Sunday, February 04, 2007

Australia Update #8: Monday, January 29 and Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Australia Update #8
Monday, January 29, 2007

Greetings from somewhere over The International Date Line at 35,000 ft. "It's 5 O'clock somewhere" so I am having some wine courtesy of United Airlines. I am 5 hours into a 14 hour jaunt! I am trying to stay awake – but really don't know why!!

I really enjoyed my weekend in Brisbane after coming out of Cherbourg on Friday afternoon. It was a holiday – Australia Day – so there was ONE bus out and I made sure I was on it. A few of the folks stayed until Saturday, but we were free to go because of the holiday, so I up and went! A shower – AC – massage – and good food were never so welcome. I hooked up with Hoppy's cousin Terry on Saturday for "a coffee" and it was fun to meet him briefly. He had just come back into town from some business in another Aboriginal community "up North" so it was interesting to share stories.

The last day in Brisbane venturing to Lady Elliot Island on the Southern end of The Great Barrier Reef was long: 6AM – 7PM, but well worth the trip. It is an amazing place. Even though the island itself was dry and most of the vegetation was brown due to the extreme drought, it was really interesting to see what the Reef was like and the snorkeling was fantastic. Basically, it is an outcropping of the reef and a big coral rock pile. I even got to see a "Steve Irwin Ray" but kept my distance!

The guide Marty was great and there were only a couple of us – plus a couple from the UK and their "bratty" kids. He loved the excuse to take me back to the water after lunch (plus Champagne!) to get away from the kids who just wanted to swim in the pool. We went to one spot off the island and saw some awesome HUGE turtles – who were quite curious and swam right up to us and gave us an eyeball!! They were in close to shore as it was egg laying time on the beach.

I returned to the hotel after my excursion for a last supper. The weather had broken and a cool front came through so my final evening dining on the River was outstanding – a river breeze - temps in the upper 70's and low humidity for a change – though it was not supposed to last. My last meal is worth describing: Grilled oysters (nice little small ones) in Worcester Sauce and bacon, Gigantic Shrimp Scampi fresh veggies and the desert!!! Sliced mangoes grilled in brown sugar , coconut and served with Guava & Passion Fruit ice cream!!! Ouch!!! What a nice way to end an adventure. By the way, I FOUND MY GREY GOOSE!!! – after all this time….. on the last night! Better late than never.

Today, Monday, Jan 29, began early and was promising to be a marathon with a departure from Brisbane to Sydney. Then it was on to SFO. I left Sydney at 3:00PM on Monday afternoon and am scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning – MONDAY AGAIN at 9:30 AM. I guess that makes up for the Wednesday that I lost on the way over. I am not sure what to set my watch to – so I hope I make my connection in SFO back to Portland. I will post this from Portland – whenever I get there.

Wednesday – Jan 31

I have surfaced at The Heathman Hotel in Portland after 48 hours of blurr!! The remaining flight to SFO and on to Portland was uneventful except spending 2 hours going through Customs and Security to get into the country and another hour getting on the domestic flight to Portland. It is sunny and 45-50d here and am delighted not to sweating my pants off anymore. My body still is not quite sure what time it is – awake at 3AM primed for coffee and eggs!! But it is getting better. This morning I was able to go back to sleep until 8AM – progress.

Andrew and I were going to try to go to the Blazers game last night but I knew I would probably sleep though the second half – damn they won too!! Andrew has informed the Sales Manager at Land Rover Portland that they are going to have an "honorary" salesman at the dealership tomorrow afternoon! Hmmm look like I will be able to test drive the new model LR2!! Test track???

We are having dinner Friday evening with Marty Lemke and family. She was the Team Leader for my Cook Island Trip and I looking forward to catching up with her and telling her of my Aussie exploits. Over the weekend – it's off-road time!! We are planning a trip over to the Coast – Tilimook State Forest for some Rovering with a bunch of our old PCRC (Pacific Coast Rover Club) friends. I haven't seen them since I was out here last September. It very well might be a mud fest with some snow at the higher elevations as the wet weather is supposed to return. Oh well – what are Land Rovers for! Andrew's work on our 1949 Series I – Winston – is coming along nicely – A great addition to our "fleet"! (photo included in case you haven't seen it!)

The Cuppa Murri:

Well it was a final "feast" with all the trimmings. A BIG pit was dug and fire started in the morning to heat up the river rocks for cooking. Huge sides of pork - roasting chickens – legs of lamb had been marinated in honey – garlic – ginger and soy sauce etc. and wrapped in foil ( 3 LARGE size garbage cans full)- along with potatoes – pumpkins – squash – sweet potatoes etc. Everything was placed in a gigantic wire basket, placed on the hot rocks and covered with burlap and sand to cook all day. By late afternoon, all was dug up and the basket manhandled by 6 men who struggled to load it on the back of a pickup truck for transport to the Medical Center where everyone had gathered.

The party began with entertainment by a group of young boys who performed traditional dances. They were selected to be in this group and it was considered to be was a real honor. It was used as a motivator for them to stay in school and do well. Then "The Muddy Flats," a local band who have been playing together since they were kids took over. The music was a "varied" assortment of 50's-70's country: "Harper Valley PTA," "Stand By Me," etc!! Interesting renditions and great guys.

Lilian (Photo with me) had an awesome voice and LOVED Patsy Cline and belted out "Crazy"! A great celebration to end our stay.

Photos are assorted: Lady Elliot Island and the last night's festivities in Cherbourg – a "CUPPA MURRI" (underground cooking) Check out the Porcupine photos!!! I think this equals the eel in the Cook Islands, hands down! It was REALLY GROSS. Par boiled for 2 hours – "oven roasted" for 3!! It complimented the salsa and chips!