Winter highlights

Category: Ships Log
 

July - October 2016

Highlights of our winter, which disappeared much too quickly

 

It’s been awhile since our last blog post so we figured it was time to post an update. Our “winter” flew by and now we are back into spring – temperatures have shifted from the low 20s (low 70s in F) of winter to the upper 20s (low 80s in F) of spring. It is hard to believe it is already spring again and we have been here almost 2 years!

For the most part, things have stayed pretty much the same – we are both still working at the University of Queensland for the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics. However, my position as laboratory manager is coming to an end this week as the woman I was replacing is returning from maternity leave after 13 months away (yes, they have pretty awesome benefits here). I will be transitioning into more of a research role now, where I will be working on a couple projects having to do with the human microbiome. In case you are curious, the human microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies – they actually play an incredibly important role in keeping us healthy and some scientists have said they almost function like another organ. Anyway, it is a new and rapidly expanding area of research and I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Outside of work, we have been doing our usual hiking trips and explorations of the area. Some of the highlights over the last several months included a whale watching trip (I think we are making this an annual excursion), a weekend trip to Sydney, and a gorgeous 17.4km hike in Lamington National Park.

The whale watching here is really spectacular during the whale season from May thru November. During this time the humpbacks travel north from Antarctica (May – August) along the Queensland coast, to their breeding grounds in the Great Barrier Reef. After calving, they return south to Antarctica (September – November). While traveling, the humpbacks often come close to shore and give quite a display of breaching, spy-hopping, and tail flipping. Last year we went on a boat trip to view the whales off the coast, and we decided we had to do it again this year. It is amazing to be so close to one of these humpbacks as they leap completely out of the water - it is something we will never tire of.

 

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A pair of humpbacks close to shore.

 

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An adult breaching just a couple hundred meters from our boat.

 

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A calf practicing breaching and spy-hopping.

 

Another fun trip we did early this spring was to finally check out Sydney. Until now, I’d only passed through the city, but never spent any time in it. Chris had a meeting to attend in Sydney for work, so we took advantage of the excuse and flew in the weekend before to explore. The first day we explored the city, including the fish market, Royal Botanical Gardens, opera house, and harbour. Chris booked us a tour of the harbour on a tall ship that was almost 100 years old. It was a beautiful day for a boat ride and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing what a beautiful bay Sydney has.

 

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The Royal Botanic Garden has some lovely and huge trees.

 

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As well as some stranger looking ones... This is a 100 year old dragon blood tree from the Canary Islands, Spain, that fell over in a storm several years ago. It is still going strong!

 

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There is a nice view of the opera house from the botanic gardens.

 

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Chris booked us a tour of the harbour on the tall ship approaching the dock.

 

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Chris in his element (well, almost - probably would have been better if he was steering the boat. :))

 

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Chris managed to get a free trip up the mast to the crow's nest.

 

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He had a lovely view from the top.

 

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Later we walked across the Harbour Bridge for another lovely view of the bay.

 

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And one more pic of the opera house at night...

 

The next day we headed for the coast, to famous Bondi Beach. They have a lovely coastal walk from Bondi south along the coast. We only made it to Bronte Beach (a couple towns south) though before a large thunderstorm hit. It was a massive downpour and we had to duck into a local café for shelter and coffee (which was also nice). Next time we will hopefully have better weather and can make it further!

 

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Bondi Beach in the morning. The place reminded me a lot of the La Jolla, CA area.

 

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Walking along the coastal trail.

 

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The sandstone cliffs are beautiful.

 

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The storm approaches.

 

The last highlight is a gorgeous hike we did with our work colleagues in Lamington National Park. It is called the Tooloona Creek Circuit and travels through lush subtropical rainforest and past many waterfalls. It is one of the most beautiful hikes we have done. The only downside of hiking in a rainforest though is that it often rains, and the last 3 hours of our hike we had steady showers. I actually rather enjoyed this, as it reminded me of the good old days hiking in Oregon. :)

 

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The trailhead had an abundance of very tame parrots. This crimson rosella flew right onto Chris's outstretched hand.

 

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An Australian King parrot hanging out.

 

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I also spotted a Regent Bowerbird in a tree.

 

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On the trail after we finally tore ourselves away from parrot-watching. You really feel like you are in the depths of a primordial jungle here.

 

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Part of the ACE crew on the hike. Photo courtesy of Steve Robbins.

 

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I just love the fern trees.

 

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Last waterfall pic.

 

However, one difference here from Oregon is that when it rains, the leeches come out. The leeches are quite small, just a few millimeters in length, and maybe a half a millimeter in girth, that is until they’ve had their fill of sucking your blood and then they become about 2 mm in girth… Anyway, they don’t hurt, but by the end of the hike our pants were riddled with blood stains (we did try to pick them off along the way, but at some point it just becomes futile). Chris and I got lucky, with only about 3 leech bites each, but our friend Maria was not so lucky. She got top honours with 17 leech bites!

 

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Maria's hiking pants after our hike. She's ready for Halloween!

 

Anyway, we are still having a great time here and loving the opportunities we’ve had to explore Australia. We have work for at least another year, so will continue to hang out here as long as we can.

 

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Cute koala pic to end the blog. During another weekend we visited the Daisy Hill Koala Centre where they rehabilitate injured koalas.

 

 

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