Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Love Creek, the epic-est hike so far in Australia

I've been in Australia for about 6 months now. So far I have been on almost a dozen hikes to various parts of Queensland. Not all of them would be considered serious hikes, being maybe a couple of kilometers at best. Fortunately I have made friends with some serious outdoors types. I had only to exercise a measure of patience before I was called upon to join them on something worthy of an excursion into the wilds. That time had come, and the hike was called Love Creek Falls.

This is the trail head to the hike we were about to undertake. In all the hike would be about 9-10 kilometers, but required scrambling up rocks, steep slopes, and navigating dangerous trickling creek beds. The first part of the hike, Greene's Falls was much drier than the last time we had hiked this portion of the trail.

Greene's Falls, was about 1.1km into our hike along Cedar Creek (caution - this link is a PDF file). Part of the hike is on this cool boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk is a viewing area for those casual hikers that aren't into serious adventure. Alas, our fearless group was bound for greater glories. We hopped the railing of the viewing area to commence the manly portion of our hike this day. However, the falls you see in this picture didn't have quite so much water running over them during this particular hike. I grabbed a picture from a previous hike where we weren't so manly to show you what the falls look like.

Would you like to see my impression of what a drop-bear looks like just before it falls out of a tree? Luckily we didn't run across any of them during our hike. I guess they aren't very active during the winter months.

We selected this spot for our first major break, or "morning tea." None of us had any tea so I'm a bit confused why we called it that. I actually had a banana that I remembered to open like a monkey, some mango-flavoured macadamia nuts, and some water. This was about 1.5 hours into the hike, just after Cedar Creek joins into Love Creek.

I have to admit that most of the pictures from this hike were of the creek, waterfalls, or rocks. I was particularly fascinated by this waterfall because of the reflection on the pool at the bottom. Not quite a mirrored surface, but still effective. Nothing else special other than a pretty picture.

Love Creek falls were the highlight of the trip, and took us about two hours to get there. Half way done! Woo hoo! You can see the largest waterfall tucked away in the back. Unfortunately the lighting was horrible for pictures, either too bright or too dark. I think you can get the idea in this picture though. The falls were pretty large, but I can't tell you how tall they were exactly. I tried to find the information on the internet, but apparently this is more obscure a location than I thought. I'll send a reward to anyone who can find the height of the falls (with reliable source information.)

I was fascinated by this rock formation that we scrambled up on the way to the base of the falls. An almost perfectly square passageway framed by plants. You'd think it was a movie set or something. I was expecting Indiana Jones to come hopping back down being chased by savages, but that type of adventure remained only in my head. Well now it exists for you reading this in cyberspace. Ha ha, I infected you. Moving on...

There were quite a bunch of rocks that had a deep red color to them. When they were submerged in the creek they looked almost like a raw piece of meat sitting in the water. I couldn't get a good picture of the red rocks in the creek. This rock was obviously not submerged, but I was intrigued by the colors and textures. My geologist friends would probably tell me that the red color comes from iron deposits, but I'm by no means a geologist.

So after about 4-5 hours we finished our hike, the longest one I've done since I've arrived here. Lots of scrambling up rocks, but mostly just hiking along a creek. Beautiful country here in Australia. I'm just glad this time there were no leeches. Eep!

Note: This little guy chose me the last time we hiked in the area.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Queensland's Ren Fest

Last month some mates and I went to check out Queensland's answer to the Renaissance festival in the States. The Abbey Medieval festival was something cool to experience here because everyone already comes with an accent! They didn't have many fixed facilities, which I'll talk about later, except for a castle that looked like the one from Role Models.

One of the booths close to the entrance had this cool chance to make a coin. You take a round piece of metal, probably tin, and place it in a tube that sandwiches it between two stamps. Swing the hammer a couple of times and ... BAM! You got yourself a coin, buddy. I even got to do the work for a coin that is worth only the value of the metal. The guy made a dollar off me. Talk about having a license to print your own money.

We walked around looking at all the tents with stuff people had either made or brought to sell. They had heaps of food. My mate and I got this concoction, which ended up being just okay. Should have got the paella. What I liked most is the "environmentally friendly" cutlery and plates. Sure they were disposable forks, but they were made of some wood product. Fortunately I didn't get any splinters in my mouth.

We decided to check out the Turkish oil wrestling. They basically take some kind of oil (vegetable, olive, baby, motor) and pour it all over themselves. The object is to make yourself as slippery as you can so your opponent can't get a good hold of you. They wear a standard pair of shorts and end up jamming their arms into their opponents shorts and holding on to whatever they can get a grip on. The game is played a lot like wrestling where you try to pin your opponent, but you also get points for picking them up and walking three steps with them. Neither of these blokes won the day, although the guy on the left won the match.

After watching the male version of female jell-o wrestling, we wandered around to see the rest of the festival. Who'd have thought they'd have weapons at a medieval festival?

...and a big lady with a cannon. I'd post the picture I took just after she fired it, but I jumped like a morgue attendant seeing one of his customers sit up and ask for a light when I took it, and it came out all blurry.

Of course, you can't have a Medieval festival without jousting. They had balsa wood type lance, and got points depending on how many pieces their lance had shattered after ramming the opponents shield. Apparently getting three pieces is hard. This competition was unique in that half of the competitors were women. Let it not be said that Australian womens aren't tough.

The cool thing about this festival was that pretty much everything was little tents set up to show off peoples' wares. Unlike Maryland, the festival in Queensland has much more of a temporary, nomad feel to it. I liked how it seemed less commercial (although the whole festival is a commercial effort.) You had the sense people just decided to get together one weekend to relive a medieval lifestyle.

As we were walking out of the festival there was a fruit stand set up in the front of someone's home. I paid $6 (Australian) for this huge box of lovely strawberries. They had a good flavor and were pretty decently sized, a bit larger than walnuts. After a nice warm, sunny, winter day at the Medevial festival a few strawberries hit the spot.

I ended up using them to make this nice cheesecake with graham cracker crust. The blokes here loved it.

Easy No-Bake Cheesecake

1 graham cracker crust (graham crackers, sugar, butter)
1 pkg. of cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg. of Cool Whip (8 oz.), or just whip some up using cream like I did for this.
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Again, blend until smooth. Pour mixture into ready made crust. Chill at least 2 hours. I also added some pre-made strawberry topping to the strawberries.