Following the conference, I flew north to Cairns, rented a car and toured around tropical north Queensland for four days before flying home. I realize my visit to "Oz" was limited--geographically speaking--to the east coast, but I thought I'd share the best of what I was able to experience, with the idea that I'm definitely going back, if for no other reason than to see more of it. It's so big... so vast... and so diverse. Someday, I'd love to shoulder a fly rod and start walking across the continent.
Until then, here are 10 awesome Aussie assets I was lucky enough to see in August:
|Nothing quite like an $8 "schooner" of beer...|
8) "Footy." I know... sounds a little bit like a picnic basket, huh? But Down Under, "footy" is rugby, and these folks take it very seriously. It's on television seemingly every night, and whether it's "Rugby League" or "Rugby Union," there are fans that are as devoted as any NFL fan might be, and maybe more. I'm still a bit unclear, but it seems to me that Rugby League is a faster-paced game with a bit less contact (not to say there's isn't any--and remember, these boys don't have helmets and pads on) and maybe more scoring. It's also more local. Rugby Union seems more plodding ... more deliberate, with the traditional scrums and more constant contact than "league." And it's international--while I was there, the Aussies lost to the "All Blacks" of New Zealand... which brings me to No. 7...
7) The Haka. Now, this is actually a New Zealand thing, but since I saw it in Oz, I'm including it. The All Blacks of New Zealand begin every rugby contest with the Haka--a traditional war dance the native Maori people of New Zealand have practiced for eons. The national Rugby Union team has adopted it and it's, well ... a bit intimidating. They do it when they play at home and on the road, and the opposing team--out of respect--watches the dance, generally without expression. It's one of the cooler traditions in all of sport, and I'm glad I finally got to see it.
5) Dorrigo National Park. On the way up the Great Dividing Range from the coast to the tablelands, we visited Dorrigo, a rainforest park in northern New South Wales. While, geographically, we were far from the tropics, the forest did seem to be quite tropical, with huge hardwoods and snaking vines running up the trunks of every tree. Tree ferns grew everywhere, and parrots hustled from branch to branch beneath the canopy. Amazing stuff.
3) Mulgrave River. Truthfully, many of the rivers in far northern Queensland look a lot like the Mulgrave, but it was in this river that I fished for--and caught--jungle perch. Imagine a crystal clear river that would be at home tumbling off any Rocky Mountain range, and then imagine warm water and the possibility of meeting up with a "freshy," or a freshwater crocodile while you wade. I didn't see any crocs, but I caught my jungle perch in torrential rainforest downpour. It's an experience I'll never forget.
2) Cairns. Pronounced "Cans," this far-northern tropical town in Queensland is actually a sizeable city, but it's downtown or "old town" area is a kitschy mix of old West and new hip. I enjoyed wandering along the esplanade by the harbor, which is home to great little bars and restaurants, as well as shops and boutiques that I didn't spend too much time investigating. It's a neat town and it's a quick 50-minute boat ride to Green Island, the start of No. 1...