We're Never Coming Back

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day 168 - Australia Zoo

australia CRIKEY!

Australia Zoo was always going to be a highlight. Its pretty hard for the home of Steve Irwin not to be. In fact, when I originally made Sam's blog, she cited 'meeting Steve Irwin at Australia Zoo' as one of her 3 most favoured things to do around the world (along with swimming with dolphins and, strangely, just Thailand). Anyway, all-round-legend Rog let us take his posh car an hour up the coast to the zoo (I mean, when does that ever happen back home? People here are unbelievably nice), so just after the first croc show of the day had finished, we rocked up at the entrance to be confronted with a massive sign of Steve Irwin holding, you guessed it, a crocodile.

Sam's got this weird thing about wanting to hold every type of 'friendly' or 'drugged-so-much-it-is-friendly' animal in australia. She's managed a croc (with its mouth taped shut) and stroked koalas and stuff already. But today she wanted to properly HOLD a koala. Which she got to do, the lucky girl. I however, had greater ambitions. I wanted to hold BINDI IRWIN, who would be holding a koala herself. I reckon this would be a first for australia zoo. Anyway, at the entrance, after blagging a discount for us (I love aussies), I asked, very politely, if Bindi was in the part today. It seems she wasn't. I got the stock answer of 'i haven't seen her today' followed by an explanation that she doesn't attend school but instead has a personal tutor. I was given this same answer a number of times through the day, so had to settle for a picture of me and the girl in a poster. But check out how brown I am!

Anyway, time was pressing on, and this park (as I envisioned it from the TV program which I've watched back home in the UK) is massive. NO ITS NOT. Its small. Its not massive AT ALL. Right, you can walk from one side to the other in about 15 minutes. Maybe less if you didn't have to wait for the stupid noddy train to pass by for 5 of them. Its tiny. AND, on the program, there are people on every corner letting you stroke parrots and hold lizards. we saw 2. Its false advertising. That said, we did see a massive lizard just hanging around on the path. That was pretty cool.

We hit the croc show first, which was tame. And enormous. Shed loads of people, all of which had to shout 'crikey' in memory of steve. that was embarrassing. But the real tear-jerking moment came when he hit the screens. Sam was almost crying, and I was welling up. Same footage they used when he was alive methinks, of him explaining stuff about crocs. But yeah, he was pretty damn cool. Right under the stadium are these massive rows of tribute shirts that people have signed, along with big old inflatable crocodiles covered in sympathetic messages for his family. A few typos of the word 'crikey', and some messages seeming sent by housewives who were madly in love with the guy, but generally a full-on emotional memorial which tugged at those tears once again. We miss you steve.

On to the animals, and the park is rammed with them. We saw camels...

tasmanian devils (which are like little cute pigs with massive mouths)...

wombats (massive dog-like things that plod around. you just wanna roll around with these guys)...

dingos (feral dogs - DULL)

and elephants (what the hell are these doing here?)

And, get this, here you can HAND-FEED KANGEROOS. We had no idea, right, before we came. So we're sat on this noddy train to get from one side of the park to the other (ohhh, that shaves at least a minute off your journey) when we're told that if we get off before the Tigers, we can buy kangeroo food (aka fish food) from the train driver. So we did. And then spent at least an hour feeding these wicked looking kangeroos. It was awesome.

One of them tried to eat my finger, which wasn't impressive, and another actually swiped a paw at sam's face in defence when she bent down for a photo. But aside from that, these animals are well cute. They use their monster tails like a 3rd leg, which is a bit rank, and they lie down in this weird 'chillaxing' pose. But apart from that, their bodies are graceful and curved in the most beautiful way. They move really gracefully, and whilst their faces lack any sort of expression, you know that they're pretty smart, sussing you out as you reach down. Its not just about the food. I liked that about them.

Anyway, I hand-fed a fruit to an elephant. that was weird. then we legged it over to the tiger encampment. These animals are BEAUTIFUL without doubt. I don't need to tell you that. But seeing the trainers arse about with them in the pool, making them jump around and stuff, was weird but they looked pretty happy. I dunno. I don't know what I really think about zoos. even this one was a bit sick in places. Surely in this day and age we can find a way to watch wildlife without it being locked up - regardless of the quality of its surroundings. But hey, I paid the entrance price like everyone else. I'm a hypocrite if I claim its bad form. Maybe this will be my last zoo. who knows.

One final thing to note. As we were leaving, we popped into the gift shop to see if sam could by a Steve Irwin style shirt. and guess what. the place is full of EVERY concievable type of steve irwin merchandise. From flip-flops to wind-up-toys, t-shirts with his family on them and even aprons and tea towels. all with steve plastered all over them. I had no idea he was such an icon. i mean, I know people love him, but this stuff is SICK.


That evening was Halloween, and Rog had a treat lined up for us. He whisked us across Brisbane town to his brother's house where we chewed down some great food, and I carved my first ever pumpkin. Its a bit dodgy looking, but I was pretty impressed for my first go. Some kid came round trick-or-treating (its a new thing over here - even celebrating Halloween has only happened for the last 4 or 5 years) and just walked into the house and took some sweet and left - cheeky bugger. You wouldn't get away with that back home.

The next day, Sam and I spent the day trying to sort out how to get to the renowned Fraser Island. This proved to be a challenge and 3 hours later we had sorted it. And after watching some TV with Rog and out last good nights sleep for what would prove to be over a week, we jumped on a bus to Hervey Bay the next day. 7 hour bus journeys? Easy when you're used to 40-hour journeys...

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Day 166 - Brisbane

australia Everyone keeps banging on about how travelling is not about places - its about the people you meet. Right, this is almost completely true. Almost without exception the last 6 months of travelling have been littered with stories of wicked people. No matter how great a place is, it only becomes cool when we meet good people. Brisbane is a typical example. Honestly, its a bit rubbish. Nothing much special about it. Until, that is, you meet Roger.


Now, before I get onto that stuff, a quick recap of the last couple of days. After rafting, Sam, Anthony and I drove back up to Port Douglas. Sam and I were so stoked (for non-australian speakers, that's 'impressed') with the snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, we decided to do it all again. So we donned some more snorkels and got wet in the sunshine all day again. A different reef this time, and loads more to explore. Pretty much the same sort of this as before, but with different sea conditions and more sunshine, we tanned like mad between swims and came home rosey cheeked and very happy (and on that note, I'm actually the brownest I think I have ever been right now. I love it)

In the evening we drove back to Cairns for a big night out, where Sam and Anthony went wild in a routy bar that played horrible party music. Sam's turned well routy these days (sorry sam - its a fact). And old anthony was dancing like a 15-year-old. But that aside, it was kinda fun. And we finished the night off in the weird, out-back-style gay bar where anthony worked his magic on the aussie boys.

[note what Sam is taking a photo of...]

Hungover like dogs, we spent the next day chilling out. I got my beard trimmed. I walked with anthony to drop the van back. we kinda did nothing all day, which makes a change from our otherwise hectic social calendar. And in the evening I went for a final pint with anthony to wish him farewell as he returned to england. gutted.

In the morning, at 5am (who's idea was it to book 6am flights, Sam?), we went to the airport and, like the international jetsetters that we are, flew the 2hr journey (30 hours overland) to Brisbane. Now, Sam used to work with a dude called Roger, who has offered for us to use his place, but I'd only met this guy in a nightclub so had no idea what he was like. Nice guy to offer his place though, so we took the bus out of town to his pad and let ourselves in. While I checked my emails, Sam ironed all his shirts to say thank you (she's a good girl), and we waited for Rog to come home.

Whch he did. And what a dude he is. Right, he's such a good lad. Properly funny. Totally a dude. I thought he was wicked. And he's invited us into his house. and is so nice about it. hospitality like this is so unique. even in the UK, people are nice and everything. but this is different. he's telling us to trash the place and its ok. a proper nice bloke.

anyway, he left us to it and we watched an episode of "tripping over" and the australian music awards (the Arias) where the veronicas and bernard fanning stole the show. Anyway, after a rough night's sleep (I never sleep well when I share a bed with sam - dunno why), sam and i hit the town. We met rog for lunch then wandered through the botanical gardens, expo site (which was cute) and managed to blag free entry into the museum because I told the woman on reception that we had no cash. sweet.

All in all, brisbane is pretty nice. Its high-rise, but it looks good. The river gives it loads of character, and they seem to be looking after it well and making it pretty where they can. I dunno - its just a city and nothing special, but maybe having free accomodation and guide round town meant I thought it was better than it really was. I dunno.

Anyway, in the evening, host-of-the-decade Roger took us out for a steak dinner at the Paddo Tavern, then we hit the sack. Tomorrow would be a massive day - we're off to Australia Zoo to meet Bindi Irwin...

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Day 162 - White Water Rafting

australia So, its like 8am, I'm knackered. spent half the night up last night writing this blog (which is stressing me out a little, but my appallingly bad memory needs it to remember everything for the next 70-odd years that I'm expected to live). and Anthony and I are hopping on a bus to Tully to go White Water Rafting. Its wildly exciting.

Anthony's always been good with presents right. since he bought me a massive jar of Jelly Babies (he knew me so well), he's always spoilt me. And this was no exception. Since he missed my birthday in September, he went and bought me ticket to go rafting with him on a proper, grade 4 river. And I was well excited.

We took the bus to Tully, then another bus up the river valley to the top of the 17km stretch we were about to raft down. And after covering ourselves in suncream (its pretty bad on the river) and donning life-vests and helmets, we were ready to go.

There were about 8 or 9 other rafts, and as everyone got a 20 minute lesson on how to raft, we geared up to get going. Now - rafting in south america is pretty different. You leave the top of the river, go down until either (a) someone gets injured or (b) you get to the end. Not here. Here, you stop after every rapid and wait for all the other rafts to pass by. About half of the morning was spent waiting for the othe rafts. It was pretty slow, and a bit annoying. But when we were shooting down the rapids, it was awesome.

Sometimes we're paddling like mad, sometimes crouching in the raft to stop from falling out. water is going everywhere, anthony's almost falling out. constantly balancing the weight so the raft doesn't chuck us out, until one rapid where we 'stage' a fall out by all leaning to one side so we get thrown into the squalling water. It was fun.

The afternoon was more relaxed. gentler rapids and more time rafting on the flats. It was good. less waiting around. and eventually we ended up at the finish line where we flipped our raft again and let the current take us downstream for a while. After drying off and heading back home, we headed round to Scotties - a rival hostel on the beach - and had WAY too much to drink with some of the guys from the raft. I ended up playing drinking games with some Irish girls (always bad news) and Sam was trying her hardest to get all the boys in the pool, naked. But it didn't work. and after being questioned by the police on our way home, we slept it off and drove back to Port Douglas with bad hangovers in the morning.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Day 160 - Mission Beach


australia After leaving Cairns, I had my first proper big journey in the Deluxe Samantha, and drove her 2 hours south past a shed load of amazing beaches (literally, this place is crawling with palm tree lined, white sand beaches). Past banana fields. Past sugar mills spewing a stupid amount of white smoke into the already screwed atmosphere. Past trains with about 300 carriages crossing roads every 10 minutes. Until we reached Babinda - a pretty anonymous town with some pretty beautiful boulders.

This place is beautiful right. Its proper spiritual as well, to the aboriginals. According to them, some pretty little aboriginal girl called Oolana fell in love with some guy called Dyga (who she wasn't allowed to have), so they ran away to be together. Cute. But of course, them got caught by the tribe eldars. Dyga gets dragged one way, Oolana gets dragged the other, and in despair, Oolana breaks free and throws herself in the river, causing a massive earthquake which threw up all the boulders and rushing, foaming waters. Killer.




Here's the thing though. Apparently, Oolana's spirit still lives in the waters, and its believed that she calls out, drawing young men to the waters edge, as she searches for her lost lover. And guess what, today its one of australians most dangerous natural features - with a load of boys dying here over the years from jumping off the rocks into the killer waters below. Its tempting - the water looks nice, and the rocks are primed for jumping off into the turquoise pools below. But you can *tell* - these waters are dangerous. I was tempted, but I ditched it in favour of taking photos of little bugs on tree branches. I'm so hardcore.

Anyway, after leaving Babinda, we headed down to Mission Beach. I had a personal interest in this site, because right off the coast is DUNK ISLAND. That's right. Its actually called DUNK ISLAND. How much do I love that?

We didn't go to the island though. Its a posh, expensive resort. and its not worth the ferry money across. We're super skint at the moment, so 30 minute ferries JUST because of my name is not worth it. We did have a ball at Mission Beach though. We managed to find this AMAZING hostel which, despite having no room for us, allowed us to stay in practically our own flat, and gave us an amazing discount for the pleasure. I love australia.

Anyway, it chucked it down like mad for hours on Monday. Proper torrential rainforest style weather. It was sick. So we stayed in. But by the morning, things were different. I spent about 2 hours playing in the pool, which Sam suntanned, and Anthony mentally prepared himself to do a skydive. I kinda talked him into it, knowing he was scared of heights, and knowing how competitive he is, I recommended a higher jump. And he went for it.

Sam and I waited patiently on the beach for the plane to appear, and sure enough, we watched as it passed overhead, then saw a white dot drop from 14,000ft to 3,000ft before the parachute opened. Its warmer here than New Zealand, so he's jumping in his shorts, and landing on the beach. Jealous of that, ain't i? But yeah, he loved it. And to celebrate, he cooked us up a BBQ treat in the evening.

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