Saturday, October 14, 2006

What a Week

Just returned to Canberra, after an amazing week. Blogging will, however, be brief, since our luggage did not make the connection -- we were on a flight from Cairns that originated in Tokyo, so we had to go through customs in Brisbane and move from the international to domestic terminal. We barely made the connecting flight. What does this have to do with blogging? Nothing, but the laptop power cord is in my suitcase. Pictures will have to wait.

It was an amazing and exhausting week. Cairns, in far northeast Queensland, is real rainforest country. The rainforest was so real, it looked artificial, almost like a Disney version of what a rainforest should look like.

The reef was everything we though it would be. I didn't know that it is not a single reef, but a collection of thousands of coral reefs over about 1000 miles that are possible because the water is shallow out to about 30 miles off the coast, where it drops off to depths of thousands of feet. The deep water flows into the shallows, bringing nutrients, and the shallow water allows sunlight to penetrate to the bottom.

We took the Quicksilver boat to Agincourt Reef. The ride took about 90 minutes, and it was pretty choppy. We took ginger pills -- which the Mythbuster guys claim is more effective than dramamine -- and nobody had any problems. The boat goes to a large pontoon right over the reef.

Adam and I did the introductory scuba dive. When the instructor tells you to put your head in the water, I initially felt like I couldn't catch my breath (very common, he said). But after a few minutes, we were sitting on a shelf in about 6 feet of water. Unfortunately, when we tried to go deeper, Adam couldn't get his ears cleared, so he coudln't continue. I went down to the bottom, about 10 meters, and saw a clown anenome fish about to lay eggs, got bumped by some large fish, and stuck my hand in a giant clam. I have video.

Adam, Sydney and I snorkeled around the pontoon, but without a wetsuit the water was pretty cold. Susan went to the underwater observation deck, where you watch the reef through windows. The staff would periodically toss some food in the water, so there were always fish around.

Yesterday, we took an historic railway to a rainforest village called Kuranda, and visited a butterfly sancutary where thousands of the critters were flitting about. On the way down, we took a cable gondola, called Skyrail. It is one of the longest cable system in the world, and the cars ride above the treetops. It seemed like a billion feet above the ground, and I found it quite scary. The cars cross several huge gorges and passes, and it was a long way down. It couldn't have been that high, since the mountaintop starting point is only about 1300 feet above sea level. But it felt more like 13,000 feet. It was quite a view, though.

Feels good to be back at our Australian home.


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