Monday, November 30, 2009

Back on Land

After 9 AMAZING days on a dive boat around Papau New Guinea, we have finally made it back to land. We are in Daintree Rainforest in far north Queensland, Australia...and it is beautiful! The place we are staying is a little eco-lodge smack dab in the middle of the woods...we've gotten to take a guided hike through the oldest living rainforest in the world (stuff dating back more than 150 million years! Makes the time we live seem so insignificant...) Haven't seen any crocs or kangaroos or koalas yet...but it is still really cool.

We've got tons of pics from our dive part of the trip and we'll post more about that later. For now we've got a busy afternoon of keeping our eyes out for the lodge's resident cassowary (it's a huge bird 4-5 ft tall named Fred) and then going to a local Aussie restaurant for dinner for some local fare...hopefully that's not where we see the crocs and roos!

Hope everyone at home had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We'll be home soon...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cultural Experience

Day 7. Today we had a cruise ship join the Tufi clan…a nice 150 ft yacht sleeping 30 people full of Aussies (and a couple of Brits and one guy from Connecticut.) Simon had planned the day to include a couple of village tours complete with demonstrations

- Cruise ship had a chopper that took the guests on excursions throughout their stop – Don was trying to get on to Kokoda for a day trip, but it didn’t happen
Met Michelle – lady who is a dr. in Australia who mom is originally from PNG – she had a very emotional experience earlier in their trip where she met up with he aunties, uncles, and grandparents for the first time since she was a kid
- Went on motor boats over to the mangroves – were picked up in dugout canoes by men who were decked out in their tradition dress – included palm leave skirts, flowers around their arms and head and later we saw the women were bare chested with lots of necklaces to somewhat cover their chests.
- Got paddled up the inlet of mangroves where we were dropped off at the “lower village”
There they showed us demonstrations of how they lived and worked…including digging out the sago tree to make pulp, taking the pulp to the river where they strained the starch out of the pulp…then they collected the pulp and formed a loaf…where they put it on a palm leaf fire (we got to taste the outer skin…kinda tasted like play dough)…they wrap it in banana leafs to carry it…then the women grind it up to make a soup – Brock tasted it and it was like glue. Yum. Then they offered us fresh fruits and coconut milk fresh from the coconuts. They had set up a makeshift market where all the families sold handmade souvenirs. We bought a couple of things, got back on the canoes, and headed out to the next village.
- The next village offered us a look at a traditional Sing-Sing. The locals in their traditional dress dance around and sing songs for different purposes…they showed us their welcome song/dance and one that they do as a volcano dance.
- We got a tour around their village and a few more demonstrations – one of bag weaving, one of rope making, one of fire making, and one of face tattooing. They didn’t actually do the tattooing while we were there, but they did show us the technique that they would use if they did using a nail and piece of wood…I’m so glad I had mine done where there is electricity! Also, usually only the women get tattoos, and they get them on their faces. It symbolizes a coming of age, and then once you have your face tattooed, you are able to begin looking for a husband. Almost all of the older women have full face tattoos, but they said as the younger generations go outside of the villages for school and work, it is less common for young women to get the tattoos.
- We were offered fresh local fruit (the pineapple was the BEST pineapple we’ve ever tasted!) and more coconut water and given the chance to buy some more local souvenirs.
- Headed back to the resort to get ready for our afternoon dive. Had an awesome curry chicken lunch and then down to the dive shop to hit Paul’s Reef
- The dive was beautiful – we’re coming to expect that here – and we came up with tons of life to add to our dive log.
- After the dive, Simon had invited the guests of the North Star cruise ship to the resort for cocktails and appetizers. We got to enjoy the evening and made a few friends, including getting to talk to Michelle again about how she went from a small girl in a local PNG village to now a doctor in Australia.
- After the cruise guests left, we sat around with Simon, his daughter Rebecca, Don and the locals who work at the resort listening to stories and telling a few of our own.

Getting Personal…Village Hike

Day 6. Today was a really special experience. Wesley, one of the locals who works at the dive shop, took us on hike through his home village. We started the trek with a super steep hike up a muddy path where Brock almost fell, but for Wesley this was his normal daily “commute”…oh, did I mention he does this barefooted every day? We came up to his cousin’s fishing house where this little girl was holding 2 little kittens. We took a few pictures, gave her a little hair barrette, and kept up the trail with her now following us. Up the trail a little further there were 2 more kids doing some chores – they were uprooting plants to be replanted at a different garden. The little boy – who was maybe 5 or 6 – was completely naked and his name was Willy. For some reason that struck us as funny. Another boy – probably about 13 – was walking down to go fishing. Wesley told us he had just gone out for the first time by himself fishing and caught 4 Spanish mackerels…we caught him on his way down for his second of I’m sure many solo fishing trips in his life. We stopped one more time along the way to give the kids little trinkets and take a little break. They loved getting their picture taken and we got some great shots. We kept on hiking up until we got to the highest point, which is where the village was. Everyone lives so simply…no electricity, no unnecessary clutter, just the essentials…and everyone seems really happy and so welcoming. Except for one guy…Wesley was going to take us to the end of his village, but this guy who looked like a Papua New Guinea version of Tom Seleck in his prime – mustache and abs galore – did not want us on his land. Wesley said that he had a personal problem with that guy and he was trying to embarrass him in front of his guests. We didn’t push it, but instead just went back to Wesley’s house for a break. Each little house is built on stilts and sits about 3-4 feet off the ground, with a font porch where the women and kids hang out during the day. Wesley’s mom and small sister (rather than calling her his little sister) had bananas they shared with us during our stop. They gave us fans woven out of the bark of a tree for us to shoo the flies away. After a quick break – and Brock breaking their bench…oops – we went on our way back down the other side of the mountain toward the beach. We walked past their church – a thatch roof covering rows of log benches – and the site where the old church had burned down. Wesley told us stories along the way including the reason the church burned…there was a crazy guy who snapped and stabbed his son and burned down their house, also burning down the church. He also told us of the marijuana that is grown there and the young men go out and sell it to the yachts who come up to their bay. It’s crazy to know that half way around the world in a place where everyone lives in paradise and seems happy with their lot, they still have problems like we do in the US. We walked by a few more houses, one with 4 dogs that almost ate Christina, and then made it to the most beautiful beach in the world! White sand, turquoise blue waters and the whole thing surrounded with lush green rainforest…unbelievably gorgeous! The boat had brought our snorkel gear and lunch for us to hang out on the beach for the afternoon…and they knew us well…they had also packed the cooler with lots of beer! We took the afternoon to relax, take in some sun and just enjoy paradise. After we finished everything we could drink, we reluctantly radioed back for the boat to come pick us up. Headed back to the resort where we spent the afternoon resting and cooling off from our afternoon in the sun. Another great dinner and a game of boys vs. girls joker to wrap up a really amazing day.

Diving in Paradise

Day 5. Woke up to a beautiful day with the most gorgeous view from our room. Headed down for breakfast before our dives…Brock discovered his new favorite: toast, scrambled eggs, and mushrooms. Yum. Went down to the dive shop and loaded up for our 2 boat dives on the outer reefs: Clancy’s Reef and Elly’s Bommie. It’s about a 45 min boat ride out to the site, but we dropped in and within 3 minutes of getting into the water, I spotted a hammerhead shark swimming below us. It was smaller and quick and was gone before Brock got a chance to see it. But the diving is incredible. Beautifully clear water, tons of color, a super healthy reef including both huge soft and hard corals, and fish and critter life everywhere you look! In between the dives we watched a mom and baby dolphin breaching the surface. They were so cute! But not close enough to jump in and play with. Had lunch on the boat after our second dive, except for Christina who unfortunately got a little sea sick. In the evening, we did our third dive of the day, our first ever muck dive. For those of you who aren’t familiar with muck diving, it’s exactly what it sounds like…you dive in the trash. It was right off the dive shop pier and was littered with junk and trash and muck…but it’s so weird because some of the most colorful and unique creatures live here. Very cool dive, but personally I enjoy the beauty and color of the reef. What a great day of diving in paradise!

Going to Tufi

Day 4. Set our alarms early this morning as we had to catch an early flight to our next destination – Tufi Dive Resort. The plane was the smallest plane we’ve ever been on (a twin engine prop plane that seated 22 people, including pilot and copilot). But the ride was amazingly beautiful, as we seemed to barely skim over rainforest covered mountains for the hour long journey. We landed on a dirt runway and were greeted by locals and their kids who were running around barefoot. We had a short drive in the back of the resort owner’s cruiser and were brought to the beautiful Tufi resort. There we met Muchi, a cute white Pomeranian, whose friends include a horned-billed bird named Coco and a wallaby named ??. It’s weird watching a bird jump around like a kangaroo play with the dog, who in turn likes to herd the wallaby around. Did we mention that our room was awesome with a beautiful net around the bed and the view from the balcony is the most incredible view we’ve ever seen?? Checked in, got breakfast, and headed down to the water. Down along the water’s edge, dozens of canoes came and went – these are very primitive looking dugout canoes that we would definitely flip if one of us tried it. But everyone has one and makes it look really easy…even the kids handled them just fine. We were so ready to get in the water so we jumped in and went for a long snorkel. The coral even by the pier is beautiful with tons of life…we can’t wait to actually dive tomorrow! Came back to the resort, ate a great lunch, and started with a few island beers – South Pacific, or SP for short, is the favorite of the girls, while the boys liked the one called Export. Played joker – the boys are really sore winners and like to table talk.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We made it!

Day 2-3?...: Lots and lots of time spent on an airplane, but we finally made it to PNG. We're staying the night in Port Moresby, the capital, and then off to our first real adventure tomorrow in Tufi (look up Tufi Dive Resort on google). We don't think our GPS thing is working, but keep checking back and hopefully we'll get it up and running soon. Hope everyone is doing great at home! It will probably be a few days before we get to log in again. But we'll post pics as soon as we're able. Miss yall!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bon Voyage

Day 1. We are off to Papua New Guinea and Australlia for the trip of a lifetime! Three weeks of diving, hiking, beaches and sun! Our travel compadres, the Starks, are making the trek w/ us. We leave DFW tonite (11/13) at 7PM ... layover in LAX ... layover in Brisbane, Australia ... and then arrive in Port Moresby, PNG at 1:45 AM on Sunday November 15th for our first stop. Where did the weekend go!?!?! We are going to miss everyone and our pups too, but can't wait to get this adventure started! We will have a 'spot' satellite GPS gizmo with us. We'll mark a 'spot' as we move around the world. You can click on the link to the right "FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE MAPS!!!" to see where in the world we are.