Friday, February 27, 2009

Back to Mon Repos...

Green Turtle

Deja vu, all over again! I decided to go back to Mon Repos (french for My Rest) last night to watch more turtles hatching. There are three species of sea turtles that lay eggs on Mon Repos beach: Loggerheads, (which I saw the previous evening,) Green Turtles, the second largest of the sea turtles (Leatherbacks are the largest); and Flatback Turtles, which are native only to Australia. Last night I got to see both Greens and Flatbacks run for the surf! To help direct the babies to the water's edge, those in the group that have flashlights (of course I brought mine!) stand in a straight line from the sand dune to the surf, each facing the next person's back 'leap frog'-style. You shine your flashlight (they call them torches in AU) on the beach between the spread legs of the person in front of you. The turtles (as many as 130) race between your legs (mostly) as they follow the light to the sea. It tickles as they bump into your legs and climb over your feet! It was remarkable to witness and I'm glad I decided to stay in Bargara one more night.

Green Turtle

Australian Flatback Turtle

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Loggerhead Turtle Hatchlings...

Volunteers at Mon Repos Turtle Rookery process the empty nest of a loggerhead turtle. This nest hatched two evenings ago and the mother/daughter team count the number of hatched eggs ('leathery' shells) and the number of failed embryos. They also found nine live hatchlings at the bottom of the nest and they were reburied at a shallower level and expected to surface the following evening. I got to help replace them in the nest and cover with sand.

I'm holding a baby Loggerhead Turtle before we rebury her back in the nest. (She'll emerge in the evening and head for the surf. Unless, of course, she thinks I'm her mum... then she'll head straight for my van :-))

Remarkably strong and quick for their small size, after hatching, the baby turtles head for the water with amazing speed. Female Loggerheads dig their nests high up on the beach where the grasses grow. Depending on the tide, it can be a good distance to the water's edge. It is believed that during this sprint to the surf, the turtles 'record' the location of the beach by imprinting the 'magnetic coordinates' of this exact location. Thirty years later, survivors will return to this beach to breed. (Only one out of a 1,000 will survive to breeding age.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Whitsundays, Duuuuuuuuude! ...

75-ft. Steel-hulled ketch, HABIBI under sail.
(I'm standing in the prow of the boat to record this image.)

We anchored for the evening in the calm of a small protected cove
, where, after sunset, the warm shallow waters become the stage for a nocturnal frenzy of aggression as deep-water species cruise the reef to feed. In the fading light of evening, we can just make out the shapes of several three-foot-long fish darting fitfully alongside our boat like fruit bats locking in on their quarry. Breaking the surface of the water in an effort to dodge their pursuers, the small reef fish draw even more attention to their presence (and their plight) and mayhem erupts with native predictability.

Drawing the main sail under wet conditions...
(Note how I'm staying dry in the pilot house to capture this shot!)

To see all photos of the sailing trip, click the link below:

Of the seven species of sea turtles found in the oceans, five of them can be seen feeding off the rich, plentiful sea grasses growing on the ocean floor surrounding the Whitsunday Islands. They can be heard clearing their nostrils with a sharp blowing sound as they surface for air at regular intervals. I was amazed to be able to swim with one, briefly, and recorded this short video with my underwater camera. As I followed his lead, I imagined “Crush,” the rad sea turtle from the movie Finding Nemo saying; “It’s this way, Duuuuuuuude! Follow me…”

Yellowtail Fusilier and Batfish

100+ years old and a veteran of both World Wars, Solway Lass also offers overnight sailing tours to the Whitsundays.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The sky (and a vivid imagination) is the limit...

I promise that I won't bore you with any more van photos... but I wanted you to see just a couple more. There are hundreds of vans like these examples. The can even be custom ordered. Say you want a van for a month or two and want a "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" theme for the van (Yes, I have seen one!)... they'll hand paint (or I should say, repaint,) one just for you!

I'm sure I'm missing something... but, really, what's up with bunnies anyway?!? They're everywhere. It seems they're multipling like..., well...
At least these smart bunnies are wearing their seat beats :-)

Men Don't Listen.
Women Should Respect That
And Get Off Their Case.

Have you had enough?
Want to see a few more...?

Tour Bus or Cattle Car?!?

This enormous Mercedes motorhome/bus pulled into the campground yesterday and out poured 24 seniors on a month-long tour of North Queensland. They are travelling completely self-contained; eating and sleeping at campgrounds. The kitchen pulls out from underneath the bus and dining tables come out of a storage compartment. The group has their own chef, driver and assistant. They sleep in small berths (see the small rows of windows on the side) about the size of a "coffin" according to one of the group members. He said, "It's not bad... unless the weather's hot!" Anyway... they all seemed to be smiling. This was a first for me!

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

5-Knot Fever...

Eddy Reef, Mission Beach
We were dropping bread into the water to attract the fish. I caught, (no pun intended,) a couple of fish (Yellowback Fusilier) as they jumped out of the water for the morsel.

Richard, who picked me up at my campsite early in the morning for a day on the reef, said "The locals call this a "five-knot fever" day." That's when the wind is light and the sea so calm, that the locals take the day off and head to the reef.
[It's exactly like a "snow day" only completely different! :-)]

This day was a perfect 10. I spent more than three hours floating and snorkeling over the most awesome coral reef in the world. In some areas there was less than three feet of water between me and the coral and I had to be careful not to hit the coral with my fins. With full sun and excellent visibility, it was like swimming in an aquarium. There were hundreds of species of fish, most of which were swimming inches from my mask. I wish I had an under water camera to be able to share it with you... maybe next time.

The lighter areas of the image indicate a sandy bottom.
The darker areas are coral reefs.

Ocypode Cordimana...

When you look closely at the sand on the beach, you notice that it is made up of millions of small, round sand 'balls' as in the photo above. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) In some areas, 60-80% of the beach is covered with these sand spheres... in various sizes from the size of tiny candy pearls used to decorate cakes and cookies, up to the size of peas in a pod. They are made by the Ghost Crab or Sand Crab. They are very quick and skittish, and you hardly see them as you walk the beach.

I finally spotted one darting into its hole, so I waited on hands and knees for a few minutes for it to resurface. This one is only three-quarters of an inch long. Its den (the hole on the left side of the picture) is the size of a round pencil. It scrapes the sand in its jaws with the two claw arms and rolls it into a ball as it syphons the water to extract nutrients (I think?) Then it rolls it aside and starts anew. It only takes a couple of seconds to make a sand ball.

Here the crab is ready to roll this sand ball aside. He rolls it behind him using his side legs to kick it out of the way. My camera is only a few of inches from him to take these photos. He had to be wondering what the big black blob was that was hanging over his head!

Click on the photos... He's kinda cute with thoses 'buggy' eyes.

Mission Beach campsite...

I spent two nights at Mission Beach where the campsites are right on the beach. The long stretch of sand is lined with coconut palms and strewn with hundreds of fallen nuts, so I gathered a few and borrowed a hand ax from Robin, the caretaker of the small, municipal-owned caravan park. With a little effort, the husks gave up some great coconuts! I husked some for my neighbors and packed a few in my van for later. :-)

The Other 'Bunny' Van...

Did I pick the wrong "bunny" van???
Don't get me wrong, my "Chubby Bunny" van is nice and all... but with so many choices. Geez.

I will try to get a few more pics of Wicked Vans...
Some are quite funny. They all have a different, off-beat theme to them. Personally, you couldn't pay me to drive one. But I enjoy seeing them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Koala Garden...

Jinka and I
Last week, when I travelled to Kuranda by skyrail, I did not have the time to tour the small sanctuary in the village where they have rainforest animals, including koalas, on display. As I journeyed further north to Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation and Cooktown this week, I kept thinking about my missed opportunity with the koalas. I was hoping that I would have another chance to see them before heading south. (Queensland is the only state in Australia where you can actually hold a koala.)

On my circuit of the tablelands in North Queensland; beautiful, rich farmland where growers and ranchers raise dairy cattle, beef cattle and numerous fruit crops; I stopped for the evening at a caravan park in Atherton. Preparing my usual sardine and brown rice dinner that evening, I met one of my neighbors in the park. Her name was Prue, (NOT short for Prudence). She works part-time as a foster-care provider for a young aboriginal girl of 14. Prue’s other job, however, is as a caretaker for the koalas at the garden in Kuranda! I told her I had missed my chance to see them earlier and she invited me on a personal tour of the small refuge.

I returned to Kuranda yesterday and was treated to free admission by the zookeeper, who said to me, “Any bloke of Prue’s is alright by me, Mate. Come on in!” (Being a ‘bloke’ is a positive thing… I think!?!) I got a chance to spend some quality time with Jinka, a two-year-old male koala, I also had the occasion to hold one of the blackheaded pythons and at the end of the day, it was time to feed rats to the snakes… yeah!!!

Stanley, a blackheaded python

Feeding time for the reptiles...

See all the photos and read more comments at:

Jucy vs. Chubby Bunny... ?

The website says: Be Jucy. Live Jucy. Rent Jucy.
I decided I didn't want to ride around Australia in a lime green and purple 'Jucy' van... (of course the 'Cubby Bunny' is not much better, is it... hmmmm?!?)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Atherton / Tablelands...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chubby Bunny...

You'll have to go to the web album (link above) for photos and captions...
By the way... there is one picture which shows the name "Chubby" decaled right under the drivers window. This doesn't mean the driver is chubby... Chubby is the name of this line of self-contained travel van. I didn't want some of you to be confused by this. :-)

Cape Tribulation

Mossman Gorge

Port Douglas

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Great Barrier Reef...

Dive leaders inspecting equipment upon return from the dive...
Click link below to see more photos:

Eden, Tal and me

Michaelmas Cay, The Great Barrier Reef, AU

Cairns: population of 122,000, is surprisingly easy to navigate on foot. The streets are aligned in perpendicular order and there are several principal avenues making it easy to get ones bearings.

What is not easy (and in fact risky for a US citizen) is becoming habituated to the 'left sided' traffic pattern. By habit, I’m accustomed looking to the left and then to the right for oncoming cars before crossing a street… Let’s just say I’m working diligently to change that habit (before it changes me!)

* * * * *

Internet access at the hostel is limited to a couple of computers in the office reception area. There is no wireless service. This morning I went to the local Tandy Shop (Radio Shack) to purchase a small USB memory stick with which to transfer photos for this blog from my notebook to the office computer. When the sales clerk returned my change, I replied, “Thanks, Mate.”
Exiting the store I thought, “Did I just say, Mate?!?”

On my return to Travellers Oasis, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a fresh-baked loaf of 12-grain bread; a small jar of jam; a small bunch of seedless grapes; and a jar of…, yes, a jar of… Vegemite!
Exiting the store I thought, “Did I just buy Vegemite?!?”

[Vegemite (by Kraft), a salty, dark-colored, concentrated yeast extract is extremely high in Vitamin B. It’s similar to nutritional yeast only in paste form. I will use it to add flavor… (taste being a relative sense…) and salt to brown rice and polenta.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Travellers Oasis...

This photo doesn't do the hostel justice... it's really much larger in person!
Check out more photos of the Oasis at the link above :-)


Evenings at the hostile include preparing a simple meal in the communal kitchen or dining at one of the local eateries offering a “backpacker special.” When the rain begins, it’s a spirited game of “Texas Hold’em” by the pool and watching the raindrops bounce off the surface of the water.

I wish I could recall the betting strategy Abby, (19-yr.-old World Tour Poker expert,) shared with me before my departure. Was it… If I’m holding an Ace and King suited… go ‘all-in’ at the draw…? Or something like that? I should have paid closer attention. :-)

Kitchen... looks like someone is preparing sardines and brown rice.

A single room... Mine is not this messy of course! Oh, wait... this is mine :-(

Adventure mobile...