Sunday, 9 March 2008

This morning we got up and paid a visit to the front desk. We decided on a new spot for the campervan, one that was a little more even and a little further from the chain smokers so we could open our windows. We wanted to go sea kayaking, but they had cancelled the trips due to wind, so we decided to try for tomorrow. We did another day of school with the kids. Benji is down to six more lessons after this morning, and we counted up how many pages of his shark book we’d need to read each day to be done by Cairns. It’s a great book, but it’s hardback and heavy. It’s lasted us from Egypt until now, four level 3 easy readers bound in one book. Alayna and Nate are done with their workbooks and tests, all they have left is their final paper. We had a little ceremony in which they dumped their folders and workbooks in a nearby trash can. Whew. All that weight, in the trash. They’re down to six more math lessons, the end is near.

On a trip to the bathroom, I noticed some people gathered, staring into the grass, and a maintenance guy holding a plastic bucket above his head. Then I saw the snake. It was long and brown and slithery. The maintenance man hurled the empty plastic bucket at the snake, while the women squealed (me included). An empty plastic bucket is not en effective method to kill a rather large snake. A crowd began to gather as he followed the snake across the grass, a street, towards the laundry and bathrooms, and into some thick bushes, where he lost him. I wasn’t real thrilled about going to the bathroom with an angry snake hiding out nearby. A man came up with a tool, kind of like a hoe but it wasn’t bent, just a straight metal blade attached to a long wooden handle. A kid turned to his mom and yelled, “They think it’s a taipan.”

A taipan. Clay informed me that a taipan’s venom is the deadliest in the world. The snake made a break for it and we all gathered closer to watch the final slaughter. The big man raised his snake-killing hoe and hacked the thing in half. “That’s how I like ‘em,” remarked a rough-looking lady, folding her hands across her chest. I had to agree with her in this situation where kids are running free and people are making trips to the bathroom at night in sandals. Alayna and I discussed our escape route if a snake were to slither its way under our bathroom stall door, agreeing that climbing onto the tank and over the half wall was the best option.

That afternoon, as we prepared to take a trip into town, we noticed some ants on the van. They were cool-looking ants, big with light green bottoms, then a tan body, and a darker brown head. Cool-looking, but we didn’t want them in our van. They were having a feast on all the dead bugs we had hit on the way to Airlie Beach. Clay removed the vegetation that was touching the van and  Nate blasted them with the hose. After removing them, we went in search of the Airlie Beach Lagoon, the ocean is full of deadly stingers so you can’t swim in it this time of year. The lagoon was essentially a pool right next to the ocean with sand and salty water, and no stingers. Benji and Alayna had a great time doing “tricks”. Benji would stand on Alayna’s shoulders and carefully lift one foot, or do it “no hands”, or Benji would get himself in the airplane position and Alayna would lift him up. Nate and I raced across the lagoon a few times, and he discovered he could make a small tornado by swirling the sand at the bottom of the lagoon. Clay found a nearby internet café and updated the web site before joining us. It was a lazy afternoon.

Over our dinner, grilled hamburgers patties, we discussed our options. We would call the sea kayakers in the morning. If the trip was cancelled again, we’d hit the road to our next destination. Airlie Beach has the feel of a Spring Breaker’s party paradise in the off-season. Maybe we’ll head towards the hinterland, take a peek at the edge of the Outback, or maybe we’ll head on up the coast. It’s kind of nice, not knowing what we’ll do next, going where the spirit moves us.