Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 7 (Part 2): Flames of the Forest!

After the awesome day on the reef, I couldn't believe my fortune - the day was not over!!! Phoebe and I had jam packed the day with the best of Australian culture and experience. Out next stop was a culinary experience like non-other:


It is a dining experience hidden away in the forest under a romantically lit tent, surrounded by the sounds of the rainforest, and warmed by candlelight.
Actually it wasn't very warm at all, but no matter, it was an incredible experience of Australian foods, aboriginal music, and mystical storytelling.

Upon arriving back to the house from our day at sea, Phoebe and I cleaned up and got fancy. In light of the cool evenings, we couldn't get super fancy and had to think about warmth... most of the evening my outfit was covered by a coat. In order to properly capture the attire, we took photos before leaving the house.
Classy ladies
Liam had taken the car to the Paramedics station, so he had to drive us into town in the Ambulance. It was my first time in an ambulance, so of course I wanted to ride on the gurney... Phoebe even strapped me in so I could get the full affect. Best. Car ride. Ever!

I needed to feel like it was more authentic
We met a shuttle in Port Douglas that would take us the rest of the way into the Rainforest. It was so dark as we moved away from the town and honestly there was something inside me that feared they were just luring us into the middle of nowhere to kill us. Luckily the trees thinned just slightly to reveal a torch-lit walkway. We got off the shuttle and walked to the staging area where we were handed champagne and offer hor deurvs. It was the classiest dining experience I'd ever had. On the lawn near the bar where we waited to be escorted to our tables was a beautiful iron candlabra.

After we had mingled for a bit (or in Phoebe and mine's case, were antisocial for a bit), a didgeridoo sounded a little ways away. Then a man dressed in traditional Aboriginal garb greeted us in his native tongue and ushered us to the dining tent.
Rainforest trees

The dining tent
The set up for the meal was family style, so we were forced to be kind and mingle with the other guests. Phoebe and I enjoy the company of each other enough that we find it hard to join in any other conversation but our own, but we tried our best and got to know some lovely people.

The food was delicious and I was so excited to get to try Barramundi (Australian cod) and Kangaroo loin. Truly an Austrlian style cuisine.
Our menu

Kangaroo loin
Phoebe and I marveled at the beauty of the place and decided that Phoebe HAD to get married there one day.
After our meal had been thoroughly enjoyed we were entertained by a traditional Aboriginal Dream-time Story.

The dream-time story telling

The beautiful backdrop to our story
This story was about the Platypus and basically went like this:

Long long ago there was a female duck who fell in love with Mr. Rat. It was a forbidden love and the two were outcasts from their communities. The two lovers had children and when the female duck returned to her family to introduce them to her beloved children, they were rejected and seen as unnatural. They were in fact the Platypus.

Of course the story was much more epically told and the man who told it walked around the tent as we all closed our eyes and listened, so it seemed the story came from all around. It was magical. The coolest part was when they turned all the lights off so we could be in darkness and listen to the sounds of the rainforest, then they turns on a light of sorts that projected what looked like a million stars all around us. It seriously took my breath away.
A picture with the aboriginal men who hosted our evening.
This was probably my favorite day of the whole trip. I got to swim in the ocean and see one of the natural wonders of the world. I then finished the night being emersed in Aboriginal culture and eating delicious food in one of the most beautiful venues I've ever seen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 7 (part 1): Great Barrier Reef Day!

Sorry for the delay in posting... much has happened since my return that has distracted me and kept me busy... but here is the beginning of the rest of my Australia trip posts:

On day 7 of my adventure "Down Under" I experienced one of the Natural Wonders of the World - The Great Barrier Reef! That is 2 down and 5 to go :)
Phoebe working at a Hotel in Port Douglas afforded us a lot of perks along our journey and our cruise out to the Great Barrier reef was one such perk. She was able to get me a 50% discount off the all day excursion.
Our sturdy vessel

"I'm on a boat!"
Now I know I am not a great person on large boats and so I was prepared for the hour long bout of slight nausea all the way to the GBR. From the beginning of our trip Phoebe has been all about trying to convince me to scuba dive, but I wasn't too keen. It mainly had to do with the cost, but also because I just didn't know how I would handle it. A lady came by and kindly asked if we were interested in paying extra for an intro Scuba Diving trip, but we politely declined... moments later I realize that was a stupid decision and that of course I HAD to scube dive! I mean it was the Great Barrier Reef! It is a once in a lifetime experience and definitely something I would regret if I didn't do it. So we chased after the lady and signed up. BEST DECISION EVER!!! Seriously it was the best decision I made on the whole trip... thus far ;)
This is me super excited about Scuba diving
They gave us a crash course in scuba diving. The trip would only be 4 people and a guide and we as beginners were not responsible for any of our equipment. We wouldn't be too far from the Pontoon and not too deep to cause any alarm. Nice and easy.

I was so excited to get in the water (even though it was freezing cold) and see all the underwater wildlife. Peole on the boat kept talking about how they wanted to see Nemo... I would roll my eyes and mock them for not having higher expectations for one of the most beautiful places in the world... but I will get honest here.... I got under the water and the first place we landed (it feels like you are flying through the water, so when you land I felt like I was Peter Pan, lightly touching down on the ocean floor) was in front of a wall of coral. our guide started waving her hands in front of some stringly underwater plant and 3 little clown fish popped out and you would have thought I had seen the second coming! I was so excited!!! I felt like a complete idiot for mocking those people because it just amazing. I was really at the Great Barrier Reef, underwater, seeing one of the most majestic and beautiful  places in the entire world. Breathtaking! Our scuba diving group was Phoebe and I, along with an older gentleman who was pretty quiet and unassuming, and a younger girl who just couldn't get her stuff together. She was a little slower than the group and we kept having to wait for her to stop freaking out or whatever about her breathing or her face mask or her stinger suit. It would have gotten ridiculous if it hadn't been cause for us to truly take our time looking at everything around us under the ocean.
Our fashionable stinger suits

Have to be careful of the jelly fish

Getting all suited up with our group
ready to submerge
I will admit I had my fair share of troubles with equipment. Nothing too troublesome, but mainly the mask kept getting some water in it. They taught us a trick to get it out, but when I would try it out, I would get the water out but not before some of it sprayed in my left eye... ouch. Totally worth the discomfort though.
Another stop along our Underwater journey was at a HUGE clam shell! Seriously is was the size of a Saint Bernard! Our guide demonstrated how we could stick our hand down in it and then back out and we could watch the clam close and open again. I was the first to try it out.
There also was this little fish that kept running into me. They had told us not to touch anything cause we could disrupt the eco-system of the GBR, but this fish kept doing it to himself. He was pretty gorgeous though - purple and green and blue depending on the angle to looked at it and it was like the colors were electric. I loved him.
The whole scuba diving experience was too short lived and I wished we could have seen more wildlife, like seas turtles, sharks, maybe a whale or two, but I plan on definitely scuba diving again when I can.

When we got back to the Pontoon, and emerged from the water I was quickly reminded of how HEAVY my oxygen tank was and it gave me quite a jolt of disorientation. Between that and the wooziness from the boat, I was pretty sick immediately following the dive. The best cure was the buffet dinner to get some weight in my stomach.
Awesome chicken
After that Phoebe and I laid in the sunshine on the deck of the Pontoon and readied ourselves to snorkle a bit before the boat was set to leave. I am so grateful I decided to scuba dive, because I seemed to have blocked the fact that I hate snorkling. The actual activity, I have nothing against, but without fail I will swollow a huge gulp of salt water on accident, gag or throw up and then I am pretty much done for the day. It was cool to see a bit more reef and fish from a different angle, but I was content to sit on the deck in the cool sunshine for the rest of the time.
Underwater coral wall


Underwater Phoebe

My underwater picture

On the deck of the boat
Random guy who wanted to take a picture with us... weird

Enjoying the sunny pantoon deck

We set sail back to Port Douglas after 3 hours out on the reef. As we went out further in the ocean to turn the boat around we caught a glimpse of the continental shelf. All you can see is a steady line of white waves foaming where the ocean floor drops down into oblivion. It was little overwhelming and creepy to think about.
Continental shelf
We also got to catch a glimpse of a whale as we drew near to the Port Douglas harbor. It was only of his tale and he was so far away... but I saw a whale!

Once we returned to the port, we quickly headed home to change and get ready for a fancy night out...