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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: Australia

Day 63: One of Those Days

You know how sometimes you wake up inexplicably crabby in the morning? You didn’t get enough sleep, you had a weird dream you can’t shake, you think you have a cold, etc.

I woke up early this morning to an outside temperature of -1 F and an iPhone stuck to my face (which is weird, because I swear I wasn’t talking on it last night). I peeled it off, frowned and made myself a pillow nest. But then I smiled. A week ago today I was in one of the prettiest places in the world—Whitehaven Beach.

Renowned for pure white beaches, Whitehaven is almost entirely made of silica sand, a chemical compound that swirled its way onto Australia’s coast through sea currents over millions of years. I’ve never seen anything like it. The sands shift every minute, so it’s a little bit different each time you look at it or photograph it (and it’s nearly impossible to take a bad picture—see below).

Thinking about Whitehaven was a day-brightener for me. Maybe it can be a day-brightener for you, too. (Focus on the positives. It exists! And you can go see it!)

Group

Whitehaven

Birds

Island

Day 60: The Best Laid Plans

Our car broke down on Tuesday. It was a trusty machine that carted us all over the coast of north Queensland, but it just couldn’t make the last few hundred kilometers back to Cairns.

We woke up early Tuesday morning in Mission Beach with plans for a packed day of travel throughout the Atherton Tablelands. After a hearty breakfast of a delicious local mango, leftover pasta primavera and potato chips, we piled ourselves back into Ciara’s ’95 Toyota Camry only to find it “sort of unwell,” as the local mechanic put it. It wasn’t going anywhere.

So after seven hours, a tow truck ride, an exciting Cassowary sighting, a thorough tour of the small town of Tully, pounding rain, a couple of good sandwiches and the sad realization that the Camry’s computer was fried, we were back in Mission Beach, car-less for the foreseeable future.

Happily, neither of us panicked, even with my 5 a.m. flight out of Cairns still a few driving hours away. We’d also received some extreme doomsday warnings about the water levels on the roads heading out of Mission Beach (“Oh you’ll float away, no question. Don’t even bother.”).

The combination of Ciara’s extremely thorough questions and rockin’ Aussie roadside assistance afforded us a cute yellow rental car, a free stay in a fancy hotel and a firm understanding that some of the locals tend to exaggerate the poor driving conditions.

I’m proud to say that even after our unexpected delay, we crammed at least one day’s worth of Tableland-ing into the last three hours of my final day in Australia. I even managed to get a land leech stuck to my leg during a hike through the rainforest. Badass.

Here’s a taste of what’s up in the Tablelands:

yellow submarine

Our new car!

waterfall

Wallicher Falls, one of many gorgeous rushing waterfalls in the Tablelands.

farmland

Lush dairy farmland, which appears only moments after exiting the rainforest.

 cow

Easy-going cows, who calmly meander around and in front of driving vehicles.

Day 59: Ch-Ch-Changes

At some point every single day, I think about global warming and how our climate is changing. It’s a scary and interesting phenomenon, and the planet’s transition—both naturally and through human intervention—is becoming more and more apparent.

Traveling through this extremely beautiful Australian climate has made me even more aware of the changes happening around the world.

Parts of Australia are in a drought this year. Ciara and I witnessed the results of the lack of rain as we drove north through north Queensland and saw dry creeks, brown fields and fire warnings mixed in with the lush natural tropics of the area. And we were in the wettest part of the continent—during the rainiest season of the year. Nearly every public bathroom we visited displayed a sign just above the sink with a plea for water conservation. (Granted, when we arrived at our final destination, at a hostel just south of Cairns, it was absolutely pelting rain. But the pelting may have been due to the incoming cyclone.)

Last weekend, she and I went on a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands and snorkeled through parts of the Great Barrier Reef. It was extraordinary. I especially enjoyed floating over the reef with my head submerged, watching an amazing world unfold underneath me while listening to the electric snapping sounds of the Rainbow Parrot Fish munching on coral. (I imagined the snapping sounds were coming from the electric, deadly jellyfish I’d heard so much about, but my fears were dissuaded when I witnessed the scraping and scratching of the coral. Fish are loud eaters.)

The beautiful and noisy reef I just met is swiftly disappearing, along with the other wildlife who are part of it.

I feel lucky to have been able to swim up close to the reef and briefly experience the water animal kingdom. And my sense of luck is paired with an understanding that the reef will not always look as it did when I saw it. It will die and disappear, much as many other species of plants and animals have died and disappeared.

With you as my digital witness, I hereby promise to do everything I can to move myself onto the positive side of the climate change equation. I pledge to be more aware of my natural environment and will act as its steward, not its enemy.

After all the natural gifts I’ve received on this trip, it seems like the least I can do.

Great Barrier Reef

Day 58: Letters from Camp

When my mother was but a wee Girl Scout camper, her younger brother Craig wrote her a letter from home, keeping her apprised of the latest home happenings. It’s a lovely letter—especially when he tells her about all the pets who either died or ran away in her absence (namely Snoopy, the rabbit).

Here it is:

Dear paula
Are you having fun without
Two Brothers to Bug you around.
The Bird Died Monday,
I miss you to.
The porch is pretty.
The fish and gurbles are ok
Snopy is gone.
Jove
Craig

In the spirit of camp letters, here is my letter from camp (Australia) to my friend Michelle, who is watching Brian Boitano for me while I travel:

Dear Michelle,

Australia is great. I’ve met a lot of nice people and eaten lots of mangoes. I also touched a jellyfish (accidentally) and a turtle (purposefully). I’m okay.

If Brian dies while I’m gone, don’t worry. I’m sure it wasn’t something you did.

Love,

Ashleigh

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P.S. I swear that jelly came out of nowhere.

Day 57: The Turtle

Today, a photo from the Whitsunday Islands in Australia.

turtle

This is me as a turtle. And below me is a real turtle all jellied out (turtles get a little stoned on all the yummy jellyfish).