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Gail at the lagoon pool: "On vacation from my vacation"
When we were first given the incredible opportunity to stay at the Rydges Capricorn Resort, our plans were to pass through Yeppoon for one night only. By as we drove through the scenic private road of wetlands towards reception, we were already thinking of a second night. And by the evening of our second night, we decided to try for a third. Fortunately, Hiro, our friendly duty manager, was willing to extend our stay at a price that was within our budget. To justify our extravagance, we ate a first-night dinner of microwaved leftovers.
(A flyer for the Rydges had actually caught our eye back at the Tourist Information Centre --one of the activities offered by the resort was a nighttime stargazing session with an astronomer-- but we had rejected the whole thing as out of our budget.)
On our first morning, September 6, Russell and Joss (the early risers) set out on an exploration of the grounds and came back with a glowing report of all of the great things we could do -- most of them for free. (Joss also had to get past the extreme disappointment of being too young to horseback ride.) Our first activity was minigolf. American minigolf consists of hills, traps, and colorful windmills; here, it is a series of putting greens. Joss enjoyed it so much that he played a second game with dad, while Cameron became very frustrated when he couldn't make the best shots. But Cam easily redeemed himself in lawn bowling, where his balls were constantly closest to the mark. (Lawn bowling bears no resemblance to ten-pin -- think of Bocce Ball as modified by four tourists who have no idea what they're doing.)
The guys out on the greens
We took a mid-day walk to the beach at low tide and had an incredible time constructing in the fine sand and collecting shells -- spirals, cuttlefish beaks, and miniature sand dollars. We took a lunch break of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches back at the room. Then it was off to archery, where both boys did excellently. The host allowed Joss to move halfway up to the target, and he was able to hit it once. Meanwhile, Cameron (shooting back with the rest of us) was very excited to hit the yellow bullseye in his final round. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the 26-degree heated pool complete with artificial beach, where even Gail went into the water. The boys spent an enormous amount of time diving for coins with goggles, mask, and snorkels, and Cameron stayed in past sunset.
Hitting the yellow bullseye
We couldn't pass up the chance for at least one resort meal, and we picked the best -- Tsuruya Japanese Restaurant, coincidentally one of the ten best Japanese restaurants in Australia. With no kids' menu, Cameron and Joss split some Yakitori chicken and did admirably with chopsticks. (Joss devoured two bowls of rice, declaring "I've never eaten so much in my whole life.") Russell and Gail spoiled themselves with Japanese steak, which is delivered rare to your table along with a hot lava stone so you can cook it exactly as you desire. Gail pronounced it the tenderest steak she'd had in years.
At the best (and only) Japanese Restaurant north of Brisbane
The next morning, September 7, saw us up again bright and early for a wetland tour. Adam had impressed us so much during archery the day before when he ate a green ant (they taste like lime), that we just had to take an entire tour with him. So we set out in a large Rydges van for a three-hour exploration of the resort's 22,000 acres of wetlands. Adam showed us rainbow bee eaters, black swans, rare sea eagles, and many other birds. He showed us wild quinine and other edible plants, and demonstrated Aboriginal survival arts.
Tea and entertainment from Adam at the wetlands
After another lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we set out for our second tour, this time a four-hour canoe trip down Waterpark Creek in the Byfield Rainforest. Our guide, Michael, volunteered to take the two boys in his canoe, leaving Russell and Gail to spend the afternoon arguing about canoe propulsion in the second canoe. In another spectacularly beautiful setting, we saw a huge Eastern Water Dragon and chased the elusive Azure kingfisher (described by Russell as the most beautiful bird he's ever seen). During the first tea break, Gail came almost nose-to-nose with a metre-long brown snake that was actually more scared than she was. The canoe trip ended with a rather commercial tea at the Nob Creek Pottery Gallery, but the boys were elated finally to play on an Australian trampoline there.
Canoeing the rainforest with Michael
We barely had enough time for a quick swim in the pool again before sunset. After dinner at the Billabong Cafe (a necessity this time -- we ran out of time to buy groceries), we took our twice-delayed stargazing tour with Mark the astronomer. In the dark fields of the homestead, far from resort lights, we gazed through a 12-inch 380x telescope at the likes of the Southern Cross, Alpha Centauri (both of them), and Mars. Gail and Russell were delighted, but the boys practically had to be carried to bed by the end of the evening.
All good things must come to an end, and Saturday, September 8, was our unavoidable and undelayable departure date. 600 additional guests had shown up on Friday night. While our three tours had been decadently private (we were the only ones on any of them!), we saw the weekend crowds being told that all of the activities were at full capacity. It was a good time to leave, but not before one last round of minigolf. Then we bid a sad farewell to the Rydges, and headed off southward toward a horizon full of rain clouds.
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