Daily Archives: November 23, 2007

Turkey Day Down Under!

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Our Thanksgiving table.

I think I’m still full.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Seeing as though all my other family holidays involve going to temple, not eating bread and spending an hour before dinner saying prayers, this is a good one. Turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. No prayers. Curb after dinner (not football, we’re nerdy Jews). Yum.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was in 2002 — my flatmates in London went shopping and made a huge dinner. We invited over a few English friends and ate chicken because the turkey took too long to make. It was a good one — I was full.

My second Thanksgiving away from home was last night. A few girlfriends and I went shopping around 6 p.m., hoping to make an 8 o’clock dinner. Our biggest fear was whether or not we’d be able to kick out whomever was there already making dinner. This is because most hostels have one kitchen situated in the nether regions of a gross basement. It’s usually not pretty. Gilligans, the hostel I’m staying at in Cairns, however, has a gorgeous, modern kitchen on each floor. It’s like Top Chef in there. When we emerged from the elevator on to the third floor, we gawked in amazement at the pristine, empty kitchen in front of us. Counter space, two stoves, and all the cutlery, pots and pans we could imagine. It was as if the Thanksgiving Gods were smiling down on us. Or you know, Squanto…or something.

Again I celebrated with the Brits (some Scots and Welsh thrown in this time), five Americans and a lot of food. It was a good one. I was full.

We managed 8:30, which, I think, is pretty respectable. The girls and I, Emma, Lorna Amy, bought chickens (turkeys take too long! And no ovens in the hostel kitchen!) and made sweet potatoes, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, cauliflower and cheese sauce and carrots, with ice cream and warm apple pie for dessert. We had 14 people, I think more than my family had at home.

I wish I could say more about the last week, but in all honesty, it was just relaxing. I’d even go so far as to say it was slightly boring. Not boring in the sense of having nothing to do, just boring in the sense that for once I didn’t have a tight schedule, planned activities and a wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. It was nice.

In short, after Magnetic Island, we headed up to Mission Beach. It’s so-named because there used to be a mission there, but in actuality it’s four small beach towns, not one. We stayed at a low-key hostel in Wongaling Beach and I spent my first day plopped in front of the TV watching The Pursuit of Happyness and Shallow Hal. I did spend the next day whitewater rafting on the Tully river, which was fun and exciting and all the things whitewater rafting is supposed to be, but the best part by far was the surroundings. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. It was serious rainforest on both sides, and absolutely gorgeous. The Australian rainforest, which I did not know, is the oldest rainforest in the world at 250 million years old. Once all of Australia was rainforest, now there’s only .3 percent left. Our raft guide, Dave (a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey), actually told us parts of the movie were filmed there. Not sure if anyone remembers the scene were the pterodactyl flies over a cliff with a waterfall, but that was one of the scenes. And I was there. I half-expected a T-Rex to come flying out of the bushes. I wish I could have taken pictures, but we were rafting and I didn’t have an underwater camera. If you want to know what it looked like, go watch the movie again!

We spent that night exhausted watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.

At 2 p.m. I hopped on my last Oz bus for the trip up to Cairns. It was only about 2 hours, but we stopped at a commercial croc farm on the way. Not a zoo. These crocs are bred for all that lovely stuff we see in Vogue: handbags, shoes, purses, wallets, etc. Only the bred crocs are used for the skin though; the crocs they catch from the wild are all “pests” (as in, they’ve killed dogs, attacked cows and sheep, and would have been killed anyway), and are used for breeding. They are big. And they are scary.

Another scary animal at the croc farm was the cassowary. This bird is the 3rd largest flightless bird after the ostrich and the emu, and there are only 1500 left in the world. They all live in this little pocket of Australia in the rainforest, and if they die off 25 percent of the rainforest will die — along with tons of species and medicinal plants we have yet to discover. They are the only animal large enough to disperse some seeds, and only they can digest certain plants and fruits. Their feet and poop alone keep 25 percent of the rainforest alive. Nice for the rainforest? Yes. For us? No. One swipe of its claw could disembowel us in two seconds. The one idiot Englishman who tried to hug the bird at the croc farm for a photo got sliced in the thigh and required 38 stitches. I can imagine it wasn’t pretty. I was happy to be behind the fence.

We arrived in Cairns at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and I haven’t done much else besides Thanksgiving. A bit of wandering, a bit of window shopping and a bit of laying around by the pool. Hard life, I know. Tomorrow I head up to Cape Tribulation for more serious rainforest, a croc spotting boat ride and a tropical fruit tour. I’m seriously excited for this tour, because you get to try fruit that’s too fragile to be shipped anywhere else. You basically have to get it off the tree and eat it. I love food, so this should be fun. I get back Monday night, do a full day dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef Tuesday, then head back to Sydney Thursday morning. And that’s it. Seven weeks up from Melbourne. Done!
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Chris, Dave and Louie at the table. Look at all our food!

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Scary croc. 

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Teeny croc! 

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Rafter Dave
Matthew M., no? Dave’s a Kiwi and made fun of us the entire time for not paddling together. “Moppets!” was the common refrain.

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Lorna and Amy

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Two lovely English girls, two lovely, lovely wardrobes. I love all of their clothes! Part of the Thanksgiving crew, these girls rock. Though Lorna did keep insisting we get Christmas-colored napkins for the Thanksgiving table. With little trees and stars on them. I denied. Thanksgiving not Christmas! In all seriousness, I had a blast cooking dinner with them, and I’ll miss them when I head back to Sydney. We’ll be together for Cape Trib tomorrow, then all at Gilligans until I go Thursday.

Chris and Will

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Chris and Will are traveling with Sean, Lorna and Amy. The fab five, if you will. Chris is 24 and from Wales, Will is uh, young, and from Wales. We’ve been hanging since Maggie Island, and I’ll have to say bye when I finally leave for Sydney next week.

Sean and Emma

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It’s bad I’ve waited this long to get Emma up here. I met her at the Scary Canary in Sydney! I think she may actually be in a few pictures from Bondi Beach, because she came along that day, but I know I haven’t said much about her.

She’s one of the people I’ve run into about 8,000 times up the coast, and we finally ended up in Cairns together at the same time. We’ve hung out in Byron Bay, Magnetic Island and now here. She was the other main organizer of Thankgsiving, and the girl makes a mean potato! She just turned 27 on the 21st, so send her wishes J

Sean is — well, Sean. That’s all I can say. Boy is from outside Chicago, loves to dance even though he can’t, and always seems to get lost in places. When we stopped in Tully on the way to Mission Beach for a quick bathroom break he disappeared for 1/2 hour, the bus left without him, and he ended up taking a school bus back to the hostel. Amazing. Like I said Sean is — well, Sean.

Scott and Sophie

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I met Scott and Sophie in Hervey Bay — way back when before Fraser Island. They are the cutest couple. She’s only 18, he’s 23, but they’ve been all over China and Australia already. She’s a laugh, and I think she’s getting to Cairns tonight.

The one thing about poor Sophie I hate to tell everyone is that she is seriously allergic to bed bugs and she’s gotten them twice. Her entire body was covered with red bites the last time I saw her, and it was painful to see. She gets me more scared of bed bugs than any literature or horror stories out there. Knock on wood she won’t get them again. Everyone!

Goon — A quick aside

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Goon is a box of crap wine. A two liter box usually goes for about $8-15, and it’s pretty much all I’ve been drinking in Australia. There are many fond admirers of the goon — there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to it. One of the most exciting goon activities is to “slap” the goon. The bag the wine comes in (inside the box) is eerily indestructible. You can slap it as hard and as many times as you’d like, and the thing will not break. Hence, many exciting nights of slapping the goon (which, I believe, also means “to drink”). One made it all the way through Fraser island, another lasted a good 5 days from Surf Camp to Byron Bay. Long live the goon!