Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meeting the local wildlife on Great Keppel

Amazing how a few weeks can just slip through your fingers between posts. I guess that's a sign that we've been busy.

Easter in Australia is the start of a school holiday -- one week in Queensland, two in New South Wales, not sure about the other states and territories. Sharon returned from Canada a few days before Easter, so we spent the weekend here then took off for the Capricorn Coast.

The Capricorn Coast is unique in Australia, since it's the only landmark in the country that wasn't named by Captain Cook. At least, I don't think it is. It's named because part of it sits at 23.5 degrees south lattitude, meaning the Tropic of Capricorn runs through it. The town of Rockhampton celebrates this with a nice little monument outside their visitor's centre. (Unfortunately, the actual line of lattitude is a few miles south of town, but the idea is a good one.)

We weren't there to see the line, though; we were there to see an island. Specifically we were there to spend three nights on Great Keppel Island. It's a few miles offshore from the town of Yeppoon, which is about 6 1/2 hours drive from here. At least it is if you're not driving through a monsoon. It took us closer to 8 1/2, and we were lucky to get through before they started closing sections of the highway. And yes, poor old Kin Kin got flooded out again.

En route we stopped for dinner with our old friend Therese, who we used to see when we lived in the Ottawa Valley. We haven't seen each other in years, but she and her mum are travelling through Australia so we met up for dinner. It is indeed a funny little world.

Before heading to the island, we visited a terrific network of caves north of Rockhampton, and toured the Aboriginal discovery centre, where we all learned to throw a boomerang. And yes, they really do come back. Getting them to come back where you want them, it seems, is the real trick. We bought two in the gift shop so we could practice. I'm sure the neighbours will be delighted.

Great Keppel Island is part of a group of islands (named by Captain Cook, naturally). Some of the islands are now a National Park, but at one time Great Keppel was Australia's party central -- the marketing slogan in the 80s was Get Wrecked on Keppel!

Last year the biggest resort on the island closed down, taking with it a number of smaller bars and shops. Now there are just a couple of little backpacker places and a pizza shop that's open three days a week. But the biggest attraction remains the beaches and the water, and we enjoyed them immensely. The southern end of the Great Barrier Reef is a few hundred kilometres to the east, but Keppel has some good coral too, and we spent a fun couple of days snorkelling over and around it, admiring the fish and the rays in the clear, warm waters. In the evenings we sat and chatted with Germans, Australians and Brits at the communal kitchen/dining hall, and one night we pulled out guitars and had a session.

The last day was the only downer. As we walked into the water for our last snorkelling session, Charlotte shrieked that she had stepped on something. It was a ray, but it swam away without doing anything more than frightening her. We got her calmed down, told her she'd have a good story to tell, and waded back out. Then it was Sharon's turn to shriek: she'd stepped on one too, and this time it had stung her. The pain, she said, was insane -- second only to childbirth, in her estimation, and Sharon has a very high pain threshold. That came from a small sting on the foot, a cut that was less than 2 cm long.

Fortunately we were near the resort, and someone got a ute to take her back. Even more fortunately, there was an acupuncturist staying there who had treated stings before, and he knew exactly what to do. (Hot water, as hot as you can stand it, until the pain plateaus. Then elevate the foot and treat it with ice and antiseptic.)

On the way back we enjoyed the scenery that we had missed in the driving rain. Now we're back home again, looking forward to our next adventure.

Oh, and we've lost one of the boomerangs. If anyone spots one in the surf at Great Keppel, throw it down this way.

1 comment:

Just Plain Happy said...

Hi Andrew and Family,

We visited the Capricorn Caves and the Aboriginal Cultural Center on our visit to Oz in 2003. We loved both experiences. Fortunately for us we did not share Sharon's experience with a ray...we had heard how painful it can be.