to get everything covered.

We’ve been getting up around sunrise most days, which is just about 6am local time. We recently decided to do the hike up the hill that seems to attract so many tourists.

Most of Kenawa island is covered by this sparse grass.

There are quite a few paths around the island, but there is one main one that heads straight from the dock to the hill at the north-west point. Here you can see Kat heading for the hill.

This was just as the sun was rising, so after we had trekked up the hill partway, I turned around and snapped a picture of the rising sun.

A little further up we found another resident. This little girl was very affectionate and is the third cat we have encountered. The other two live over at Mama Kenawa’s.

Turning to the south a bit you can see the harbour at Poto Tano where our ferry arrived when we got here. I took this picture to capture the cloudy comb-over coming over the mountains behind the harbour.

Once you reach the top of the hill, and the island for that matter, if you look down you can see a lot of black lava rock. If you get even closer you can watch all of the crabs galavanting across those rocks. We didn’t get close enough for a picture of that though.

Took another picture of the rising sun on our way back.

On the opposite side of the island from where the Earhtships are, over the hill, there are some mangrove trees.

It’s just starting to show in this next picture, but up near the area where the waves are breaking is a huge wall of dead coral. When the tide goes out, it becomes a barrier between the ocean and the trees.

After heading back down, we were sitting on the shore and we kept seeing the large schools of fish all jumping out of the water at the same time. The fish were all really tiny though so it was a very fascinating thing to see. Interestingly enough, I did manage to snap a picture, but I don’t think you can really tell that the white speckles in the middle are fish.

We had our breakfast and then decided to have some fun in the water. We headed down to the dock and took some pictures of the ocean life there.

More fish, more coral, we saw a few jellyfish but we don’t know what kind they were, spiny sea urchins and everything in bewtween.

I asked Suji if there are any sharks and he said none near the island. There are some further out, but they are all small, like the size of a cat or small dog.

None of these pictures were taken underwater, but Katrina did bring a camera that can do that so we will have some underwater shots to show at some point. We do go snorkling pretty much every day.

All of that was yesterday, or earlier. Today, Katrina and I finished building a bed frame for Earthship2.

It’s certainly not my best work, but seeing as we used a rusted hand saw to cut half the pieces and had to use rusty nails to put it together, I think we did okay. We did eventually get the generator working so we could use the skill saw. We really need a cordless drill though. We don’t even have a good screwdriver. We found one Phillips and one standard slot screwdriver.

The wood we have available is really hard too, so you would need to predrill any holes before putting a screw in. We bent several large nails trying to pound them into the wood.

Alas, that is all for today. It’s time to go for a swim.