Thursday, May 21, 2009

Round One

I'm currently running around 6 American states in a week but will post my next story soon. Jetlag and I are having a boxing match and right now it looks like I'm not winning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Birds from the Wrong Side of the Tracks

To further submerge Jonathan in the wilds of Far North Queensland, I took him to Harvey's Creek Wildlife Park. The park focuses mainly on crocodiles, it even has a crocodile farm on premises... which I guess keeps the unruly crocs in line. 
But the elderly yet chipper receptionist told us to go straight to the cassowary feeding, so we headed down a swampy boardwalk to the enclosure. Now three years ago Bob and I were unknowingly charged by one of these massive birds during a night hike in the rainforest - I know, it was a dumb idea. But the fact that the park let people feed these animals had me slightly concerned. 

You see, the cassowary is a large bird about the size of an ostrich, but more solid and more deadly. They have very thick and powerful legs that conveniently contain three razor sharp claws. When threatened or protecting young, cassowaries have been known to jump in the air and gut people from neck to groin - not a fun way to end a day in the woods. On top of that, their bright blue heads are topped with a horny helmet and instead of normal wings they have creepy needle like fingers. They are a very visually intimidating bird, but in a strange way a freaky Picasso painting.
Unfortunately in the wild, cassowaries are very endangered, which is a shame. I am quite fond of them, because when I worked at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, the resident cassowaries would follow me around (with a fence separating us of course). 

Anyway, Jonathan and I got to the enclosure at feeding time where the keeper actually encouraged us to feed the birds. I thought this wasn't a wise idea, but as usual my twin egged me on and so I fed a female a piece of fruit, and somehow still have all my fingers. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friends of the Forest

For Jonathan's first foray into Australia's wet tropics, we drove up the windy Macalister Range that cradles the town of Cairns in a voraciously green bear hug. The mountains' steep ascent took us from sea level to 1,200 feet in just a few kilometers.

Nestled within the heights are the Atherton Tablelands. 
Here, a unique blend of altitude and weather create a farmer's haven high above the ocean's sharp reef. Rolling plains, stately oak trees, and content bovines are more reminiscent of the English countryside than rugged Australia. Yet the Tablelands are very much a part of  Oz. 

Jonathan and I were driving through the area to see Barron Falls, where the Barron River plunges from the fertile soil of the Tablelands to the costal plain around Cairns. 
Now, as a rule, whenever my twin and I travel together the weather gets up to mischief. So naturally, when we finally made it to Barron Falls the clear sky instantly flooded with clouds and released a torrent of rain. Which would have been ok, if we didn't have to hike through a forest to get back to our rental car.
While plodding through the dense forest, Jonathan came to 3 realizations. In the tropics there are:
1) Big plants
2) Big spider webs 
3) And, consequently, big freakin spiders
The spider is on the top right, incase you're having trouble spotting it (it's about the size of Jonathan's head).