Our Trip Down Under, Part 1: Large Aircraft, High Humidity and Koalas

[Kathy decided to write up our trip, both to help us remember it better as the years go by, and to share the story with friends. With her permission, and in installments, here ’tis for all.]

Joo, Kathy and Eugene

We left Seattle on a typically gray, damp day. The first flight was to L.A., where our good friends Joo and Simon and their 6 month old son Eugene met us. It was our first time to meet Eugene, who of course cried every time I held him. Simon said I shouldn’t feel bad, as Eugene cries when Simon holds him too. He is very much a velcro baby and wants to stick to Joo all the time. But he sure is cute.

The security line at L.A. was long and slow, but finally we got through it, and boarded the plane that would carry us to Sydney. Holy s**t, it was a big plane – the Airbus A380. It is a double-decker and holds almost 500 people. We were flying business class, which meant we had plenty of legroom, storage space, seats that fully reclined and various other goodies. For that long a flight, I highly recommend it. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be in the cattle-car section.

Anyway, the plane lumbered down the runway for quite awhile and finally took off, to my relief. Flying that sucker must be a little like trying to make a small cruise ship fly, or maybe a herd of pregnant elephants. It took off around 11pm Wed. January 20th.

A380 Seating

The flight attendants, in an effort to make us all behave nicely I’m sure, fed us well, handed out jammies and toothbrushes, and shut out the lights. They practically tucked us in. Probably good-night kisses would have cost extra.

On we flew. And flew. And flew. Quite a few folks managed to sleep for awhile, or were able to fake it. Being the white-knuckled flier that I am, I slept very little, if at all. Leo managed a bit, but we were both pretty tired by the time morning came around. Breakfast was served, and about 14 hours after taking off, we landed in Sydney Friday January 22nd, Sydney time. Yep – we totally skipped over Thursday.

Between the plane landing a bit late, and luggage taking forever to be unloaded, we missed our flight to Cairns, in the northeast state of Queensland. Oops. Fortunately there was another a couple hours later and we finally got to Cairns in the late afternoon, something like 30 hours after we left home.

The first thing we noticed about Cairns was the humidity. Oh. My. God. It was incredible. Between that and the heat, it was like stepping into a sauna. The humidity remained high, and the temperature very warm, the whole time we were in northeast Australia. Had we done any research in advance, we would have learned we would visiting in the monsoon season. Not the best time, but, oh well. Everybody there said September would have been cooler and less humid. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right??

The drive to our hotel from Cairns was beautiful. For the most part, it followed the curve of the shoreline. Everything around us was so green. And there were countless little waterfalls – I’ve never seen so many waterfalls. The water off to our right – the Coral Sea – was a beautiful shade of blue-green. We kind of felt like we’d stepped onto a movie set or something; it just seemed too beautiful to be real.

Just about the time I was getting queasy from the curvy road, we arrived at our hotel – Thala Beach Lodge.

Thala Beach

It was very, very cool. The lobby, restaurant, bar and meeting areas are open. There’s a roof, and some areas, like the kitchen, are walled, but most areas are not. The wind can blow through, the rain can blow in, the tropical birds can even come and go. It was just so different from every other hotel we’d ever been in. Lush tropical rainforest surrounds each little abode and the main lodge itself. We had a beautiful view of the ocean and the hills. There was a scenic path down to the very lovely beach. We were surrounded by the songs of many tropical birds and what seemed like a billion cicadas. Actually, pretty much no matter where we went, we heard cicadas. They must outnumber any other insect “Down Under” or maybe they’re just louder than anybody else.

Kathy and Koala

The next day, we jumped onto a local shuttle bus and went to the Rainforest Habitat
where we had their “Breakfast With The Birds”. Yep, various types of birds, including black cockatoos and other parrot-types, ibis, ducks and spoonbills, hung around as we ate, and hoped for crumbs to be thrown their way. Then came the best part – for the first time in my life, I was able to hold and pet a very mellow koala bear by the name of Glen. Glen was quite a solid chunk of critter, weighing about 20#. Like all males, he had a scent gland on his chest which made him somewhat aromatic. The scent was reminiscent of eucalyptus; not too surprising since that’s what koalas eat. Glen did me the favor of not pooping or peeing on me, and was quite tolerant of being petted. His fur was very, very thick – you couldn’t see his skin through it at all. I wish I could have petted his ears, which looked very soft, but they were off limits.

While at the Rainforest Habitat we saw – and heard – the native Kookaburra with its famous “laughing” call. Its call does sound like someone laughing hysterically and was quite entertaining. Of course I might feel differently if I had to listen to it all the time. We also got fairly wet from a cloudburst, but it was a warm rain and didn’t take long to evaporate. Soon enough we were back to sweltering and sweating.

After seeing all there was to see, including the fruit bats, which were quite actively moving around in their trees, we boarded another bus and went into Port Douglas, a quaint little harbor town.

1 thought on “Our Trip Down Under, Part 1: Large Aircraft, High Humidity and Koalas”

  1. Wow, I’m SO glad you have seen at least some of Australia. One thing I really must stress to you Koalas are NOT bears! Loads of people think they are and it especially annoys my sister who lives in Saint Louis MO so I’m passing this on to you on her behalf.
    Glad you made it back home after the trip.
    Love your emails, they are extremely helpful as well as sometimes entertaining.
    All the best
    Carolyn B

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