Australia Trip: Days 22-24

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: Rich people were nicer than expected, eat well, and have free boats.  Also, PARASAILING!)

Hello all.  So… I totally wasn’t going to finish this blog, since my computer died while we were on our trip, and it’s now several long months later.  However, when I looked at my logs from the trip, I noticed that I stopped RIGHT before the wild dolphin interaction.  Now, I cannot NOT share the wild dolphin interaction.  It was absolutely incredible, and goes so well with my earlier writing about wild cetaceans

Anyway, let me take you back to last October!  Dododododo…dododododo…

 

Day 22 (Wednesday) Our Red Planet preview…

We got up early enough to go across to the marina and have breakfast at a café on that side before we had to turn our buggy back in (it had been a 24 hour rental). When we got to the café, we discovered that their pastry case contained – music of the angels plays here – the donuts from the bakery! So we got to have another round of divinity…

And then we turned in our buggy and we were back on foot. Like animals!

Nah, it was great. We checked out of our room, walked back over the hill to the marina one last time, and obviously got ice cream one last time, as well as grabbing our PARASAILING photos from the shop. Then we went back to the lobby of the hotel, where they had internet, so we could get up to date on our devices while we waited for the bus to the airport. The first bus that came had an Asian group on it that had been on island making a promotional video for the island to use in Asian markets. We used our Asian Assumption for our benefit and managed to be the last three people on their specially ordered bus! That got us back to the airport in time to grab lunch before our plane back to Brisbane.

Back in Brisbane, we checked back into the hotel and then went over and got tickets to see The Martian. It was pretty hilarious to be taking a break from our vacation to see a movie, but I’d waited quite long enough to see it, thank you, and we were very happy it was still in the theaters. The next showing was a couple hours later (it ended up being the last 3D showing at the Brisbane IMAX – the following day it went to the 2D theater, so we felt really lucky!), so we went to grab some dinner first, ending up at Harijuku Gyoza, where we enjoyed everything we ate… except the gyoza. Seriously. The agedashi tofu was great. Wonderful chicken wings. Apple juice that H said was the best she’d ever had. The potstickers? The thing they’re known for and named after? Meh.

Anyway, we were fed and ready, so we queued up for the film… and walked back in time. I estimate that Brisbane theater was located somewhere in the mid 1980s… the music, the lighting scheme, the seats… I can’t pinpoint a specific thing, but just the pure fusion ‘80s-ness was overwhelming and very funny to Chang and I, although H didn’t know what we were giggling so much over.

We watched the movie and all enjoyed it very much, though H was drooping pretty hard by the end. Back to the hotel and straight to bed, with Little Miss feeling so puny that we put her in bed with us. Thus we all slept in one pile, which meant very little sleep for the adults…

 

Day 23 (Thursday) FEEDING WILD DOLPHINS!

…and thus waking up on a travel day on the wrong side of a very crowded bed. However, we had a lovely breakfast buffet at the Mantra before heading off to the ferry to Tangalooma, our last stop on the east coast before heading to inland Australia.

The ferry was great, especially since I was all on back on board with boats again since the PARASAILING, and also because a little over halfway through the trip, we saw two (2!) humpback whales. I swear, ferries have been some of our best cruises this whole trip!

We got to the island after lunch, so we were a bit hungry, yet ended up with ice cream for lunch yet again – bad habits carrying over from Hamilton! But it was fine… it’s vacation! Besides, the ice cream shop was nearby the scheduling desk, and there were so many things we wanted to do at Tangalooma that we spent a lot of time at that desk – we would have spent more time there that day except that the woman was kind enough to tell us that if we immediately went on a marine animal boat tour, that they would put our family in for possible stand by tickets to FEED THE WILD DOLPHINS! (oh no. Another thing that must always be in all caps. Sigh. I’m getting old.)

So we raced off to get on the marine animal boat tour, which was a bit of a bust – we did see a Bull Ray, which we hadn’t seen yet, but it was just a big dark blob in the water. We’d apparently been quite spoiled with the water clarity at our other spots – not to mention with glass bottom boats! Still, totally worth it for a second chance to… FTWD!!! (Is it any better as an acronym? No? Oh well…)

About 4:30, we went to the dolphin information center to attend a presentation about the dolphins on Tangalooma and how the feeding program had come about. To our shock, we were the only people there, so they kindly gave us a private version of the presentation, and it was fascinating.

Basically, the female owner of the resort noticed a bunch of wild dolphins coming in to get at the fish that the fishermen on the wharf dumped into the water when they were done, and she began to hand feed one female that came in with her calf. Over time, this dolphin – they named her Tinkerbell – brought many other dolphins with her. When other people started wanting in on this, Betty (the owner) did exactly the right thing in my mind, and contacted Sea World park and the Australian government to find out how to best share this experience with others without harming the animals.

There was a decision made that there would be a limited amount of fish given to each dolphin, so that they were getting no more than 10% of their daily needs from this feeding, that the guests not be allowed to touch the dolphins with their hands, and of course, that no dolphin be constrained to attend. This last was almost immediately challenged, as one of the males showed up with a fishing line entanglement, and, again after contacting Sea World, they end up beaching him so that they could cut the line off. It was a good precedent, actually, as he was far from the only dolphin to show up in need of human help, including one poor lug who came in with a shark bite! He was transported to Sea World, where he was allowed to heal by himself in a tank for seven months, and then returned to Tangalooma, where he was released into the wild, and still returns for feedings to this day (RE: in fact, he was one of the ones we fed!).

After absorbing all this information, directly from the marine biologists – so H was in full hero worship mode – as well as seeing videos, we grabbed takeaway dinner and went back to the room for food and a short rest. Then up to take showers to wash off all sunscreen and other things that might have been on us, and then off to FEED THE WILD DOLPHINS!

A recap of the rules, a huge line for the gate, and then there we were in the water, fish in hand, and a wild freaking dolphin at our knees.

I’ve had interactions with truly wild dolphins before, when I was at Kalani. They weren’t nearly as polite as these. These guys are sleek, gorgeous, gentlemanly (and gentlewomanly), and… completely wild animals. They are here because we offer them something (an easy meal) and they take it, but then they go off, almost literally into the sunset, back to their wild lives. It’s… kind of perfection.

And I’ve never. Ever. Ever. Seen H so happy. Ever. She was floating. Dazed. Blissed out. She couldn’t even make words as we walked back to the room. She would start to try, and then just subside into silent wide eyed reminiscence of what had just happened.

We waltzed back to our room because we couldn’t imagine adding anything else to that evening, and went to sleep to dream of dolphins.

 

Day 24 (Friday) QUAD BIKES HOLY YEAH!!!!

Woke early to grab some breakfast before heading out to PARASAIL…oh, just kidding!  Psych!  There would be no PARASAILING this day… We got on the boat to PARASAIL, and put on the gear to PARASAIL, and went out with the boat to PARASAIL, and then the skipper took the wind measure and cancelled our PARASAIL. (It was apparently 20 knots, and at anything higher than 18, the sail can drag the boat, rather than vice versa. Safety. Pitt…)

No, really it was fine, because they rebooked us for the next day and instead we headed over to the QUAD BIKES! Oh yeah!

This time we were all going to get to go on the bikes, and since H had previously done the course at Hamilton, she got to ride her own. This was very good for me, as I was terrified! And would have been more so if I’d been tandem with my kid! We mounted the seemingly elephant sized 4WD all terrain vehicles, did a short informational course, learning to turn and brake and emergency brake.  And then, way before I was ready, we were off, headed up into the hills.

Did I mention that Tangalooma is on Moreton Island, which is the third largest sand island in the world? (Fraser is number one, which means that we’ve now been on two of the top three.) So going up into the hills (which was, again, terrifying) then turned into skimming at ramming speed over sand dunes! Which is when terrifying turned into AWESOME! It was like riding a land based dragon, I tells ya. Gripping the monster with my thighs, leaning into turns, spitting sand out of my mouth, diving down the steep cliffs to get to the beach and then roaring back up…

I just bloody loved it.

I had a hard time figuring out how I could possibly love this. It’s kind of the opposite of all the things I love about PARASAILING and snorkeling. Those are cool, quiet, calm, water based, and also all about animals and nature. This was hot, loud, exhilarating, land (and sand) based, and SCREW NATURE! Donuts in the sand!! WHOO!

I’m serious. I’ve never felt so redneck in my life, and I was just loving it.

We came back to the room after to change into swimsuits and then went down to spend some time on the beach. We built a pretty large sand castle as a family, and then H and I built a footrest for Chang, who had found a plastic chair. He sat while we went in the water for a bit, and then we went back to the room again to get dressed for dinner.

We went to the Fire and Stone restaurant, which had a two-sided menu of “fire” items – i.e. Szechuan Chinese – and “stone” items, which apparently meant grilled things. Which I would think of as fire. But whatever. It was tasty.

Then we went down to the dock to watch the dolphin feeding from above. We felt very lucky about our evening the night before, when it turned out we’d seen all 11 of the dolphins that ever come. This night there were only 5 present, plus a calf, which they don’t feed, so they didn’t even have enough attending dolphins to have one for one each line/bucket of fish provided. Again, we felt very lucky to have had our experience, but Chang got lots of good photos and some video from a different angle, and we also saw our first wobbegong shark, so it was well worth the trip to the dock. Then it was back to the room with us for an early bedtime.

 

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Who knows??  Could be days 25-28 [Segways, more dolphins, and then into the Red Center for Uluru/Ayres Rock], could be the announcement of my new reviewing blog, could be personal introspection… Heck if I know!  If you have a preference, leave a comment.  😉

Australia Trip: Days 19-21

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: I thought I was gonna die.  Spoiler – totally didn’t.)

Day 19 (Sunday) – The dingos did not eat my luggage… The Asian Language Tour Center did.

Sunday started with early morning pick up, and then on the road to the island of the rich people! Which, strangely enough, started with us taking the discount airline, Jetstar. Huh. Not my favorite. I’m thinking that the people that come from Cairns to Hamilton on Jetstar are the ones that stay on the east side of the island, not the ones that live on the west side.

Oh, yeah. There are tracks. Not literally, of course. It’s more about how many hamsters the engine of your golf cart (they call them “buggies”) has. Or, sniff, if you even HAVE a buggy.

We were in the tower on the east side of the island, so it was far from the ghetto, obviously. But yeah; in the tourist part of town. And even more so, in the Japanese tourist part of town.

This was not the first time on the trip that our last name had gotten us sorted to be with Asian speaking folks, but this was the first time we’d been met at the airport by the “Chinese/Japanese language tour specialist”. Who was quite taken aback that we were American, and didn’t really know what to do with us. It also resulted in them taking away our bags, because the actual Japanese people were given back their stuff after they listened to the orientation information in their language. Which we didn’t speak, so we were sent to a different bus.

Without our luggage.

So we ended up with a room, but not our stuff. And spent quite a bit of the morning trying to get that worked out. By the time we figured out that we were not going to have bathing suits back before 2pm, so no beach, we decided to head out to the animal park.

Dingos! H had taken 2 koala pics, and each time, Chang had asked if I wanted one. And I… didn’t. But this park had DINGO PICTURES! And, having missed seeing one in the wild on Fraser (H saw one at one of her Ranger events), HELL YES I WANTED DINGO PICTURES.

The staff woman was obviously not at full excite to help some tourists get their pictures taken with the dingos, but eventually we got a keeper out there to take H and I into the cage for our 15 minutes with a dingo brother and sister.

Who clearly? Were dogs.

These cuties were definitely some hand raised puppies, up to and including rolling over for belly rubs from my kid. I mean seriously. Adorable. But in the end it felt kind of like paying a ton of money to have your picture taken with somebody’s Lab. Not to knock the dingos. Cute as buttons. Yet… Still.  Dogs.  (RE: not to mention once getting the pictures back, noticing that the whole “travel day plus hadn’t-had-my-luggage means I took these pictures looking like I hadn’t slept or bathed in two days”. Lovely. Seriously. Well worth capturing forever. :P)

So, anyway, we walked around the tiny animal park (it was even smaller than the one in Kuranda!) and saw some of the animals we’d seen already, plus a talking cockatoo and an adorable snub nosed wombat. Then we were just too hot and gross, so we went back to the room, praying that we’d have bags.

And hallelujah!

Of course, by the time we got changed and took a picture of the cockatoo on the lanai railing, the wind was coming in wet. We walked over to one of the pools by the ocean, but it was pretty cold in the water, getting cold out of the water, and H thought she saw poo. So we went back to the hotel’s pool, on the assumption that it would be easier to get under cover there if the sky opened like it looked like it was going to.

But didn’t!

The pool was actually quite lovely, and we had a great swim under threatening, but non-opening, skies. Then we, not having a golf cart/buggy, we walked across the island to the Marina side to get some ice cream. H had Triple Swirl (Rainbow ice cream – I swear, it’s vanilla with food coloring in it, but she claims otherwise) and Chang and I split a mango sundae – house made mango frozen yogurt with fresh passionfruit syrup. Oh. My. Lord. Worth the trip by itself. I’m drooling just typing this.

After, we walked around the marina side, looking at the shops and the activity centers and trying to decide what we wanted to do with our days on the island (we’d called ahead to cancel the one thing we had booked on the island – a cruise to a neighboring island. After Cairns, we didn’t want to do anything with the word “cruise” associated with it. I swear, if I’d have met Tom Cruise on Hamilton, I’d have run away screaming.)

We ended up grabbing dinner at a place called Tako, an Asian/Mexican fusion place. Quite delightful, if better in concept and service than execution of menu. My first tequila of the trip made it more than bearable, and we had a great time before walking up and over the hill back to our hotel just after sunset. We went through the pamphlets we’d picked up, decided on a rough schedule for the next day, spent a bit of time listening to audiobooks and catching up on post cards, and then to bed with us.

Day 20 (Monday) The rich get rich… brioche French toast on their breakfast buffet

We started with the breakfast buffet at the hotel, and let me tell you, the rich people eat well. This was the most extensive buffet we’ve come across yet, with everything from cooked-to-order omelettes to sushi to fresh juices. Quality was B+ or better across the board. We left to a line waiting to get in, but we’d beaten the main rush because we had to finish in time for our catamaran lesson.

That’s right. Catamaran sailing lesson.

I’ve felt spoiled for almost this whole trip, to be honest, but catamaran lessons seemed to take it over the top. It felt so indulgent to have a free boat at our disposal, any time we wanted. We listened to instruction for half an hour and then the three of us were on the water, flying back and forth along the beach. H and I got cold after 3 or 4 times, so Chang took us back in. We got pretty close to the beach, and then we literally jumped off the moving cat… and landed in the water right next to a turtle! (The water was so murky from the week or so of storms that I didn’t see him until I was almost on top of him!)

H and I swam back to shore, and then were so impressed with ourselves that we went to this super deep circular pool that they call the “dolphin pool,” cause it looks so much like a tank you’d see them in at a cheap marine park. 2 meters deep at its shallowest, it was completely deserted nearly the whole time we were there, including when the other pools barely had room to be in without rubbing up against someone. We hung on the side of the pool and watched Chang zip around the bay until he finally came in to shore.

We all dried off and then headed back to the hotel to rest. Chang was signed up for an afternoon windsurfing lesson, so he went back to the beach, while H and I walked over the top of the island again for another round of ice cream. (Note: For those of you who’ll be wondering why I’ve gained 7 kilos when I come home, I’m just saying, delicious gelato or ice cream on every freaking corner. Oh, and it’s hot.) (Second note: I’m totally only weighing myself in kilos from now on. Seriously. Something about having a two-digit weight just completely short circuits all my self hate that’s based on a scale number. It’s wild.)

Then we walked to the take away fish and chippery (one of my favorite words now… chippery!) and Chang caught us up there – the lesson place only had two sailboards, so they’d had to reschedule him to Tuesday. No problem, that way we were able to have more hands to grab the fish (and the chicken, since Chang doesn’t eat cooked fish). We started to grab a shuttle back over the hill, but it kept not coming, and it’s such a short distance as the crow flies, so eventually we gave up and walked back. The shuttle never did pass us, so I guess we made the right choice.

We ate our takeaway at the room and then rested for a while and waited for low tide. Low tide here is incredibly low, and eventually we went out for a reef walk, so we were able to walk all over the bay where we’d catamaran-ed that morning, and never got wet higher than our knees. And we’d been over our heads when we jumped in by the turtle.  Crazy!

We came back to the room and Chang took a shower while H and I hopped into the huge tub for a soak. When we were squeaky clean, we got dressed in our nicest clothes (that’s our nicest clothes of the 3 outfits we each had worn for the past 20 days) and went to coca chu (the lack of capital letters is their choice) where we had some of the best food we’d had so far. Asian fusion done very well, and nice nice nice nice nice service. Niiiiice. I’ve said it before, I’m getting to the age (and the security in my cooking skills) that I’m much happier to have great service than great food when I’m eating out, if I can only choose one. This was both, which is always lovely.

After indulging in their dessert sampler (passion fruit baked Alaska- do recommend!), we headed back to the room on foot, planning what to do the next day when we’d planned to rent one of the ubiquitous buggies. When we got back, it was journaling and postcards and then to bed.

Day 21 (Tuesday) Hamster Hamilton!

We got up nice and early to go get our buggy. I’d wanted a hamster mobile ever since we arrived on island (everybody was doing it… just like jumping off cliffs! It’s awesome!), but as H had an appointment to try riding an ATV, and that was at the far corner of the island, we had decided that Tuesday would be the day of buggy!

Ah, motorized transport. How I’d missed your convenience. OH MY GOD! THEY”RE DRIVING RIGHT AT US!

That’s right. This was the first time we’d actually driven on the other side of the road, and let me tell you, it feels just as disconcerting as you’d think.

We tested our buggy by driving over the middle hump of the island (chanting “go hamster go!” as we waltzed slowly up the hill) to the bakery at the end of the marina. Here we had the single most delicious donut I have ever put into my mouth. It was a simple glazed donut, but the glaze was strawberry, and… wait for it… actually tasted like strawberries! Not just sugar! Amazing! Not to mention the actual donut itself had flavor and perfect texture. Lovely!

Now that we’d eaten something on that side of the island besides ice cream, it was time to drive all the way to hell’s half acre, past the airport, to the south part of the island that nobody cared to put a house on, so they put the 4 wheel drive course there. H got to do a kids’ ATV training course, and had a great time. Short lesson, lots of crashing, much fun had by all.

Then we headed back to the marina for PARASAILING!

Perhaps someday I’ll be able to write that without all caps. Kinda doubt it, though.

So we were signed up for the 11 o’clock trip, and it was our family of three and two other couples. (Whew. Riiiiiiich. Found out later that one of the couples was visiting to buy a house on island. Multiple millions. For a vacation home. Lovely people, though! Not as sniffy to the hoi polloi as I thought the 1%ers would be.) House buying couple #1 went flying first, and it looked like a grand time, but H and I were to go next, and by the time couple 1 was landing, I was in pee myself mode. I’m not good with heights to begin with, and lifting off a perfectly good boat just reminds me of diving out of a perfectly good airplane (and man, do I have a reason to be scared of that. Hm. I’ll tell that story here one day). But H was game, which meant that I was too, so they put us on the back deck of the boat, hooked us on to the parachute, had us sit down, and then they floored it.

And we lifted off the back of the boat as smoothly and gently as good scotch.

I’m not kidding! My fear of heights simply never materialized at all – maybe because we were above water? I didn’t figure it out, but for whatever reason, it was truly the most enjoyable high up experience I’d ever had. We soared around the lagoon like birds, dipping down to get wet feet once, and then back up at least 150 meters (since we went to the end of the line, both of us making the sign for “higher” the whole time!). It was absolutely the best 8 minutes of my life.

Then, almost exactly as smoothly, we were back on the deck. They swapped me out for Chang and the two of them went up. I had a blast watching them while I chatted with the other two couples, all of whom had been enchanted by H, and wanted to know all about her – why she wasn’t in school, had she always been so adventurous, etc. It was great fun, and by the time C&H got back (yes. I call them that on purpose. They are my sugars!) we were all ready to cheer on the final couple.

After a great ride back to land, we were buggy bound once more, but I was so high from PARASAILING that my brain clearly wasn’t working correctly, so when H asked if we could have ice cream for lunch, I said yes. So… we had ice cream for lunch.

Then we went back to our side of the island for Chang’s windsurfing lesson. We knew that the dolphin pool offered a great view of the part of the beach where the lessons happened, so we went back there while Chang fully learned how to parasail in an hour, going from America’s Funniest Home Videos to a quite respectable skim across the bay in 60 short minutes.

Back to the hotel for a short rest, and then out on a buggy tour of the island, with stops to pick up our dingo pictures (OH MY GOD MY HAIR! WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME?!!) and to mail some post cards. Then we did the loop of the top half of the island and enjoyed many gorgeous views.

Back to the hotel again to rest and pack. Then one last buggy ride over to the marina to eat at Manta Ray, which turned out to be a decent pizza place where once again, we were landed in kiddo ghetto with all the people whose spawn were too young to be in school – our third time that trip dining with mostly babies.

We, of course, turned down dessert at the restaurant in favor of walking over to have ice cream one more time. Then back to our buggy and home for journaling and some ABC3 before bed.

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Hamilton to Brisbane to Tangalooma… oh my!)

Australia Trip: Days 16-18

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: The first three days of the cruise.  I thought some of it was stormy.  Haahaaahaaahaaaahaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa…)

Day Sixteen: The Perfect Storm

Day dawned beautiful, but I didn’t wake Chang, because he’d left in the middle of dinner on Day 15, feeling ill again, while just before dinner, H had run downstairs with a puke bag to find me, so I spent the first half of dinner tending my two sickies as they sucked down ginger beer and kept their eyes on the horizons. (I seem to not get seasick. Even during the heavy storms, I was fine, except for knocking into things. Actually H has been pretty cast iron too, until then, but she was on the very top deck playing a game of chess, and being on the most heavily moving deck while keeping your eyes face down is a recipe for puke. Chang has no such excuse. He’s just a pansy. 😉 [Retrospective Edit – Oh. I’m so sorry for taunting. So very very soory.])  Dinner, which Chang missed, was one of the best yet – pumpkin soup, lamb with sweet potato, asparagus, and cauliflower, and cheesecake for dessert.

However, after quite the rollicking early night, we did get to moorage, and it calmed down a bit. We all apparently slept well, and both of them eventually woke up just barely after breakfast was called. (Breakfast – pancakes with caramelized bananas and whipped cream for me, the same without the bananas for H, and porridge with honey and coconut for Chang, along with the usual delicious continental assortment) We were already at Ribbon Reef Number 3, having tied up just off the reef for the night, so right after breakfast, we got dressed and ready for the water.

Chang was diving first thing, and I wanted video of him going in, so we stayed and videoed until he was under and then threw my phone onto the bar, shoved on our snorkel gear, and popped into the water to watch him dive. We hung over him for quite a while, but H kept wanting to follow them, while I got nervous about how deep we were and how far away from the boat we were getting, so she and I ended up going back in toward the reef. We had a lovely snorkel, with sun and much less current than the day before, and even felt comfortable enough to try to free dives… but H was still wearing a life vest! (They’d put one on her for the open water swim the night before, as it had been so rough, so she’d suited up out of habit in exactly the same gear!) So we went back, and climbed up the whole ship to the very tip-top, where the wind was blowing very hard but the view was incredible.

We’d been up there only about 15 minutes when we saw the bubbles below us showing where the divers were going to surface. I swear, H flew down those near vertical stairs like she was greased! She nearly flung herself into her Daddy’s arms as soon as he was back on the boat, and then demanded that we all go back out into the water so that she could free dive without the life vest.

Which we did!

Then in and a change of clothes, some time on the top deck in the sun and wind, and then inside for tea and cakes when a few clouds came in, and now resting and journaling as we make our way to Escape Reef, the last of our water stops for this cruise. Tonight will be our last on the boat, and disembarking in Cairns early tomorrow morning!

(Much later) Oh. God. I hope recalling this doesn’t make me puke.

I’m writing now from a distance of a few days, so I can now, with some perspective, truthfully say that the night of day sixteen was one of the worst nights of my life. I honestly thought we were all going to die. If the boat had stopped throwing us around the cabin for two minutes, I literally would have written some goodbye letters to loved ones. Instead I just hyperventilated into my husband’s chest, while he tried not to break his chin on my skull as we heaved…

Let’s back up. When last I wrote, we were on our way to Escape Reef, and it was truly lovely. It was one of the best snorkel stops, and while there was still some significant wind, we also had sun. This reef was shaped more like a hand, and the boat had parked at the middle finger. We swam out along the edges of the fingers to the thumb and a very cool tall tower bommie off the webbing between the thumb and first finger. Then back again to the pinkie, did a few free dives off the ring finger, and that was when we saw the gorgeous white tipped reef shark. We called to the boat and did the sign for shark, but by the time people got in the water, only a few others saw it. Chang got good video, though. 😉

Anyway, that was the capper on the trip for H and I (having seen rays and turtles at other islands, a shark made the cruise, so we felt it was a good place to stop). Since she and I were done, Chang decided to get one last scuba in, so we went and showered while he kitted up and dove one more time. She and I finished, and headed down to the back deck of the boat to see if we could watch him come up out of the water again, but they were still under, so we went back inside for afternoon tea. While we ate biscuits (okay, fine, I also had some tea), a woman who’d lived in Sydney and had heard about our plans to spend extended time there started talking to me about stuff to do there. I got so wrapped up in the conversation that the next thing I knew, H was telling me that Chang had just walked past the back door of the boat. Oops!

We helped him get his gear off and then headed back to relax for a bit while he showered. Then we had a bit of a rest while the boat got underway for the evening, to attempt to get us to our night mooring point by dinner.

And here’s where it all goes south.

Had I mentioned the wind? It had never really not been windy on the whole trip, but the last two days it had gotten quite strong, picking up in the evenings to make the gentle rocking of the boat… not so gentle.

This. This was a whole different thing.

We woke from our short post snorkel/dive nap into… good lord, I can’t even describe it! And I’m supposed to be a writer! Well, first, it was dark. Far earlier than it should have been dark. And second, we were no longer just going up and down. We were going up and then up again and then sideways and then sideways the other way, then up, then sideways again back past the initial starting point, and then up a little more and then DOWN!!!!! Bang! Hit the water hard, bounce down one more time, then up and to the left… repeat ad nauseum. Literally.

It was actively terrifying. But they’d just called us down to dinner, and the lower decks tended to be more stable, so down we went.

Bad. Idea. Jeans.

Let me tell you, when the Titanic went down, you did NOT want to be in the dining room. Cause when the shit hits the fan badly enough to make the very thoroughly triple safety rated “How do they make them stay so still when the boat is moving this much” wine racks and drink fridges and paintings on the wall start to fall and crash and break all over? You don’t want to be where the glassware and knives are. No matter how calm the staff pretends to be.

They were troopers, though, and continued to serve dinner as if things weren’t literally falling off the walls. We made it through appetizers and were served our mains before Chang, greener than the salad, apologized and deserted. H actually made it two bites into her dinner before she ran for the stairs. I followed, promising the purser that I’d come back as soon as I got them taken care of, since we had to settle our bill for incidentals before the next morning.

I got to our cabin and it was just freaking nuts. Literally anything that wasn’t strapped down was flying about, and some things that had been strapped down weren’t any more. Chang and H were cuddled up with each other on his bed, the bottom bunk on that side of the room. She’d been sleeping above him for this trip, on the top bunk, which I immediately forbid her to go near. I rescued her stuffed animals from the floor and moved her and them to my bed. I straightened up the room the best I could, then got my purse and headed back downstairs. They’d just started serving dessert, but the Captain had also just abruptly left the Captain’s Table to go back to the bridge, which was making for some nervous side eye in the previously unflappable staff.

Emma, the purser, rang me out, though I can’t imagine my signature looked anything like it usually does. Then it was very carefully back up the stairs and once again into the room.

I like how writing it like that makes it seem short and simple. Let me just add that the trip down to the purser’s desk, signing one piece of paper one time, and getting back up a single flight of stairs and down about 20 feet of hallway 1) took me about 20 minutes, 2) involved multiple full body slams into walls and railings, leaving significant bruises, and 3) was just flat out terrifying.

H was still awake: pretty wide eyed, actually. Chang had curled up hard facing the wall in fetal position, and I thought he was asleep, so I got in bed with Hana. We bolstered ourselves against the walls with the extra pillows from her bed. Then we put in our earphones and turned on Eragon very very very loudly, to try to drown out the sounds of the storm and the whamming of the boat against the water.

Hours passed.

Seriously. It was hours. We had deserted dinner about 7:20, and I’m sure I was in bed with H before 8. The next time I looked at the clock, it was after 10. Eragon had just ended and H was finally asleep. I wasn’t. Not even close. I was finally seasick. And I was starting to have a panic attack.

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever had one before or if people have just described them to me so vividly that I recognized it immediately. However, I’m glad to say that I knew what it was right away, or else I would have just thought that I was actually dying on top of just being afraid that we were going to all die.

I knew I had to get away from H, or else I was going to wake her up, so I let the motion of the ship drag me down until I was almost out of the bunk, and then I got up. It was my intent to go into the head so that I could try shrieking into a pillow without waking anybody up, but Chang rolled over as my feet hit the floor. Knowing that he was awake, I flung myself at him and just started bawling.

And just kept bawling until…

Day 17 (Friday): Sleep. Sleep would be good.

…dawn.

That’s not actually true. We moored up about 2 am, and I did manage to get to sleep at some point after that, because I woke up when they announced breakfast (6:30am). Chang, on the other hand, was still awake, and had not slept even at all. Nobody had much appetite, but since they hadn’t had dinner the night before (and Chang hadn’t had dinner the night before that), I made them go down and at least have something. For H, that mean dry toast, and for Chang, pineapple juice. We also talked to almost everyone, who, having seen their full dinner plates taken away, had been worried about my two. That included some of the staff, one of whom confided to us that she’d not seen a night that bad on a spring trip ever before.

Fortified and justified, we went back upstairs and packed, skipping the group photo time in favor of lying on our bunks until we had almost docked. Then we loaded up our bags and walked the 5 blocks to our hotel, not even saying goodbye to the rest of the staff (sorry Chef Robbie! Your food was superb! Sorry I missed the last night’s dessert).

We barely got upstairs before Chang and I were in bed. H, having slept more of the night before than we, pulled a chair right up to the television, and watched ABC3 (her favorite Australian tv channel – did I mention she had one? And a favorite bit on that channel [“Stupid Deaths” on “Horrible Histories”]? And a favorite Australian drink [Lift]? And a favorite Australian island [Lady Elliot]? And a favorite Australian animal [Lie. It’s a completely unbroken tie between dingo, wombat, koala, potoroo, kangaroo, and wallaby]?) very very close (her justification being that she had to keep the sound down so as not to wake us up).

Chang and I slept from 9 to about 1. We all decided to go to gelato as our meal for the day (H specifically requesting “the closest gelato” – we ignored that, as the furthest away had the largest selection). On our way back, Chang got a phone call that our tour of Mossman Gorge the following day had been cancelled, so we stopped by the city’s information center to see if we could fill the morning with something else educational for H. Among their suggestions was the Tjapukai educational center – an outreach center of a local rainforest aboriginal tribe. H leapt at this, saying that was definitely what she wanted to do, so we booked it.

There was an evening aqua-zumba class at the lagoon (the giant public swimming pool) at 5pm that I had intended to take, but about 3 the skies completely opened. That was enough of an excuse to decide us to eat in the hotel restaurant, which just happened to be a superb Aussie BBQ version of Brazilian Rodizio. Lovely. And then to bed by 7pm, cause that’s how we roll… like 80 year olds. 😉

Day 18 (Saturday) – Damn, we pack those days.

We woke up lazy (and still had the whole world rocking a bit from our sea to shore transition), but ready to go get educated. We were picked up on a bus and driven to Tjapukai. The name of the center is also the name of the tribe who runs it, and they’ve put together quite an amazing place here! There was a very cool presentation on their creation story that was visually spectacular. We saw art and an underground cooking pit that reminded us greatly of Hawaiian pig bakes. We saw two kinds of dances – this tribe’s traditional dances and those of a neighboring tribe. We also learned about their traditional foods and medicines, their weapons, and the didgeridoo. Then we got to throw a spear, but the line for the boomerang throw was too long for us to make our time for the sky gondola to Kuranda.

Oh, yeah, did I mention we were also going to another Aboriginal township? And we were getting there by gondola, and getting back by historic train? Yeah. That.

The gondola was truly imposing. It was actually a series of three gondola trips, with stops in the rainforest and at a waterfall (which, given that it was the dry season, was more impressive for its height than its flow). The gondola also goes right above the canopy, so you are seeing trees and birds incredibly close and at a great angle. You also see how incredibly tall these trees get, fighting each other for the sunlight. H had a guide book that told us what species of trees were closest to each support tower, so we played a fun hour of Where’s Waldo’s Banyan tree.

We got to the town and grabbed a quick scone for lunch before bee-lining it to the Kuranda Koala Gardens. This teeny tiny zoo was the first place in Australia that we would get to touch a koala. (Btw, don’t say koala bear. You will be mocked. Kind of a lot. It’s just “koala”.)

So H got to hold and have her picture taken with a koala. And I got to feel its butt! They feel surprisingly like tiny sheep – there is something very springy and lanolin-ey about their fur. H enjoyed the cuddle very much, and said the koala’s paws tickled her belly. I found them cute, but… honestly a little boring! They mostly slept.

Then after the koala picture, we fed some wallabies and kangaroo, peeked at some huge snakes, and saw some sugar gliders get fed. Then we left the tiny zoo and headed off into the town, where we found some fantastic homemade ice cream.

(If from this day’s entry, you have come to believe that Tjapukai is a VASTLY more educational aboriginal experience, you are very far from wrong. At Tjapukai, we saw dances and art, learned a creation story, some songs, and what to eat and not to eat if lost in the rainforest, and threw a freaking spear. At Kuranda… we ate ice cream and held a caged animal. Woo. [R.E. I’m told there is a more cultural center at Kuranda, but it’s a tram ride away from the town.  So, grain of salt, as always.])

Then we took the historic train back down the mountain, once again stopping to see the waterfall. H fell asleep on me halfway down, but there were some beautiful views, and at least a little history as a voiceover at some stops.

From the train we got a ride straight to our hotel, which was good, because our pick up for the Cairns Night Zoo was only a few minutes after our arrival!

So, the Cairns Night Zoo is the Cairns day zoo… at night. Shocking, I know. It started with an intensely mediocre BBQ dinner, which was done very quickly and then, seriously, about a half hour of nothing happened. Which is not normally an issue, but at 7:30 at night only a day after a sleepless night of boat rocking… I needed something to be happening in order to not be falling asleep. I don’t know why they needed to stick so perfectly to the schedule, but we did not need a full hour for the dinner part of our evening.

However, eventually everyone was given a tiny flashlight and we set off into the zoo. First stop? Koala!

Okay, guys, seriously? Koala are clearly very nocturnal. Where the ones we saw earlier at Kuranda were all asleep, barely even waking up for the photo op, these ones were hopping from tree to tree, sitting on each other’s heads to establish dominance, running over to the keeper for pick ups, and we even got a bellow out of the big male. H also got another photo op, so that was two koala cuddles in the same day. Parenting success!  😉

We then were taken into a small tent where we saw possums, crocodiles (involving a rather terrifying feeding), many snakes, including one that we got draped over us, and again fed some kangaroo. Then we got fed billy tea and damper – and after many questions, we finally were told what the hell that is. Billy tea is black tea that has had a bunch of leaves swirled in it (in this case, eucalyptus) and damper is … bread. Yeah. Beer bread. Kinda chewy.

Then they took us back to the food area and played Waltzing Matilda on the accordion. No. Really. I shit you not.

There were a couple more songs, and Chang and I actually danced, and H played a musical instrument of sorts. We got into it a bit, but it really wasn’t our scene, and I can’t say I was sorry when it was time to go. But then! Surprise! Giant Wombat!

What a great thing to have by the back door! Fuzzy belly! So cute! So ugly! SO ugly… that it’s cute!

We petted its belly, bought a couple post cards, and got back on the bus. As soon as we got back to the hotel, it was immediately to bed with us, because 6am pick up for our airport transport means more sleep something something.

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: We go hang with the rich people.  Mmmmm.)

Australia Trip: Days 13-15

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: Heron Island.  Where all the women are smart, all the men are good looking, and all the food is overpriced and mediocre.)

Day Thirteen: Boat! Boatboatboatboat…

To midnight and rain. Lots of rain. Our first bad weather of the trip, and the forecast says it will be like this the whole 5 days we’re on the cruise. We can’t help but laugh.

It’s warm here in Cairns, though, and feels a lot like Hawaii. So if it’s a tropical rain, that’s okay.

I’d prefer not to have the 6:00 trash pick up be right outside my room, though!

Giant glass window to take in the view = Zero sound insulation, so I was up and at em pretty damn early this morning. The other two slept through it, and the sounds of everyone in the hallway also walking directly through our room, so they must have been tired. Everyone woke up without an alarm between 8 and 8:30, though, so I think we’ve gotten pretty regular early bird hours this trip.

We had morning tea with hotel provided biscuits (deeeelicious, and a lovely addition to the morning, thank you Pacific International) and then dressed for the breakfast buffet (not bad, but holy cow! Every resort we’ve stayed at uses the same food service provider! Same brand of butter, same jams, same premade pastry squares, same waaaaaaaaaaay sage-y breakfast sausages… only LEI – and Seabelle, the fancy restaurant on Fraser – did not conform). Now we’re up in the room journaling until 11am check out, and then will drop our bags off at the port and kick around Cairns until boat loading time (4pm).

(Later) Yup, that’s what we did. We bought frozen yog(h)urt with a variety of amazing fruit purees and toppings (Turkish Delight. And we’ve just finished Narnia. Seriously. Divine.) for lunch, and then walked the Esplanade, stumbling upon the huge (and I mean fraking huge… dwarfs the one at Wild Waves) public swimming pool that stands in for the beach water in Cairns not being super safe. We also got a Hawaii style tropical rain burst, and again, if that’s what they mean by a “rainy day,” we’ll be more than fine. (RE:  Stop.  Taunting.  The.  Gods.)

We swam for a while (continuing H’s streak of swimming at least once every day on this trip… honestly I’m a little worried about Uluru, but otherwise we’ve been pretty serious about getting her in water every single day), then cruised the harbor, seeing a ton of gorgeous ships (a very large percentage of catamarans here at the reef. For depth issues?) and then back to the hotel to grab our bags and off to the boat! We had our check in and our orientation, and now are killing time in the cabin before dinner (seafood buffet! Yum for me, yum for H who got up the courage to tell the purser that she doesn’t like seafood so will have a steak, yuck for Chang who doesn’t like seafood, but having to ask to go gluten free [he still has some huge rashes on his hands from eating bread on LEI… they’ve gotten better since he stopped, but he didn’t stop till mid-Fraser! Hey! I’m telling time {date?} in islands now!] meant he didn’t want to mention any other food issues to the purser, so he’ll be having seafood tonight).

Should be upstairs socializing, but just can’t. I’m such the cruise director in this family. Chang and H are more introverted than I, so it’s me that usually ends up being the outward facing aspect of K-pod. For example, tonight, I had to be the one to introduce our kid to the only other kid on the boat – a 12-year-old German girl with no English – so I’m saving my people strength for dinner, when I’m sure we’ll sit with that family and I’ll need to be “on” again. For now, off! Computer games and silence for a half hour is my prescription…

Day Fourteen: Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all time!

Dinner was indeed my work/social time, but that wasn’t bad. We sat with Ronia’s family and they were charming. And dinner was delicious seafood indeed! However, I’ve never eaten diner on a roller coaster before; the swell was honestly dangerous! (retrospective edit two… little did I know…) People were falling all over the place… though we’ve managed to avoid injury.

Went straight to our bunks after dinner. Had a hard time sleeping between the heavy chop and worrying that H was going to fall out of her no side railed top bunk due to the heavy chop. Woke early to calm waters and sunrise – 5:37 seems to be my no alarm wake up time. The others woke up at morning announcements, just 10 minutes before breakfast at 7, so today was our first time missing tea. (We did have it with breakfast, but that’s not the same…)

Breakfast was fan-freaking-tastic! Second amazing meal on ship. A delightful continental bar (wonderful yog[h]urt, fruit, and pastries) and then a hot meal choice – I had oatmeal with honey and coconut, H had a waffle with roasted apples and cream, and Chang had bacon and Swiss cheese with a savory bread. Everything was superb!

Landed at Cooktown and did the guided walking tour through the town up to the museum, but decided it was too nice a day to go inside an old building, so K-pod walked around the town instead, taking in the sights and finding a treasure trove of beautiful plumeria frangipani flowers – just like the plumeria all over Hawaii, but in all the colors of the sunset! Stunning!

Then out to open water and in the middle of a storm (RE3: Ha!). Chang took drammamine, which, as usual, sent him almost straight to sleep. Fortunately he stayed awake for the snokel/dive safety briefing, because he reallllly wants to dive this trip.

Then back to our room where all of us crashed hard, but H and I woke up when they announced lunch, while Chang did not. When I woke him, he looked pretty green and had no appetite, so we let him sleep while we went down to lunch.

Another amazing meal! Holy crap, this guy is consistent! Impressive, working in a rolling box. Cajun spiced chicken, beef in gravy (much tastier than it sounds) and noodles, three kinds of salad, fresh bread, and a magnificent platter of tropical fruits: perfect mango, sweet dragonfruit, and tangy lilikoi were the winners for H and I.

Back to the room where Chang was still out of it, we rested for a while until the time for the presentation on reef animals was given at 2. It was a lovely presentation, though the one on mantas at LEI seemed more engaging. I was falling asleep during the presentation, so after I went and cuddled with Chang on his bunk and we slept right up until it was time to go out on the boats to snorkel and dive!

I don’t know how he went from comatose to full bore so quickly, but he did! He went out on the first boat – getting to cut the line, because the divers-to-be got to go to use their newfound skills under a very shallow bit of water.  H and I followed on the second boat, and we had a lovely snorkel before the sunset. The depth was perfect, the water temperature bracing but not actually cold, and the fish and coral as stunning as expected. H took advantage of the perfect depth to learn to free dive (going under the water, completely submersing your snorkel, and then clearing it out with an explosive outbreath when you surface) and she did it! Enough times to feel really solid with the skill! Chang tried also, after H had it down, and he got it too! So now all of K-pod can free dive, and Chang is one step closer to scuba!

There were drinks and some appetizers on the beach after our snorkel (although after the welcome champagne, I have determined that I do NOT like being tipsy on a boat, so we all had Lift, our new favorite drink [a bubbly lemonade]). Then we boated back to the big boat and had a delightful BBQ dinner of steak, kangaroo, mackerel (the first time I’ve ever liked that fish), and sausages (meat heavy meal!) with salads and bread and pavlova for dessert. (Oh. God. Pavlova. Must learn how to make when I get home. We’ve loved it everywhere we’ve had it.)

Then Bec, the real cruise director on this ship (turns out to not actually be my job), took us all to the back of the ship, where the search lights had drawn a ton of big eyed travely and a single tawny nurse shark, which we got to feed! Fishy fingers were well worth the washing. 🙂 Then off to bed with us! I was actually the first of K-pod to fall asleep, as H stayed awake and caught up on her journaling, out of excitement to write about learning to free dive…

Day Fifteen: Drink of the day, Dark and Stormy

…so I was also the first one to wake, and see the sun rise over Lizard Island. The other two slept until right before breakfast at 7, and then we came back to the room to get our wetsuits on for a trip to Watson Beach. (Tea with breakfast. Don’t you worry. Tea was had.)

As soon as we got to the beach we hopped into the three kayaks available, but it quickly became clear that the wind and current weren’t going to allow us to boat (or more specifically, H was too light to keep her boat from flying all over the bay. Sorry, love, but it’s so), so we headed back into shore and went out to snorkel.

Um, not so much. My mask, for unknown reasons, was almost unusably foggy, despite having used quite a bit of anti-fog, and, much more importantly, H’s began leaking, and much more sadly, H’s underwater camera popped open, exposing the insides to water. As of tonight at 5pm as I am writing this, it has not come back on, so it may well be broken. (RE4: Yup.  It’s dead.) Poop. We did manage to rescue the memory card, so all the shots she’s taken to this point were saved, but all the underwater shots from now on will be taken by the gopro, which is great at video, and not so great at stills.

Back to this morning, though… it was not our favorite snorkel, so she and I called it a morning, knowing there would be more snorkeling later in the day. Chang, who wants to wring every minute out of this trip, went out in the kayak again, while H and I went on the glass bottom boat tour and then all of us went back to the big boat.

Lunch was a rather groggy affair, as it turns out I am not the only member of K-pod to be made sleepy from salt water, but delicious as usual (jasmine rice [cooked to perfection, which is hard to do at scale!], a beef stir fry and a gorgeous honey fried chicken dish, the usual lovely array of salads and fresh fruit). Then we came back to the room, intending to go up for the reef presentation a half hour later, and instead fell smack asleep until just barely before we arrived at Ribbon Reef Number 9. I’m not sure they would have woken up even then, except that it was to be Chang’s first dive, so I woke him up for sure. We all wet suited up, and headed out, H and I to glass bottom boat while Chang dove.

Hm. It’s really grey out there. And… some pretty serious wind. And rain. And holy cow the swell. Annnnd the current!

The glass bottom boat was a bust. We saw some stuff, but the skipper had to push so hard on the motor to keep us in place that any sensible fish ran the hell away. And then a squall came up in the middle of the ride, so they took the boat back in. When it cleared and they went back out, H and I didn’t choose to go along. We waited for Chang to surface, which he did pretty shortly after that, and then we headed out for a short snorkel as a family. It was truly beyond stunning, I do strongly recommend visiting Ribbon Reef #9, but oh holy night, the current. We pushed out as hard as we could, but it was another “kick at full strength just to stay in place” situation, so eventually we gave in and let the current carry us back to the boat.

Chang had had a great dive, by the way, even getting to see (and getting on video) the mating of some sturgeon fish, which looks really cool, and I’ll try to convince him to post somewhere. But he’s definitely hooked! Already talked to the instructor, Kristy, about going out again tomorrow.

Now we’re back in the room, journaling and resting before dinner, as the boat heads off to Ribbon Reef 3, where we will arrive late tonight, and dive early tomorrow. Maybe! It’s pretty darn black in those skies… Wish us less storms!

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Days 16-18.  Yeah.  You know how that “less storm” wishing turned out…)

Australia Trip: Days 10-12

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: Days 7-9, Fraser to Brisbane to Heron, oh my!)

Day Ten: Exhaustion in two parts

[Part One] Day ten! We’ve been here ten days! Holy cow…

Morning tea on the lanai with many fewer birds than last night. H woke up on her own and joined us for a while before we headed to breakfast. And how was breakfast? … it was fine. A C+ or B- on the morning food. Good, since it is included in our stay and once again, is the only option! 😉

Back to the room for some journaling. We have a fairly packed morning, with a semi-submersible trip at 9:15, H having Rangers at 10:30 (this island will be the last time, most likely, as places only run Rangers during the school holidays, which are over on Monday [I think it’s Friday today??]), and Chang and I having a snorkeling boat trip at 11. Heading out now!

[Part Two] Well, that was some freaking amazing day! The semi-submersible was absolutely amazing! It was exactly what the submarine ride at Disneyland wants to be, complete with crazy bubbles at the beginning and end. We saw a bazillion fish, 26 turtles, and a whole fever of eagle rays – probably 15 of them?! Absolutely astonishing. Then once back on land, we dropped H off for Junior Rangers and Chang and I went out to the dock, where we saw several sharks and more eagle rays, including one eagle ray that hopped out of the water completely! Then we actually got on the boat to the north side of the island.

It was a mixed diving and snorkeling boat, so we dropped off some divers in deep water and then went up to the reef edge. The edge was a very great place, with tons and tons of fish of all sizes, shapes, and colors. I loved swimming in the shoals of tiny fish, and am really starting to feel comfortable in deeper and rougher water – everyone kept talking about how choppy it was, but Chang and I were fine the whole time. I think after that Snorkel Safari on LEI, nothing will ever feel choppy again in comparison! (retrospective edit [RE] from after the Cairns Cruise… why the hell did I taunt the gods like that?!?)

Back to grab H, who had gone to the bar to get a Lift, and then off to snorkel off the beach. We went off land at a half hour left in the beach snorkel window, and used up most of it swimming east against both wind and current. A bit frustrating, but immediately after giving up and deciding to head back to the beach to walk to the east point, we stumbled across the first of a crapton of stingrays! Two or three whiptails right at the beginning, and then, after making it to the beach and walking to the east most point of the island – what they call Shark Bay – to get back in, a billion cow-somethings rays (edit: I hear they are cowtail. That makes sense). These are huge and gorgeous creatures that were resting just on top of, or even slightly under the sand, taking off if you got too close or moved the water too much, but content to let us float over them otherwise, sometimes less than a foot away! Absolutely incredible experience, and one I hope to repeat tomorrow.

Back on land we ate lunch at the bar and then got H back to Rangers (this program is by far the best of the three – much more educational and less “keep the kids busy so the adults can dive and drink”). Then we bought an internet password from the office so that we could reload H’s kindle – she’d read all the books we put on before the trip began! Chang and I sat in the lounge while her kindle updated and we read silly books we’d scavenged from the shelf in the “adult lounge” (really. They keep naming the most tame things these porn names here…).

Then picked her up and back to the room for a rest, where she caught up on her journaling, Chang uploaded all his pictures and film, and I slept for two hours… apparently through a power outage! I guess these snorkel days really take it out of me! The wind is definitely picking up this evening, so that explains the outage a bit.

They woke me up so we could get to our dinner reservation at 7:30. Food was beyond meh, especially for finally finding out it’s 45 bucks a person. Quite a racket, given that, again, there is no other option. However, we ate enough to get full, and I suppose that’s all you can really demand. 😉

Back in the room now, with just enough energy to write up the day before I clearly am going to crash again. More snorkeling tomorrow, one way or another (boat reservation at 2:30, but with the wind picking up like this, it may be cancellation and that ray heavy bay for us). Ta!

Day Eleven: More snorkeling… psych!

Morning tea with an addition of H midway through, who had a hot chocolate I’d lifted from the breakfast buffet the night before. Then off to breakfast, to discover that dinner tonight at the buffet would be SIXTY FIVE FREAKING DOLLARS for more of the same crap, because it was Saturday, so we decided to move our day around so that we could eat dinner at the café before it closed to food at 5pm. H had a Rangers session from 10 to 2:30, with us intending to pick her up at two, so that we could change and make our snorkel boat reservation at 2:30. We had a lazy morning reading in the room after breakfast, and then dropped her off.

We went to the café ourselves to finish uploading books to the kindles, and ended up hanging out there reading and catching up until lunchtime. Then after lunch, we walked the length of the island to Shark Bay – where we saw all the rays the day before. Seriously. Ray Bay, people. We saw several more rays from the land, and then walked back along the southern beach, getting back to the room just in time to pick the girl up.

We hurried back to the room to change for the snorkel boat, and got to the dock just in time… to find out that the boat had, in fact, been cancelled, due to the wind. I wasn’t miserably unhappy – I sure wish they’d cancelled the snorkel boat tour we did on LEI rather than us going out in that horrid chop! We walked over to hop in to snorkel in the lee of the island, but the protection from the wind only lasted out a few yards. By the time you got into the reef proper to see anything interesting, the current and wind were so strong that I felt like I was swimming at full strength just to stay still! We gave up and came back in, deciding to snorkel in the harbor later, which is only open to snorkelers before 8am and after 5pm.

We got ice creams and sat out in the sun on the main deck until dinner time, when we ordered from the bar before it closed. Then after, we walked down to the jetty to look at the water in the harbor. Let me tell you, the wind had not died down, and the evenings get chilly fast down here once the sun starts going down. So we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and we’d try to snorkel the harbor tomorrow morning before it closes to swimmers at 8, since we’ve been waking up so early.

We walked back to the room and have sat down to do journaling, and then I’ll bet we read until the sun goes down and then go to sleep. We’re sure bloody exciting! 😉

Day Twelve: Travel day part ugh…

Morning tea was late, because we didn’t wake up to the sun because it was crazy overcast. Grr. I, as the first one up, decided to let them sleep, rather than hit the harbor, so they didn’t get up until 8:30, which seems extensively late to us now!

Morning tea on the lanai convinced everyone that I’d made the right choice – without the sun, it was pretty darn cold! We decided to have breakfast and read some, and then if it had warmed up, we’d hit Ray Bay (it’s the new “fetch”… I will make it happen) one more time.

Which is exactly what happened!

I don’t know that I’ll ever get across how incredible it is to swim in the sandy cove and see these huge animals (with their tails included, many of them were longer that I was) literally less than an arms length below you (not that you reach out and touch, because NO!) and not shifting at all as you leisurely float over them. The silent world indeed. Any time I need to meditate myself to sleep from now on for the rest of my life, I know exactly what I’ll be picturing. Nothing I’ve ever done has brought me so much peace so quickly.

We showered after and had lunch at the bar (iiiiiick. Caesar salad that tasted of rotten fish. No wonder the seagulls couldn’t stop attacking me for it) and then headed out for the boat ride back to the mainland. Two hours on a very fast catamaran in very choppy water equals a very seasick Chang. (I don’t get seasick, usually, but I do get land sick when getting back from boat trips. I’ll take my drammamine the morning of the day we get off the cruise. [retrospective edit two… oh god. I deserved what I got with this level of cocky.])

We got to the Gladstone airport with all the rest of our boat (a very annoying gentleman held up the Virgin flight before us… to order food. In the terminal. Cooked fresh. For a 45 minute flight. He’d annoyed me on island before that, but even if he hadn’t, his hectoring the chefs to work faster as the plane called his name on the loudspeaker would have freaking done it.) and had a lovely midafternoon dessert snack before boarding a short hopper to Brisbane. Once there, we switched terminals and hopped on a Jet Blue flight – clearly a discount airline, and the first time that we’ve been charged for drinks on a plane! H and I fell asleep eventually, to wake up at 11:45pm in Cairns! We were picked up by a giant empty van and driven to our hotel, arriving just on…

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Days 13-15… The beginning of the cruise.)

Australia Trip: Days 7-9

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: LEI to Fraser, island hopping.)

Day Seven: Okay, now you can rest… Mostly…

Tea on the Lanai, now an entrenched adult K-pod tradition! Lovely as always, but we’d decided to try out the breakfast buffet here at Kingfisher Resort, to compare it to the one we loved at LEI, so we had to cut short tea morning and wake up the kiddo, so we could breakfast before her morning Ranger session.

How did it compare?

Not.

So.

Much.

Poorly organized, lower quality, and surly staff. Not a repeater, and it made us glad we had the kitchen in the villa, so we didn’t have to face it again!

Dropped H off at morning Rangers, then back to the villa. For those who have been wondering, this was when I made the mistake of using the handrail on the stairs to our villa for my hand, only to find that the railing was, in fact, the fast track for the spiders. After some extensive shrieking and hand waving, we decided the better part of valor was to spend the rest of the morning in the villa’s huge two-person bathtub. We soaked for over an hour while listening to an audiobook, then had some lazy adult time (this time meaning playing games on our phones while doing laundry, not an innuendo). We finished our adult morning by making lunch in our kitchen (ham sandwiches – the general store on Fraser is not extensively stocked. However the cheese was Coon brand cheese, and we giggled ourselves near sick being twelve year old boys about the name…) before Chang went to pick H up.

She decided that she was craving the kangaroo she’d tasted at the Bush Tucker talk, so she wanted to join us at Seabelle for dinner that night. We cancelled her Ranger appointment and set up a reservation for three at the fancy restaurant, and I demanded that if we were going to the nice restaurant, she should bathe. We went swimming first (well, she did. Chang and I wandered the shallow edges of the pool, in up to about our hips before giving up in the cold), and then back to the villa for my second two person bath of the day. Then we watched Australian Nickelodeon on our first television time of the trip, before heading out for our fancy dinner.

We had the Tuscan bread again, this time bantering with the waitress about how delicious the salt and pepperberry sprinkle on the top was, and how they clearly should package and sell the chef’s blend. Then we had an amazing meal – H the kangaroo, Chang the pork chop, and I the honey duck, all with various bush tucker sauces, and we also shared a side of thick fries with pepperberry aoli and – winner of the night – deep fried brussel sprouts with a lemon myrtle soy sauce. We finished off with the ice cream trio once more, this time adding on a deconstructed lemon myrtle tart. Yum-o across the board! Do recommend!

We were all pretty wiped out by the time we finished dinner and the long trek back to the villa, so we crashed pretty hard. We knew we’d have to be up pretty early – one of the side effects of having the kitchen/villa was having to clean it before we left. We started some laundry and went to bed.

Day Eight: Canoes and Ferries and Brisbane, oh my! (Travel day part Troix)

Adult K-pod morning tea was joined by the coolest punk rock bird you can imagine! We had quite a lovely time with him/her before I headed in to make a utilization breakfast using up all the remaining food in the kitchen (sliced ham and leftover thick cut fries made into a hash with fried eggs and Coon cheese [never not funny] over the top). We then washed, dried, and put away all the dishes by hand in a conga assembly line, then a last load of laundry hit the dryer while we vacuumed and repacked. Then it was goodbye villa!

We dropped off our bags with reception and headed down to the jetty to rent a canoe. We took it out around the ferry dock and went north along the coast, boating alongside half submerged mangrove trees due to the full moon’s super high tide. We had decided to turn around at a snag – an old dead tree in the water – but when we got there it was sea animal central! We saw at a turtle three times (or three turtles one time each, but I think the former) and at least two rays – one a smaller eagle ray or stingray and the other significantly larger. Delighted, we headed back to the jetty, although it was much harder going, as the tide was now going out, and would have liked to drag us back to the mainland without the benefit of the ferry… or our luggage!

However, we made it back with enough time to dig our swimsuits out of the bags and spend a good hour in the pool (I went ahead and went all the way in this time, so H and I practiced our front and back flips in the deep end for a while). Then we hit the Sand Bar for a goodbye lunch, and it was off to the ferry, then to the bus to the tiny one gate airport, then on a prop plane to Brisbane, and finally a transfer to our hotel. We dropped off our bags, put in some laundry, and headed out to the churro café next door – where, strangely enough, I was the only one to have churros! H had ice cream and a mango smoothie and Chang had a flourless chocolate cake, and we called that dinner. 🙂 Then to bed for early wake up for yet another travel day.

Day Nine: Travel day part Pbtttttttttttt…

Tea on the lanai and long conversations about how much we like mixed use buildings – it was delightful to be on our patio and have the street waking up below us – the lovely coffee shop across the street, the hotel’s restaurant opening its doors (all the restaurants in South Bank have huge sliding doors that open the restaurant to the outside – nowhere feels indoors for food here). We soaked it in and then woke up the kiddo. We were picked up by our first silver transfer car (all the others had been black) and a lovely woman drove us to the airport, for our first domestic departure from Brisbane. We headed out onto the runway and up onto the plane to find ourselves in the same row as the propeller. Much fun, although loud.

We landed in Gladstone an hour later (holy red factories, batman!) and moved our stuff to the Australia By Seaplane offices, ostensibly to wait for 50 minutes. Unbeknownst to us, we’d spend most of the rest of the day there!

When the morning seaplane arrived, we were told that he’d popped a tire, so there would be a delay. Instead of leaving at 11, we’d be leaving closer to 11:30. Okay, fine, no problem. Except it was closer to 11:50, but was so exciting, who cared! We got our safety briefing on a macbook, got life vests on, boarded up, and began to taxi. Jussssssst at the end of the runway, as we were turning around for take off, the front left tire exploded.

This was a scary moment.

However, there was more fun to come, because that had been the last spare tire they’d put on it after the tire pop that morning. There were apparently tires that had been ordered after a tire pop the previous Sunday (!), and after several phone calls, they learned that these tires were in Gladstone on a delivery truck, but the delivery company didn’t have an estimated delivery time. We sat in the office until just before 1, when Robyn, the office lady, came back in and drove us to McDonalds (fun to see how it was different here – prime difference being that it is primarily a fairly nice coffee shop and bakery with a bit of a fast food restaurant attached!) while she tried to hunt down the delivery truck that had the tires.

Upon returning to the airport everything happened rather quickly. They fixed the flat and got us loaded up again and we headed out on the seaplane.

It was very amazing! We three and the pilot were the only ones in the plane (H rode in the front seat with him), and we had headsets and incredible views. The ocean varies so much in color here, with wavy lines of sandbars and currents. Within 20 minutes we could see the reefs and atolls that surround Heron Island, and within 30 we were landing, but our delay had put us in poor position for the tides, so we couldn’t land close enough to the island to get off onto the dock. Instead, we moored up in the open ocean, and they sent out a boat to pick us up straight off the plane! This was an exciting transfer, as my flight clothes include a long skirt, and I had to climb out of a seaplane and into a boat while managing my luggage, purse, and floor length gown. 🙂

We managed to finally get to the island, check in, and get signed up for snorkel boat tours (almost all of which were full). Then we unpacked and decided to try to walk around the island, as we had at LEI. It took longer than expected, and the reef shoes here were much more uncomfortable than at Lady Elliott, so by the time we finished our walk, H and I were edging into cranky, so we decided to split up after. Chang went on a guided reef walk while H and I checked out the (lovely) hotel pool, and then got ourselves some drinks – a hard cider for me and a caramel milkshake for her. We laid out in the sun and dried off, watching the sunset while we sipped. Then we went back to the room where Chang met us and we headed out to dinner.

The restaurant here – the only one on the island besides the bar (and the secret bar on the research side of the island) – had clearly given up trying to be a restaurant in the face of the “last weekend of school holidays” crowd, and had gone to a buffet. (Usually they only do buffets here on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so this format is not their standard.) And it. Was. Bizarre.

Butter Crocodile (Yes. Like Butter chicken, but with croc). Ginger “Bugs and squid” (which turned out to be lobster and calamari). Sweet and sour pork next to red Hawaiian hot dogs. Roast lamb in a red wine sauce. Quite the goulash of flavors and textures, though slightly better managed than the buffet at Fraser. Still, I don’t think we’d eat here again… if we had any other options! Which we don’t, so we’ll be here again for at least two more evenings. We’ll see how they manage breakfast in the morning.

For us, that was the end of the night! We were wiped out by the travel and ended up back at the room, and after journaling, it’ll be lights out before 8pm, I think. We’re really adjusting to the sun here – falling asleep within 3 hours of sunset and getting up without alarms for the most part right around an hour after sunrise. I can’t tell if this is our bodies’ regular preferred sleep schedule or if it’s just our way of not missing very many hours of sunlight! I supposed we’ll find out when we get to Sydney and have no further reason to get up so early to catch flights and get on boats and such.

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Days 10-12, Heron Island.  The snorkeling?  Magnificent.  The food? …what’s the opposite of magnificent?)

Australia Trip: Days 4-6

(Previously on the Mundane Misfit: Days 1 through 3… illness, good drugs, perfect circles, lost rings, and turtles.)

Day Four: Aaaaand, breathe.

Up and out of doors for sunrise tea on the porch, then back in, breakfast, and off to see what time the snorkel safari would leave that day. Turned out to be 8:30, only a half hour later, so we hung around the dive shop until time to go. The wind had turned into quite a storm overnight (Chang had put on pants and a coat and run out after my bikini top flying off the clothesline at about 3am). The ocean’s response to that level of wind was some pretty hefty chop. By the time we got from Coral Gardens to Lighthouse Bommie, the swells were about 5 feet high (1.5m) – pretty nauseatingly impressive. Nevertheless, we climbed out onto the dropped sides of the boat, and at the signal, jumped in…

To complete madness. The visibility was crap because of all the sand churned up from the chop. Nearly immediately Hana started to get scared, as we were much deeper than we’d been – with the high tide, it was probably between 15 – 18 meters deep at that point. However, she managed to get calmed down by clinging to me – I’ve never been so glad for the slight flotation provided by a wetsuit! – and once we located her dad, we took off toward the “guide.” The “guide” had found two manta rays, and Chang got some decent film of them, while H and I simply took in the spectacle, until the current yanked us away. Then, shortly after that, we ran into an eagle ray, apparently quite rare around here. Hana got a picture of that; although Chang was closer, his GoPro somehow happened to be turned off at the time. I guess the eagle ray was film shy. 😉

Pretty soon the “guide” gave up and called in the boat. We loaded up and drove to a second site. On this drop, I never got my sea legs at all. The swell was so heavy, and I couldn’t keep track of the “guide”, nor of Chang, so H and I just floated together as I got greener and greener. I don’t remember seeing anything at all. Finally the “guide” circled us all up and put us on the boat one last time, finally getting us to somewhere that was beautiful, perfect depth, full of fish, and not too awful chop, so of course our time was up after about 4 minutes in the water. All in all, a relatively challenging snorkel, and we got out feeling drained and seasick. So… back to the room to crash for most of the rest of the day!

H and I finished listening to the Narnia series on audiobook while Chang read on the Kindle, and we left the room only to go find the tree H had planted, so we’ll know where it was when we return, and to do some laundry, as we leave for Fraser Island tomorrow, and don’t know what the facilities will be like. Otherwise it was room time relaxation except for meals, and a quick sprint to the east side of the island so Chang could try to catch a time-lapse of the sunset… and we’re back in the room post dinner right now. We’re packed and ready to go, so it’s off to the rainforest island tomorrow…

Day Five: Trading Spaces. (Travel day part Deux)

Last morning waking up on LEI, and it was a beauty. C and I had tea on the porch and then when H woke up, we breakfasted one last buffet time. Then we took our audiobooks out to the beach and sat in side-by-side lounge chairs while we “read”. (H and I were looping back to Eragon, which we’d started while waiting for the last two Narnia books from the library, and Chang was working on 10% Happier.) We alternated relaxing on the beach with short spurts of last day chores (taking the snorkel equipment back, finishing packing, returning reef shoes) until finally we headed to the dive shop to wait for our plane. Chang took pictures for many departing groups while I read a book about the Fraser coast (our next destination) and H played on the swings. Then we loaded up and we were off, getting some great aerial goodbye pictures. We got connectivity back about halfway through the flight – you could tell cause all of our phones went crazy at the same time with saved up alerts!

I hopped on FB but was frustrated to find that though I could see statuses, I couldn’t see pictures or comments – and when I commented, I couldn’t tell if it posted! (Chang says it has something to do with different download vs upload speeds and 3 Gs not being enough Gs…) So I backed off trying to internet connect and focused on the flight.

We came into the Hervey Bay airport (tiny, but felt huge after LEI!) and were picked up by an adorable old man who reminded us of Grandman in 20 years. He whisked us down the peninsula to the ferry to Fraser. We made it in time for the 12:30, which was lucky! (We were booked on the 3:30, and there certainly wasn’t 3 hours worth of stuff to do on the ferry dock) We also made it in time to grab some ice cream! H got milk chocolate and rainbow, Chang Old Fashioned Toffee, and I got Hokey Pokey, which is apparently a traditional Australian flavor. Butterscotch and honeycomb. Yummmmmo.

The ferry ride was great – we saw bottle-nosed dolphins playing in the water between the shore and the island!  Mind.  Blown. We got a sausage roll and a beef pie at the ferry snack bar, since we hadn’t had lunch, and they were fair to middling. When we landed, we got onto the trams, which took us to reception at the Kingfisher Bay Resort. After an orientation, we began the rather extensive hike to our villa. The villa is huge – a 2 bedroom/1 bath with a full kitchen and living room. Waaaaay more space than we need – probably bigger than our place in Sydney will be! – but lovely to have the kitchen after 4 days of eating buffet on LEI. We walked over to check out the general store and grabbed some eggs and meat and such to be able to make our own breakfasts and lunches.

Fraser is the largest sand island in the world, and they really mean largest. We were staying on the west side of the island, but on the east side, there’s a beach called 75 mile beach that really is 75 miles long and doesn’t even take up half of the length of the island. It’s a rainforest here, and there are dingo warning signs everywhere, as well as a ton more insects and living things than were on the coral atoll that was LEI. We saw an iguana (called here a “Go-ana”) right next to our villa as soon as we arrived, and the living things have not stopped sharing their space with us since.

H wanted to get into the pools to further her goal to swim every single day on this vacation, so we went down, but it was pretty cold. We stayed about an hour, her in the 2 pools and me in the hot tub, and then back to the villa to freshen up. H headed to an evening session Eco Rangers, this island’s name for the kids event, and Chang and I headed to Seabelle, the fancy bush tucker restaurant at the resort. It was really an experience! We had crocodile, kangaroo, emu, and a whole host of local plants worked into quite nice presentations. My favorite was the kiwi and rosella gin bramble… delicious and hits with quite a wallop. We got so full at dinner that we didn’t even have room to try the fabulous looking desserts!

He and I went back to the room for some private adult time, but something we’d eaten didn’t agree with Chang, so he ended up in bed and I hiked back to the center to pick H up. She’d had a good time – dinner and a night hike. We tiptoed into the villa and got ready to call it a day, since we were to be up early for the “beauty spots tour” the next morning.

Day Six: No rest for the vacationers.

6:30 am, up for tea.  Then I made bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast and fresh sliced kiwi for breakfast, and we were off to hike to the general store for our eight and a half hour tour of the island. That’s right. 8.5 hours. Restful!

We checked in at 7:45 and immediately were spotted by Bella, a kid who had seen H in Eco Rangers the night before and was thrilled to “know” somebody on the tour. The two girls agreed to sit together on the bus and then we loaded up. Bella’s parents work on the island, so she was doing the tour with her grandparents, who were also lovely. We – and 40 strangers – loaded onto a bus that looked like a Mad Max version of a van – a semi and a school bus and a monster truck’s strange hybrid offspring. It was big, is what I’m saying.

We went up through the rainforest on a rutted soft sand track, and as Chang noted, the ride is exactly what the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland is copying. It felt like we did more movement side-to-side than forward! However, we eventually ended up at Lake McKenzie, and holy dingo, was it worth the ride.

Crystal clear water on the whitest sand beach you can imagine.  Not just white: the grit of the sand was so fine you could (and most adults, and H, did) use it to polish any jewelry they had on (did I mention that Chang didn’t have any? Cause he lost his wedding ring? *grin*), or to exfoliate your hands and elbows to a soft glow. We had an hour there and used almost every minute of it lolling about in the water, and then had tea and anzac biscuits (oatmeal and coconut cookies) before getting back on the bus. SO civilized!

H had asked if she could sit in the front seat with our guide and driver Peter for the next leg, so we watched her jostle in the passenger seat on our way to Central Station, an old logging town in the middle of the island, and our next stop. We walked down to a creek that was so clear that it looked dry – you could see the sand at the bottom all the way from the top of the cliff, but the water itself wasn’t visible until you got quite close up! Then we chose the short way back up, so H was able to ride in the front a bit farther as we drove to pick up those who had chosen the longer hike.

Then we were off to lunch at the east side resort cousin of the place we were staying (and it made us happy to be where we were, as the east coast resort was very bare bones). Lunch was meh, but it was food, and then we were off again to drive up 75 mile beach. There are places in Oregon and Washington I’ve been where people drive on the beach, but this was like an unpaved highway/runway (small planes also use it for takeoff and landings) with people digging sand castles in the middle of it! Thrilling and terrifying.

We drove up to see a place called The Pinnacles – towers of various layers of different colors of sand. Very beautiful! Then we drove back to a wreck of a boat and then past again to a creek that had been set up as a natural waterslide. You walked up a boardwalk to the top of the creek and swam or tube floated down to the ocean. Quite a blast, if a bit chilly. The guide, Peter, kept remarking on how crowded it was, but it didn’t seem like very many people to us. We begin to understand how few people really live in this huge continent. 🙂

We had afternoon tea before loading up the bus for one more stop at a sand dune the size of Redmond Town Center, then headed back up and over the center of the island. As soon as the bus came to a complete stop, we rushed from the drop off point to make our “bush tucker talk and taste,” a class we’d signed the three of us up for that started 15 minutes after our tour ended. We got to sit and both sample and hear about several distinct local ingredients, many of which we’d eaten the night before at Seabelle and not even known it! However, it was H’s first time, and we loved seeing her reactions. (Kangaroo = delicious. Pepperberry = way strong! Finger lime = not her thing.)

After, we raced back to the villa to get H ready for her nighttime Ranger session (campfire night – she wasn’t about to miss it just because she was exhausted). After we dropped her off, Chang and I walked over to the Sand Bar, the casual restaurant on the island, where he had a steak salad and I had a huge pile of local prawns… cooked with heads on and all! They were a bit disturbing to deal with, but so fresh and delicious I didn’t even mind ripping off the little heads after the first two or three. 😉 We ate lightly so we could drop by Seabelle after and have the desserts we hadn’t had room for the night before. We tried a trio of ice creams (the lemon aspen was the winner) and a rosella panna cotta, which was delicate and divine.

This time we did manage a bit of adult alone time before we went to pick up H, but she came home and we did a bit of family time before crashing hard. To bed to bed, after a very full day!

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Days 7-9.  Fraser to Brisbane to Heron, oh my!)

Australia Trip – days 1-3

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: I decided to start a review blog!  Which is still on the menu. However…)

Currently on the Mundane Misfit, I’m in Oz!  I’ve been keeping a daily journal here, so I’ve decided to go ahead and post excerpts as we have internet access.  I’m planning to chunk it in three day sections, so as not to be overwhelming.  So here’s days 1-3 as I experienced them (with Day 1 being the day we landed, as the travel actually took two days, what with the International Date Line and all… anyway, off we go!)

***

Day One: Holy shit, I am allergic to Australia. (ie Travel Day, Part one)

To back up…

The airplane ride was a complete circus. From a cancellation of our original flight to a rebooking on a slightly earlier one to getting to the airport to find that all flights in and out of LA were delayed to the point where our rebooked flight might get in after our international flight left…

To getting on an earlier flight and actually taking off only an hour late, and arriving in LA with no problems and eating a delicious meal, including Pinkberry, and then getting on the plane only to have H fall completely in love with the amenities (“Blankets! Pillows! Headphones! No wonder Australians are so nice!”), and a flawless first few hours on the flight – movies and fun and predictably horrible dinner (at 12:30 am, our bodies time) and then falling asleep with little difficulty…

To waking up with an excruciating leg cramp in my left leg (having slept through hours when I should have been doing exercises in my legs) and the beginning of a horrible – and I mean flat out horrible – allergic reaction to something, I still have no idea what, that left me a gimping, sniffling, eye-watering, snarl haired, mess of a human…

To arriving to an easy pass through customs…

Right up until the part where we actually wanted to leave the building and, due to a strike, they were tremendously understaffed at the bag check, and it took us 90 minutes to get out of baggage claim…

Only to find that the car that was supposed to meet us was not only not there, but that the company, when called, had no record that they were ever supposed to be there.

That was the point at which I started crying. Of course, my ever-growing allergic reaction may have made that difficult to see at that point, as my eyes were watering nearly constantly. In any case, Chang noticed, having many years practice of observing the tail end of my rope, and he, rather than continuing to wrangle with the car company and our travel emergency hotline, decided to cut the whole thing short, and just put us all in a taxi to the hotel.

The hotel was lovely, as is Brisbane. I said it was the love child of Portland and Honolulu, and I still believe that, with all the love that I bear those two cities in mind when I make that comparison. Brisbane is a city built around a river and bridges, like Portland, but with a subtropical (while yet very civilized) climate that allows for a very outdoor focus to the restaurant culture, at least in South Bank, where we were located.

We dropped off our bags, and went to find food. Local time it was still quite early, so we ended up eating breakfast at an Argentinian café (Absolutely fantastic food. H had pancakes with dulce de leche and ice cream, Chang had a pork belly benedict, and I had a manchego and Serrano ham omelette. All beyond magnificent). We then walked the waterfront, finding a beach that we decided to return to after check in, and a near clone of our Seattle Wheel, which we decided to try immediately.   It gave us a lovely view of the city, at least what I could see out of my one now functioning eye. The narration would have taught us a lot about the city as well, I’m sure, had we been able to hear it over my sniffling.

I was getting sick, is what I’m trying to say.

We stopped by a pharmacy (“chemists”) and got a drug at the recommendation of the lovely and helpful clerk, which I immediately took and then we went back to the hotel, where our room was ready and we were able to get changed into swim suits and head out for that beach.

Holy. Crap. Was that water freezing!! H went in anyway, being a child, and with some encouragement, found two other girls who were also there alone (well, with parents, but nobody fun) and started a rousing game of marco polo, which amused us Yanks no end to find was universal. C and I stayed in the lovely white sand and huddled against the breeze while I continued to sniffle into the sleeve of my cover up.

By the time we headed back to the hotel, it was pretty obvious that the drug had not worked. We tried the hotel pool (holy cow! Are Aussies really hardy with water temps or something? C and I were shivering even in the hot tub!) but ended up back in the room where we agreed that staying up until bedtime wasn’t going to happen, so we’d go ahead and nap.

When Chang woke me, I was a snarling, eye dripping, snot filled beast of rage. We went out looking for dinner, which was an absolute fail – Chang couldn’t seem to decide what he wanted to eat, and I was zero help, as I had no appetite at all, since my whole stomach was full of swallowed mucus (and now you have no appetite! You’re so welcome), and H just wanted everyone to stop being so snippy. In the end, they ended up at a Mexican restaurant getting take away, while I walked over to the same chemist. The lovely girl from earlier took one look at me, and immediately went and got the pharmacist. He looked me over and asked if I needed to be functional any time soon. When I asked what he meant, he said “You know… driving. Awake. That sort of thing.” Assured that I did not, he gave me small pink pills, which he had to check my id before giving me. (He also asked that we check back in when we came back through Brisbane to let him know that they’d worked. Now that’s customer follow through!)

We got back to the hotel with the take out food and the pills. I took one, and I remember no more.

Day Two: K-pod huddle!

Woke up dazed but dry of nose and eye! We had a very quick pack up, as we were being picked up at 6:15 to go catch our plane to Lady Elliot Island. However, even with the hurried morning, H got us all together to reset our day. She demanded that we group hug, and while we were huddled, we went over our plan for the day – put yesterday behind us, get on to the island, and have a great day. Chang and I looked at each other over her solemn head and smiled, put back on track by our girl once more.

Then the phone rang that our ride had arrived, and we were off. Racing across the street (remember to look right, not left, before crossing) to a coffee shop for a quick breakfast for the road, we loaded up into the limousine and headed to the tiny airstrip, where our next ride would be a seaplane!

A nearly full 12-seater prop plane picked us up to whisk us into the air for our 75-minute flight to LEI. We had a bench seat in the back that sat all three of us, and boxed breakfasts for tucker, so we were very very set. Beautiful views of the coastline, included identifying the enormous bulk of Fraser Island, which would be our next stop after LEI, but for now, we flew past it to the north, out into the open ocean, only to end up on a tiny little coral circle at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s an absolutely amazing place, especially from the air. Nowhere, nothing, blue ocean, uninterrupted forever, wait, what’s that… it’s a perfect circle…is that the island?

Yes. Yes it is the island. Coral, yes. Turtles, yes. Fish, yes. But we’re here for the manta rays.

We’ll be visiting several islands on our trip, but this first one is special not only because it’s our first, but because this location, the southernmost point of the GBR, has manta rays year round. Rays have a special place in our little H’s heart – she fell in love with them at the petting pool at Sea World San Diego, and has adored them ever since (she has a special relationship with sea turtles as well, but mantas are more… cuddly?). Sting, eagle, manta, she loves them all, but the mantas at LEI are huge and pretty regular, so here we are.

Landing on the runway that makes up one whole diameter of the island (fairly north/south orientation), we were ushered into a welcome routine that showed us the lay of the land. Then we went pretty much straight into the water, stopping only to find out that our room wouldn’t be ready after lunch. We got snorkeling gear, walked over to the western entrance/exit through the coral, got into the water…

…and were immediately completely freaked out and overwhelmed. Open ocean, not sure of landmarks, and a fairly substantial current combined to mean that we aborted our attempt to swim to Manta Central (aka Lighthouse Boomie), and just floated north along the reef to the exit point. Unbeknownst to us, this was the intermediate level snorkeling pathway on the island, so pretty ambitious for our first attempt. But it got our sea legs under us, and we saw a sea turtle (a leatherback) while we were out there, along with just getting our first taste of snorkeling the GBR.

We came back in and rinsed off and then went for lunch at the café overlooking the lagoon. It was delicious and gorgeous, and when we finished, our room was ready, so we wandered off with a map to discover our little one room cabin with an amazing ocean view, Reef 13. Full bed for Chang and I and a bunk for the kiddo and a bathroom and a porch to put our gear = heaven.

We finished lunch in time to join in for a manta ray presentation, which the kiddo gobbled up, wide eyed. Then we headed back to the cabin for a nap, with plans to hit the lagoon for more snorkeling after. However, by the time we finished hitting snooze on the nap, it was nearly sundown, and too cold to head out to snorkel again, so instead we walked all the way around the island to head to dinner. It took almost exactly an hour to circumnavigate the circle, and we finished at the restaurant just as the buffet opened. Delicious again!  Finishing up with an assortment of desserts and a cocktail for me, we completed our circle by heading back to the cabin, fed and swum and walked, and tired enough to immediately fall asleep again, even with that extended nap.

Day Three: Oh, yeah. This is the life.

Breakfast is definitely the best meal at the only restaurant on the island. Meat-o-rama, and mushrooms and roasted tomatoes for me… also spaghetti, which seemed odd! Crumpets and tea and juice and eggs and just a delightful yogurt and fruit bar. Yum-o!

Feasted, we came back to the room to get changed for a glass bottom boat and snorkel tour. H also took this opportunity to remove her lingering loose molar tooth, so that she didn’t lose it in the ocean! So instead, she went in the ocean with a freely bleeding mouth – good thing there aren’t any great whites around here! 🙂

We loaded the boat at the same place we’d exited the water the day before, but this time, the boat took us out where we had feared to tread ourselves – Lighthouse Bommie (Bommie is a shortening of an Aboriginal word that means “little mountain under the sea”), a stand alone coral tower straight out into the sea from the lighthouse on the island, where the Manta Rays come to get cleaned! We were lucky enough to see three mantas through the glass bottom of the boat (actually 4, but the 4th was just a shadow we saw heading toward the other boat, and were able to alert them to so they saw) and H got many pictures, including a great one of two of the monsters. They are just huge, and you can really see why they are called Manta (which comes from the Spanish for “blanket”). We definitely plan to return here in a few years after we get our dive certification so we can get under the water at Lighthouse Bommie!

On the way back, the boat moored at Second Reef, and we all got in the water for a snorkel. Our other boatmates were clearly not that comfortable in the water, so we three took out on our own and headed toward Turtle Beds, where we found 5 turtles resting. As we took pictures, a sixth turtle lifted up from the coral and came toward the surface! Chang called out to us and then took off after him, taking video. He kept getting too close and spooking the turtle, but eventually H and I were able to holler at him enough for him to stay back and let the turtle get his sip of air. Then we surfaced to find that the current had pulled us quite a long way from our boat, so I grabbed H’s pool noodle and towed her back north.

Being able to get back to the boat against the current, along with the longer dive in the deep water, definitely made me feel much more secure snorkeling in the open ocean, so we decided to sign up for a longer boat snorkel the next day (Saturday). We were also very excited to finally try the lagoon that evening, after H’s Reef Ranger kiddo day. It was about that time, however, that we discovered that at some point during the snorkel, Chang’s wedding ring had slipped from his finger. Gone to the ocean… Australia demands its first K-pod sacrifrice!

We got back on land and changed for lunch, and then joined in a reef walk before H headed to her Ranger activity and Chang and I came back to the room to nap. She planted a tree during her time away, and I hope we’ll be able to go see it when we return.

After I grabbed her from the group, we came back to the room to change to snorkel in the lagoon right outside our door. I’d been very excited to do so, but was startled to find that we liked it less than we’d liked the deep water that morning! The lagoon was colder water, as the tide was coming in from the deep ocean, which is what made it deep enough to skim over the coral, but it also really was skimming over the coral – it was still very shallow, and made it much harder to find anywhere to be able to move around! This made it a huge challenge to be able to change directions, so we were very much at the mercy of the current/incoming tide, so we kept being pounded toward the shore. We each got a couple of cuts, and although we saw two turtles very closely, I decided that I’d 1) liked the deep water better, and 2) liked entering and exiting from a boat much better.

We did get to exit right by the room, which was lovely, get dressed for dinner (which was less lovely. Dinner is definitely not their forte), and then headed back to the room for early bed. H and I finished The Magician’s Nephew and then she put her tooth under her pillow and went to sleep, snoring in seconds. The days really sack us out here, and I was hard pressed to stay awake long enough to do fairy duty before crashing hard myself.

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: Days 4-6… maybe.  😉

Forward! Gaily Forward!

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: To do is to be. To be is to do. Do be do be do.)

So it’s been a month since I decided to stop writing stories. During that time, I kept going to writing meetings, writing groups, writing classes, and, hell, even Sasquan (the World Science Fiction convention happened to take place close to home this year).

Aaaaand?

And I’m unquestionably out. I am no longer identifying as a spec fic story writer. Till the end of the year, at least, if not indefinitely.

I lasted three days at Sasquan. Less, actually. I went on Wednesday and came home on Friday. I had intended to leave before the Hugos for months… um… I mean, my daughter’s sleepover birthday party was scheduled for Saturday night, so I was never going to stay the whole time… but I had planned to stay longer than I did.

I have never loved conventions. As a very *** person (I’m still not certain if I’m an outgoing introvert or a shy extravert, but that’s a WHOLE other blog post – this one, in fact), the hordes of strangers drain me faster than anything can refill. Recently, the feeling of being on the other side of the velvet rope (i.e. I now know enough people in the field to never be truly alone, and many of them are kind enough to treat me as a peer) has kept me functioning while at cons, but they’re never going to be a favorite thing.

This time I just felt like a fraud. There neither as a pro writer or as a pure fan, I fingernail clung to a nebulous (ha! Wrong award!) hold on being a friend of the genre that just couldn’t live up to the (con)tension of this particular year. I went to a few panels, a few readings, and several bars… and then I went home.

And on that 5-hour drive home alone, some things became clear. (Not the sky. Holy cow, the smoke in the air. Much love to the firefolks…)

Clear thing Number One. In the past… good lord, 6 years… of trying to be a writer, I’ve become friends with an amazing group of people in this field, many of whom have had incredible achievements both before and during the time of my knowing them. I’ve had friends sell stories and even story collections. I’ve had friends get book deals – sometimes multiple book deals. I’ve had friends self-publish and successfully sell a crapton of books. I’ve had friends write articles for the USA Today.

In all that time, I’ve been blissfully happy for every one of them, and never once had a tiny teeny bit of jealousy for their achievements. Not once. Not the smallest shade of green.

Until Sunil Patel announced his review gig with Lightspeed Magazine.

I’ve never turned so verdant so fast.

(Side note: If you twitter, and you don’t follow Sunil… Go. Now. Immediately. Seriously. You can literally make your life more enjoyable with a single click. How often is that true? Operators are standing by.)

Now, he got this job completely legitimately: by being a superb reviewer on Goodreads and elsewhere, and being absolutely himself that whole time; funny, engaging, on point, etc. And I … I have two Goodreads reviews, I think. Oh, look. No. Three. And eight on Amazon, more of which are for bras and mint jelly and the like than for books.

But his accomplishment was the one that made me jealous. Actually meeting him in person made that even more clear; even though I knew him already, he was the one person there I actually shook to talk to. (And that includes Vonda freaking McIntyre, one of my three favorite living female authors.)

Hm…

Q. So why don’t I have more reviews?

A. Who the hell cares what I think?

Clear thing Number Two. Some people care what the hell I think. Not the least of whom are… authors.

I saw two things on the same day in mid-August; this blog post by Randy Henderson and this meme. The blog is Randy talking about why it’s just great that “you” wrote a book… even though he might not read it. The meme just suggests writing reviews of books you like.

These coming together really hit me in my soft parts. Randy’s blog made me realize that I haven’t even read HIS book yet! And I really want to! It looks like my sweet spot, and what the hell? But he’s right, and working writers just don’t have time to read everything that floats past, cause there’s just so damn much stuff coming down the river and you have your own work to do!

And that’s why when you do read stuff, and you love it, you need to freaking tell people. I don’t think I’d even finished closing the back cover of The Martian before I was emailing my friend Lawson to tell him to read it immediately. (Of course, having forgotten that he was one of the two people who had recommended it to me. Dur.) And it’s one of my 3 Goodreads reviews, which I wrote because I couldn’t not!

During my 5-hour drive home, I listened to the audiobook of Station Eleven. And let me tell you, that book is just superb. Wonderfully written. Deep and thoughtful. Superb characterization. Lovely beyond lovely.

Did I enjoy it?

Nope.  Not even one tiny bit.

I finished the whole damn thing cause it was so beautiful, but I felt no desire to tell people about it when I finished.

Hmm….

Clear thing Number Three. For me, there is a clear distinction between quality and enjoyment. They are separate things for me, and things that I happen to be fairly good at identifying, even when they don’t coincide. And when they do? It’s magic!

I have always split these two things out. Not just in literature, but in movies, in food, in everything. I have wide ranging tastes, and that often includes putting quite plebian stuff in my LOVE category. While I loooooooove eating at the Herbfarm and Canlis, reveling in truffles, divine service, and meticulous plating, I have a more than occasional craving for microwave burritos and shitty pizza. I adore watching Oscar winners and I adore watching Michael Bay turn-off-your-brain-and-ooh-the-pretty-explosions.

And while I just admire the hell out of the literary excellence that the Hugos and such are rewarding, what do I actually most enjoy reading in my genre?

The roller coaster rides.

Part of why I felt so strangely about The Great Hugo Controversy of 2015 ™ is the fact that I actually agree with two of the minor arguments the Puppies made; a lot of spec fic is just metaphor, thinly-veiled or otherwise, and a lot of it lately – especially the award winning stuff – has been about progresssive issues. My “I’m not a puppy” differences are 1) I don’t think this is new, and 2) I don’t think this is a bad thing.  Oh!  And also I’m a total SJW.

But yeah. I miss Heinlein-ian romps, and I miss reading them without wincing. I miss being able to love Marion Zimmer Bradley without a twinge. I’m not even a white male and I envy the fun and simplicity of the world the Puppies have imagined into their shared past. Sounds like a cool place to visit for a few thousand-word short story, if a pretty shitty place to live as a bisexual mother of a mixed race daughter.

I have felt out of place in my genre at least partly because my tastes run to the pedestrian. Because the objectively better my work got, the less I enjoyed writing it. And because the great stuff, the award winners, and the stuff that I should have been reading if only to know what I should be trying to live up to? Just wasn’t what I wanted to be reading most of the time.

Hmmm. That “Clear Thing” got a little unclear at the end there. And this is getting long. So…

Clear thing Number Four. What I want to be doing right now is focusing on the things I am just freaking batshit in love with, and sharing those things with others.

So when I return from Australia, in December of this year, I am going to launch a separate blog that will be reviews only. Category? Mixed. I’ll review books, movies, restaurants… anything I am smitten with. And most likely, I’ll be mixing my metaphors as well, in that way that I do. I’ll tell you that writer’s prose is like caramel, that movie feels like reading Little Women out loud to your daughter, that new restaurant serves Merchant Ivory films on a plate.

And on this blog, I will only rave. 4 and 5 star reviews only. But I’m not Homer. I don’t love absolutely everything. I’m just only going to write about the things that I do. On the site, I will keep a running list of things I’ve read/seen/gone to – with links to my reviews if they exist- so you can clearly see what I’ve not loved, without me having to bash anything!

I’m very excited about it, not the least of which, because I get to ask everyone to send me their favorite things! Please DO share with me your new book, your favorite restaurant, your favorite old movie I might have missed. (and whoo nelly, just fyi, did I miss a LOT of movies in the mid 2000s, when my kid was a baby baby…) And the absolute worst that will happen if I don’t like it, is… nothing!  🙂

I’ll be setting up the new blog as I have time while we travel, so it should be ready to launch the Monday after Thanksgiving. And this here blog is about to take a sharp left turn into being a travel log in two weeks, but I’ll be back to my usual meandering self come the holidays.

So basically, TLDR: Follow your bliss, everyone. I sure intend to. Publically!

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: We arrive in OZ!!!!!!)

Doing vs. Being

(Previously on The Mundane Misfit: My pants. They were on fire.)

So, you know how when you have an idea, if you don’t pursue it in a timely manner, the universe gives it to somebody else? No? Just me?

Well, anyway, two weeks ago someone else wrote my Doing vs Being idea, and did it more beautifully than I ever could. Here it is. Enjoy.

http://austinkleon.com/2015/07/22/the-noun-and-the-verb/

(Next time on The …)

Just kidding. You know I have more to say than that.

So here’s the thing. I remember the day I changed my Facebook profession to “writer.” It felt HUGE, such a big claim, so egotistical… I shook in my bunny slippers to do it.

But I was writing then. I was doing the freaking verb. So I had a right to claim the noun.

Now? Now I’m not writing. I’m teaching water aerobics. I’m parenting. I’m reading more than I have in ages. I’m cooking. I’m friending. I’m daughtering. I’m blogging sporadically.

But the thing I’m not verbing? Writing. Stories, at least.

And I’m not sure it’s a loss.

There are SO many wonderful people out there putting stories into the world. I’m lucky enough to know many of them personally. I’m fortunate enough to get to read some of the stuff they write before they share it with the world, and it’s an incredible honor to do so. And it feels like they are adding value to the world with what they write and share.

Me? I’m not so sure. I obviously love blogging – heck, I think regularly about starting other blogs with more of a focus so that I have something of more value to share than just my random thoughts. (An eastside food blog needs to happen. Some kind of reading blog that focuses on books with hopeful endings. Blogging about our family travels for sure…)

But my stories? Hm.

I’m a fair writer. I have a pretty distinctive voice, honed through the years of having the column, and I can put together an arc reasonably well.

But is it additive? That’s the question I keep coming back to. I look at the stories I’ve written, and while I’ve enjoyed writing most of them, they’re not very deep. They’re not terribly original. They’re not extremely layered.

And I’m not certain I want to make them so.

I got into spec fic because the stories that occur to my brain are almost always a “what if.” But spec fic as a genre has been tending lately toward the literary, the layered, the beautiful, the meaningful…

And that’s just not me. I write romps, at my best.

I wrote one story in the past 7 years that I actually want to share with the world. One. All the rest were great to write, and I enjoy having them in a finished form, but I have no drive for publication, no internal need for anyone to read them.

Doesn’t that say something? Because writing is one verb, but sharing what you’ve written is another. And if I don’t feel the need to share…

I really wanted three professional sales of stories so that I could join SFWA at full membership. Really a lot. It was a goal I was driving toward. But I realized a couple of months ago that the only reason I wanted that was so that I could read for the Norton award. Not for anything else – not to have sold three stories, not to be confirmed a professional author… just to read some great new YA.

That seems telling.

I always claimed to be a writer, not an author. And I do write. I loved the column. I love this blog. I will probably love another blog in the future. And I think I’ll find a way to get that one story out into the world.

But I also think that, at least for a while, I’m going to let my other verbs fill up my days. And see if that’s a loss. To me, most of all.

TL:DR… Check your life to id your verbs. See if they match your claimed nouns. Adjust accordingly. Repeat.

(Next time on The Mundane Misfit: We’ll see!)