Man v. Wild

We were in search of Beach Access. We thought we had found it…

It had to be right. Sure there was a locked gate and no beach access sign, but according to the map it was the correct spot and there was clearly a trail. The rickety old gate was probably just a relic of some kind. An artifact the caravan park felt some affection for and was unwilling to part with. After all, if it was intended to keep out the general public it wouldn’t have the attractive grassy knoll beside it luring tourists onto the mildly overgrown path it guarded.

As we set out, we could hear the roar of the ocean on our right. Sure it was girded by gum trees and thick brush but, we knew it was there; Emerald Beach, the final destination on our Dubbo to Byron Bay Caravan of Courage. We trudged along through the occasional puddle of mud and stagnant water in our summer flip flops eagerly anticipating the imminent waves that would refresh them.

We walked and walked and walked…and walked…and yet the droning sound of waves was abating making the path we chose increasingly questionable. The quality of the trail was diminishing as well, making the beach seem less and less accessible with each step. Wildlife also started to emerge as a concern.

In the distance Mike spotted a striking and vaguely menacing wild kangaroo blocking our path. It glared at us as if to say, “You shall not pass!” before jumping into the bush. He was big. Not like the kangaroos at the zoo. He was clearly eating more than Koala Park cheerios.

We felt like we were on the discovery channel. Not in a good way. The kangaroo was a reminder of sorts. A warning that we were in a notoriously wild and dangerous land. He was a symbol of what could go wrong. Like a gazelle on the discovery channel. They don’t do specials on gazelles. They do specials on the lions that eat the gazelles.

“You know, this is probably the wrong country in which to take the road less traveled,” I said. Mike laughed in agreement, having been skeptical of our judgment from the start.

We turned around and begin our hike back to camp, this time motivated by a quiet fear rather than the spirit of adventure and anticipation we had set out with. It was a good thing we headed back too because Chaylee no longer wanted to walk on her own. Even when I held her she complained that her feet were bothering her. I hadn’t realized how far we had actually trekked into the bush until I was forced to carry the complaining toddler. We were approaching “the gate”. The gate which no longer seemed like a mere monument but a well placed deterrent.

As we emerged from the “the trail” Kenna called out curiously,”Mom? Dad? What’s on the back of my leg? It looks like a worm?” Mike had his hands full having relieved me from kid courier duty. It would be up to me to handle the worm, or dirt, or whatever it was.

I approached her sun kissed calf and batted at the culprit gently, assuming it would submit without a fight. But it did not come off. I begin to slap at it wildly this time with vocals. It wouldn’t come off. Kenna started to panic as I relentlessly beat her leg silly. I just wanted it off!!! I wailed and swatted at the little bastard like I was in a cat fight. If it had hair, I would have pulled it! Anything to get it off my girl. It finally succumbed and fell to the ground, leaving a trail of blood behind. Her blood.

A better woman would have consoled her daughter. A better mother would have offered her a hug. Instead I just stared blankly at the lifeblood trickling down her little leg and cried out in horror, “THEY”RE BLOOD SUCKING LEEEEEECHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“What? Blood? I’m bleeding? What? Blood Sucking? What?” Kenna’s eyes begin to fill with tears. She was looking to me for comfort and found only hysteria. I was no use to her or any of us.

Meanwhile, Mike began frantically searching for the sinister little suckers. Having remembered Chaylee’s declared discomfort, he took off her shoe. At least four leeches had attached themselves to her fleshy little appendage. I broke down. All I could hear was her sweet little voice…”Mommy, my foot is boddering me. Mommy, my foot is boddering me.”

I was out of the running for Mother of the Year.

They were everywhere. On our legs, in between our toes, feeding on us like we were the other white meat. Mike was bent in nervous, uncontrollable laughter frantically searching for foes as his wife, his partner, spun the children into a frenzy. The other campers did not appear moved by our plight. Or perhaps they were afraid of the crazy lady who was tossing shoes and expendable apparel into the air with abandon in search of black vampire worms.

We finally made it back to Maui (our camper) where more carnage ensued. Mike, God Bless Him, had the presence of mind to methodically search each one of us we before entered the camper so as not to let the leeches into our lair. Unfortunately, one particularly persistent leech made it through the blockade by hiding out on the bottom of my foot. Upon discovering the stow away I, as is customary, began to flail and swipe at my foot recklessly and with no regard for where the flying leech would land. Mike gently chastised me like a 911 operator trying to calm a panicked caller. I took a deep breath and attempted to recapture my maternal instincts. But, my confidence as a caregiver was dismantled once again when we found another leech on the back of Chaylee’s knee. I recognized this one. He was the the free loading sycophant that used my ped to pry his way into our caravan. That means it was me and my savage fear that led to her discomfort. I embraced her and whispered apologies and affection in her ear. Somehow, she held no grudge.

When it was all said and done, we sat on at the caravan kitchen table, emotionally drained, half naked and covered in band-aids. Finally…it had gotten funny.

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WORDS OF THE DAY

# sponger

noun:- a free loader, or one who lives of the good graces of another.

# she’ll be apples

misc:- everything will be OK, there is no need to worry.

# clod hoppers

noun:- your feet

“Once we get the spongers off our clod hoppers she’ll be apples.”

AUSSIE TRIVIA/LEECH FACTS

http://www.wettropics.gov.au/st/rainforest_explorer/Resources/Documents/factsheets/Leeches.pdf

POLL: How would you respond to a leech situation?

SHOUT OUT: My hilarious friend CK pointed out that living in Australia is like being in a video game. Level 1- Driving on the wrong side of the road.

Level 2- Huntsmen Spiders

Level 3- Blue Bottle Jellyfish

Level 4- Rip tides

Level 5- Blood sucking leeches

Chaylee post leech attack

FAMILY FUN FACT: A leech wasn’t the only sponger I picked up on our journey. Shortly after arriving home, I discovered that I was hosting yet another free loader. That’s right. In a surprise twist we are expecting our third Pasley offspring.

FAQ’S-

Was this planned? No

How far along? I am fifteen weeks

Where will the baby be born- Sydney

Are you going to find out if it is a boy or a girl? Yes

Do I need a hug? Yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Nemo

 

The boat was called FantaSea 1. A perfect name for the vessel that was about to make my dream come true. However, the dream was nearly extinguished before it was ever realized. The night before our intended departure on FantaSea 1, Chaylee sent projectile vomit down my shirt destroying my only truly supportive brazier and my dream. The poor girl did not intend to vomit on my dream. In fact, she was clearly displeased herself. No one enjoys the stomach flu. No one. I actually like a good solid head cold. And if you really think about it, I bet you do too. Consider: You can lounge around guilt free, a tumor is not a likely cause of the illness, and you get a fair amount of sympathy with minimal suffering. 

I digress.

Mike went ahead and rescheduled our voyage for the next day in hopes that our girl would turn her hat around and rally. And rally she did. At 8:50am we boarded FantaSea 1. The dream twas revived!

I was glad to hear it would be a two hour trip rather than a three hour tour. I stood up on the deck and stared at the big blue spread out before me. You can see why people thought the world was flat. A thin line of indigo separated the sea from the horizon. It seemed as if the water actually came to an end. Knowing it continued past what I could see provided me with just the existential, spiritual fodder I was seeking. God is real.

Kenna, Chay and Mike joined me on the terrace as the boat began to slow. A bright green shimmering band cut through the water like a stream. As we drew closer, the colors became even more brilliant and the contrasting blues even more surreal. The colossal reef carved a giant barrier through the aptly named coral sea and thus we had a arrived at the Great Barrier Reef: home to Nemo, Marlin, and my dream

So as to not interrupt my stream of consciousness, I skipped the part about Mike deciding at the last minute that he would go scuba diving in addition to snorkeling.

Announcer: Anyone interested in scuba diving should head downstairs for a quick tutorial.

That was all the convincing he needed. “I think I’ll do it.” He said non-nonchalantly as he headed downstairs. I was speechless. Bewildered. Not entirely happy. Actually downright miffed. (Miffed is really a terrible word. Say it a few times.)

My arguments against Scuba Diving
a) embolism
b) independent scuba diving may interfere with couples snorkeling
c) embolism
d) brief tutorials are not safe tutorials
e) embolism

Once I realized that his scuba (great word) experience would not interfere with my snorkeling ambitions I released him from my emotional prison. The truth was I was a bit jealous that I didn’t have the balls to do it too.

We docked at Reef World, a huge pontoon situated on the Hardy Reef. Does it bother anyone else that the name of one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth is Hardy? Who decided this? Shouldn’t it be called, Paradise Reef, or Beautiful Land or Enchanted Coral Garden?

Mike headed to the scuba section.

I took the girls on the fancy submarine ride.

We ate lunch.

Mike arrived from his scuba excursion. He looked happy. He was alive. I was proud.

I still had not touched water.

Mike dropped the girls off at the Clownfish Kids Club and I headed to the dressing room to put on my stinger suit. A fluorescent orange leotard designed to protect snorkellers from jellyfish and conceit. It served its purpose. It made me feel safe and humble. I looked like a giant orange road safety cone. It took me a good 15 minutes to pull the little number on. Two nineteen year old girls slipped on powder blue suits with ease, unzipping the front in an effort to reveal the little cleavage they were able to conjure up…Afterall, it is common knowledge that tropical fish love cleavage. Especially the ones that live on “hardy” reef.

“I think I will go for the Angelina Jolie look” said one of the snorkeling vixens.

I unzipped my special suit and responded. “I’m going with the nursing mother motif.”

They laughed…and laughed. Little did they know tropical fish prefer orange!

Mike came around the corner in his dark blue stinger suit. It really made his eyes pop. Good look for him. We were stopped at the equipment bin by a woman with a camera and a cockney accent. I just wanted to get in the water. She had other plans. She told us about a one-night stand she had with a man from Portugal, her parents home in London, her work as a school photographer, her run-ins with Canadians….
Finally, I just put on my snorkel mask, inserted the breathing apparatus and continued listening until she got the point that it was snorkel time.

The minute I hit the water I was filled with awe and wonder…unfortunately, my mask was filled with water too. It took me at least 20 minutes to situate my goggles in such a way that I would not drown every time I attempted to view the reef. Once I achieved correct goggle positioning I achieved Nirvana!

Clownfish, fox faced rabbit fish, angel fish, grouper, giant clams the size of Kenna, every colour of the spectrum surrounded me. Huge schools of silver fish darted back and forth in perfect unison. I was swimming through a Wild Kingdom. At one point, I looked down at the fields of coral and creatures and sang through my snorkel,

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…Praise Him all Creatures Here Below!”

After an hour of bliss, we beckoned Kenna to join us. She put on her stinger suit and was transformed into a sort of aqua teletubby. She has never looked more adorable and that is saying something. She didn’t last long in the water due to the ill-fitted breathing apparatus, but she did swim to the reef’s edge and squealed with delight as the friendly fish swam by her side.

After Kenna returned to the pontoon with Dad, I swam out once more determined to find Nemo before our departure. I swam around the reef’s rim peeking in each crevice like a underwater game of hide n’ seek. I nearly gave up my search when I saw a tiny orange fish poking his fin out of an anemone.

I found Nemo.

It was time to go home.

Poll: What is your dream?

Fun Fact: The Great Barrier Reef which is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. One down, six to go!

Word of the Day:

  • togs–noun:- bathers or swimming costume in Queensland and Victoria.
  • This sheila looks hot in her flaming orange tog.
  •