Across the globe to Australia

| March 2, 2011
A koala at the Australia Zoo.

A koala at the Australia Zoo.

It was time to hit the road, or should I say the wanderlust had hit us. We decided it was time to go sailing again. We would,  join the Regent World Cruise,  for a segment. We would have fun, see more of the world and still be home for springtime in Kentucky.

Brad and I left Louisville on United and flew to Los Angeles in time to catch our Qantas flight to Sydney, Australia,where the ship was. We got to L.A. and sat on the tarmac for half an hour. By the time we finally deplaned and went at a dead run through four terminals to Qantas, they would not help us! They had our luggage, the plane was still at the gate, but they were going home and could have cared less about us.

Fortunately we had travel insurance. We caught a hotel shuttle and went to a lovely hotel and were in bed by 1 a.m. The next day we were rebooked on United, this time for Brisbane through Sydney (because the ship was moving on) and killed the day doing nothing. At midnight we finally got on United with our luggage, settled down in business class, had a good dinner and stretched out and slept like the dead for 10 hours!

Landing in Brisbane, we were now a day ahead of Regents Seven Seas Voyager. We went to the lovely Royal Hotel on the Park. Mercy! Australia is pricey from taxis to hotels, but it is lovely and tropical.

The echidna resembles a porcupine.

The echidna resembles a porcupine.

This charming town has saved its historic buildings and built skyscrapers in the same block, and it makes for a fascinating town. The Victorian era Polo Club still has the gas-lit chandeliers and wall,  sconces in its white two-story clubhouse in the middle of town.
They have preserved what Americans typically tear down. Someone from Louisville ought to go to Brisbane and look at it. It is charming and vital.

There is a Chinatown, and we went there for dinner, eating on the pedestrian street and enjoying the ambience. The taxi was $50 each way! There were lots of people on the streets after dark. The climate encourages this I think.

The,  city is very conscious of water conservation, even though they are on the ocean. There are signs everywhere asking you to be conscious of conservation. The commodes all have two different buttons for flushing.

There are signs on the buses saying they run on natural gas.

There was severe flooding not long before we arrived. Ninety percent of the town was under water a month ago, and you would never know it. The city sparkled.

A close encounter with a kangaroo.

A close encounter with a kangaroo.

We went on a futile antiquing foray and visited the Botanical Garden.

The third day of our adventure, we were,  up early and out on the docks. Our ship was there, and the first people we saw were friends from Oregon who had come to visit us for the Derby Festival and the Great Balloon Race. We knew they were on the ship, but we hadn’t told them we were coming because we wanted it to be a big surprise.

Our friends were meeting old friends on shore, so after hugs and kisses, we dropped our luggage and got on a bus taking us an hour out of town to the Australia Zoo, home of the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.

It was a wonderful day, and I don’t even like crocs. It is a 70-acre entertainment mecca, with more than 1,000 animals; it is Australia’s No. 1 tourist attraction. You could see the crocs and learn how to avoid them or how to feed them. The koalas were adorable, the kangaroos were all over the place and would eat from your hands, and the water lizards were always underfoot!,  Exotic birds flew into the show arena during the,  wildlife lecture. The elephants were show-offs and would nudge you to feed them. It was quite a day.

We headed back to the ship to unpack and see lots of old friends from previous excursions. We have spent a total of a year of our lives on this ship, and its people are close to our hearts, although there are some we would drop overboard!

The next morning we set sail for Townsville, a coastal town we had never even heard of.

Our first stop was the Museum of Tropical Queensland, the capitol of this part of Australia, which is on the Coral Sea.

One of the nine tigers at the Australia Zoo.

One of the nine tigers at the Australia Zoo.

The museum was fascinating. The first part dealt with the discovery of the wreck of the,  HMS,  Pandora. The Pandora was the ship sent by British admiralty to capture the Bounty and her mutinous crew.

The wreckage of the Pandora was found on the Great Barrier Reef. The film of the salvage and what was learned from the artifacts was mind-boggling.

Then we went next door to the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. The aquarium holds 2.5 million liters of salt water. The underwater viewing tunnel gives you magical views of a living reef and the predators that prowl its watery depths.

The Chinese food delicacy, the sea cucumbers, were really nasty looking. They looked like something the neighbors’ dog did! But everything else was beautiful.

The predator exhibit held 750,000 liters of salt water and some really ugly sharks along with beautiful yellow and black fish.

A red panda, which is smaller than the black and white ones.

A red panda, which is smaller than the black and white ones.

We worked so hard that we felt we should have dinner in the new restaurant on the ship. We had three kinds of steak tartar, surf and turf with Bearnaise, onion rings, sautéed mushrooms, great wine, ice cream with butterscotch sauce and an early bedtime.

The next morning we docked in Cairns, which I have always thought was boring unless you were a diver. This time was different.

We boarded buses and headed to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at Barron Gorge National Park. This is a World Heritage protected place.

The 4.7 mile cableway was completed in just one year in 1995. The towers that support the cables were lifted into place by helicopters to avoid disturbance of the rainforest. The tallest tower is 133 feet. The gondolas skim over the canopy of the rainforest in which we saw hundreds of white sulphur-crested cockatoos and bright blue Ulysses butterflies. These rainforests used to cover all of Australia. Today they occupy 900,000,  hectares, representing just 0.26 percent of the total land mass.

During the cablecar trip, we saw the spectacular Barron Gorge waterfalls.

Andrea and Bruce Michalski in front of an Aborigine-decorated restroom.

Andrea and Bruce Michalski in front of an Aborigine-decorated restroom.

Australia’s tropical rainforests are home to more than 2,800 vascular plant species, 380 of which are considered rare or threatened, and about 700 are found nowhere else in the world. They are also home to the most primitive kangaroo, the musky rat kangaroo, two types of tree kangaroo, the country’s biggest butterfly – the Cairns birdwing – and Australia’s heaviest flightless bird, the southern cassowary.

After reluctantly leaving the rainforest, we headed for Kuranda, the village in the rainforest. It is famous for its art and craft markets. They are open every day, and we all came home happy with a souvenir or two.

Next we’re headed for Thursday Island in the Coral Sea.

photos by CARLA SUE BROECKER | contributing photographer

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Carla Sue
A fixture in Louisville society, Carla Sue Broecker has been writing her weekly column for more than two decades.

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