Australia Part 6:  A Make and Mend Day at Thala Beach Resort

Friday, July 29, 2016

What a lovely day!  We had absolutely nothing on our itinerary.  Greg calls these days the “make and mend” days.  I woke up first (as usual) at about 6 AM.  I got some pictures of the early light, and I enjoyed the sounds of the birds calling in the trees and the wind blowing.

We had a leisurely breakfast.  Genene drank an entire pot of tea.  I believe she was an English lady in a prior life.  She has taken a real fancy to Earl Grey.  She tarts it up with a lot of milk and sugar but it’s probably better for her than the gallon of coffee I throw down every morning.  (Wonder why I can’t sleep at night?)

We tried our first (and last) vegemite on toast. Vegemite sells itself as a spread for sandwiches and toast, and the ad boasts, “It’s full of vitamin B.”   Vegemite is really a food paste made from leftover brewer’s yeast dumped from breweries.  It was developed by Australians in 1919, following the disruption of British Marmite (a similar product) imports after World War I.  It’s sticky, thick and brown, and it tastes salty and sour, like a bad, dark, sour beer.  How they have managed to continue selling that product is a miracle to me.  We asked one of our drivers about it, and he claimed it was very good if you spread a VERY THIN layer of it on toast and then followed it up with a lot of butter.  He said, “It puts a rose in every cheek!”  I think his tongue was firmly in his cheek as he gave us this advice.  I checked vegemite off my bucket list, right after the Great Barrier Reef.

We took a nature walk around the resort.  We had the trails to ourselves.  First we headed for the beach:

We watched a man frolic with his two dogs on the beach.  We did not see any crocodile warnings here, so I guess we are all safe.

Genene scratched, “Genene was here” into the sand.

We took a few minutes to lay in the hammocks.  It was cool, and the wind was very brisk.

You can get an idea of how hard the wind was blowing from looking at the trees in the foreground of this shot.

We found this “trig point” hammered into the rock at the highest point of the ocean lookout.

We left the beach and headed into the rainforest.  The trail was easy to follow, and some of the plants had interpretive markers.

Some kind of fungus, I think, growing on the forest floor:

This is a strangler fig, which begins its life as an epiphyte.  This means that it begins life living off the atmosphere using the host tree for support.  The fig grows slowly at first, sending small, thread-like roots to the forest floor.  Once the roots connect with the ground, the plant grows quickly, enveloping the host plant and eventually depriving it of light and nutrients.  (Thanks, buddy!)  The tree produces a fig that attracts birds, who in turn spread a variety of seeds.

We stumbled upon a huge bird incubation pile.   According to the interpretive plaque, this one was made by the orange-footed scrub fowl.  Their mounds can weigh over 50 tons. They generate heat just like the mound of the Australian brushturkey that we saw at Daintree.  Like the brushturkey, when the scrub fowl eggs hatch, the little birds must make their way to the surface alone, and they run away and fly without any help from Mom and Dad.  I know that Genene wishes she were a scrub fowl about now.

We saw a tar tree, but it was unremarkable to look at and I did not photograph it.  Besides, I didn’t want to get close to it.  The tree contains a toxic sap which will cause severe blistering of the skin simply by brushing against the bark or foliage.  Disturbing the sand under the tree or breathing the smoke from its burning wood can also irritate.  Its fruit looks a bit like an acorn, and that is toxic too.  Leave that bad boy alone!

Another fungus, I think:

Can you see something peeking out from under that leaf?

Greg stood near one of the mounds to give perspective:

Watch out for salties, Genene!

This pretty fellow stopped, perched and posed for me:

We wanted to see the Ulysses butterfly but had to settle for this smaller fellow:

Genene hates it when I stop to photograph spiders:

We walked by the wallaby field, but we didn’t see Apple or any of the other wallabies.  It was getting to be lunchtime, so we ambled back to the resort.  We had a nice lunch at our usual table out over the rainforest canopy.  We got to watch a monitor lizard (I think he’s a lace monitor) coming up for a drink.

The lorikeets played in the nearby trees.  We could watch the wildlife without leaving our lunch table.

Greg ordered the crocodile curry.  You guessed it:  it tastes like chicken.

After lunch we retired to our room for some well deserved R&R.  After all, it’s not every day that you survive the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.  Greg napped while I took some notes for the blog.  Genene did some sketching, listened to music, and played some games on her iPhone.  We have no wifi in our room, so she has to content herself with old-fashioned games that do not require it.  I heard her giggling softly so I know she was enjoying herself.  One thing about being an only child:  she is always content with her own company.  I think that is a trait that will stand her in good stead as she continues to navigate the joys and pains of growing up.

I think I must have fallen asleep for a little while.  Our rooms are good for that.  There is air conditioning and we have used it some.  Most of the time we simply use the windows.  They are screened and slatted, and we open the slats and let the breeze come through.  The wind whips through the trees of the rainforest.  It’s a very relaxing sound, although the wind has been pretty fierce.  If I heard wind like this in Arkansas, I would expect to look out the window and see a major thunderstorm brewing or maybe even a funnel cloud.  Here it is just an all-day feature.

I wish we had more time to sit on this deck:

and look at this view:

Late in the afternoon we cleaned up and packed.  Our driver arrives at the ungodly hour of 5:15 AM tomorrow, so we will have to roll out.

We headed down to the bar.  I ordered this very subtle, refined, pre-dinner drink.  They called it the Thala Beach coconut bomb.  It contains “coconut milk and a secret ingredient.”  I’m reasonably sure that the secret ingredient is rum.  It was fun to drink, and I got some exercise for my biceps by lifting it to my mouth.

We had our last dinner at Thala, and it was delicious, as usual. Greg has become a regular James Boag beer drinker.  On the first day, the barkeep was congratulatory at Greg’s good taste, telling him that this was the beer he drank when he was “feeling fancy.”  By our last night, the barkeep came up with our order, which had been placed by another waitress, and said, “I thought I might find you on the other end of this beer.”

We will miss the relaxing atmosphere at Thala Beach, but we are ready to see more of this big country.  We are done with the rainforest and the reef…and the vegemite!  Our next stop is the red centre of the country–Uluru and Kata Tjuta.  Stay tuned.


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