Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adventures in Oz: Tambourine Mountain and Surfer's Paradise (Part 5 of 6)

Link to Part 1: Cairns
Link to Part 2: Great Barrier Reef
Link to Part 3: Port Douglas
Link to Part 4: Australia Zoo

We open with more driving. We did a lot of driving.

This day's adventure was Tamborine Mountain, a weird mix of small venues sprinkled around a mountain. Wineries, cafes, resorts, boutique/antique shops, rainforest hiking, ATV and horseback riding, laser tag, art galleries, and a glow worm cave.

The main thing I wanted to do was see the Skywalk.

Advertised as a 30-meter high walkway, it wasn't quite as long as I expected, but it did lead us on a circular path through the treetops and through the rainforest at ground level.

I learned about strangler figs, a crazy cannibalistic plant that begins its life cycle in the canopy and grows toward the ground, latching on to a host tree for nutrients, eventually overgrowing and consuming it.

Strangler fig babies

Fully grown strangler fig, hollow on the inside where its host tree used to be

Rainforest vines are surreal

Vines tied out of the way of the walking path

Back in the Skywalk ticket office/cafe/gift shop, there was a tank of fish that look (to me) a lot like a little fish wearing a big fish costume.

For lunch we found a tiny, somewhat weather beaten pizzeria run by an older European woman. Across the street was this sweets shop. The sign got my attention...I'm pretty sure one of those things doesn't belong on that list.

It turns out that "spiders" are what we call "floats". A scoop of ice cream in a glass of soda. Why on earth they're called "spiders" is beyond me.

The glow worm cave was pretty cool. It's a man-made structure, created by the people that did the environments in the Australian Sea World, on the grounds of a winery.

Not only does the logo consist of a cartoon worm with a glowing butt giving a double thumbs-up...

 ...but the brochure, website, and video introduction to the cave all feature this poem:
I wish I was a glow-worm,
a glow-worm's never glum
'cos how can you be grumpy
when the sun shines out your bum!

Words to live by.

The staff has to catch insects every day to feed the glow worms (technically the larval stage of a very small fly), so they're out there with butterfly nets looking like a bunch of idiots, but all their hard work and maintenance is really paying off. They started a handful of years ago with a few hundred worms, painstakingly collected from private property with the owners' permission (it's illegal to take anything from the public parks). Today they have about 3,000 and are estimating that they can start reintroducing them to the wild in another two or three years. The inside of the cave is pitch black, dotted with blue glowing larva butts. I had a hard time reconciling how pretty it was with how creepy the damn things are. Not only are they tiny, very ugly things that catch their prey with strings of thread and liquid sticky, but they start out cannibalistic. They get their nutrition to start growing by eating each other. It makes sense – there isn't much else to eat in a cave – but bleck.

No cameras or phones were allowed to be on in the cave, but it wouldn't have photographed well anyway. It's really something you have to see in person to appreciate.

The cool part about this whole exhibit (other than the lack of sharp and slippery rocks and danger of unidentified bugs and debris falling in our upturned faces) is that we can see them during the day instead of trekking through the wilderness at night to see a natural cave. They've flipped the day/night cycle of these worms by turning the lights on at night and off during the day.

After the glow worm cave we made a brief stop in a group of stores to see Fairies on the Walk, which is a store that looks exactly like you're imagining it. It's the average four-year-old girl's dream come true. Everything is sparkly and glittery and pink and purple, wings, wands, and crystals everywhere. And there is a separate room where kids could have a fairy party, sitting on toadstools and sipping pretend tea. The woman who owns and operates the shop dresses to the nines. Glittery wings, sparkly face paint, and a fairy-tastic dress. She didn't seem crazy when we chatted with her, but I did cringe a little when I complimented her store and she said, "thank you fairy much."

We were told later (too far away to go back) that there is another woman in the area that dresses up like a piece of fudge.

It makes me think of the village in Hot Fuzz before they killed all the street performers.
(Crusty jugglers.)

We had a nice view driving away from the main areas of Tamborine Mountain:

And we drove for a zillion more hours.

There is an area just south of Brisbane called Surfer's Paradise. It's pretty touristy, but they do have a couple really awesome things that made us want to stop. One is a horror cabaret dinner theater experience called Dracula's that we couldn't get tickets to because the show doesn't happen on Sundays, the other is the haunted house associated with that show.

Of course there were no pictures inside the haunted house, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was well designed with some great attention to detail and a lot of fun. There were zombie meter maids, a shark attack (well, it jumped out at you and then laughed at you) and an entire floor devoted to being digested by the ex-prime minister.

They let me take pictures in the lobby, though.
That giant monster is animated. I was so fascinated by the design that it took me several minutes to realize it's holding a spider on a leash.

Also, there's a plastic vampire in the middle of the floor.

And I don't know what this is, but it adds atmosphere. That's a very stylish little skirt.

Hey, look! It's a hand on a leash!

We walked around a little, but we didn't do a lot of exploring because we were only there for a handful of hours before finding a place to do laundry and getting some sleep before getting up for more driving.

I'm almost done, I promise.

Link to Part 6: Sydney

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