Monday, February 28, 2011

Sock Wars

Aurora Plush 12" Lamb Chop (Hand Puppet)Last Saturday we had a major sock fight.

I don’t mean that the kids were throwing socks at each other, or that that Lamb Chop and that puppet were brawling in my house.

I mean that the children were actually fighting over a sock.

The altercation started right before dinner, with GG shrieking from the living room.

I yelled, “What’s going on?” from the kitchen, and discovered that ET had forcibly removed GG’s left sock and was dangling it above her sister‘s head.

Prestige Medical 377-cpd Fashion Anklet Nurse Socks Ciel Polka Dots“That’s MY sock! She’s wearing MY sock!” ET accused, regrettably sounding a lot like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.

GG asserted that it was her own sock, and not ET’s.

Both girls insisted that it was a sock they’d just gotten for Christmas.

Now, unfortunately, although I purchased the Christmas socks myself only two months ago, I did not remember which particular sock went to which child. Therefore, with two conflicting claims of sock ownership, I could see no way to resolve the question.

I said, “There’s no way I can tell whose sock it is. So I guess I will have to confiscate the sock and throw it away, if neither of you will concede and allow the other one to have to sock.”

They both scowled at me. Nobody conceded anything.

The Judgment of Solomon Raphael by Raphael RaphaelI continued, Solomon-like. “I would think that the TRUE OWNER of the sock would LOVE the sock enough to not want it to be thrown away.”

ET rolled her eyes. “Bible wisdom, Mommy? REALLY?!”

I shrugged. “Well, there’s no way I can tell who’s telling the truth here. It was worth a shot.”

GG put in, “Besides, according to the Bible story, you should cut the sock in half, not throw it away.”

“I want the toe end!” ET said quickly.

Obviously NO ONE is the true owner of this sock.

We went around the subject a few more times, but the only other idea we could come up with was that all of GG’s Christmas socks had matches, whereas ET’s did not.

Little Mismatched Socks (There’s some new sock style where your socks don’t match intentionally, so I was trying to be Cutting Edge Mom and bought her a set of twelve unmatched socks. Yeah, I know: Like I don’t already have a pile of those behind the dryer!)

ET said smugly, “If SHE can come up with a match, then it’s HER sock. If not, it has to be MINE!”

I pointed out the problem with this, namely, the propensity of sock matches getting lost in this house. “Even if she can’t find as match, that won’t prove it’s not hers,” I told ET. I was still planning on tossing the offending sock after dinner.

Or at least dumping it behind the dryer.

Then, surprisingly, GG excused herself from the table, searched the laundry room, and came up with the sock’s match!

ET had to grudgingly concede this round to her sister.

I don’t know if Solomon himself could have done better with this crowd.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Traveling in Cairns, Australia, and The Great Barrier Reef: the End of the Journey

On the last post I left off at sunrise in the desert, ready to head out to the Great Barrier Reef.

But first, we had to brave the airport.

Now the Ayers Rock airport is not big. Like I said, it's in the middle of nowhere.

Tourists come in; tourists look at the giant rock; tourists go out. That's it.

But we ARE talking about a lot of tourists. The airport was really busy.

And we had to check out at the campground and return our rental car before ten, although our flight wouldn't leave until after two. So we spent quite a bit of time sitting in this little airport.

The weird thing was, when we checked in for our flight they refused to check our bags.

Airport Counter Agent: So we'll have to put these bags on hold until it's less than a hour before your flight.
Us: Why?
Airport Counter Agent: In case you don't make it onto your flight.
Us: Why wouldn't we make it?
Airport Counter Agent: Well, you might not show up.
Us: But we're here. We already showed up.
Airport Counter Agent: But what if you took a walk because you have so much time until your flight, and then you don't come back?

Okay. Remember I mentioned that this place is in the middle of nowhere?  There is NOTHING around this airport but desert, desert, and more desert.

If I take a walk out THERE and don't get back for my flight, I guess I must be DEAD.

And in that case, I guess it doesn't matter WHERE my bags are!

Anyways, Airport Counter Agent was not budging on this. We had to come back to the counter at exactly 1:30 to take our bags off hold.

So we did, and after a LONG wait we were off to Cairns.

When we got to the car rental place in the airport, our reserved car was waiting for us, but they were out of GPS's.

We had to use (GASP!) a map instead.

Let me just point out that, during our marriage, my husband and I have had more fights involving map-reading than on any other subject.

And a good portion of those fights were on our honeymoon, almost eighteen years ago.

I've always thought honeymoons were some kind of trial-by-fire anyways. Let's take two people who, blinded by love, have just made a lifetime commitment to a person they're about to find out they don't really know that well, and have them go on a TRIP together!

I guess it's like, if you can survive the honeymoon, it's good preparation for the marriage.

So of course, a fight over the map was inevitable this time.

I'm supposed to be the navigator since he's always the driver. I got us to the bed and breakfast where we were staying all right. But I was unsuccessful at navigating us to the downtown restaurant for dinner.

I will admit that I was reading the map slightly... upside down.

But in my defense, it was dark. I was tired and hungry. And I've grown soft, depending on a GPS all the time.

We were barely speaking by the time we reached the restaurant. By which I mean, the pub next to our hotel that we hadn't intended to go to.

But a full stomach soothes grouchy nerves, and a good night's sleep smooths over such minor spats.

Map Cairns, AustraliaThe next morning we set out to explore what Cairns had to offer.

Cairns is located on the north shore of Australia, and is one of several Australian destinations near the Great Barrier Reef, which was the main thing we'd come to see. However, we planned to see the reef by boat on the second day, so we had the whole first day to spend on land.

The other main attraction around the area was the Australian rainforest.

I don't know about you, but I wasn't even aware that Australia HAD a rainforest.

Obviously my education on the Land Down Under has been sorely lacking.

That's what happens when you get all your information about a country from Men at Work songs, and the "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" movie.

So to see the rainforest we took a skybucket ride.

Actually they don't call it a skybucket ride. It was called The Skyrail.

But at Six Flags we always called it riding the skybuckets.

The views were spectacular from up there.

But definitely not an activity for the acrophobic, despite the fact that the Frommer's guide assured us that, "The view of the coast as you ascend is so breathtaking that even those afraid of heights will find it worthwhile."

Um, I guess so, Mr. Frommer. If they're not too busy covering their eyes and cowering, that is.

I mean, I don't consider myself afraid of heights, but I was definitely keeping to the center of the bench inside the skybucket.

The ride let us off in two different locations so we could take walk inside the rainforest park.

There were lots of interesting things to see.

I asked the ranger what this fruit was called, but quite honestly, I forgot what he told me. He emphasized that it was not good to eat.

In case I was a complete idiot who eats strange fruit with spikes all over it while visiting a foreign ecosystem.

This giant spider was next to the window of the information center.

That's about as close as I dared to put my hand.

Several other tourists who were loath to get too close to this immense arachnid also took pictures of my hand with the spider. Nice to know I'll be starring in the photo albums of strangers. It's almost like being a hand model.

There was a beautiful waterfall to see, called Barron Gorge.

This thing was huge. According to the website, the falls are 250 meters high. Which is pretty tall!

There's a hydroelectric plant there as well.

They also had the old method of transporting people over the falls on display, as you can see over here to the left.

THAT would be exciting to be in while dangling over a 820-foot drop. (I did the math!)

Definitely made me thankful for the invention of the skybucket.

The skybuckets ended at the village of Kuranda, billed as "a rainforest village." Except it was actually a bunch of shops and restaurants for tourists.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

There was a nice little path going to the village....

...and then it was a retail extravaganza!

 We saw an aboriginal art gallery as well, with this guy playing a didgeridu outside.

The lady inside told us that they didn't have all of their displays back up yet.

They had apparently evacuated the whole village when Cyclone Yasi threatened the area, and they were just getting things back to normal. A few shops and restaurants were actually still closed.

We enjoyed the shopping and ate lunch in Kuranda, and then we headed over to the Cairns Zoo.

Now, of course everyone knows that Australia has a lot of strange native creatures, and that's what we wanted to see at the zoo.

Plus, any zoo that advertises "Cuddle a Koala!" as an attraction...well, how can you resist?

That's right! We cuddled a koala!

The poor thing.

Also we fed the kangaroos...

We saw lots of other weird Australian creatures.

This one is probably the weirdest. It's a cassowary.

A cassowary is a large bird, only a little smaller than an ostrich. It has a big ridge on its head, giving it a "Land Before Time" kind of look.

They're endangered, by the way.

I guess if you're a big, slightly ungainly, flightless bird, it's probably a bad idea to have a BRIGHT BLUE HEAD. Speaking from a survival standpoint.

Although apparently they're aggressive.  Here's a warning sign we saw in the rainforest:

Back away slowly, little stickman. That's right.

They also had some warning signs at the zoo advising you about the crocodiles.

I'm sorry, but that picture is funny. BAD stickman!

Well, the zoo was fun, but the next day we set out on a boat to look at the Great Barrier Reef and some REAL wildlife!

Our boat was called the Ocean Freedom, held up to seventy-five passengers, and was pretty fast, as you can see from the wake here:

We anchored out by the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling and scuba diving.

You can see the coral reef under the water here.  It was very beautiful.

Of course, I would have found it more attractive if I hadn't been so seasick....

Anyways, my husband was the one with the scuba license; I was just along for the ride.

Here he is under the water.

There were some amazing fish and coral, although I don't think it comes out as well in the pictures.

We also took a glass-bottomed boat out to look at the reef, which was fascinating.

Yet another thing that loses something in a picture, however.

We spent all day anchored out by the reef.  It was very scenic, but I was feeling sick the whole day, so I was glad when we got back to the dock.

The next day after our boat trip our vacation was over. We took the long flight back home.

There were amazing views as we flew through Sydney.

But I was happiest to see the sunrise over Honolulu.

And here's my favorite view of all:

Home again!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Traveling in Ayers Rock, Australia: the Photo Edition

Australia map  
Australia is a big country.

I didn't really realize that until we'd started making plans to go there a few months ago. After all, it doesn't look that big on a map, does it?

So when we were first planning our trip, we thought we could just rent a car in Sydney and drive to wherever we wanted on the island of Australia. Which would be an okay plan if we were talking about the island of Oahu.

But the island of Australia is NOT like the island of Oahu, or even the big island of Hawaii. It's nearly as large as the whole United States actually.

So that rent-a-car-and-drive plan would be a good one if we wanted to spend our entire vacation in the car. Driving. ENDLESSLY.

End of story: We decided to fly where we wanted to go. And from Sydney we wanted to go to Ayers Rock.

This sort of lanscape was under the plane for a LONG time before we got there.

Ayers Rock is in the middle of nowhere. I mean, REALLY the middle of nowhere. There's an airport and a little resort there with a campground, hotels and a store, for the tourists to use. But then there's nothing else anywhere for miles and miles and miles.

Or kilometers and kilometers and kilometers, if you're Australian.

The metric system. Arrgh.

This is our first sight the monolith from the plane. It was an amazingly clear day.

Ayers Rock is called Uluru in the aboriginal language. Apparently it was officially named Ayers-Rock-slash-Uluru in 1993, and then redesignated Uluru-slash-Ayers-Rock in 2002.

Always nice to see entire groups of adults arguing over a name like a bunch of first-graders.

The giant rock itself is located in Uluru-Kata Tjutu National Park. The land was deeded back to the native Anangu people by the Australian goverment with the agreement that the national park would continue to lease the land for 99 years, so that it could remain open for tourists.

Toursits who pay $25 a head to enter the park, I might add.

Not a bad deal all around, it seems.

In any case, Uluru is an impressive sight.

We watched Uluru at sunset from the designated lookout point. Supposedly it changes colors at sunset and sunrise.

We stood and watched this thing for over an hour as the sun set behind us.

Well, I suppose if you call falling under a shadow "changing colors," then sure, it changes colors. So do I when you put me in the dark.

Sorry, I was a little grumpy from standing out in the desert heat for and hour and a half watching a huge rock.

Did I mention there were flies too? A LOT of flies. The kind that buzz incessantly around your head and keep trying to enter your nose, mouth, and ears for reasons known only in thier tiny fly brains.

We weren't the only ones there by any means. There was a long line of tourists standing around, holding cameras, slapping flies, and waiting for the prophesied color-changing.

The guy next to us was a German with a time-lapse camera. He spent most of the hour adjusting his camera and perusing an instruction manual the size of a King James Bible. I wonder what kind of results he got.

There was a beautiful sunset BEHIND us, by the way.

Earlier that day we had walked on a trail around the base of the monolith. It was over a hundred degrees and the sun was beating down on us, so we didn't walk all the way around it. There were some interesting little indentations at the base.

We also visited the aboriginal cultural center. I don't have any pictures of that, because you weren't allowed to take them.

It was very different from the Maori cultural center we visited in New Zealand, where there were friendly people who were interested in imparting information about their culture to visitors. The Anangu cultural center consisted of a few displays, basically devoted to letting us know that Uluru was a sacred place and they weren't able to reveal much information to those of us who were uninitiated into their ways.

Oh, and please visit the gift shop on your way out.

No, I exaggerate; it wasn't that bad. But it was very mysterious.

The main thing the Anangu wanted to impart to us was that they don't like people climbing up on Uluru. They are required by the conditions of their lease to allow it, but they really REALLY don't want you to do it.

Can you guess if this stopped my husband from climbing it?

He got up really early in order to make the climb; becuase it's so hot they close the entrance at 8:00 a.m.

He saw the sun rising over Uluru.

At that hour, the park was nearly deserted.

It was a steep climb, but he made it to the top.

There was a little lake on top, filled with water from the recent rain.

On the way back down, he saw a lot of people coming up the path who'd made it through the entrance just before the eight o'clock deadline.

I was still in bed asleep at this point, by the way. We were staying at the campground in a cabin that had air-conditioning but no bathroom.

At least we had our priorities straight, right?

From the top he could also see the other natural phenomenon in the national park: Kata Tjutu.

You can see the shadow of Uluru in the foreground and  Kata Tjutu in the distance.

Kata Tjutu is similar to Uluru except it's a set of giant rocks intsead of just one. It's actually taller and bigger than Uluru too; however, it's not nearly as famous.

I guess Uluru has a better publicist.

Anyways, later that day (after I woke up) we went over to Kata Tjutu and walked around it some. This walk was just as hot as the previous day's walk at Uluru, and involved just as many flies.

Here's a photo of my husband's back with the flies circled in blue.

I count 23. And that's just the stationary ones you can easily SEE in the picture.

Obviously we should have followed this lady's example and purchased the flynets they were selling in the campground shop for $15.

People all over the place were wearing them on their heads.

But since we hadn't bought the nets on Day One, it seemed ridiculous to purchase them when our visit was half-done.

Besides, I just kept wondering what would happen if a fly got INSIDE the net.

You know, in there with your FACE.


In any case, our faces were net-free and available for all flies to annoy at will as we walked the trail that went up between the giant rocks of Kata Tjutu.

But we still had our fifteen bucks apiece, didn't we?

When we reached the end of the trail there was a little lookout, and there was an amazing echo there.

It was 43 degrees Centigrade on the car's thermometer when we arrived back in it.

I did the math on this one: That's nearly 110 Fairenheit!

The Australian desert is beautiful, but I can't IMAGINE anyone wanting to live there.

The next day's sunrise over the desert was spectacular, of course.

But we were ready to leave it behind and head for the next adventure: The Great Barrier Reef!