Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back in Hobart for a break

We are back in Hobart, home sweet home. It has been 9 weeks since I left for the field and I was ready to be home. We have set up 3 of the 6 field sites, half way there. We are home now for about 1.5 weeks then we will head back to Brisbane to set up one more site before I fly back to California.

I put together this map of the major cities and my field site locations (red dots) to give you an idea of where we have been spending out time. I also geeked out and made this distance table for perspective.


US equivalent

Cairns to Brisbane

1712 km (1063 mi)

Portland to San Diego

Brisbane to Sydney

940 km (584 mi)

San Francisco to San Diego

Sydney to Hobart

1168 km (725 mi)

San Francisco to Salt Lake City

Hobart to Cairns

3353 km (2083 mi)

San Francisco to St. Louis

Yesterday we finalized the purchase of another car. That makes Tim and I owners of 4 cars now. Yes it may sound excessive, but think about it as 2 per hemisphere (northern and southern). We got another Subaru wagon. It's a 93' with 4wd, plus it came with roof racks and a bike rack for the hitch. So not only is it a good field vehicle, it is ready for playing as well and picking up visitors from the airport ;)

Hope to see some of you soon in California.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Return to Paradise...for half of us.

Well, after helping Lora hang traps for four days she kicked me out of the tent and sent me on my way to go flying. I looked at the weather forecast and decided to head back to Rainbow Beach. This time I was able to fly both days I was there for extended periods of time. It was awesome! I flew to the right of launch this time and travelled down the ridge for almost 10 kms. Along the way I noticed I was catching up with three stingrays going my way. My first thought was of course if one of these knew Steve Irwin. Ok bad joke. Really these things are so graceful as they move through the water. The cool thing is that I was over 1000ft above them. Really cool!
Running out of time at internet cafe. Love you guys.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Paradise Found

Well we’ve found paradise. It’s called Rainbow Beach and it’s exactly what we’ve been looking for in an Aussie beach town. This town is small and not at all touristy. We’ve been staying in a really nice little resort motel with a great swimming pool and Jacuzzi. The best part of this area though is the beach and surrounding dunes. The ancient dunes stretch for close to 15 km with a beach to match. Of course what drew us here is the flying. It is a very famous place for hangliders and paragliders. That means at least 10 pilots know about it. Yep, that's me below.

As you can see from the pictures it is quite beautiful. After a day of sitting around because of high winds I was able to get into the air the following day. Below are some pictures of me taking off from the top of the dune. This dune is huge! There is so much sand here. Once in the air you can choose to fly north or south all the way along the dune.

I also have a picture of my flying assistant, Lora. She has been great over the past few days. Flying can be quite a frustrating sport and most wives wouldn’t stand for it. But Lora has really been great in helping me stay calm and remembering where we are.

Here’s a shot that Lora took (she took almost all of them) from the shade of the trees on top of the dune.

I was able to snap a few pictures while flying. Most are not good enough compared to the ones Lora took from the ground, but I thought I would include one shot looking north. You can just make out a few other paragliders flying back towards me. Well, I couldn't load this last picture. Oh well. For those that don’t know about this sport paragliders are always losing altitude because they do not have a source of thrust. In two cases, both providing lift, a pilot can stay up in the air. The first way is by using a rising thermal of warm air. The other way is to use wind rising quickly over a hill…or dune. This is what I had to work with here at Rainbow Beach.

After flying for an hour and a half I was getting hungry so I decided to land on the beach down below. Lora drove the car down and got a great shot of me landing. The landing is a bit scary because this beach is popular for families to drive down. I was surprised by the number of cars driving quickly through the landing zone. I hoped for the best as I came in for a landing, hoping that the cars would see me and stop for a minute. I have to say the best part of landing on the beach is that you just unhook from the harness and jump in the beautiful green Pacific Ocean.

Well after relaxing for an hour and having some lunch I decided to have another flight. This time I just walked up the lower dune from the beach and took off. It took me a go or two before I was high enough to use the lift. This time I flew for about 45 minutes or so. Lora snapped a few more shots of me.

One of the cooler things I experienced up there was flying above Lora who was just on the edge of the beach in the shade reading one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. It was pretty cool turning circles while looking down at Lora relaxing on an absolutely beautiful beach. Paradise indeed!

P.S. Hey Adam and Shela, let’s meet up for a flying vacation over here soon. Lora is even ready to learn to fly. She needs a lady flying partner.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Finally a vacation!!!

We are finally done setting up the field sites in far north queensland and started our road trip to south of Brisbane (~1700 km). So we left the termite mounds of the Tablelands and headed south.

We have been driving for 3 days, checking out the sites. We are now in Bundaberg. The home of Bundy's rum. So we had to visit for a distillery tour. The best part for both Tim and I was the refreshing tastings at the end of the tour.

Then after relaxing in the air conditioned motel room, it is sooooo hot here, we went to the Mon Repos turtle roockery to check out the loggerhead laying their eggs on the beach. We arrived at 6:30pm and waited and waited.....

Until finally at midnight our turtle came into the beach.

The best part of the evening was watching this turtle head back out to sea and saw two more turtles coming in.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Holy Snakes!

Lora and I saw our first snake in the field. Well kind of.

Lora ran into one of her plots real quick and I decided to stay with the air conditioner... I mean car. As I sat there I looked out into the forest past a downed tree from last year's cyclone Larry. The tree looked a little weird at first. You know how when you see something that is different than you've experienced in the past it takes a few seconds for your brain to process the new info. Well this is what happened to me and this snake. It was too big and long to be a snake... hey I've heard that before. Sorry trying to keep it PG-13. Anyways, take at look at this thing.

This is just the first half of it. It turned out to be a 13-15ft python with a very full belly. About 6ft down it had a huge hump were it was busy digesting dinner. Dinner was about the size of a oppossum or large bird. I of course radioed to Lora to calmly tell her to find another way out of the forest and to quickly come and see this monster. She of course thought I was exaggerating and that it was probably not more than a 4ft long snake.

Neither of us have every seen such a large snake in the wild. It was truly an amazing thing to see. I was glad it had eaten recently and that it looked to comfortable basking in the sun to chase me down and eat me. I think that if I had seen this monster while walking in the forest I would have quit my volunteer job as a research assistant... no matter how gorgeous my boss is.

As far as the leech count goes I stopped counting after 2 more days of leeches in the 50 to 60 range. I'm not sure where Lora is at with her leech count but I know she started to catch up with me the following days.

I have one more picture to show before signing off. It's of a Kokaburra bird, one of Oz's national tresures. Many songs have been sung about it including the Laugh Kokaburra song. Maybe you know it.