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Newsletter from Brian Cormier

Australia Update

March 31, 2003


I hope everyone had a good start to 2003. I am fine and currently in Melbourne, which is located at the bottom (Southern portion) of the country. The weather has cooled off the last week and find myself having to wear a long sleave sweatshirt now and then even though it is over 20 degrees Celsius (80 F). Normally, I would be in a t-shirt and sandals, however once you have been used to 40 C for a few weeks even mid-twenties feels cool comparatively.

Whereas most of you are glad to see the arrival of Spring, I am facing the cool breezes of Fall. My travelling north up the East Coast is opposite to that of the normal trend. Since it was heading into summer, the Northern parts of Australia get very hot and humid, therefore most travellers head south to Sydney where it is hot but not as bad as up North. This meant that most places I was visiting were in low season or just about and I could some good deals.

I have been to many places and seen many things since the last time we connected. I left off in mid December 2002. On Dec. 13, I went to a rainforest on Tamborine Mountain in Queensland. After a leisurely walk through the rainforest and lunch we (Olive and Jim Bell & I) went to Thunderbird Park on the other side of the mountain. It had many activities but I decided to go fossicking in an ancient mine for Thunder Eggs. They are random shaped crystals inside an egg shaped rock. They are formed during volcanic activity as released gasses are trapped in cooling lava, they create bubbles, which are filled with minerals that harden and create crystals. I spent 1 hrs digging around the mine and almost came up empty except for one very small egg shaped rock that was under the suggested size for quality Thunder Eggs. I had it cut in half anyway and to my luck there was a good specimen inside.

Next I went for a scuba dive off the coast of Melbourne close to Morton Island on Dec. 18. I made two dives around the area titled "Spot X." I saw many types of coral, as this is the most southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. I also saw rays, a shovelnose shark (passive) and lots of colourful fish. I also had a mild case of seasickness as I had forgotten to take my tablets and used a herbal one given to me by one of the other divers just as we got to the boat. I have never forgotten to take them since and I stick to the "drug like" types even though this goes against my overall health philosophy. The next morning I caught the bus from Brisbane to Cooroy to visit with Roger and Edith Ponton, the Australian ARE webmasters. They were great people and very knowledgeable about Cayce concepts and have built many of the Cayce appliances. Unfortunately I was only able to stay with them for the one day as I had previous commitments in Rockhampton and it was at least a 10-hour bus trip to get there.

I arrived in Rockhampton at 9 PM on the evening of Friday December 20, 2002. I had booked a place to stay before I left the Ponton’s place and managed to get a good room for a very good price. Dave, manger of the Ascot Motel, picked me up from the bus station. After I checked into my room, I met Dave downstairs at the bar and he gave me a voucher for a free beer. After a long day it went down very nicely. The bar was just about to close and Dave invited me to join him as he was going to the local’s bar, Shady Swan, for a few more drinks. I accepted and had a great evening singing karaoke and drinking. Towards the end of the evening I decided to go on the Outback Adventure Dave was leading the next morning. Saturday started with a visit to Capricorn caves and the "Cathedral Tour." It was the Summer Soltiste, which provided a special opportunity to witness a natural skylight in one of the caves. It was a very narrow shaft that was better illuminated on this day due to the angel of the sun to that area.

Next was a tour real Australian Bushland. It was quite barren since the area was in the middle of a 2-year drought. I saw wild Emus, kangaroos, snakes and a poisonous spider. We climbed a small hill to get a great panoramic view of the valley. That evening I was having dinner with members of the local SFG study group. Sunday I relaxed and ended up going mud crabbing later that evening with Dave and Jason from Ascot Motel. It was a fun experience and we managed to catch one good size crab, which we ate the next day for lunch.

Monday I met up with Keith (study group member) for lunch and toured the local wildlife park and botanical gardens. For dinner I splurged and order crocodile served on a stone grill. The meat is served raw and you cook each piece as you slice it on a volcanic rock slab heated to an extremely high temperature. Jason, from the mud crabbing, was the cook at the restaurant and he included a piece of kangaroo when he found out I had not tried it yet. I had called Amy and Daniel on Sunday to see what date they wanted me in Mackay. They said that the 24th would be fine since they were going fishing on the 23rd.

I arrived in Mackay just after 9pm. Amy and Daniel picked me up and then we went back to a party they had left to get me. I met Daniel’s parents the next morning, Elaine and Rod Davis. Daniel’s younger brother, Josh, and his two dogs Jabby and Bossy were also there. The house was 10 minutes in the country and located on a Lychee orchard. A lychee is a white fleshy fruit covered in a tough skin like shell about the size of golf ball. We had a great Christmas dinner. It was a cold dinner served outside under a shade tent. It was turkey and ham with green and potato salad. The temperature reached 39 Celsius (110 F). I met Elaine’s brother that day and he had a small mango orchard. The whole gang and I helped pick the mango crop one day later that week. I also spent two days picking lychees and half a day pulling down and packing up nets that cover the trees to protect them from flying foxes (bats). Daniel’s parents also have cattle that needed their ear tags for warding off flies replaced. I assisted them and found it to be a worthwhile and interesting experience. After these experiences on the orchards and with the cattle, I developed a better understanding and appreciation of the work involved in producing these foods. When you look at what we pay for fruit and veggies in the store, I wondered how farmers could live off of the land, considering the amount of work involved.

December 31 was fast approaching and that meant my 3-day scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef was just about here. The morning of the 31st Daniel, Amy and I packed our things and diving gear into their SUV and headed to Airlie Beach, where we were to board our dive boat. It took us 2 hours to get there and therefore we were very early for our 5 PM meeting time at the dive shop. We toured the town and booked a place to stay for the evening we got back. Oceania II, a twin hulled dive boat would be our home for the next 4 days and three nights. It was a modern boat built specifically for scuba diving and the twin hull made it significantly more stable then a single hull, which would limit the tossing and turning you can get on the open sea. Just before midnight we stopped just of the coast of an island and watched their fireworks for New Year’s Eve.

The boat continued its journey throughout the night and we woke up anchored at our first dive site. I ended up making 8-day dives and 2 night dives. I dove sometimes with my friends, Amy and Daniel and sometimes with other divers. The crew was good and the food was good given the size of the kitchen and the price we paid.

Through my dives I saw all types of coral from staghorn, boulder, plate, to needle. The types of sea life I saw were cuddle fish (squid like and semi-rare), nudibranchs (rare, type of slug, very small - 1 inch long), Spanish dancer (type of nudibranch, very rare), parrot fish, puffer fish, a turtle, rays, reef claims from 1 to 6 feet long and a few white tip reef sharks (5 feet long but a passive species). I had a great time on the dive trip and had no bouts of seasickness due to calm weather, a good boat and the taking of seasickness tablets.

We arrived back in port on the afternoon of Friday January 3, 2003. I had Tai for dinner with some of the divers I met on the trip and afterwards we met up with the rest of the divers for a drink. Daniel, Amy and I went on a 3 Island tour the next day and afterwards we had dinner at their hotel, Club Croc. They were heading back to Mackay the next day and I would continue my travels North to Cairns so we would be parting and not meet again for quite some time. They are great people and good friends of mine and I enjoyed having friends around after travelling the last three weeks on my own and I would miss them.

I had booked the Rescue divers course to start the next day and then four days later a 3-day dive trip to perform the ocean practise but decided to cancel due to feeling really awful, realising that the course was not important to me at this time and that if I was going to pay for another dive trip I would like it to be at a different location in Australia. I cancelled my spot and avoided the cancellation fee since they found a replacement within hours. I caught the bus that afternoon (Monday Jan. 6) to Townsville. I stayed at the YHA right at the bus station for convenience since I did not plan to stay for long. I walked around town that evening and got a Subway sandwich for dinner.

The next day I headed towards the other side of town and found the aquarium and IMAX theatre. I say "Shark Island" at the IMAX. I enjoyed the film and also the air-conditioning since it was extremely hot and humid day. Since I didn’t find much else of interest in Townsville I booked the bus for the next morning to Cairns, my final destination by bus. I had travelled over 3,000 (2,200 miles) by bus from Sydney North up to Cairns. My final leg was a 10-hr trip. Wednesday morning I boarded the bus for Cairns. I had not chosen a place to stay yet and would research it on the bus and maybe get a good deal from a representative waiting for the people getting over the bus in Cairns.

Upon arriving in Cairns and finding no backpacker representatives at the bus station I called Billabong Backpackers since I had a pay for one night get a second free. After signing in I was given a tour of hostel and disappointed at the poor condition the place was in. It worked out for the best as later that evening I met Phil Barber from London, England and we ended up becoming friends.

The next day, Thurs. Jan 9, Phil and I walked around town checking out other places to stay, as he was similarly disappointed in the conditions. We decided on Captain Cook’s Backpacker Resort since it was very clean and had 2 pools at a reasonable cost. Most backpacker places also have a travel booking service since each booking nets the establishment a 20% commission.

While reserving my room for the next day I inquired about a diving trip up to Cod Hole just off the coast of Cooktown. As we ate dinner at their tavern, the travel agent investigated and came up with what I wanted at a standby rate (over $100 off regular price) since I was booking less than a week before the departure date. It promised good diving conditions with lots of exotic fish, which sounded great. I moved in the next day and Phil took off for his 2-day trip up North but we would reconnect when he returned. On the night of Sat. Jan. 12 Ron from Denmark, Bridget (Adelaide, Aussie), a few others and I went out on the town. I got drunk and danced the night away. We all went out again the next evening and ran into a gang from a scuba diving school. One of them was Cindy from Toronto who happened to work for the diving boat I was going on and she guessed that she would likely be working as a hostess on that trip. To my delight she was and it was nice to know at least one person on the boat. The evening before the dive trip I attended "Reef Teach," which was a 2-hour seminar about the sea life on the Great Barrier Reef and tips on how to interact with it without harming it or yourself.

The dive trip departed at 5 pm on Tuesday Jan. 14 and finished in the afternoon of Friday January 17, 2003 (my 30th birthday). Some of my friends back home had already celebrated their 30th with a big party with all their friends and I was looking forward to that. Australia and the Great Barrier Reef was an exotic place to have my birthday but it lacked my family and friends, but was fine none the less. The boat travelled all that night to reach our first dive site, Cod Hole.

On the first dive of that site we familiarize ourselves with the area to prepare us for the second dive that contained our participation in a Potato Cod fed. These fish are approximately four feet long, 1 foot high and half a foot thick (big fish). I got to touch some of them as one of the staff divers feed them, quite an amazing experience. I also saw a morale eel, and a large yellow boxfish on that dive. My diving buddy for the trip was Ralf from Germany and we got along quite well. The other divers were Ilyse and her dad from Denmark, a couple from London – England, an older Japanese couple and some Australians.

Our itinerary called for 8-day dives and 2 night dives just like the first trip. There were two highlights on this trip. The first was on Jan. 16 when we dove Pixie’s Pinnacle. The high concentration and colour of the fish was outstanding by itself but I also saw a large family of lionfish (rare), a Flame File Shell (very rare) and many large anemones with good size clown fish. The second was on Friday Jan 17, the last dive of the trip at Steve’s Bommie, named after a diver who died out of the water but his friend’s put a memorial there since it was his favourite dive site.

At this spot I saw a large stone fish (rare), trumpet fish, large yellow nudibranchs with blue spots (rare) and watched as a White Tipped Reef Shark (harmless) swam within several feet of me and then dove into the coral and caught an octopus. The water was suddenly filled with blood and black ink from the octopus. The shark swallowed it down and then took off in the opposite direction to me. I was amazed and thrilled to have been lucky enough to witness such an event in nature. I had wanted to go on a different dive trip that included a Shark feed in which you sat on the bottom of the ocean and watched up to 30 sharks, mostly harmless ones, feed on fish heads attached to a rod hanging off the dive boat but was unable to book it, however I felt that what I had saw was a suitable replacement.

I was surprised at how tired you get towards the end of a 3-day diving trip. Also I tend to finally get my sea legs by the third and final day at sea just in time for me to have the occasional dizzy spell for the first few days on land while I regain my land legs, ironic isn’t it. After arriving back in Cairns and cleaning up, a bunch of us went out for my birthday and met up with others from the diving trip for drinks.

While in Sydney, I had booked a flight from Cairns to Alice Springs for Monday Jan. 20, which was just a few days away now. I spent Saturday recuperating and planning Sunday. Sunday I made a day trip to Barron Gorge National Park. I took a Sky rail up through a rainforest to Kuranda and then the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to the entrance of the park. I met a German tourist on the ride up and we toured the sites together for the rest of the day, which better than travelling alone.

Caught my flight the next morning but had a painful trip since I had gotten a sinus infection from all the diving. While on the plane I noticed an innovative form of advertising. On the bag provided for passengers encase they become nauseas a film developing company had printed a form with all the information and boxes for you to send in your film by mail to be processed. I thought it was very ingenious of both the airline and the film processing company. At the luggage pick-up area I ran into the English couple from the Cairns diving trip. I stayed at Melanka Backpackers resort for two nights.

The next day I explored Alice Springs and investigated tours to Ayers Rock (Uluru). I wandered into a travel agent and inquired about a trip to Ayers Rock. The "Backpackers" tour was totally booked but since I had specific dates I could only go on, Adventure Tours gave me a free upgrade to their "Safari In Style" tour. I had heard of other people getting free upgrades but felt fortunate that I was also able to come by one. The trip was 2 days and 1 night. At 8 am on Wed Jan 22 we left Alice Springs for Ayers Rock and stopped off at a camel farm along the way.

Upon arrival at Uluru (Ayers Rock) I noticed how dry and hot the desert air was and found it a great change from the hot & humid air of Cairns. The area also had a good energy to it. I started to feel revitalized and myself again after being wore ragged and a little under the weather by all the travelling and diving. After lunch we visited the Olgas (Kata Tjuta), another monolith rock similar to Ayers Rock. Then we took a guided walk around of Ayers Rock finishing just in time to get to a great spot to watch the sunset on Uluru. Unfortunately a large cloud blocked the sunset from shining on Ayers Rock and ruined the effect. I slept on a cot style bed (very comfortable) in a Safari style tent with a wooden floor and electricity.

After breakfast we headed for sunrise at Ayers Rock, which was not as spectacular as I had expected even though the weather conditions were fine. A group of 5 including myself spent the rest of the early morning walking around the rest of Ayers rock while others climbed to its summit. I choose not to climb Uluru since the local Aboriginals preferred people not to and it was not the reason why I had come. Next we visited the Aboriginal Cultural centre and learned all about their heritage. After lunch we headed back to Alice Springs. After cleaning up all the people on the tour met up for dinner.

The trip to Ayers Rock was a great experience but had been a rough on me and I was not looking forward to staying in a room with shared bathrooms with the whole floor. With this in mind I inquired about the price of a motel room at the establishment next door and if the price was only fractionally more than I would splurge and take it. Well to my luck I got the last motel room and for only $10 more than the cost of the room at the hostel. It was worth every extra penny especially due to the poor state I was in.

The next morning I visited the travel agent that had gotten me the free upgrade and thanked her and let her know that it was a marvellous trip. Just outside of there I ran into Ilyse and her father who had been on my Cairns diving trip. We chatted for a while but then I had to get going since I was catching the 1 pm train to Adelaide. I took the famous Australian Ghan train. The trip was 19 hrs and we would arrive in Adelaide around 8 am in the morning. I purchased just a normal seat since a sleeper was expensive and the trip not that long. I stayed in Adelaide for just one evening then caught the morning train to Melbourne.

I had a contact for work in Melbourne and since funds were getting short I felt it wise to get there as quickly as possible. I met a nice elderly couple from Adelaide on the train and they badly beat me at cards. I found a great place to stay in Melbourne at Latrobe University's residences (dorms) since all the students were on summer vacation. It had a beautiful campus, had a library with free access to computers and Internet, free pool tables, free laundry facilities and lots of friendly people. Some of the guests at the backpacker accommodation were Lori (a car salesman who lived over 2 hrs away and went home on weekends), Mark (researcher from Sydney on vacation), Bernie (from Sydney on vacation), Mette and Maryann from Denmark (students attending Latrobe on research portion of degree) and Ramona (PHD student from Brisbane in town to visit PHD professor). The two coordinators of the backpacker hostel were Angie and Adam, who were students at Latrobe and staying in the university residences. Some of students working at the residence were Fran and her brother Joe from Australia.

At Latrobe I also met Jevon Clark from New Zealand. He ended up getting an apartment and I rented one of the rooms from him for several months. He is a great guy and we had tonnes of fun playing video games on his Sony Play station II. It worked out well for all because Jevon’s father, Iain, came over from New Zealand to help start Jevon’s new business venture in early March. I gave Iain my room and I stayed in the dining room which we converted to a bedroom by hanging up a sheet to close it off from the living area for the remaining 5 weeks I ended up staying there. Jevon, his friend Karen and I went to see the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island on Sat. March 22. It was a 2- hr drive east from Melbourne but worth the effort. As dusk falls on a certain beach on Phillip Island, Little Penguins begin their parade up the beach and sand dunes to their burrows. The penguins only reach a maximum height of 12 to 14 inches. It was a funny sight to see then waddling up the beach and since it was the time of year that they double their weight to be able to stay on land for two weeks while they replace all of their feathers, a few of the penguins were having a hard time "walking" and would often fall onto their stomachs and then just slide along the sand by pushing with their feet.

That brings us up-to-date so take care and have a great few months.

Best wishes your friend,

Brian Cormier



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