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Friday 30 April 2010: tonight I’m sitting in an internet cafe in Port Douglas, Queensland. It is wonderfully warm here. I love being in the tropics. But first I will finish the Canberra chapter.

More beautiful Canberra scenery

Our final day in Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. It is about an hour’s drive from Canberra. I used to go there when I was a teenager. It is in a national park and covers acres of natural bushland and there were many native animal and bird species there. Last time Don and I were in Australia nearly eight years ago we wanted to go to Tidbinbilla. We’d decided to go on one of our last couple of days we were there. Alas when the time came it had been closed to the public because there were bush fires very close. We returned to Canada a couple of days later and three days after we got back those bush fires raged forward and completely destroyed Tidbinbilla and all the animals, the Mt Stromlo Observatory, and on into some outlying Canberra suburbs. It was pretty devastating.

Seven and a half years later we finally got there. We saw no animals in the reserve itself, but many native birds, and most exciting for me was getting to see a brolga which is a very shy and rare native crane. I never thought I’d see one in the wild.


Intrepid explorers at Tidbinbilla

Outside of the reserve itself, but in the national park we saw many kangaroos. Just as we say a pride of lions or a herd of cattle or a flock of birds, Don decided it is a hop of kangaroos. We saw a huge hop of kangaroos and were able to get quite close to them.

The lower picture of kangaroos was taken by my sister Julie who has a much better camera than we do and is a much better photographer. And I must say a huge thank you to Julie for helping me crop pictures, and a huge thank you to Robbie for helping me figure out how to upload pictures to the blog.

We also came across several emus and got quite close to them too. It was really wonderful. While I appreciate zoos and animal reserves as they are often the only way to see some animals, I love to see animals in their natural habitat. I find it really magical.

The next day we flew to Port Douglas in Queensland, where we’ve been for the past three days. Don’s name for our time here is:

The Good, the Sad, and the Wobbly

Day one we went to an animal reserve, and took a trip on the river to look for crocodiles which was somewhat successful. The good.

This lorikeet is at the animal reserve in Port Douglas. It’s blurry in the picture of me because it’s rocking up and down. It was very cute. In town the wild lorikeets gather at dusk in the trees on the main street. Thousands of them, screeching and screaming as they settle in to roost for the night.

Koala in the Port Douglas animal reserve. Also very cute.

And a pelican

Day two we rented a car and drove north to Cape Tribulation, stopping on the way at Mossman Gorge, and at Daintree to do another river trip to look for crocodiles – this time very successful, and at a tropical rain forest reserve. Most of the tropical rain forest here is uninhabited and will stay that way as it is an international heritage site, but at the reserve you can experience and learn about it without destroying it. The end of the paved road is at Cape Tribulation with a beautiful beach, but we both found the miles and miles of jungle to be oppressive and overpowering. The Sad. By the end of the day we were glad to be out of it.

Mossman Gorge

This is the boat we went croc spotting in. It was electric so very quiet, but quite small. 

Crocodile basking in the sun.

Jungle spider I nearly walked into. Creepy.

Day three we went on an all day boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There aren’t enough words to describe the GBR. I’ve been all over Australia, lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Dampier and Tom Price, but I’d never been to the reef, so this was a life long dream and it didn’t disappoint. We went in a fast boat for about an hour or so, then anchored. Don and I both decided to try a dive. Neither of us have ever been scuba diving or knew anything about it, but they taught us what we needed to know. Don was a total hero and much braver than I. He did it! Not only that he also did a second dive later in the day. I chickened out. I was fine with the theory but once in the water practicing the proper techniques of what to do if your mouthpiece comes out or you get water in your mask and being constantly buffeted by the waves I just kept panicking. So I went snorkelling which I’m very comfortable with and had an absolutely fabulous wonderful glorious time. So many fish, so many colours and patterns and sizes, and bright blue lipped clams, and a blue spotted sting ray, a turtle, a small reef shark, and coral in mostly brownish pink and brownish yellow and orange, with bits of really bright pink and electric blue. It was fabulous. I had always thought the reef was near the shore, but it’s not. It’s way out in the ocean. Floating around in the ocean with this amazing magical world there just by putting your head in the water. Wow! The really really Good!

Our boat to the reef

Saturday 1 May 2010: today we went on a sailing trip to the Low Isles, part of the reef closer to the mainland. It was a good day but unfortunately the weather wasn’t our friend. Overcast and patches of rain and strong winds all day making for some fairly rough sailing. The Wobbly! But we did see some turtles while snorkeling off the island, and some amazing coral formations. And Nemo fish. Clown fish live in the anenome so they’re hard to spot and we didn’t see any on our day at the outer reef, but I saw some today. Nemo lives!

Sunday 2 May: today we went to the Sunday markets in Port Douglas, and a long walk along Four Mile Beach with my great-nephew who I haven’t seen for years. It was good to catch up. Tomorrow we’re off to Kuranda village, then a couple of days at Uluru (Ayers Rock), a few days in Perth and south West Australia, and then up to Vietnam. The adventure continues . . . . . . .

Four Mile Beach

Abandoned artwork on four mile beach

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.