Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life's a Beach: Chapter 3

It’s been ages since I last wrote, so you’d think there would be lots to tell, but on average we’ve had rain five days out of every seven; I’ve mostly been doing jigsaw puzzles, reading crappy books, watching TV and eating popsicles. (Incidentally, if you want to know what’s been happening on Oprah, who won the Australian Open or just how quickly they promise you’ll lose inches off your waist with the new abs-omatic – amazing! - I’m your girl.) Kind of unfortunate, really, how I came to Australia just in time for the insufferably hot season and the cyclones, while not being able to teach because it’s summer holidays. Ta-daa!

But never you mind. Let’s do this thing.

Cyclone Olga is the one that hit North Queensland last week, and though it did some damage up in the Port Douglas area, it was actually pretty tame and quite anti-climactic after how much everybody (including myself!) talked it up. Mostly, what we got was major amounts of rain and the inevitably resulting house full of mouldy shoes and books. Also, lots of bugs everywhere, including this massive centipede that crawled out from behind the garbage can when I was in the bathroom! (As in, the toilet – you can imagine my horror.) I always thought centipedes were sweet, wormy little fuzzy things, but this was huge, black, shiny – shellacked, really – and aggressive. Something of a military, tank-and-hard-helmets kind of vibe. Google has assured me that it’s not poisonous, so I’m less concerned about finding one under my pillow, but it was still pretty gross – especially after I half crushed it with the garbage can and it was decapitated but still squirming around. Cheeky little bugger, I’ll tell you what.

Having been stuck in the house for so many days, Mark and I jumped up at the first sign of a dry spell and went out to explore the neighbourhood. We checked out the beach at Yorkey’s Knob and while the pictures only make it look vaguely grey, it was actually super gloomy, all troubled waters and dramatically stormy trees; perfect, really, for a long walk – except that after we had walked for about half an hour, the real storm moved in and we had to walk the whole way back with the wind whipping rain and sand into our faces. Stormy beach walk: worst idea ever.

We made it back to the car and drove home through the heavy storm; funny, isn’t it, that we sat in the house for days and days while it just rained, then chose the one day the cyclone actually appeared to go out for a joyride.

(Notice the street lights are on - it's 1:25 pm!)

The next day we tried again and were rewarded for our efforts. Back up to Kuranda (where our favourite store with the yummy freshwater lollies is conveniently located) and to the Barron Falls, which we had seen before the rain as part of our Sky Rail day, when the “falls” were a little trickle down toward a stream. Now, they’re huge and gushing and we would have stayed and just gazed all morning, but for the endless succession of tourists getting off the scenic train and elbowing us in the face in their efforts to get the perfect, peace-sign-flashing pictures.

Off instead to the Crystal Cascades – you understand that these places are all within thirty minutes of where I live, right? – where we witnessed a kayak lesson gone wrong (up the creek without a paddle isn’t so funny in real life) and the necessary Stupid Teen-age Boys doing jumps into the rapids off of slippery rocks. There was a dad-aged man sitting on the rocks with all the boys, though, watching it all go down, and I found it really hard to resist letting him know what I thought of his lack of responsibility. (Mark encouraged me to mind my own business...) The cascades are as pretty as you would expect and will certainly be a favourite swimming spot in the more swimming-friendly seasons.

(The guy jumping is to the right.)

We also – can’t remember if it was before or after Olga – went up to visit “Rainforestation,” another wildlife park in the area. The kangaroos were even friendlier than at the other place, the koalas were GORGEOUS, the crocs were huge – it was worth the trip. Their fancy thing is that they have these WWII army DUKWs (pronounced “ducks”) that go on land and in the water. I’m not sure why they have them, but no matter: we had a fun ride with a wacky driver/guide. My ears are still ringing from the noise: I don’t think I was ever made for the army.

With all the rain, of course, it’s hard to get out and get the exercise that I hoped would be a natural part of daily life here, so I’ve been settling for indoor activity: instead of going for walks around the neighbourhood, I do squats and planks and lift soup cans while I watch crappy daytime television. (I’ve also tried a belly-dancing dvd – do you have any idea how hard it is? You should see how they move their butts around, one cheek at a time.) It’s all pretty miserable.

So one day when I was heading out to the grocery store, it didn’t look like it was going to rain and I decided to take my bike instead of driving. It was such a long and overwhelming ride that I timed it on the way back, just so I could boast about how hardcore I am – except it was only 20 minutes! I’m a wimp! I guess I’m out of bike shape, and I was riding along the highway, which is a bit nerve-wracking, and it was about 45 degrees with the humidity (115 fahrenheit, for the Yanks out there) – and it was noon. Which makes me seem like an idiot, but it just turned out that way.

The major trauma, though, was when I was crossing over a bridge and only had about two feet of space, as the cars were whipping past me on the highway. I saw something coming up ahead, something gross-looking with flies all around it, and of course swerving into traffic was out of the question, so I had to just ride over it. What was it, exactly? I’m not sure – maybe a small possum, maybe a donga, maybe a rat. Whatever it was, it was dead, bloody and gross and I was terrified that it would somehow get caught up in my tire and fly up onto me. It didn’t, obviously – as if that would happen! – but it took the rest of the ride for me to stop having the major ickies and I was very, very focused (and anxious) the whole ride home.

Then there was the problem of being majorly sweaty in the grocery store. I had considered carrying my bike helmet around with me but decided that would be a shallow and self-conscious thing to do, so it was just me in my butt-sweaty yoga pants and tank, wandering around the yoghurt aisle, feeling really tough. (This was, of course, before I discovered what a short ride it had actually been.) No problem, until I went to the check-out counter and the cashier said “wow – you look like you’re really feeling the heat!” I told her it was because I’d come on my bike and she said “oh, okay,” which made me realize that as far as everyone was concerned, I’d driven here in an air-conditioned car and was just really out-of-control sweaty and inappropriately dressed for the grocery store. I don’t care if it’s shallow and self-conscious: next time, I’m strapping my bike helmet to me so that everyone can see that it’s legitimate. I’ve just ridden over a dead RODENT, people – don’t judge me!

A majorly unexpected change this year is that I’ve suddenly started cooking. Like, proper cooking: buying ingredients, reading a recipe and having something tasty come out at the end – and not just omelettes, lentils and bean burgers like before. I’ve even been making things that involve puff pastry, including this great grilled veggie thing that we had to finish on the barbecue by mosquito-torch light when the power went out for two hours. (And yes, it was still delicious.) I’ve even watched a couple of cooking shows. Cooking shows! I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m really enjoying being domestic – there may be hope yet; too bad it took until my 30th year of life to happen.

Speaking of my 30th year of life, how bloody old do you have to be before you stop getting surprise zits? Sciatic nerve problems, identity crises, changing dietary needs, wrinkles and receding gums - shouldn't the trade-off be no more adolescent skin problems?!

On the work front, I’ve been working in a local day care, super cute, and waiting for my registration to be complete for Education Queensland. (The latest glitch is the supply teaching service e-mailing to tell me my Queensland registration has expired, my replying that it hasn’t and attaching copies of my very much up-to-date membership papers, and then my not hearing from them for three days. I do love red tape.) So nothing really to report, but I haven’t given up hope. Though I pretty much hate all school boards, everywhere. No exceptions.

For the record, those of you who seemed concerned: the croc I touched in the last update was small, maybe a metre long; they don’t let you pet the big killing machines! Stop worrying!



  1. Glad to see what Barron Falls looks like with water. Cecile and I got to see only rocks when we visited.

    About those zits. They will come back again and again forever. They will choose their own place and time (usually on the nose and before a big event). They will be bigger and hurt more and last longer. Take it from one who knows at 66.

    A propos of the DUKWs. They are not supposed to be comfortable in the least. That is the essence of the armed forces. Maximum discomfort so that barracks life seems luxurious. It's all in THE PLAN.


  2. I just saw this comment now - thanks for commenting! I thought they'd send me some kind of notice if someone wrote something; I guess I'll have to keep on top of things.

    And thanks a lot for the doomsday warning... What about the eating-things-you-know-make-you-sick-and-then-getting-sick thing, does that stop? I'd like not to have that happen anymore.