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Spring in the tropics. Time to travel south.

First Stop, Cania Gorge.

We left Emu Park one Saturday morning, not without sadness. We had only gone a few kilometres when the caravan's electric brakes failed. I had a sneaky feeling it was a blown fuse and had the satisfaction of being right ... but why did it blow? The replacement fuse also failed when I set the brake controller to maximum. Logically the brakes must be drawing excessive current or the fuse is under-rated. We installed a third fuse and set the brake controller to a slightly lower setting and had no more trouble, fortunately. It wouldn't do to encounter a steep downward incline and have two and a half tonnes of un-braked caravan pushing us forward if we needed to stop suddenly. Later investigation revealed that the four brake magnets draw 13 amps and should be protected by a 20 amp resetting circuit breaker. Our car has a fuse in place of the circuit breaker and the problem fuse was only rated for 10 amps, thus under-rated when the brake controller was set to maximum. An easily rectified problem (20 amp fuse) but a situation that still needs monitoring.

Blue-faced Honey Eaters

A pair of Blue-faced Honey Eaters in Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat.

Our 300 kilometre run south to Cania Gorge was otherwise uneventful though it was odd seeing so very few trucks or caravans on the road. However, we weren't complaining. Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat is a wonderfully picturesque and quiet park with the Gorge walls rising steeply on both sides resulting in a slight echo from the calls of the many birds, especially in the early morning. (All right, stop laughing, I said the bird calls echoed. I never said I was up and about to hear them!)

Gorge Wall

Cedar Creek 'tumbles' past the park at the base of a cliff on its way to join Three Moon Creek, the overflow from the Cania Dam. The picture doesn't show the creek bed which is way below camera level and .... bone dry!

We had decided on a seven day stay in the Gorge and quickly found a down side; we had no television reception, no phone reception and consequently no internet/email reception. Being 21st Century nomads, this was devastating!

Investigation of the television problem revealed that this park used a re-transmission system known as VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television) similar to that at Bell Park (which we'd just left) except that the source signal in Cania Gorge was obtained from a satellite dish then re-transmitted from a low-power vertically polarised antenna to the park. Our caravan has a dual polarity antenna so why were we not receiving the signal? The answer was a bunch of large trees which screened our antenna from the transmitter's. Oh the joys of digital television! On our second morning we moved our 'van to a new location within thirty obstruction-free metres of the transmission antenna and thereafter we received excellent reception of all four available programs. Yes, four! At Bell Park we received 27 programs from the Mount Hopeful transmitter 70 kilometres away. That park's receiving antenna is mounted at the top of a tall mast in Bell Park from where it snatches all the signals out of the ether - signals not obtainable down at ground level since analogue transmissions were discontinued by order of ... whom? Anybody consult you about the change? No, nor me. Manufacturers of digital televisions must still be grinning.

The phone/internet problem we were able to circumvent simply by driving 11 kilometres up to the Cania Dam with our computers, WiFi and phone. Not ideal but doable. On the first trip I had one short email from a friend and two from Nigerians, each wanting to give me $50 million. Such generous folk, those Nigerians. And so naive.

Cania Dam

Cania Dam, its clay core reinforced with stone, holds back the mighty Three Moon Creek.

Were it not for the dam, Three Moon Creek would, in all probability be as dry now as the Cedar Creek 'running' past the caravan park. The dam captures excess water in the wet season and constantly releases a set amount into the creek bed for the rest of the year. The Cedar Creek last held water eight months ago at the time of Cyclone Marcia when its level rose to the top of its banks. Today it's bone dry.

Cania Dunnies

Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat has several murals around the park. The murals shown here are painted on the wall outside the relevant toilets.

Every afternoon at four o'clock the park owners feed the parrots and dozens of rainbow lorikeets gather in the trees as the hour approaches. Other varieties also arrive, probably attracted by the noise of the lorikeets.

Lorikeets

Very pretty birds but what a noise!

What has happened to this website? It's going down the tubes!

Yes indeed, our website has become very disjointed, for which I apologise. There is a reason which perhaps I should explain. Simply and briefly, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We travelled to Brisbane where the prostate was removed. We then returned to Emu Park to recuperate. We intend to remain in Emu Park for some months so updates to these pages will probably become sporadic for no other reason than there may be little new to report. If there is, rest assured ...
Greg and Bev visit us for five fabulous days!

You remember Greg and Bev? They've visited us - and vice versa - several times while we've been on our travels which now span over eleven years. They are the nicest people you could hope to meet and we feel privileged to call them friends. (Is that right Greg? Is that what you told me to write?) Greg and I first met in 1982 - how long ago is that, thirty four years? God, I feel old. A lot has changed since then but our friendship has never faltered. He married Bev during that time and she complemented Greg perfectly. We love them both dearly. And now they've flown a distance of well over one thousand kilometres from Sydney, where they live, just to spend five days with us. What can I say?

We crammed a lot into those five days thanks to our Tour Director, Pam, who did a fantastic job. One day we took a day trip out to the Keppel Islands aboard catamaran Grace II ... and what a perfect day that was. The picture below will give an idea of the conditions. The Captain, Anthony, anchored near Middle Island then again near Great Keppel Island so his passengers - there were about ten as well as the four of us - could swim in the warm clear waters of the Coral Sea. Anthony's wife and co-captain, Vicki, supplied masks, snorkels and flippers to anyone who wanted them as there was coral below the surface. All except Pam and I took advantage of the opportunity - we stayed on board.

Antony and Vicki looked after us really well. While the others were swimming Anthony patrolled in the boat's dinghy which was powered by an outboard motor. Back on Grace II Vicki kept a constant count to ensure everyone was accounted for. She lost Bev once but she was under the cat.

Greg and Bev

Bev in the Captain's seat and Greg.

Another day Pam organised a day out which took in a local crocodile farm which was very interesting. We saw some very large and some very small reptiles. In the pictures below we were able to handle one of the little critters - after its mouth was securely taped shut. At he end of the tour we were invited to eat some crocodile meat. We politely declined. It was stressed that we were not at a wildlife park, the croc farm is similar, for example, to a beef farm where animals are bred to be slaughtered. In the case of crocodiles, bred mainly for their skins. The only times a wild croc would be brought in would be at the request of (say) a local council because the croc had become a danger to humans.

Greg and Bev with a baby Croc

The little croc was not unpleasant to hold, it hardly moved at all.

Jumping Croc

Our guide warned us to keep all parts of our bodies behind the fence and
here she demonstrated why. We believed her. We really did!

When those jaws snapped shut it sounded like a gun being fired.
Emu Park's Festival of the Wind.

Every year we've missed the Festival of the Wind due to being elsewhere when it was being held, so this year we were really looking forward to it. And, for once, the sunshine and the wind combined to make it a perfect day.

Kites

Apart from the 'ordinary' kites there were many very inventive designs.

Spiders

What about these? The spiders' rear legs fluttered in the wind, looking very realistic.

Parrot Kites

At first we thought 'penguins', but in the end the consensus was parrots!

Octopus Kite

No mistaking what this one is.

Skeleton Kite

Or this one.

Real Excitement - we have new eyes!

Well, perhaps 'new eyes' is an exaggeration but that's how it feels. It all started like this ...

We were due for a visit to an optometrist (optician, in Britain). Pam's cataracts had deteriorated to the extent that she needed treatment. (A cataract is the clouding of the eye's lens, restricting light passing through it and causing blurred vision.) The treatment involves making a small incision in the corner of each eye and breaking up the cataract with an ultrasonic device then vacuuming out the debris. A new plastic lens is rolled up tightly and inserted through the incision then released inside the eye to unroll until flat. The surgeon then positions the lens precisely and that's that. The actual procedure only takes about ten minutes per eye; all the preparation has been done beforehand.

The result is dramatic. Everything looks brighter and sharper. Colours are more vivid. Your eyes focus all the way from reading distance to the horizon so you can throw away your old glasses, you'll never need them again. With the more basic implants magnifying lenses might be required for very small print.

Learning all this, I asked if I could have my eyes done too. After all, why suffer the inconvenience of needing three separate pairs of specs and paying for new lenses over the years? The answer was yes, I could. So I did. Am I happy with the outcome? Ecstatic would describe the feeling better.

Somebody, somewhere, will be asking, How much does it cost? The answer depends on the lens that you select. In Australia the basic lens is mostly covered by Medicare and will give the same outcome as described above. However, there are better lenses that eliminate the need for magnifying specs, even for small print. These lenses are quite expensive but after Medicare and private health insurance rebates, well, it depends on where you go for the procedure as charges vary. So shop around and make sure you get the 'bottom line' because your eyes have to be measured very precisely with extremely complex instrumentation in order to make each lens perfect for one eye. The other eye won't be the same. This measurement takes place weeks before the surgery and we got surprised by a hefty additional charge for that.


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