Thursday, June 25, 2015


DAY ONE-TWO-and THREE-just getting there took 3 days --crossing the international dateline cost a day and then a 3 hour delay of sitting in a plane with complications on the runway in Los Angeles caused us to miss the flight in Brisbane making us lose a day of adventure in Adelaide. There was an interesting Heavy Metal band on our flight with us-interesting characters! Rolling Gayln around the airports in a wheel chair with her Achilles tendon surgery boot on did speed up airport customs and no waiting in security lines!  That evening in Adelaide we explored the Central Market and Chinatown.

DAY FOUR:  We leave Adelaide in a propeller plane to fly to the small-100 mile long -Kangaroo Island.  4000, hardy Aussie inhabitants and a zillion Kangaroos and Tammar wallabies.  We picked up our Aussie SUV with the steering wheel on the right hand side and quickly i had to adjust to driving on the "wrong "side of the road.  Because of the huge amount of marsupials at night on the roads insurance doesn't apply at night.  Roadkill was seen at every 100 yards or so.  We spot a flock of Ghalas- a pink and grey and white cockatoo-and our first stop is the town of Kingscote where we buy supplies for our cottage on the bay.  Driving along the coast we stop to take photos of many Australian pelicans, white ibis, silver gulls, lapwings and our first black swans.  For a quick lunch stop we pause at Bella's Pizza Bar and then head for Seal Bay.
Magpies and Currawongs fill the road skies and we spot our first GIANT Wedge-tailed Eagles-the largest Eagle in the world.  We stop along the way to take a stroll at Bales Beach, finding cuttlefish bones in the sand.  Looking up Gayln spots two amazing White Bellied Sea Eagles fighting over a fish in the sky and gets a few photos!  
At Seals Bay Gayln finds our first Kangaroo and we hike the rock path to discover a young humpback whale skeleton surrounded by sea lions.  There is a big bull sea lion on the beach and the baby sea lions are scattered in the dunes, one baby only a few feet from us.  We spotted a white faced Cormorant and plenty of Honeyeaters-small black and white and yellow birds- playing in the water spray.  After leaving the sea lions behind we head to Hanson Bay.  We encounter flocks of Crimson Rosellas-midsize parrots of red,blue and green, and the beautiful Rainbow Lorikeet flocks chattering in the trees.  near the Hanson Bay center there are many grazing Tammar Wallabies and the endangered Cape Barren Geese.
Later we arrive at our home for the next few days, a cozy cabin overlooking the bay-complete with wood burning stove and kitchen and a big balcony facing the water.  We get a fire going and we watch the day end as Swiftlets swarm over the water like bats and Black Swans swim in the bay.

DAY FIVE: RAIN!  and more RAIN!  We wake up to torrential downpours and strong winds, the surf crashes loudly on the rocks.  Donning rain gear and hiking boots we load up and head out to fight the elements and discover what we can.  We tried the Eucalyptus forest but the heavy rain drove us away.  We get a snack and then drive to Flinders National Park where we find Tammar Wallabies and Cape Barren Geese close up.  I approach a young wallaby with the mommy watching and i got to within a couple of feet, very docile animals.  We arrived at Admirals Arch-a huge rock formation that arches over a monstrous cave and the ocean roars in onto flat rocks where New Zealand Fur Seals and sea lions recline and fight.  hiking to the arch we find a baby seal about 2 feet long along the trail and he of course barked at us to keep our distance.  Gayln made the long hike down to the arch in the strong wind and rain on crutches-an amazing task!  
Our next destination was the Remarkable Rocks, a rock formation of huge boulders bigger than elephants that looked like God tossed them down on top of the granite like giant dice.  Gayln climbing up to these steep rocks on crutches was scary and dangerous in the rain and slippery rock but she was determined and she made the climb!  
Leaving the wind and hard rain of the coastline we go back to the forest of Eucalyptus trees in search of Koalas.  After a bout an hour in the forest we had photo-ed and spotted six koalas.  The rain slowed down and i found a wallaby skeleton in the plains.  
Driving back to our cabin we jumped as a big Kangaroo hopped right in front of our SUV as we drove up the hill.  At the cabin we decided to hike down to the beach on Hanson Bay and we discovered a big tide pool with Pied Oyster Catchers wading in the shallows.  Kangaroo and wallaby tracks were everywhere.  Back at the cabin we sat on the balcony and watched the brilliant blue fairy wrens in the tall grass-incredibly beautiful little birds.  I got the fire going as the night came and with it Brushy tailed Possums came to our back door.  These guys were scavenging for food and were so brave you could pet them and of course i did.  Gayln filmed a great fight with two of them ripping their fur out!  An end to a long day of adventure.

DAY SIX:  The sunrise over the bay was hazy but at least the rain had stopped and i went out to the back porch to find a big kangaroo grazing a few feet from me.  Gayln and i drive out to Vivonne Bay and hike around the cove and beach and then go out to the Raptor Domain.  A demonstration of Australian venom features glow in the dark scorpions on our laps, funnel web spiders-the most deadly!, a venomous Brown snake and a grumpy venomous black Tiger snake that bit the girl demonstrator's boots dropping venom four times!  
Hiking through a small forest we catch another demonstration of aussie raptors.  Boobook owls, wedge tailed eagles, and amazing kingfishers, while a barn owl hopped on Gayln's lap and i put the falcon glove on to hold a flying Australian Masked Owl.  
Driving the sand roads to Pardana we spot our first Echidna, a spiky critter like a porcupine.  I stopped the SUV and followed him as he started digging in until he was only a back full of spines sticking out of the sand.  In Pardana we entered the Animal Sanctuary an amazing place helping and conserving the animals of Kangaroo Island.  Here we got to experience petting koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, and birds.  after a full day of animal encounters we drive to the far coast to Penneshaw for our new lodging on the sea shore.  We hiked the penguin trail and found little blue penguin nests but none of the birds were home-out to sea feeding we guessed.  At the only restaurant in the small town i had a Schnitzel steak, a Parmesan crusted tasty thing and we enjoyed a chat with a tall girl who was a "NET"ball player- a strange game played down there sort of like basketball but very very different.

DAY SEVEN:  The last day on Kangaroo Island and we head to the town of American River in search of rare black cockatoos and the even rarer gas station.  No luck finding the cockatoos but we filled up for 75 dollars!  yes-Aussie gas costs more-and before our 20 minute flight back to the mainland a few residents tried to talk us into living on the island and teaching in their schools!  Arriving in Brisbane to our worst hotel experience of the trip.  and we paid 27 dollars fro the saddest excuse for a seafood meal ever!  but we put this day behind us and moved on to brighter and better adventures.

DAY EIGHT: Picking up our rental car after a chatty conversation with our Sundenese cabbie, we head excited to the Steve Irwin Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Australia!  Driving on the wrog side of the road in the city was a new challenge and i kept turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signals.  An hour later we enter the cleanest and most beautiful zoo we have ever visited.  We were allowed to walk inside of many of the animal enclosures- what a great experience!  Gayln had a close call as a wild brown snake crossed our path and she barely missed stepping on it as i did manage to get a photo as it tried to escape into the jungle.  The crocodile feeding and show was awesome!  The rain forest surroundings of the zoo was amazing and it was a spectacular day!  That night we flew from Brisbane to the most wonderful city in the north of Queensland, Cairns, Australia.  The Rydges Hotel is just excellent and a huge suite awaited us for 2 nights in Heaven.

DAY NINE:  Waking up early we discover an enormous bird rookery in the trees along the coast just outside our balcony window filled with Ibis and egrets!  At sunrise we walked along the seawall with the tide halfway out watching the amazing assortment of bird life, lapwings, striated herons, pelicans, pied cormorants, willy wagtails, mynas, the spectacular black and white Magpies and magpie larks.  Gayln toughed it out on crutches on the long walk to the marina to catch our catamaran ship to the Great Barrier Reef.  I snorkeled two locations out on the reef and Gayln was ushered around the reef in a glass bottom boat.  We swam to an island that was a bird sanctuary and filled with thousands of feathered squawkers!  The blue and yellow sting rays were interesting!  All day out and back at the Great Barrier Reef and that evening we relaxed along the many shops and restaurants of the Escalade-seawall-of Cairns!

DAY TEN:  Our guide -Clayton-picks us up from the hotel and we are bound for the Daintree River where we board a quiet boat and cruise out searching for Saltwater Crocodiles.  Along the river we spot a Tawny Frogmouth, a long dark Tree Snake, a big green frog, and a few large crocs!  Karumba Australia -population about 500 or more is a quaint small town featuring many art galleries and a home to many resident hippies and their arts and crafts!  Hiking the rain forest nearby we see  sunbirds, fantails, cockatoos, and an injured fruit dove-which we caught and took to the fruit bat rehabilitation center.  The lady let us go out back and get up close and personal we about fifty or so rehabilitated Flying Fox fruit bats!  I loved it there!  The bats we loud and crazy and cute and funny!  Later that day we hiked into the rain forest and spotted Whistling Kites, Kingfishers, shrikes, and the big brush turkeys!  
We hiked to a beach where mud crabs lived (A mud crab is worth 90 dollars each-to eat)- We see our first species of Agile Wallaby and then we arrive at our new destination of Granite Gorge, home of the endangered one of kind Rock Wallaby.  We get settled in our cabin on the boulders and then go for a night spotting hike.  That night we found sugar gliders in the trees, possums, tree frogs, flying foxes, rainbow fish and catfish in the creek, a barn owl and a fast Bandicoot.  In the rainfoirest that day we made a quick meal of Lemon Ants!  That's right, we ate live ants that tasted sweet and sour-kind of tart but full of protein.  The night night drive produced a glimpse of Dingos and a big Wallaroo.

DAY ELEVEN:  Early morning we sat on our porch and enjoyed the vistas of rock boulders and forest as many birds (Pale headed parrots, rainbow lorikeets, butcher birds, noisy friarbirds) visited our area.  But the most amazing was Two Blue winged Kookaburras that sat about ten feet away and spent about 20 minutes with us defending their territory from all others!  I will be doing a painting of them.  Gayln and I spent a quiet hike among the boulders on our own and found a colony of the rare rock wallabies.  They were all around us, curious and friendly.  I climbed a big tree and had them hopping along the branch to surround me.  We hiked the boulders and waterfalls for about an hour.  Clayton, our guide picked us up later and we drove to the valley finding black swans, cormorants, crested grebes, Pacific black ducks, Goshawks, Kites, and we search for the elusive Cassowary.  Only about 1500 Cassowaries are left in Australia.  At the Crater Lake we found long white tailed rats, and an awesome forest dragon on the side of a smooth tree.  I walked right past the dang lizard-he was so camouflaged.  We found our first Bandicoot!  Lunch at the Teahouse on the lake --a nice relaxing setting we spot turtles in the lake.  
Back in the car driving we find a huge flock of Sulfur Crested Cockatoos and a large colony of Flying Fox bats!  Brolga cranes fly overhead and about 20 or more black kites circle overhead on the air drafts!  
Next stop we visit an amazing artist and his awesome studio out in the bush!  Clive Walters, does ink metaphysical geometric art with nature and his studio is filled with new age sounds and the deep resonating aboriginal didjeridoo.  We also got to meet his cat!  
Towards dusk we are in search of the elusive Duck-billed Platypus.  We walk around a small lily pad covered pond and within minutes a platypus surfaces!  YAY!  watching the strange animal swim and go under and surface was an incredible experience that can only be found in Australia by luck and being in the right place at the right time!  We are lucky!  Later that day at sunset we found under an overhang in the river -fish eating bats!  That night we ate at Nick's famous Italian/Swedish Restaurant.  After a big meal we head out for night spotting by "torch" Aussie flashlight.  We begin our search for the hard to find nocturnal Tree Kangaroo.  brown rain forest tree frogs, tree possums, a "zebra" possum, bandicoots. pademelons,  but no Tree Kangaroo.....This was the night i woke up with a pain in my right eye--more on that later...

DAY TWELVE:  first thing in the morning at our new lodge, in the rain forest, we are greeted by a furry cute pademelon,  and a rifle bird (Victoria Bird of Paradise) lands on the balcony to get up close and personal with Gayln.  I'm hand feeding the many Brush Turkeys flying up the stairs to our balcony!  Suddenly the brush turkeys get crazy and one flies by, hitting my head with a big wing.  Crazy birds!  Later that morning before we head out we get a visit by a big green Cat bird-very cool bird.  We stop for teatime-brunch at an interesting place, Gillies Roadhouse-where I have the best pancakes ...well best except my mom's!  But they were awesome! 
After food time we turn our trip to the rain forest again, searching once more for the solitary nocturnal Tree Kangaroo and we hike to the most magnificent tree i have ever seen, The Cathedral Fig Tree.  all i could saw was...nothing..i just stared at the home tree in Avatar....just so awe inspiring.  Wow.
The massive behemoth tree was covered in strangler fig vines and behind it was a cascading waterfall.  Barrine Crater Lake and then we explore further as we hike to many waterfalls, some like Jurassic park some small and some with many drops of fingers of water--gorgeous scenery today.  The Milla-Milla (Rain rain) waterfall was special and the millstream falls.  Crimson Rosellas screeched past in the sky.  Breaking form the waterfall hike we drive through clouds to Ravenshoe, the highest town in Australia, and find free fruit.  
Next stop, Hypipamee Falls and exploring the rain forest around the falls.  The river and falls are the most stupendous yet.  A serious of falls along the river drop into thick rain forest and the trees and vines twisting in unusual shapes like a chaotic ball of yarn wrecked by a wild cat.  Down and down we travel the river rushing beside and below us.  Clayton finds something and the next thing i know is we are staring through the trees above the river.  A TREE KANGAROO!  And it is out in the daytime, on a long branch directly over the giant rocks of the river.  LUCKY US!  I hike and scramble down the big rocks in the middle of waterfall to get right up close and that animal stops eating to watch me but stays right there to allow for us to get great photos.
In the jungle we find a Golden Bowerbird nest, which was an amazing find of artwork created by a small bird.  They weave a big nest of sticks and decorate it with all kinds of things from seashells, to nuts, flowers, pieces of plastic....
At dusk we head to a big lake to find Brolga cranes and an enormous flock of Magpie Geese.  The rookeries around the lake were filled with egrets and cormorants and the trees filled with flying foxes.  As night came the 20,000 bats took flight!  We left the lake to go night spotting and saw green possums, and when Galyn and I returned to our lodge we went by ourselves to explore and found Squirrel Gliders near our place.  my eye was still irritated-thinking maybe a stye or infected eyelash?  more later...

DAY THIRTEEN:  Awakening in a rain forest to so many interesting bird calls, whip birds, rifle birds, birds of paradise, honeyeaters, brush turkeys and magpies is such a cool feeling.  Today was a day of more waterfalls and the high rain forest canopy walk.  A search was still on for the elusive Cassowary but as we left the forest and drove into the hills we make a great discovery!  Water Buffaloes!  A big herd of Cheeky Water Buffaloes.  noon stop for Italian buffet in Ennisfail town.  Later we walk the beaches at Etty beach in search of Cassowary but no luck as the big birds are staying hidden.  I decided to create some "Earth Art" under the trees on the beach and take some photos of it.  Later i did find a Broad-headed Skink on the Lava Rocks at the beach.
Two hours later we were back in Cairns at our fabulous Rydges Hotel.  Saying goodbye to our guide, Clayton, we stroll the city to find the flying fox colony.  We sat for about anhour watching the bats waking up in the big trees and as dusk approached hundreds of ibis armies were flying in to roost in the trees as the bats were starting to leave--what a flying spectacle of bats and big birds flying in all directions with squeals and squawks filling the air.
Later in the night we enjoy the "Night Market" where everything is a bargain, clothes and souvenirs and massages are only 10 dollars for 45 minutes! Last night in Cairnes was a grand finale remembering those flying foxes!

DAY FOURTEEN:  Flight to Sydney and we arrive at the Rendezvous Hotel in the "Rocks" district-downtown close to the wharf and across the bay from the Taronga zoo.  That afternoon we eat at the historic Australia Hotel where Frank Sinatra once ate and we enjoyed a Kangaroo meat lover pizza.  WE walk the streets to find a view of the Sydney Bridge and the famous iconic Sydney Opera House.  Gayln finds some Opals to buy at the Rocks Center and we enjoy some Aussie Ice cream served by a Chilean girl.  

DAY FIFTEEN:  First day we actually sleep in a little later since our Ferry across the bay to the Taronga Zoo doesn't leave until 9:30 am.  At the Zoo we take the Gondola Sky Ride across the top of the zoo which is built into the hillside and has dozens of levels from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the water.  We loved seeing unusual animals-some I have never seen- like rarest tigers-the Sumatran Tigers, Sailfin Lizards, and many more.  The amazing highlight was a Asian Elephant that would hold a football with his trunk and then drop kick it high through the fence posts like a field goal...Great kicker-that elephant.
This was such a beautiful relaxing day with about 70 degree weather and nice sunshine.  Brush turkeys, peacocks and Ibis walked among the people at the zoo.  Afternoon shopping and strolling the wharf district in front of the Sydney Opera House-waiting on the shuttle back to the airport.

DAY SIXTEEN:  "Goodbye Australia."  The long flight back to Los Angeles (which has the "WORST" airport of all airports We have ever been in).  Arrived in Houston and home about 1230 pm..and about that eye pain--driving home i'm still rubbing my eye...and out of it falls a little tiny black beetle-like bug---it had been in my eye those last few wonder it hurt and at least it came out--eye dr friday for sure....  What a whirlwind adventure with the love of my life and best friend Gayln!!! :)