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Father's Day at Airlie Beach Lagoon
One of the hardest things about our world trip (as opposed to a typical vacation) is fighting the urge to do some "exciting touristy excursion" every day. After all, we are visiting exciting and exotic places that we may never see again. However:
So after our Great Barrier Reef adventure on August 31, we spent the remainder of our stay at Airlie Beach doing fairly ordinary things. On Saturday, September 1, we barely left our apartment. Instead, the boys treated us to a stuffed animal puppet show and worked on their cross-stitch projects. The adults caught up on various tasks including consolidating the luggage (an ongoing chore).
September 2 was Father's Day in Australia, and we spent Sunday afternoon at Airlie Beach Lagoon, a man-made beach park that enables people to visit the water year-round (the real ocean is inhabited by killer jellyfish for much of the year). And as a very special Father's Day present, we found out by telephone later that afternoon that we were finally grandparents!
Leaving Airlie Beach was difficult for several reasons. For one, it was a very nice two-bedroom apartment, and after four nights Gail had even started referring to it as "home" (she even took a picture of it, which she doesn't usually do). But even more, because Airlie Beach is our northernmost point in Australia, leaving made us realize that our time in Australia is coming to an end.
We spent the morning of September 3rd driving 3-1/2 hours south back to Mackay, in the heart of Queensland's (and Australia's) sugar cane industry. Before checking in, we took a 2-hour tour of Polstone Sugar Cane Farm, where Cec Brown pulled about a dozen of us in a wagon behind his tractor and told us everything there is to know about sugar farming. Cameron found it fairly interesting, but Joss was ready to pound cane stalks into his head by the time we got to the educational video.
Not to be outdone, the next day we tried to take the tour at Farleigh Sugar Mill, where the cane is actually converted into raw sugar. Unfortunately, after the introductory video, we only got as far as putting on our hairnets, hard hats, and safety glasses before finding out that some of the machinery was currently out of operation. We took advantage of the offered refund. Joss was elated.
A sugar cane field
The rest of our time in Mackay was spent catching up on more household chores. Joss is now the proud owner of some new "he man" (sleeveless) undershirts. Russell went crazy shopping for books (incredibly expensive in Australia), as Cameron is reading several a week and we have to have enough to last us through China, Tanzania, and perhaps even further. As well, our laptop PC's floppy disk drive has been slowly failing, forcing us to perform a variety of stopgap and workaround measures for the past several weeks in order to keep the Website updated. We finally bit the bullet and bought a new floppy drive (also incredibly expensive in Australia -- but also extremely difficult to find in stock anywhere in the country).
We also experienced first-hand how the term "self-contained family unit" can mean many different things. In Airlie Beach, it meant a roomy two-bedroom apartment with its own washer and dryer. In Mackay, it meant a one-room motel unit that didn't even have a table and chairs inside (despite its being called a "resort"). But we needed a room with direct-dial telephone so that we could log-on and see our first pictures of our grandson, Keegan (very cute, of course!).
Eating dinner in the parking lot (the biting flies made a feast out of us)
We left Mackay on September 5 for another 3-1/2 hour drive south. Our intention was to return to Rockhampton, but we never made it that far. Instead, we took a side scenic drive to the coast at Yeppoon, where we ran into an incredibly fortunate turn of events. We did a walkthrough of potential accommodations where the boys were excited by their first trampoline in Australia. Then, the hostess had to break the bad news to us that she had made a mistake, and there were no vacancies. She felt so badly that she telephoned the place she used to work at, the Rydges Capricorn Resort, and got the manager to give us a room there at the same price as her holiday park. So we now find ourselves in a suite with kitchenette at a 22,000-acre resort with 20 km of private coral reef coastline for the next two nights. Think of Disneyworld without the rides: activities include mini-golf, archery, and a waterslide into a heated lagoon pool. Not too bad for a family that's not even on vacation...
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