I write this post from a friends place (which by the way has no window glass in most rooms: only screens and wooden louvers) and there is a baby gecko on the roof above my head! It is about an inch and a half long and incredibly cute!! The animals and birds are so different here. Kookaburra laughter woke me up this morning and I was surprised to find myself laughing along with them. I'm not sure Graham appreciated it as it was 530am, but I couldn't help it. They sounded so funny!
I get the feeling that this post will have a lot of exclamation points in it... you've been warned!
Backing up a little bit, I have been meaning to write a post about Rangitoto, the volcanic island that we climbed in New Zealand. It was amazing! Rangitoto is (outsourcing here from wikipedia) 5.5km wide, 260m (850ft) high, and only about 550 years old!! BABY VOLCANO! It was amazing.
We took a little ferry out to the island and, looking back, we could see Auckland. It's quite an amazing city.
We climbed straight up along 'Summit Track' from 'Rangitoto Wharf' where our ferry dropped us off. The hike wasn't necessarily a difficult one but Graham and I were pretty wore out from the last couple of days so we trudged perhaps more slowly than we normally would have. It was beautiful though. We went through several distinct biozones (not the right use of the word but you get what I'm saying). There were HUGE scoria piles and rubble and I cannot imagine how they made any roads at all on the island. These areas had hardy looking trees and fern filled underbrush. Further up there were very tropical looking plants, moss, vines, etc.
|Rangitoto Island. Notice the locations Rangitoto Wharf, Summit Track, Summit Road, Islington Bay Road|
From the top we initially had the most amazing view: Nothing. We were in clouds. We could see absolutely nothing that was beyond 20m. We asked a couple that had beat us up the volcano if they had seen the view yet and they said that every few mintues the cloud would shift and you could see the city. We waited and hydrated and eventually the clouds lifted! Worth the wait! It was the most stunning view of Auckland I'd ever seen. 360 degree view around the entire area as well.
|Panorama at the top of Rangitoto|
You could look back and see the caldera. It was beautifully round and a long ways down. We walked around the caldera and then decided to take the boardwalk to the road (Summit Road and Islington Bay Road on the map). We detoured to the lava caves path but we didn't bring a torch (which is Kiwi for flashlight hehe) so could only go a short way inside of them. It was amazing to see though. Our biggest mistake was taking the entire road back down. It was long, uneventful and, frankly, a little boring. I recommend taking the 'Summit Track' both ways ;)
|Me after the hike up Summit Track. Feeling good and alive :)|
H'ok, now I want to talk about Australia!!! (Image shamelessly stolen from google images)
Where to begin...
We are in Cairns... it's hot though people are saying it's almost Winter. The shops have sweaters in them. AND PARKAS. What?!
The animals are really really cool here! There are colorful and chatty birds, strange lizards and geckos, beautiful tropical plants, and everyone is friendly.
We stayed in a hostel for the first three nights here and walked every morning to the Cairns Esplanade. This is easily categorized in my brain as one of my favourite places so far. I especially love the metal fishes!
|Metal Fishies at Cairns Esplanade :)|
I was disappointed to find out that we couldn't swim in the ocean from the esplanade though... Crocodiles frequent the area and the water honestly doesn't look as clear as I would like anyways. From an outside perspective though (as in, outside the water) the water is extremely interesting! There are little puffer fish swimming near the shore and on the waters edge there are Ibis and strange Stork-like birds.
|Two puffer fishes in the ocean at the Cairns Esplanade|
We are looking into getting a car... But it's difficult. Cars here come with insurance and registration. This means that the license plate stays with the car. It's a bit weird... you also have to do a road worthiness test anytime you want to sell the car? At least that's what my understanding of the situation is... Graham will be the one to write more about it.
We figure we want a station wagon... There are cars here that I've never heard of and some of them are quite funny. Trucks aren't really a thing here. At least not the same kind of style of trucks. They are MUCH smaller here and some of them are more like cars (they're called Utes). Most jeep-like vehicles have snorkels and it doesn't look at all ridiculous here like it does in Canada!
As I'm on the topic of things that are different... The coins here are HUGE. Except the $2 coins which are tiny. 50 cent coins are the biggest and they're heavy. We try to get rid of our coins whenever we get the chance.
|For scale: The nickle is the same size as our dime, the $2 is the same size as a penny. |
The 50 cent coin is roughly half the size of our known universe.
Another topic change!
I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of them... I would say that I think that a lot of them are cute! I wouldn't shy away from holding a tarantula. If someone was afraid of a spider, I would pick it up and put it outside. I was the go-to spider mover. I like spiders :)
Oh. My. Stars.
Wrong wrong wrong.
They are scary.
They are big.
I think that they are all incredibly poisonous and capable of killing an elephant in a seconds.
A switch flipped in my brain and I am terrified of them. All of them.
I mentally prepared myself before coming here to see Huntsman Spider, which are big somewhat non-venomous spiders that I convinced myself where just fine and cool. I had conversations with people about how cool I thought they were and how I wouldn't be afraid of them :)
|Definitely not my hand.|
You'll be pleased to know that I was reduced to a screamy scribbly little girl at the sight of one. I made high pitched whines. It was awful.
But it's not all scary... I promise? I've probably only seen a grand total of about 12 spiders and only probably 4 different types? Probably none of them were poisonous... well.. maybe one of them? It appears to be a density problem. Yes, a lot of spiders are poisonous here. But there aren't many spiders.