Wallabies and a Koala

Murray, M and I walk through the Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area this afternoon for some exercise and fresh air since it is too windy to go to the beach.

Almost immediately we see wallabies. They are smaller than kangaroos, but look like them. Moms were carrying their young. This youngster had his feet sticking out and looked all scrunched up. I wonder if he is comfortable.

Wallaby

We meet some folks and they tell us they spotted two koalas in some trees down the path. We are given directions and after some hunting and lots of looking up, we spy this fellow snoozing. We could not locate his friend.

Koala

 

We wander the paths and marvel at the lush, green vegetation and all the wallabies, who seem mostly unafraid of us. I can’t help chuckling and saying “boing” “boing” each time one hops by.

Wallabies

Posted in Australia | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Aus Observations

I have travelled to both New Zealand and Australia. When people ask the difference I tell them NZ is more like Canada and Australia is closer to the US. It is maybe somewhere between the US and Canada. Since M & D moved to Australia we have been here a few more times I expected to, so I have had a bit more exposure and observed and noted a few oddities.

Things like the signage. “Illegal dumping prohibited”, seems a waste of paint, if the dumping is illegal it is by definition prohibited. Just sayin’.

It has taken a while, and meeting quite a few Australian couples, but Aussy men treat their wives quite different then we do in Canada. It seems to me that the idea of wife as a chattel has never left this country. They treat women in rather a demeaning fashion. It seems to work with them but I cringe when I notice it.

They have ‘City Bike’ here in the Gold Coast. The system seems odd to me. Most cities have designated pick up and drop off racks for their city bikes. Payment systems differ but if you have a bike you can use it all you want but you have to deposit it at a rack. Here the bikes have GPS chips and can be hired by swiping a UPC code with your cell phone. The bikes are scattered all over the city at random locations. If you are finished riding, you get off, scan the UPC and leave the bike where ever on a street corner or on someone’s front lawn or the middle of a park or at the entrance to a shopping mall. The scanning of the UPC activates (or inactivates) a u-lock on the back tire and where you drop the bike is where it sits until some walks by and wants to ride somewhere. Very weird.

Today I ordered a mushroom burger for lunch and odd as this might seem I got a burger of mushrooms. Not a meat patty with mushrooms on it, the burger was some sort of deep fried batter that contained the sliced mushrooms and melted cheese. There was no meat involved. Should have expected that I guess, but I had the North American model in mind and it was a bit of a disappointment. It was edible though.

Australians are know for their beer drinking but I did not realize they were such gamblers. Driving about Edmonton I am always a bit amazed at how many casinos and such there are, wondering how many people must go there and piss away copious amounts of cash. Here there are gambling opportunities at every street corner. Pokies (VLT’s), off track betting and the like everywhere. I guess Australians make too much money.

Alcohol is readily available at corner stores, burger joints, and other establishments that you could not get it in Canada. Maybe contributes or services Australia’s love of booze, not sure which, but it is things like this is why I say it is more like the US.

Australia is an easy place to travel even though some things amaze me.

Posted in Australia | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Southport, Queensland, Australia

We are back in the city. Traffic. Tall buildings. Huge grocery stores. People. M&D, our kids. Wearing street clothes and deodorant.

Our flight from Fiji to Brisbane was very comfortable in Business Class. We thank the Fijian Gods. We rode the train from the airport to Helensvale and then the G:link tram to the Southport South station just around the corner from our Airbnb apartment and about five blocks from the kids’ condo.

The apartment is very small, slightly used but comfy enough for our 10 days here. Our biggest challenge was to unpack all our stuff and where to store it. We bought some groceries and are able to make breakfast and lunch.

We are spending time mostly with M as D is doing her surgery rotation, reviewing cases and writing a medical ethics paper. We chat over supper then she disappears into the study to work. We are enjoying the bits of time spent with D, learning about her days in the hospital. M, Murray and I played a board game called Pandemic this evening. It is a cooperative game and is very well thought out.

We spent this afternoon solving diving gear issues. We solved Murray’s BCD problem and know how we are going to solve my fin issue, just have to go back to one of the dive shops to buy some straps.

We swam today in the ocean in a netted off area for swimmers just near the Aquatic Centre. We think we swam about 1200 meters. It was a great swim and neither of us feel tired from it. The driving around to dive shops is exhausting though.

You may not hear from us everyday as life here isn’t terribly exciting or different. Goodnight!

Posted in Australia | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fiji, Final Thoughts

While at the Paradise Taveuni, we managed a couple of open water swims. See, we signed up for Kelowna’s Swim Across the Lake in July, so we are trying to get in as many longish swims as we can. Murray figures we swam about a kilometre. I swam and looked at the fish as I went, so it was fun.

When guests depart from the Paradise, about 15 employees gather to sing a farewell song. A fellow plays guitar and there are male and female singers. Many of the singers were not known to me, perhaps kitchen staff. Some of the servers gave me big hugs after to say good bye. They are not professional singers and they were very good singing harmony and the deeper voiced guys were singing echo to the higher pitched ladies. It was very effective.

We met many new diver friends at the Paradise. It is a more close knit atmosphere than the Volivoli, I think. Perhaps the Volivoli had too many big dive groups staying there while we were there and that makes it harder to strike up conversation. At the Paradise they set dinner up at ‘the long table’ three times in a week and it more or less forces conversation. The morning after such a dinner you greet the people you sat with as friends.

We met divers from Virginia, close to DC, Belgium, near Sydney, Adelaide and New Zealand. Spent time dining and chatting. All very enjoyable and who knows, we may meet up with them again somewhere.

Today was a hot one. Debbie reads on the internet it was 30C but with the humidity it ‘feels like 40C’. It felt like 40C.

We asked at the hotel desk how to grab a local bus to get downtown. It is about 4 km and with the temp where it is we don’t really want to walk. Armed with the information passed on we are waiting at the bus stop and I strike up a conversation with a young lady also waiting for the bus. She tells us we can flag a mini bus and they will take us the to the city center for a few cents more. We are talking $1 Figian vs 70 cents. In the end we get into a cab with the lady and we each pay $1 and get a taxi ride. The taxis are constantly pulling over and asking if we need a ride somewhere and I just shoo them away but when at a bus stop to return to the hotel one of the fellas that I had shooed away earlier stops to see if he can give us a ride. I told him we got a ride for $1 each on the way into town. He wanted $5 I turned my back and walked back towards the bus stop. He caved and we got a ride for $2. He turned on his meter to show me the ride was actually a $5.70 ride but begrudgingly accepted the $2 we had agreed on at the start of the ride.

Nadi, Fiji

The main street of Nadi, Fiji

The main street is the only street the tourists walk on. It has a variety of shops that sell everything from spare car tire to sexy lingerie. In front of every tourist shop there is a tout asking you to stop in at their shop and see what we absolutely need to take home. They are friendly enough and not really pushy but they are touts none the less and a bit annoying. As soon as we walk up one of the side streets and along the next block that parallels the main street the tourist shops disappear and the touts along with them. I still find it amazing that visitors to a country only travel where all the other visitors travel. They refrain from taking a short step off that trail and experiencing a bit of the real country. Debbie and I then wandered into the ‘hood’ for a ways just to get a better perspective.

Nadi, Fiji

The Market

The next place we wander through is the market. A really nice market at that. Clean, well organized, and stocked with all the vegetables and fruit you can imagine. There is no meat section which is common in most open air markets we have visited. The fresh meat section is usually quite ‘gross’ and smelly so I did not miss it. The largest section of the market was dedicated to kava. A mildly intoxicating drink everyone in Fiji partakes in. It is in fact a custom to welcome all visitors with a kava ceremony. There is a ceremony for the preparation of the drink, it is then placed in a communal coconut shell cup and it is passed from person to person. I tried the drink when I was in Fiji 30 years ago. It was god bloody awful. I have managed to duck out of two different offers to sit and try it again and I will try my damnedest to continue ducking. But, by the number of stalls selling kava root it is a main stay in Fiji and the tradition is not going to end any time soon.

Cassava and taro

Cassava and Taro

The bus station and mini bus station are hives of activity. As with most places in the world with similar stature as Fiji the buses gather at one central spot. The people come from shopping or whatever engages them in the city, find the bus headed home and board it. These places are busy. Unless it is a express bus it will stop anywhere along the route until it reaches its final destination. The buses are quite full when they leave the central station. There are always buses coming and going so you have to keep your head up as you cross the road and you have to keep you spidey sense tingling as there as a lot of seedy types hanging about.

There were very long lines at the Vodaphone stores today. Every Fijian received a letter in the mail offering a $50 refill on their bus cards. Sort of like a tax refund but instead they are upping the ante to use public transportation, maybe getting a few folks to leave their car at home. Although the traffic is not very bad here.

Catching an early flight tomorrow so not likely to see too much more of this land but it is an interesting place, far more interesting than the confines of the resorts and probably deserves a little more time spent.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fijian Gods are at it again…..Wait for It

It’s our last dive in Fiji, I giant stride into the water off the back of the boat and a piece breaks off my fin. The fin still works for now, but we now have another errand to run in Australia. Can’t arrive on our live a board in the Solomon Islands with an iffy fin. Another equipment failure caused, perhaps, by the Fijian Gods.

We are now in Nadi, sitting in our hotel room and agree that now that we are getting close to leaving Fiji, the Gods are using their influences to make sure we depart. Read on.

Before we left Edmonton, we got an email from Fiji Airways saying that we could bid to sit in Business Class on our flight from Honolulu to Fiji and then from Fiji to Brisbane. We researched, discussed, thought and then said “What do we have to loose!”, so we put in a couple of real low ball bids. We didn’t get the first flight, but two days ago we got an email from Fiji Airways saying that our bid was accepted and we will be flying Business Class to Brisbane. And for an extra $270 US total for the two of us. A pretty good deal.

International Date Line in Fiji

At the Paradise Taveuni Resort we meet an Australian couple that we chat with a lot and they are flying on the same flight as us from Taveuni to Nadi. We are shuttled to the airport together, with a quick stop at the International Date Line where we time travel from yesterday to today and back again.

International Date Line in Fiji

We arrive at the minuscule airport, check in, get bags and each of us, together with our carryons weighed and then sit chatting to a couple of old locals who have brought a packaged up live pig there destined for a birthday party. Poor pig!

The inbound plane arrives and unloads. Next thing we know a fellow is asking our friends and us our names and says to me “You can board now.” The four of us get up and start to gather up our carryons when our friends are told it is just Murray and me going. What? We quickly say goodbye, and board wondering what is going on, but are too rushed to ask any questions. We are the only ones on the flight! The Fijian Gods have sent a private plane for us! They know we are headed out of the country and want to expedite the process.

We are not sure what is going on but we have 20 more hours on Fijian soil to see if the Gods throw anything else at us.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bustin’ Out

Over the last two weeks we have been at two different resorts. I maintain we are not in Fiji. We are on Fijian soil but we are in a special place for tourists that is isolated from Fiji. Like any resort anywhere one does not really get to see what the locals are up to. Except for the local people that work here, we don’t know how the residents live.

Today we did not get on the dive boat. The weather has been marginal and we wanted to make sure I gear dried so we were not transporting Fijian water to other places. Our next stop is Australia and they are very particular about what comes into the country. We slept in a 1/2 hour or so and headed to breakfast a little late. No schedule today so might as well work on island time.

Taveuni

After breakfast we take the big step. We pass through the resort gates and out into the real world. The road we walk on is gravel. A few cars pass and each time they stir up a cloud dust.  We pass the black beach and ponder a swim but figure the dust would stick better to a wet body than a dry one so we walk on. Our goal is the store that everyone for a few miles frequents. We know the store is there but when we passed it in the car on the way here we did not really get a good look to see what else was about and thought we might get to see part of a village or some such. Nope all that is there is the store. Nice folks that run it, a reasonable supply of staples, and a few extras like the all important bottle of Coke we need to cool us down slightly.

Taveuni

It is the first time we talk to any Fijians outside the tourist industry at resorts, at the airport etc. They are very friendly folks. To a person they came to us offered a handshake and told us their name, inquired if we were staying at the resort (which is kind of obvious, it is the only place around for many miles.) and offered a big smile before continuing on their way to the store trying to get there before it closes. It is Sunday and I gathered the store closes early.

Taveuni

Our foray does not yield much info but it was a nice walk in a very green setting. The weather is absolutely stunning. It is what we expected Fiji to be like when we left home headed for a tropical island, clear sky, brilliant sunshine, and a slight on shore breeze to keep things tolerable. Tomorrow we head to the airport city of Nadi (pronounced Nan-dy). That should give us bit more of a perspective as to what Fiji is like.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lights On

Paradise Taveuni

Debbie is always apprehensive about night diving. She finds the darkness spooky. Jump into the water with no natural light and one of your senses disappears. The thing is you have a light. The light helps a bit but it still only hi-lights the area of the reef within the beam. What it does do is focus your attention on the hi-lit area.

We don’t do a lot of night dives but when we head to the Solomon Islands in a couple of weeks we will do a couple of night dives on the live a board. Part of the dive package here included a night dive so we take the opportunity to get used to the black water.

A giant stride into the water from the jetty. About a 5′ drop and splash. It takes a few more seconds to get relaxed than on a normal dive but we are soon below the surface with our lights on and swimming towards the reef. The house reef was devastated a few years ago when Cyclone Winston passed through so the substrate is mostly rock rubble. Not a very pretty backdrop.

Paradise Taveuni

We are not but a few meters into the dive and there is a rather strange creature lying on the bottom squiggling about. G is the dive master and he moves slow and does a thorough search of each patch of rock he passes by. There are 4 of us out this evening and we all scour the area looking for unusual things, things we do not see in the day, they only  come out at night.

Paradise Taveuni

A couple of nudibranchs, a couple of sleeping parrotfish, a swimming eel, and a crustacean or two. We only travel 50m or so then turn around and head back to the dock. It is a very peaceful dive, moving very slow, no current and no big group to bump into.

Paradise Taveuni

At the end of the dive Debbie is pleased, she enjoyed herself and the angst that comes from anticipating a night dive should be somewhat abated.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It is not if, it is when

The first time we dove in open water was our open water exam in the waters north of Victoria, BC near Brentwood Bay. Surface intervals are always a good time to BS and the topic of boats was passed around. The dive master/boat owner mentioned it was not if a boat was going to fail it is a matter of when the boat was going to fail. Sometime in the next two days the boat failed. We were as far away from the dock as we were to go that day and kaput. There is a code among water craft that if you come across a vehicle in distress it is only common courtesy to help out. We eventually got a very slow tow back to the harbour.

The saying has to apply to dive gear. And it is my turn. The gear is exposed to salt water every time we dive. We have been diving a lot lately. I guess my gear has been subject to too much abuse. Everything was running smoothly and then my BCD will not hold air. On a regular dive it is not too much a problem as I can orally add little bits of air as required. One normally dumps a bit of air as the dive progresses and the tank empties and you ascend gradually and the air one does have expands and has greater lift. The time you need it is at the surface to remain afloat while waiting for the boat. Which again I could fill orally as it empties. But if for some reason the boat misses you and you have to spend huge amounts of time floating, it would be nice if not essential, to have a working, air holding BC.

Paradise Taveuni

The problem is a small valve on the inflation hose that closes and opens to let air in and out of the BCD. It is actually a schrader valve like the ones uses for car tires or for most bicycle tires. It has been sticking for some time and I have cleaned it a couple of times but this time I did not notice it was rusting. Snap, the pin that plunges to open the valve rusted through and broke off. The BCD will not hold air at all now. The shop here does not have a valve stem so I have to use a rental BCD. Don’t like the rental gear. It is nothing against the particular gear but it is not mine and the small differences are annoying.

Paradise Taveuni

Yesterday the fellow next to me hears air leaking when the tanks were turned on for our next dive. It was my gear. There is a small amount of air leaking from my pressure gauge. Not much, just enough to make it annoying. A quick try to repair it but the divers are going in the water and we have to abandon the repair attempt and put a plug in its place. I now have a computer that tells me the air I have in the tank so the gauge is not essential. When we arrive back at the dock the nice dive master helps me replace an O ring and it seems to stop the problem. Until the second dive the next day and the leak reappears. It is not bad so I just dive with the leak and I don’t think I lose a significant amount of dive time. I make it to the end of the dive and still have 600lbs. Again at the dive shop T and I attempt to remedy the problem and again without success. There is still a leak and I guess I will dive the next two dives and solve the problem when we get to Aus.

Paradise Taveuni

The Fijian  Gods have spoken once again only this time it is getting personal. The when has come and it is time to deal with salt and all it corrosive properties. When we get to Aus I will find out if it can be fixed cheaply or if it will cost me a fortune and a new BCD.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Best Diving to Date in Fiji

We motor further up the Rainbow Reef today to do three dives and have lunch on the boat. We finally find diving that compares to our expectations for Fiji.

 

Paradise, Taveuni

The fish are more than abundant. A gazillion, at least. We see species we have not seen yet. A Blue Spotted Sting Ray, Ribbon Eel, Red-breasted Wrasse and Titan Trigger fish.

Paradise, Taveuni

Ribbon Eel

The corals here are also varied, both in colour and type. It is spectacular looking at the colours as we drift by.

The dives today are all drift dives. We get dropped off in one spot, drift along and get picked up down the reef. We cross over the reef at one point  absolutely flying with the current. It is quite the adrenaline rush zooming over the coral, trying not to bump into everyone else. Once over the top we duck behind an outcropping and are immediately out of the current, where we can go at a leisurely pace.

Paradise, Taveuni

Pennant Bannerfish

The water temperature is surprisingly cold. Again, expectations were a temperature above 80 C, maybe up to 82 C. Today, parts of the dive are a chilly 78 C, and because we are not exerting much energy, we both get cold. I am now seriously contemplating wearing my electric shirt under my wetsuits tomorrow to help keep me warm.

Today we experience Fiji diving reaching towards its best. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Fijian Wildlife

As we motor out to our first dive spot today, we spot a pygmy whale. I catch sight of its back as it comes up for air. We see a fin further away as he waves goodbye. A great start to the day!

At a dive site near the Volivoli, the dive boat cruises around with a pod of spinner dolphins while we oohed and aahed at their antics. It was a large pod with numerous babies. So graceful and sleek.

Paradise Taveuni

Black-saddle Toby

Our first night at the Paradise, as we were walking across the grass after supper (in the dark) to our room, my flashlight beam catches a frog sitting in our path. Not sure why, but I jumped as if the poor little frog was going to eat me. The frogs come out after dark and are spread out all over the yard. Kinda creepy but I am not jumping at them any more.

Paradise Taveuni

Juvenile Blue Stripe Eel

The are 3, or maybe 4, resident dogs on the resort. Very well behaved and friendly and not scary. They are Rhodesian Ridgebacks, originally from South Africa.

And of course the underwater wildlife is unique and wonderful. Pipefish, nudibranchs, anemone fish, class and starfish. The soft corals   are different than what we see in the Caribbean, more colourful (purple, pink, orange, yellow) and unique shapes.

Paradise Taveuni

The birds here twitter and squawk and provide us with amusement watching their flitting in and out of the dining room, hoping for a morsel of food.

Paradise Taveuni

Posted in Fiji | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment