Coming Home

After a wonderful whirlwind visit to Queensland, which included an amazing trip to the Great Barrier Reef, an amazing reunion with an old high school friend, a reconnection with a couple we met in India, and an interesting drive through the south eastern part of the state, was time to go home. We didn’t spend enough time to get a good feel for Brisbane, but we got a great view of it from the plane as we left for Fiji. Also, the coast of Australia…

Even though we only had a five hour layover in Fiji, we were able to get a feel of the country. Our approach to the international airport allowed a nice view of the countryside, and during our stay in the airport we learned a little Fijian, and read more about the country…

Our homecoming took place in Santa Cruz & La Honda. We took a taxi from SFO to see Grandma at Dominican Oaks and had dinner with her, Nancy & Jered, Lucas & Rosa, before driving back up the coast to La Honda. Our neighbor Steve took care of our dog Sugar while we were gone, and we were greeted by a welcome home sign reminiscent of our return from Europe in 1973 (thanks to Nancy!)…

Back home, we went to the 4th of July picnic where I met Caroline Pisani’s boyfriend Colin, the son of Trip Hord from Riverside who serendipitously appeared at the BBQ. Wild coincidence and lovely encounter.

We also reconnected with our doggie Sugar Pie, who seemed not to recognize us at first. Veronica had a sleep over in the tent with some friends, I saw a trout in La Honda Creek, I found two Virgin Marys on a tree, and saw a cool electric dirt bike at the pool. It’s good to be back.

 

Queensland, Pt. 2

While we haven’t had to drive all the way back to Sydney after leaving Heron Island, the drive back to Brisbane still took two days. Here are some pix of the landscape, and on the rural stretches of road they’ve identified “Fatigue Zones” and have provided Trivia Questions to keep drivers awake…

Returning to Hervey Bay we stayed at “Lazy Acres” (reminiscent of our cabin in Montana in name only) and got to meet up with our old friends from GSAM in India: Auntie Sarah and Uncle John Poxon. We went to an Indian Restaurant and it was great to reconnect and catch up. On the way to Brisbane we stopped briefly in Maryborough where they were holding a Mary Poppins Festival since the author was from thereabouts…

Arriving in Brisbane, we discovered there was a fun food event taking place down the street. Of course we went and enjoy several tasty treats, cool music, and even some fireworks! It was a great last night in Australia and for our big trip…

Here are a couple pix of paintings at our hotel, the TV coverage of the Australian election that took place on July 2nd, and one of the many rivers in Queensland…

 

No Study Questions, but I might add some pix of the airport later…

 

Great Barrier Reef

After some research and full bookings elsewhere, we decided to spend two precious nights on Heron Island in the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. We left Hervey Bay and drove up to Gladstone where we caught the ferry that goes out to Heron Island only 3 or 4 times a week. Here are some pix of our trip out, the boat, the island, and the semi-submersible boat “I-Spy” that all but me got to view the wildlife on the reef from.

Here are some pix of our first sunset and next morning’s sunrise…

Here’s a pano of a Heron Island sunrise…IMG_2242

This batch of pix includes the Information Centre with some maps & displays, the I-Spy heading out, our boat, the reef walk group, etc…

These pix are all of corals, shells, and related life forms just off the beach on Heron Island taken above the water. Pix of our snorkeling expeditions will be posted if our underwater cameras didn’t all break…

A few pix from the boat we went snorkeling from, the boat we came to and from on, and “the wreck” which is one of the most popular snorkeling spots on the island…

Vids!

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research the links above. Facts about Heron Island and the GBR?
  2. Research the Great Barrier Reef and the current ecological challenges it is facing due to pollution and climate change.

Australian Politics

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Here on our last day, it is election day in Australia and the country is voting for a new government. As I write this shortly after 8:00 in the evening as polls here are closing, they are having election night coverage not unlike the US, with sitting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals (conservatives here, and “Coalition” in the pic) vs. challenger Bill Shorten and the Labor Party making a strong showing. Then there are the Greens and miscellaneous other parties as well who may slightly tip the balance of power in this, a very close race in Australia. (Interestingly, the red vs. blue seats are reversed – left=red, right-blue.)

While our kids were in school at Leichhardt, I had the opportunity to teach a couple classes to the 10th year and many of the questions from the students were about our election in the US, with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, etc. While there is more drama, more personal pyrotechnics in the US, it is interesting to follow the Australian election in which bombastic rhetoric is less important than a sincere discussion of the issues. Those issues: taxation, social supports vs. corporate investments, climate change, health care, etc. are similar to the US, but the spokespersons – politicians, party representatives, and others – are gentler, friendlier, and seem to lean to the center no matter what side they’re on.
As I post, just before 9:00 pm in Brisbane, the news analysts and pundits are not making predictions even though it seems that the Labor Party is doing better than expected. Perhaps I’ll update with post with results or commentary…
UPDATE on July 3rd: We woke up to an almost dead heat in which news commentators report that votes must still be counted. It looks like Turnbull and the Liberals will retain power, but have lost seats in Parliament to the Labor Party.
Study Questions:
  1. Research the links above. Describe Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party in Australia.
  2. Research the links above. Describe Bill Shorten and the Labor Party in Australia.
  3. Compare the Australian Parliamentary system to the United States. How are they similar and different?

Queensland, Pt. 1

After almost two months in and around Sydney, we rented a car and drove up to Byron Bay (still in New South Wales) for the first long leg of our visit to points north along the Australian east coast. Not yet in Queensland, but here are some pix of the lighthouse, the beaches, etc…

After Bryon Bay, our first stop was to see my old long, lost friend Neil Charkow. I tracked him down on the internet a couple years ago, living here on the “Sunshine Coast” just above Brisbane. We also met his lovely wife Melinda and their younger son Ollie (older son Nick is a pilot in the Australian Air Force!). Neil was my best buddy in high school and we had a lot to talk about after almost 40 years. It was great. Hard to get here, but much harder to leave.

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While visiting Neil, we stayed at the Novotel Resort on the Sunshine Coast. It was a great place for kids with all kinds of fun activities. We played “putt putt golf,” went kayaking, sailing on Hobie Cats, and I took a long walk to the ocean through some beach bush…

After leaving the Sunshine Coast, we drove up to Hervey Bay via Noosa. A nice spot adjacent to the huge Fraser Island, we walked out on the almost kilometer long (800 km) pier to view the ocean, many fisherpersons, and some seahawks (eagles?) amongst the gulls…

Some vids…

 

Study Questions:

  1. Research Byron Bay, New South Wales, Queensland, Hervey Bay, or thereabouts? What did you find out?
  2. Research old best friends. Anything?