Thursday 10 April 2008

Rain Forests and the Great Barrier Reef - World Heritage Sites!

Yesterday Carole Anne and I did a full-day tour of the Daintree Rain Forest just north of Port Douglas in Northeastern Queensland, complete with plenty of both sunshine and some rain, along with six other and an excellent guide (Chris, from Tony's Tours) who really knew his botany. Daintree is the oldest rain forest on the planet. Though very lush and even towering at places, the large trees had been almost totally destroyed in this region by the lumber companies, except for a very few majestic virgin timber specimens we saw, before the federal government stepped in in the 1980's. We saw some incredible stuff, some very important to old and modern medicine, and some VERY poisonous as well!

Today Carole Anne and I took the Quicksilver catamaran trip today to the Great Barrier Reef, which is itself greater than the combined land mass of Great Britain. It's the only living thing that can be seen from the Earth's moon and is home to 1500 species of fish. We went out to their platform attached to the foundation of Agincourt Reef: across from Cape Tribulation, but the southern-most piece of the outer ribbon-reef section, right out there next to the big 500 meter "drop-off" of the Australian continental shelf. So sad that this 2500 mile long wonder of the world is dying due to global warming (with a recent increase of the average water temperature of only a degree or two, it has drastically affected the living coral-maintenance and ongoing building process which has been going on for millions of years.) We had to take great care not to touch any of it with our hands or flippers as we swam along.

I had a "brilliant" time, as they say in Oz, floating and kicking my way amidst and above the splendid array of fish and the amazing collection of coral in this spot, but Carole Anne got seasick today on the way there, and only lasted in the water itself for a couple of minutes since that endeavor made her even sicker. She, needless to say, did NOT have a good time (though it still just as expensive!)

Tonight and tomorrow we are a bit further south, in Cairns (pronounced "cans") still about a thousand miles north of Brisbane, and it feels wonderful here. It's about 75 degrees and not very humid at all, right after midnight. Tomorrow forenoon we'll be taking the world-famous Scenic Railway tour up to Kurananda and the Skyrail cable car system in the tree-tops of the rain forest here, on the way down, just before flying out of the area in the afternoon towards New Zealand.

This country is extremely diverse -- and HUGE! Most folks don't realize that all the countries of Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, and throw in Texas yet -- superimpose them on the Australian map without any overlap whatsoever -- and still have plenty of space left over? In fact, land mass wise, it's actually about exactly equivalent to the entire contiguous 48 United States of America.


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