Australia


Ok, so now that we’re into a shiny new year, it seems like a good time to do a wrap of the last several months of whirlwind travel. And, for a brief moment, I’ve managed to wrest the laptop away from Marc for my second blog post. 😉

NZAbel Tasman
New Zealand is paradise. I really mean it. In many respects it is far superior to Fiji in the paradise category. In two little islands floating in the South Pacific, you have towering peaks and glaciers, mossy, pristine waterfall wilderness, endless wild beaches, cathedral-like caves, seals, whales, friendly dolphins, penguins, fantastic birds (like the giant green pigeon, much more appealing than the nasty city variety; and of course, the famous flightless kiwi), and nothing that can kill you (except for the sharks). And that’s just the nature-y stuff.

Small town, mom-and-pop New Zealand is alive and well today, filled with generous, kind, friendly folk that, for the most part, took a genuine interest in us. (And we in them.) As for the urban centers, Auckland and Wellington are a little slice of Seattle and Portland, combined with a large dose of the U.K. In the south, Dunedin is a chill college town. Christchurch a larger city focused on culture and art and has its charms.

Foodies

Great, local, farm-raised, even organic food was everywhere, which, combined with fantastic wines (Marlborough Sav Blancs are to die for) and great beer (I particularly liked the Greenman Organic brew from Dunedin, also home to excellent Speights), make this a foodie’s wonderland. From green-lipped mussels (another specialty of the Marlborough region), to amazing fresh fruit and cheeses, I have to say we gained back a little of the pudge we sweated off in Fiji.

ice cave

Lest I forget, New Zealand is about not only enjoying life, but enjoying a great adrenaline rush. These ingenious daredevil Kiwis have figured out dozens of ways to risk life and limb in the pursuit of a thrill. We took our chances and decided to run off a mountaintop cliff (attached to a parachute and tandem instructor, just in case), luge down a volcano, raft on an underground river to see constellations of little glowing cave worms, helicopter to the top of a glacier, and hike 36 miles up mountainsides and through waterfalls into Fjordland wilderness.

On top of everything else, New Zealand is one of the greenest countries I’ve ever visited – light years ahead of the U.S. I suppose it helps to be on a small island with limited resources, subject to global warming-induced sea-level rise, in realizing you have to take care of your home. Being there was a good reminder of how a relatively sustainable country can work.

In other words, America, you almost lost me to our fair Kiwi cousins to the south. However, don’t worry, work visas are a royal pain and I don’t think they like to import rabble-rousers (they have a healthy crop of their own), or their dogs and cats, so you’re stuck with me.
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OZ
After NZ, our tour of the former British Empire continued west to the land of OZ. Australia is a land where remnants of the oldest rainforest in the world meet the world’s largest living organism (the Great Barrier Reef) on one side, and some of the vastest and hottest expanses of desert on the planet stretch across the other. It is a land of strange creatures from a far-off branch of the tree of life: a mammal with a bill like a duck,cassowary poison spurs on its webbed feet, that lays eggs like a reptile … a large bird-cum-dinosaur-descendant, the size of a human, with a bony horn on its head and poison talons … trees found in an isolated valley whose closest relatives are 240 million years old. Who could make this stuff up? (link to wollemi pine site and cassowary pic)

This magical country with its many wonders is a tough and unforgiving place, and its critters and human inhabitants have invented innumerable clever, tenacious ways to survive and even prosper.

stinger signWe chose an air-conditioned car as our means to survive the first few weeks in the smothering heat of northern Queensland, home of the largest and most aggressive crocs in the world (see this stunning photo), and some of the toughest people. Sunbaked, leathery old men in Crocodile Dundee hats, short-shorts and high-top black boots stroll the streets, stopping in to the local hotel (pub) for a XXXX beer. That’s “Four-Xs” in the local parlance and it’s the State Drink of Queensland.

On the other end of the spectrum, we met the owners of a solar-powered croc-watching boat who have not only dedicated themselves to sustainable ecotourism on the DaintreeWonderful croc tour lady who adopted the flying foxes River, but who have also adopted a couple flying fox orphans (hated and often killed by local fruit farmers, who keep the fruitbats coming by clearing more and more rainforest for crops).

Our first adventure included a truly awesome day of snorkeling out on the Great Barrier Reef. Donning a goofy red stinger suit (to prevent deadly box jellyfish stings) I plunged in on a snorkel safari with a marine biologist. We say innumerable amazing fish and coral species, and coolest of all I had a close encounter with a white-tipped reef shark and a loggerhead sea turtle on the outer reef. Both of which gave me the same feeling of awe, wonder, joy and being momentarily wrassesuspended in time as my manta ray experience. We know so little about the ocean, and there is so little time to save these precious and ancient fellow travelers on our little blue marble from extinction. I hope we have the guts and foresight and heart to do it.

Heading south we continued our Oz safari, encountering marsupials of every sort, from the koalas of Magnetic Island to the roos and wallabies of the mountains and grassy eucalypt glens of the Snowy Mountains. We awoke to laughing kookaburras and dozed offsea turtle laying eggs to the sounds of gregarious roosting lorikeets and the squawk of black and sulfur-crested cockatoos. We nearly ran down a deadly brown snake as long as our car was wide and witnessed three sea turtles laying their clutches on a moonlit, windswept beach. The Croc Hunter, God rest his soul, would have been proud.

Rain seems to have followed us all around the country, even through the drought, which dry reservoirhas been an epic drought. The rain has been an answered prayer for many here and stopped or slowed several bushfires that raged over a large area in Alpine National Park near Melbourne and a big swath of Tasmania. Australia has always been hot and dry, but this is the driest it’s ever been. Reservoirs are running dry, livestock and crops are failing and farmers have been committing suicide.

The realities of climate change are really starting to hit home here, as in many parts of the world. During our New Year’s visit to Melbourne, the city was in the process of instituting Stage 3 water restrictions, and will move to Stage 4 by April. There are now water cops wandering the streets on the lookout for illegal lawn-waterers and pool-fillers. I have a feeling this scene will be playing out in the Western U.S. soon too (wherever it isn’t already happening).

On another and more cheerful note, this huge country has a love of huge and strange things made of plaster. Here is our hall of the big and the bizarre things we’ve seen so far as we cruised down the East Coast:

big bananabig mangoNed Kellybig marino

big prawn

We hope to add to this collection as we explore western Australia for the next few weeks (we’re about to leave the sunny, cosmopolitan and isolated city of Perth as I write this). Overall, I have to give a big thumbs-up to this big, friendly, dusty and diverse country that we’ve only just begun to see.

Shows here are different. That’s probably no real surprise. But we found that 95 percent of show-goers at Southbound were between the ages of 15 and 20 and that automatically put us in the category of “elder statesmen,” and that was a disconcerting feeling.

We were beginning to despair of this vibe but then Michael Franti saved everything. He put on a typically energetic, passionate, fun show. I’ve always liked MF but now I think I may love him. Combined with his Friday night acoustic set, his Saturday “sunset set” was exemplary. The crowd really responded; everything came alive, and the doldrums disappeared. I’d see Michael Franti anywhere on the planet, and you should too.

Also good: The Audreys, an Adelaide band that plays a folksy kind of rock (V. Archer Jr., you would love these guys); John Butler Trio; Blue King Brown; Matt Costa, a former pro skateboarder who has played with Ben Harper and Jack Johnson; and Wolfmother, which in case you don’t know sounds like the bastard stepchild of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. L-O-U-D, but hey, that’s rock n’ roll.

The music was great but they really need to learn how to run, and attend, a festival here. It’s probably different at shows on the East Coast, like the Falls Festival near Sydney that we couldn’t get tickets for. We may never know.

But for one thing, Southbound had too many fences. There were three stages and to get from one to the other you had to pass through a checkpoint. We spent all day passing through checkpoints.

For another, there was no campground “scene.” Nobody hung out, played music, sold drinks or grilled cheese in the campground. The campground was for sleeping, and tripping over other people’s tents, little else. Food was limited to three or four vendors outside the venue and a handful inside, so lines got very long and stayed that way. Beer was strictly regulated.

The music was incredible. But the artists were limited to hour-and-a-half sets, at the most, with no encores. I’ve never before been to a show without encores.

I could go into an exhaustive exegesis here about Australian youth and how strange it was to be surrounded by 20,000 text-messaging kids, all trying to bring back the Eighties with bubble dresses and baby-doll dresses and jean jackets and pastels and shoulder pads and tight-ankled jeans and turned-up collars and big hair and heavy makeup — but why bother.

Suffice to say: Kids these days. And add a shake of my wise old head.

We’re at a festival now in Busselton, on the West Coast, south of Perth. Michael Franti played an acoustic set last night and blew the place apart. John Butler of the John Butler Trio sat in and they really brought down the house. In the middle of the set some crazy Aussie kid free-climbed the center pole of the big-top tent and Franti almost missed a few bars watching and laughing at him. He made it to the top, probably 25 feet in the air, touched the canvas and slid down to raucous applause. Franti closed the set with a Sublime cover and brought a guy up on stage to sing along, and the guy proposed to his girlfriend of seven years. She said No. Ha! Yeah right. She had no choice. They got big hugs from MF for the occasion.

The Australian motorway. Bruce Highway. Northern Queensland. Shimmering pools of mirage water. Our car’s front wheels seemed almost to splash through them.

camels.JPG

South through this part of Queensland there is a long flat sun-scorched savanna of dry washes and sandy gulches, dry riverbeds and dusty grasses, and we passed through it at top speed, testing our new red rental car, stretching its legs a bit.

We drove by a man wearing a pith helmet, suspenders over a white T-shirt, and Ugg boots: riding atop a penny-farthing, one of those 19th century bicycles with the huge front wheel – the kind you need a ladder to get on – pedaling furiously.

There was a straight line of shimmering road. (Spotted on a bumper sticker: “Of course I’m drunk – I’m not a stunt driver.” And another: “Don’t laugh – Your daughter could be inside.” The famous Aussie sense of humo(u)r.) There was a cemetery of dead bleached trees frozen in macabre poses. There were riparian lines of living trees that looked like cottonwoods, cutting through a parched plain of stunted brush and meter-, or meter-and-a-half-tall termite mounds. The mounds looked like stalagmites. The brush and the small trees seemed to gasp for water.

fires.JPG

There was a broken line of ruddy hillsides on the western horizon. There was a hot sirocco-like wind feeding the fire of burning canefields that smoked in the middle distance.

There were smoking forests too, burning across shoulders of brown-red hills. There was grove after grove of roadside eucalypts with blackened trunks, standing charred amid plumes of smoldering earth. All undergrowth was gone. We didn’t know if this was planned or wild fire. With bushfires blazing everywhere – but especially in Victoria and Tasmania – it’s hard to know what’s intentional and what has the potential to wreak havoc. Over Townsville, Queensland’s Second City, there was a pale gauzy haze from the constant conflagration.

Forming a backdrop to the metropolis was a ridge of low rocky hills. There was a sparseness of trees that resembled the hair on a mangy dog.

icecream.JPG

We came thundering like a train out of the desert at top speed through pit stops and roadhouse oases like Gumlu and Ilbilbie and out again in a flash. Back into the Wasteland. There was a salt smell to the air as we realized the sea was only a mile or two to our left.

Lisa New Year’sWe came out of Canberra – “a good sheep paddock ruined” – and into the Snowies for Christmas, then ambled down into Melbourne for New Year’s, thus completing our 5,000-kilometer drive from Cape Tribulation and our tour of Australia’s eastern seaboard, where most of the country’s population resides.

Melbourne put on a good show for New Year’s Eve, with lots of fireworks and free music by local bands, some of them actually talented. Also the city earned our permanent goodwill by providing free tram and train service for the duration of the evening. We ended up spending not very much money – much less than would have been the case in D.C., at any rate. Though the absence of friends was not forgotten.Wombat Divine

We hope everyone had a great NYE, and that you all have a terrific New Year.

In two days we fly to Perth to get a taste of the West Coast. The temperature there is considerably warmer, something to the effect of 35-38 degrees on average (here, with the rain that’s been following us, it’s been a tolerable 25-30), so we’ve discarded all our warm clothing and are hunkering down (mentally) for a good desert skin-fry. First thing on the agenda: The Southbound Music Festival, headlined by Michael Franti.

We’re going to post some more descriptions of the East Coast in the meantime, abandoning all chronology, to give everyone a sense of how varied our itinerary has been. This is a beautiful place and as far as this blog goes we’ve only scratched the surface.

Melbourne skyline, day

It’s much colder where you guys are, so in solidarity with our family and friends as you huddle by your hearths we sought out Australia’s highest and coldest place this holiday season. We holed up in Jindabyne, in the Snowy Mountains, a town made famous in this, this, and of course this movie.

Strange weather has pursued us down the coast. We had rain and mist in Sydney, where there is no rain and mist. We had pea-soup fog in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. And then, in the sundrenched, drought-stricken Kosciuszko National Park, we got downpour of the torrential variety.

“We’re in the worst drought in recorded history,” said Dave, owner of Jindabyne’s local video store. “Of course, it doesn’t seem that way now,” as the water poured off his roof in rivers.

Happy Holidays from AustraliaThe rain continued all night. The next day, Christmas Eve – a fact of little significance to us: a strange by-product of constant travel – we hiked into Kosciuszko, which oddly enough is named for a Polish hero of the American Revolution. Mount Kosciuszko is the continent’s highest peak at 2,228 meters (about 750 feet higher than the highest mountain of the Appalachians).

Maybe it was the rain but the wildflowers in the park were especially vibrant on our little hike, a 10-km jaunt along a ridge near the peak called Dead Horse Gap, then down through a hillside of dead snow gum trees – new buds sprouting out of the hollow white husks – and along the Thredbo River for a real change of scenery. From alpine to riparian in three hours.

Moss flowers

Above the treeline the place was the most Wyoming-like of all the places we’ve visited. The flowers looked the same: lupine, gentian, buttercup, others we recognized but couldn’t name. The whole landscape seemed transplanted from the high plains of the Rockies: brown grasses and terre verte, windswept dryness; boulder fields and granite-granola pathways snaking around snow fences. Many familiar shapes and colors, and violent blasts of wind, which always remind us of the Cowboy State.

We basically came here by closing our eyes and pointing at a map. So the discovery was a particularly happy one for Lisa, who loves her beaches but will always be a mountain girl at heart. “I love it. I went to Wyoming for Christmas.” The range even shares a name with Lisa’s home mountains: The Snowies.

Snowy Mountains

More storms that night. It’s as if the wet cold we left in Auckland has caught up with us. There was even a chance of snow in Thredbo, Australia’s Aspen, on Christmas morning. We never thought we’d get a white Christmas on a continent otherwise becoming an inferno.

If you’ve heard anything about Australia in the media you’ve heard about the bushfires. They’ve been going without a lull since spring, raging all over Tasmania, Victoria and southern New South Wales. But the rain we got the night of Dec. 23-24 stopped some fires and slowed several more big ones … and saved hundreds of homes and let the firefighters go home for Christmas.

And on that note: Merry Christmas everyone!

Happy Holidays! xoxo, Lisa and Marc

Love, Lisa and Marc

P.S. Christmas crackers are a very English stocking-stuffer.

SYDNEY, Dec. 17 — It was once remarked that Brits and Americans are separated by a common language. The same is true for Australia and the U.S. Here are some helpful definitions if you’re contemplating a trip here:

Ankle biters: toddlers

Boot/bonnet: car trunk/hood

Bottle shop: liquor store

Capsicum: red pepper

Chemist: pharmacist

Fair dinkum: real, authentic 

Lead: leash

P-platers: teen, or probationary, drivers

Ute: car with open bed, like a truck

Strange, yes. The sports are odd too. But fun. Been watching a lot of cricket here in Sydney. Really getting into it. The Ashes are being played now and the country is on high alert as the Aussies lead England 2-0.

The third test is on in Perth and some history was made yesterday when Adam Gilchrist recorded the second-fastest century ever: in just 56 balls! Today Glenn McGrath gave Australia hope for a sweep when he notched a two-wicket maiden, including Matthew Hoggard’s duck, in his 94th over, right before play was halted for darkness. McGrath’s gem gave the Aussies five wickets after they’d spent much of the day struggling to get past one. A low point was Alistair Cook’s century for England.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for five more wickets tomorrow before the Brits can notch the 292 runs they need to eke out a win. And then The Ashes return Down Under!

We go back to Melbourne for New Year’s and may have a chance to see some cricket live as The Ashes continue there. An all-day affair — Lisa will be in heaven.

croc-pic.jpg 

We hummed soundlessly down the Daintree River in our covered flatboat. At first the wildlife seemed to be warned of our approach and kept its distance. But as we advanced more creatures showed themselves.

With an engine powered by a battery and sustained by solar panels on the boat’s aluminum roof, we were the only craft that made no noise as we moved along the banks of the wide Daintree. No noise, that is, besides the occasional lap of water or the scream – at first intermittent, then incessant – of the small Dutch child sitting right across from us. But both the silence and the screaming proved to be advantageous in our quest to observe one of Daintree National Park’s 200 resident crocodiles: the silence for sneaking, and the screams for attracting.

It took about 90 minutes and in that time we saw plenty of other wonderful, rare creatures: a couple tree snakes, a python, a small seven-year-old crocodile resting in shallow water beneath the overhanging branches of a hibiscus tree. And the birds: the metallic starling; the sunbird; the koel; lorikeets galore; and the azure kingfisher, a sighting by Lisa that delighted even our pilot, David, who has navigated the river thousands of times and knows its every snag and mudbank.

Trips like the short tours given by Solar Whisper of Daintree offer frequent surprises even for the most experienced naturalist or river pilot. Of course, as self-taught anthropologists, biologists, botanists and philosophers, we are in a position to be surprised and delighted many different ways every day. But one of my favorite experiences is to witness someone like David, a 35-year-old with an almost child-like love for all the organic forms of the Daintree, an ecosystem with an array of plant and animal life so vast as to be nearly impossible to catalogue.

As we watched a white-bellied sea eagle torment a colony of fruit bats I almost got more enjoyment watching David’s reaction to the drama: he narrated the event in typically laconic Australian style but couldn’t disguise the undercurrent of excitement he felt in witnessing it. That kind of thing is contagious and it sustains you on a trip of this scope and duration. For days after our visit we would remember it and it would fuel us.

And that was without even the best part of the afternoon.

Afternoon is usually the worst time to try to spot a croc. We caught the final tour of the day and one of the first things David imparted was this: crocs like to sleep through the afternoon, the hottest part of the day, usually in deep, cool water. So after we spotted the youngster – who measured about a meter-and-a-half – lazing catatonically in the clear water off a mudbank, we expected no better.

It was almost enough to hear David expound on the intricacies of the mangrove biota: Daintree boasts more than 30 species of mangrove tree, one of the few places where so many are concentrated: there are only 70 species in the world. The mango trees and umbrella trees and drooping hibiscus add layers that veil the forest’s interior in a green mayhem. We slipped into reverie watching the chaotic tangle as we hummed soundlessly along the mangrove line.

Then began the screams. The child – a cute little redhaired girl – had, at first, been sedate, intrigued by the boat’s resident white-lipped green tree frog and happy to sit on her mother’s lap. Then inexplicably came the change. It happened quickly. At first I thought she must have been stung by a wasp. She began emitting a succession of bloodcurdling screams. Nothing would make her stop. A wave of despair washed over the boat’s dozen or so passengers, not least the little girl’s hapless parents.

But not David. He continued narrating in a pleasant tone about the archer fish, which gets its meals by shooting insects with spit (I threw a quick grin in Lisa’s direction), and the fact that farmers across Queensland now shoot flying foxes on sight, on principle, despite very strict laws against doing so.

Bu the problem wasn’t going away. As the little girl achieved new octaves to the consternation of all, David said:

“You know, the sound of a baby crying has been known to attract crocodiles. They are very interested in the sounds of an animal in distress.”

Just as he uttered those words we saw, not 50 meters ahead, a very large, spiny body disengage from the bank and head across the river. It was, unmistakably, the deadly prehistoric form of the crocodile. Crocodylidae: the Thunder Lizard. And a big ‘un.

“Folks, I am not psychic,” David said.

The croc, named Scarface for the evidence all over its head of pitched battles with other males, was the area’s dominant male, a 4-meter monster that probably weighed between 400 and 500 kilograms. He was around 60 years old and through the vagaries of croc life had been reduced to only about six teeth in his head.

“That does not mean he is harmless,” David said. “I have seen this one eating a cow.”

We drew close to Scarface as he swam across the river. But not too close, lest we scare him into submerging, a croc’s common response to snooping tourists. In any event we got a good long look at him, and some terrific pictures.

Strangely enough, though she seemed totally unaware of the croc’s presence (or the presence of anything beyond her fraught, ineffectual parents), the little girl chose the moment when we were closest to the croc to stop crying entirely.

I’m not saying it was her sudden proximity to the world’s largest man-eating reptile that quashed her outburst. But all creatures possess some kind of survival instinct.

The crashing sound of the breakwater and the purl of surf on the beach couldn’t drown out the hundred or so footsteps that marched in disorder under the bright moonlight. The hard-packed sand gave a kind of squeaking crunch under the boots, flip-flops, sandals, and running shoes of the motley group as it followed, at a short distance, the bobbing headlamp and clarion voice of its ponytailed guide.

Voices were hushed. But collectively they gave an unintelligible background noise to the scene that even the high wind of an especially windy night couldn’t entirely quiet. The group was stopped and started and stopped again as directions were confusedly transmitted over a walkie-talkie. Mysterious coordinates were conveyed:

“Are you right at Seven?”

“Right at it.”

“Righty-o.”

Again the group moved out. Despite the presence of old women and adolescents and adults unfit for the rigor of brisk walking the assembly was made to climb a sandy rise, stumbling over tussocks of tough beach grass, then shuffle along a two-track road beneath a copse of overhanging trees that obscured the moonlight. The more skittish participants entertained fears of the highly poisonous brown snake: known to prefer this exact habitat, the brown snake is nocturnal and easily agitated.

Once more the group, ungainly and grumbling, was halted. It had arrived at Seven. No brown snakes, or any other nefarious Australian predators, were spotted, felt, stepped on, or otherwise provoked.

The guide gave hasty instructions. After viewing a video in which she figured prominently, the group placed absolute trust in her. She directed everyone down a final grassy dune and formed the group into a semicircle, where it finally beheld the object of its search: a great snuffling twitching prehistoric shell that seemed in the bright blue bath of moonlight to be swimming in sand.

Patches of light shifted on the surface of the ocean well out from the wide track of sand that extended many miles north and south. Sudden quiet: even the wind seemed to die down.

The turtle, a scarred green and yellow creature the size of a small coffee table, continued its digging, reaching into the hole with back flippers that scooped the sand like hands – better than hands – and deposited it in piles on either side. After about 15 minutes the flatback – one of three species that frequent the rookery at Mon Remos Conservation Park in southern Queensland – finished and perceptibly squatted over the hole.

The audience eased forward. A flashlight placed at the crest of the hole by the guide illuminated the event. Undismayed by the crowd or the light the turtle laid 54 billiard ball-sized eggs, often two and three at a time. She then buried them before submitting – reluctantly but without violence – to a series of tests of size and weight and the scoring on her flippers and shell. Weight had to be measured by strapping ropes around the turtle’s front and back flippers and across her belly and lifting her awkwardly among four volunteers. Only the ninth flatback to deposit a clutch here this season, she was the object of resolute scientific inquiry.

Tests completed, the beast ambled back to sea, pausing once in her twin ruts of sand to look around as the rolling film of surf came up to meet her, then continuing in a lurching mosey to the water where she soon disappeared into the low tide.

Chatter erupted like soda from a shaken bottle but was soon hushed again and not by the rising wind, now so strong as to whip grains of sand painfully against any exposed legs. The guide announced that the new clutch was too near the water – susceptible to drowning when the tide came up, a common problem – and would have to be moved.

“Do we have any volunteers?”

Everyone lined up with cupped hands and accepted a small white egg – still malleable, to withstand collisions with other eggs – and brought it to a volunteer waiting at a newly dug cavity a few meters up the beach.

The process was time-consuming. Midnight approached. The moon disappeared behind scudding regiments of cloud, then reappeared to wash the beach in blue, a pattern of illumination and darkness that few noticed after time. Most were too exhausted. The strain of concentration was more than they were used to.

Then came the news: another turtle, a loggerhead, caretta caretta, had been spotted by one of a squad of volunteers walking the beach. It was digging on a dune safely above high tide some 150 meters north.

Exhaustion melted away. The loggerhead is the resident turtle of Mon Remos. The population of loggerheads that uses the beach is the most significant in the South Pacific. It is a rare turtle, endangered, but this is the place to see one. The group unanimously voted to go.

The night wore on. Everyone forgot the wind, the sea, cold, soreness. It was a good night for the tourists and a better one for science. Several large groups (containing fifty people each, at $10 a head) witnessed the laying of several clutches by all three types of turtle, including the green turtle, a species that returned here this summer for the first time since 2001.

Some turtles were previously tagged, signifying returnees; some were first-time mothers – also encouraging as efforts intensify to bring these endangered turtles back from the brink of extinction. Starting in January visitors will see hatchlings crawl out of the sand and down to the sea.

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