Thursday, April 30, 2009

ANZAC day, an alien and a sunrise

I’m still in Lennox enjoying the beach life. Monday was ANZAC day, a holiday commemorating the sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand forces during the battle of Gallipoli in the first world war. Aussies and Kiwis celebrate this occasion by playing a gambling game called “two-up” which is illegal 264 days a year.

I joined the chaos out behind the Lennox Head Pub. The action resembled the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with bets flying every which way often between strangers on opposite sides of the ring. And this was the population 7,000 small-town version; I can’t imagine what kind of havoc was going on elsewhere Down Under. I knew Australians had a soft spot for gambling, but it was essentially just legalized, glorified coin flipping. Anyway, I was loving it just as much as everyone else, for the spectacle at least, despite losing three straight coin flips and 15 bucks.

My mate, “Brett,” who has been graciously putting me up along with another wayward American ex-pat, took us both out fishing. Now I’m not really much of an angler, but I felt like a bass master pulling in bream after small bream much to the chagrin of my less fortunate companions. “Brett” ended up getting the catch of the day:

That’s right he landed an alien. Actually it turns out to be the Australian version of a catfish (g’day mate indeed). It’s venomous, like most things in this country, so getting it off the hook was a bit of an adventure.

I had a good chance to explore the beaches in the area which are diverse and spectacular. The surf is supposedly some of the best on the east coast and I gave that another crack with mixed results and some spectacular wipeouts. One thing I discovered about surfing is that it requires a lot of paddling, and like skiing, when done for the first time in a long time (or ever), surfing works muscles that are scarcely used for any other task. So I’ve had to take a bit of a break from the ocean until I can lift my arms again.

To pass the time I went ahead and rented a car and took off for some of the world heritage listed national parks that protect remnant stands of rainforest and contain, as goes without saying, a multitude of birds. I visited a couple cool waterfalls in Nightcap National Park

and the region’s fresh water supply: Rocky Creek Dam.

That night I drove up to the trailhead of Mt. Warning, a rocky peak that exists as a remnant of an ancient volcano. Its height (roughly 3,800 feet) and proximity to Cape Byron, the easternmost point on the Australian mainland, mean that outside of summer it catches the first rays of the rising sun. So after a ‘nap’ I woke up around 4 am to begin my trek to the summit. I had forgotten to bring a flashlight, so I hiked by cell phone light. By the time my battery died the sky was starting to lighten and the thick rainforest canopy had given way to scrubbier, less-dense vegetation. I know it sounds quite an ordeal, but

It was well worth it for this sight alone. Yesterday I was the first person on the Australian continent to see the sun. I was in no particular hurry to run back down and spread the news to the rest of the country that the sun indeed would be up again as expected; the views from the top survey 360 degrees revealing a vast caldera.

Tens of millions of years ago the area was above a hot spot that formed a massive shield volcano of basalt covering nearly 7,000 square kilometers. In an area of high precipitation the easily weathered basalt washed away over the ensuing 20 million years leaving the plug (Mt. Warning) and a caldera rim of more durable rock surrounding the lone spire.

After hiking back down the mountain, this time in daylight, I drove out to the Border Ranges National Park. Part of the park forms the western edge of the caldera and I got to gaze back on my vantage point from the early hours of the morning.

It had been a great day. I had been first to watch the sunrise, seen loads of interesting wildlife and plant-life and even dipped across the border into Queensland. So when I got back to Lennox and heard that Brett was out playing poker with his friends I cancelled plans for foodshowersleep to join in. Of course my luck was surreal.

1st hand: full house
2nd hand: straight on the flop
3rd hand: A K that became two pair on the flop
4th hand: I called an all-in bet from somebody with pocket kings, but caught an ace to win
5th hand: flush on the flop

My rush ended there, but I had all the chips at the end of the night.

One week left in Australia, who knows why I’m taking the time to blog!

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