Thursday, July 06, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

First Week...or so...yeah... 

Have you ever been on a plane ride that cumulatively lasts over 24 hours? During which you lose more than 24 hours because some impertinent, arbitrary line decides to confiscate an entire calendar day from your itinerary? Sure that line says that it's really not a confiscation, that it's really just a deposit that you will get back when you cross it again, but really, who needs an extra day returning from holiday? Stupid International Date Line. Anyways, if you haven't, this is what you end up like:

Most trans-Pacific flights are not continuous because that would just be cruel and unusual. So the first stop on our journey was Seoul, Korea (where we had a Traditional Experience Korea!). Our stopover was little over an hour long - you know, just enough time for the airplane staff to air out the plane and the terrorists to realise that hijacking this particular jet would be too much trouble, better to just make traditional Korean kites at the conveniently located area in the airport. If not for the huge sign reading: "Traditional Experience Korea - Free Crafts!" I would've mistaken the area for one of those places where they try and convince you that a time share is really a damn good idea as well as a sound investment for the future. Luckily it wasn't though and Jim and I walked away with bamboo and rice paper kites with characters on them certifying us "Kite Masters" - or something like that. It might well say "Stupid Tourist" but it's not like we'd know any better.

Back on the plane:

this time headed to Singapore for our second stopover (this time overnight). It was a 7 or 8 hour stop and we had a free hotel room courtesy of Singapore Airlines (which just happens to be the #1 airlines in the world, btw). So what do Singaporeans do the second they touch down? Go eat something of course! (Frigging hobbits...) So I met up with Joshua for prata - which before that date I had not had for 6 years - hence the following big grin.

After that, off to Australia, our first official vacation destination.

We landed in Brisbane and took a coach to the Gold Coast where we met up with David and Lisa in a well priced, clean and all-around great holiday apartment - Mari Court Resort. I highly recommend it. The location is great, there's ensuite laundry facilities, a barbecue pit, pool, hot tub, and, most importantly, the kitchen has a dishwasher. The groceries in Australia are so well-priced that for $100AUD we fed ourselves (four of us) for three days (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and supper) with barbecued meats, corn on the cob and Joie's Greek and Potato Salad (both recipes linked). And that's Greek salad and Potato Salad. Not Greek Salad with Potatoes in it or anything. Just so we're clear.

We did the standard theme park circuit (DreamWorld, SeaWorld and MovieWorld) with the usual rollercoasters and junk:

I can't believe that short of one new ride (the Superman Escape, the latter picture above, which proves that Superman is really a sadist at heart), the theme parks haven't changed since I visted them when I was 12. In fact, the animal shows are still using the same script and the same tricks. It was fun in a nostalgic kinda way, but truth be told, I was expecting alot more from the theme park circuit.

On the last night and day we were in the Gold Coast though (David and Lisa had already left for Melbourne so that Lise could catch her scheduled flight to Singapore, which incidently was overbooked, so she received $500, an afternoon at a 5 star hotel and an upgrade to Raffles Class in return for having to board a later flight...bitch) Jim and I went to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. We did the night tour first, which was incredibly cool, seeing as how most of Australia's native wildlife is nocturnal.

Before I get into it though, let me talk a little about the Sanctuary itself. This is a place where you can bring all manner of injured wildlife for care. As in, if you run over a Kangaroo because you were too pissed to watch the road carefully, you are free to turn the hurt kangaroo into Currumbin free-of-charge. The sanctuary will not, however, help you with the damages to your vehicle. Currumbin is also involved in research and education. It is completely self-financed from revenues received through park-admissions and proceeds from guests purchases. Institutions which operate like that are incredibly rare and I have a lot of respect for places like that. One of the only self-financing parks in North America happens to be the Vancouver Aquarium, which I am also a supporter of.

At the park we got up close and personal with many of the animals both in and out of the exhibits. The shots below are from when we were waiting for the others who booked the night tour to assemble. A professional photographer was on hand also so that we had shots to purchase at the end of the night. These ones were just the ones taken from our own camera.

Are you wondering about my expression? Well, recall that I have a serious phobia of crocodiles, alligators, caimans, you know, those things. What I was holding, was a three-year old saltwater croc. You know, the kind that can GROW UP TO 7 METRES IN LENGTH?! Yah, those kinds. The next day we got to see what those damn things were like when they are almost fully grown, here's a 5m croc - yeah, he still has TWO METRES TO GO.

There were other, more agreeable animals at the sanctuary, like the Kangaroos, which we were able to hand feed:

I guess, not that particular kangaroo, seeing as how it was otherwise indisposed...

Or the Cassowary - which I think is cool.

At least cooler than this free-ranging and rather belligerent emu (EMU EMU!):

Going back to the whole nocturnal tour though, here is something I've never seen before, despite having seen Tasmanian Devils many times before (albeit during the day):

A Tazzy Devil feeding! Those things have vicious teeth beneath their cute and furry exterior. Who knew?

I'll close this post on a little bit of moralizing. Heaven knows I hardly do it enough. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with a picture of a cane toad:

This toad was brought over to Australia way back when to help control populations of pests that were plaguing the cash crop at the time - sugar canes. With no natural predators, and plenty of natural prey these things took over. These damn toads have resulted in the near-extinction of many local species. Damn white men and their meddling! If I had my way I'd have nothing to do with those white devils -


But yeah. On a summer's night, five people with garbage bags and gloves can collect 100kg of those toads, and that's just in the vicinity of the park. They're a pest and a problem, although local crows have recently been observed eating them (the cane toads have poison glands behind their eyes, the only way predators can eat them is if they are flipped on their back and their bellies are eaten out first). Girls and Boys, say no to cane toads.

posted by Joie! at 2:49 a.m.


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