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At 23°26'30", the Tropic of Capricorn marks the line between tropical and temperate climate zones
Continuing to drive south towards Brisbane, we have tried to epitomize our "make it up as we go along" mode of travel. This has had both positive and negative consequences.
On September 8 we drove in the rain all day for as long as we could. We were not sure if we would make it to Maryborough or Gympie, and we saw several caravan parks and motels in the tour book, so we made no advance reservation for accommodations. Unfortunately, we didn't arrive until Gympie until 6:00 PM -- after dark -- and discovered that everyy place we checked was full. After a half-dozen "No Vacancy" signs, we finally found a "Best Eastern" motel outside of town. The boys were delighted that it was two stories, and that they got McDonalds for dinner again.
On September 9 we had fewer miles to cover, so we hit many of the tourist attractions outside of Brisbane. Gail has been reading that the Australians love to create gigantic sculptures and papier-mâché of various objects, from Ned Kelly to the Big Banana. We paid a visit to the Big Pineapple for lunch, where Joss obtained his third Australian stuffed animal, a platypus that he named "Platy." (But Gail ignored Russell's request to visit the "Big Macadamia Nut" next door.) Up the road was the Superbee, the only honey factory in Australia open to visitors, where Gary the beekeeper gave a live demonstration of bee handling (he gets paid $10 for every bee sting he receives). After a scenic drive through the Glass House Mountains, we made an earlier start on the search for accommodations. The last stop was the best, and we got a two-bedroom fully-equipped cabin with full kitchen (and glass-top dining table!) for the absolute steal of $40 US.
The Big Pineapple
On September 10 we hit our final tourist destination before Brisbane and spent the day at the Australia Zoo, home of Steve Irwin the "Crocodile Hunter." Things started out well, with Cameron and Joss fascinated by Asian otters, snakes, and feral foxes. We saw Harriet the Giant Land Tortoise, now 170 years old, who was first picked up by Charles Darwin. The boys were especially fascinated by the numerous water dragons that roam the park freely.
Australia Zoo: home of the Crocodile Hunter
Joss and Cameron corner a water dragon
Then we gathered for the "Wild Crocodile Show," the highlight of the zoo and the day. As we were pushed around by the crowd, all Joss wanted to know was "Where's Steve?" When mom told him that Steve Irwin wasn't here today, that was the end for Joss. He had no further interest in the show, the crocodiles, the zoo, or anything else. We made a fairly quick exit soon after, but not before Joss stopped angrily at the souvenir shop. He pointed at a poster and declared "See? It says 'Home of the Crocodile Hunter'! See? He lives here!"
We finished the day by driving back into Brisbane, where we had advance reservations (this time) at the same Caravan Park we stayed at three weeks earlier. It was wonderful to drive into familiar surroundings (we barely needed a map), and the boys immediately hit the playground and tennis court. Russell, on the other hand, spent almost an hour driving up and down the road in the dark looking for an Internet cafe that no longer exists.
Our last day on the mainland, September 11, was spent preparing to leave Australia. We spent the morning at the local mall, picking up groceries for Tangalooma, snack foods for China, and other supplies. We also picked up another collapsible duffel bag -- we are now up to four carry-on bags in addition to our Styrofoam cooler, four backpacks, and five check-in bags. Russell finally found one of the only two Internet cafes in the area, and also picked up a better digital camera for the countries ahead. We repacked the suitcases (again) and will trim things down much further in Tangalooma.
As we prepare for three last days on a sand-island resort, we also prepare to leave Australia. Tomorrow we will turn in our rented minivan -- our only consistent home for the last three weeks. We will not drive or have control of our own destination again for several months. Likewise, we will not get to experience Gail's incredible cooking for quite awhile -- we were getting quite spoiled by her homemade chilli, pork chops with apple sauce glaze on twice-cooked potatoes, Thai curry chicken with rice, mustard and barbecued pork tenderloins on fettuccine carbonara, and apple strudel desserts.
There will be quite a few further culture shocks when we get to China in less than a week. But in the meantime, we look forward to three last nights in the Land Down Under at the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Beach Resort.
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