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I initially planned on sharing our experiences chronologically, but I really need to start with last night. I’ve joined a bunch of Yeppoon and area Facebook groups and saw a post for an Under the Stars event out at the Capricorn Caves. Dr. John McGrath was the astronomer who spent 4 HOURS teaching us about the night sky (was scheduled for 2 hours – I really had to pee by the end but didn’t want to leave and risk missing anything!). You’ll see in the link that John has a gazillion skills and interests and he is an incredibly engaging guide. When we were visiting Gary & Jo in Arizona in April, we had lunch with one of their friends who had lived in Oz for 16 years. She shared how different it was looking up to the night sky in the southern hemisphere and how even though you don’t think you pay attention to the details of the sky, it somehow throws you off when it’s full of different constellations. She was right! Last night we were oriented to the various southern sky constellations, notably the Southern Cross and how to find south with it. John had a powerful telescope that he used to show us many celestial bodies as he explained how far away they were, how big they were, etc. The “jewel box” and “wishing well” star clusters were my favourites. But the reason John organized last night’s event was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence – Mars was passing through the beehive cluster, aka M-44. John’s excitement was contagious! It was so interesting to learn about the vastly different distances of stars that look like they’re next to each other in the sky. The beehive cluster is about 600 light years away. Mars is only 3 light minutes away. One of John’s hopes is that he will get to witness Betelgeuse go supernova in his lifetime. Betelgeuse is in the Orion constellation and it’s about 650 light years away. Hence the reference to time travel in the title of this post – Betelgeuse could have already gone supernova because what we are currently seeing happened 650 years ago :).

Our viewing of the sky was limited by the full moon. When we arrived at 6pm for the event (yes, it gets dark here very early!), there was quite a bit of cloud cover. As John started his talk, the clouds started dissipating and the moon began to emerge:

Within minutes, the sky became totally clear. This was good and bad. It was good because we trained the telescope on the moon and saw incredibly detailed, beautiful images of its craters and mountains. An awe-inspiring experience! Bad because even with the moon filter on the telescope, you’re practically blinded looking at it! Also bad because it made other stars and constellations more difficult to see. But really bad because John had planned a unique experiment at the Caves for last night and the manager of the Caves cancelled it when it was cloudy. There is a shaft that goes down to the caves and on the solstice when the sun is directly overhead, the sun shines directly down the shaft into the caves. Someone asked John a few months ago if a full moon might do the same. He didn’t know so he calculated when the moon would be directly overhead and it was last night at 11:20pm. So he planned to be down in the caves to see if the moon beams would be bright enough to come through. The next opportunity won’t be until August 1. When he wrapped up his 4-hour talk with us, he was going to call the manager to see if she could let him into the caves so he could test it out and if it worked, they could do a public event on August 1. I really hope he was able to reach her! After August 1, the next opportunity won’t be until 2024. You certainly have to be patient if you want to explore the night sky!

So now that we’ve covered traveling through time, let’s talk about traveling by car. Other than the obvious driving on the left side, there are 2 notable differences driving down here. First, small highways often have high speed limits – 100 kph on this little road:

However, the police are strict in ensuring you adhere to the limits – if you’re going more than a couple kph over, you’ll be pulled over and the fines are big.

Second, drivers are FABULOUS for managing a proper zipper merge. When 2 lanes merge into 1, everyone stays in the left hand lane until the last few moments before it ends and then they merge into the right lane. There are no jerks making merging impossible. It is so smooth!

What I don’t know is if this civilized way of driving is because we’re in a smaller area or if people have better driving habits even in big cities here.

Now let’s talk about slow. The pace here is super relaxed. If you want to quickly grab a coffee and get going – don’t even think about it. It takes a minimum of 5 minutes for them to make a coffee and often longer. We waited 30 minutes for our coffees when we went out for breakfast this morning and another 15 minutes for our meals to arrive. That was the longest we’ve waited, but things definitely move much more slowly here. If you know me, you’ll know this is a MASSIVE ADJUSTMENT. But you know what? I am loving it! I am learning to simply absorb and enjoy the moments rather than rushing from one to the next. I think this is a very good thing.

Speaking of coffee, Hugh continues to have fun with his fancy coffee machine! He is making great strides in preparing a fabulous flat white. A notable leap forward was finding really good coffee beans. A colleague at work, who lives in Melbourne and teaches remotely, told me that in spite of living in the big metropolis of Melbourne (pronounced “Melbin” here), she actually gets her coffee beans shipped to her from Merlo in Brisbane. She recommended the Espresso blend but we ordered a sampler pack:

So far we have just tried the Espresso blend and it is truly fabulous. Our friends Rob and Barb had mentioned that since drinking coffee in Australia, they can’t drink many brands back in Canada and I’m starting to see why. I still can’t believe that I no longer put sugar in coffee, but it is just so smooth, you really don’t need it!

I had been planning on including in this week’s blog entry about the differences with shipping times here. A typical online order delivery time, even with Amazon, is about 2 weeks. Just like everything else about the slower pace here, this is a good thing, for 2 reasons: a) you plan better and b) you support local businesses more because you can get things faster by going to a local shop. But the Merlo coffee bean company broke all the rules – Hugh ordered the coffee on Thu arvo (that’s Aussie for afternoon) and it was here on Friday! So I guess coffee beans require an urgency that nothing else does here :).

Another HUGE event happened this week – State of Origin! This is a major footy (that’s rugby) rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales each year. It’s a 3-game event for the men (once/month for 3 months) and 2-game event for the women (over 2 weeks). If you live in Queensland like we do, you absolutely MUST NOT WEAR BLUE during these events – blue is the colour of the opponent, we are Maroons! Hugh and I had a lot of learning to do to understand rugby as at least to me, it looked like a really weird game:

We think we have figured it now! Unfortunately, as much as it’s enjoyable to watch, the brain injury clinician in me cringes watching the non-stop tackles :(. But we are happy to report that Queensland won both the men’s and women’s games! The women’s second game is in Townsville, just a bit north of here and the men’s is in Brissy (short for Brisbane). Go Maroons!!

I decided to be cheeky earlier this week and I took these photos to show what a “cloudy” day here looks like:

Well, Karma got back at me and we had a rainy day today! It started off nice and sunny when we went out for breakfast and took a short walk along the main Yeppoon beach:

We decided to drive up to Byfield to see what was in that direction. The clouds came in over the mountains toward the rainforest and we had a grey, drizzly afternoon (sorry, “arvo” :)). But we happened across this fabulous pottery place in the middle of nowhere – Nob Creek Pottery. Absolutely love their pottery style! We bought a cute future housewarming gift for ourselves – a chook (chicken) and a couple of eggs (you can sort of see it in Hugh’s hands in pictures below). But aside from the gallery, the entire property was fun to roam around. We met the owner, Steve, and he told us the history of the property – it had been an abandoned citrus farm when he bought it in 1979. But he’s turned it into a little oasis at the southern tip of the rainforest. As we were talking with Steve, we saw our first Australian spider! A Golden Orb spider. Big but harmless to humans. Steve explained that the web has a yellow hue and is incredibly sticky. A small bird got caught in it a few days ago so they called the wildlife folks and learned that a type of oil could be applied to get the bird out of the web and clean its feathers. So they saved the bird and the spider had to wait for its next victim:

Don’t worry! Steve knew exactly how to set this photo up – I can assure you that Hugh is totally safe, I think… :). The spider’s body was about 3-4 cm and then his legs probably made him 12+ cm tip to tip. In the category of very bad timing, I had to use the washroom shortly after seeing the spider and they were located on the other side of a narrow path with lots of damp foliage hanging over, and the washrooms themselves were in wooden buildings with open slat windows – I have never examined my environment before peeing as much as I did today!!

There were a few old mango trees on the property – this one is 120 years old:

Here are photos of the Anagama kiln they use for the wood-firing process (when they first moved to the property, there was no electricity, so they did all their pottery in the wood kiln):

In between Yeppoon and Byfield, we found a piece of home 🙂

Tw other random photos from the week – this is the Keppel Kraken:

And this is what we see in malls instead of escalators – crazy!

Well, that’s it for this week! This post was WAY longer than I anticipated – each week I think there won’t be much to say but as those of you who know me know – once I start talking, I really don’t stop :).

It’s now 8:45pm on Sunday here, which means it’s 6:45am where most of you are – so this is Hugh and Justine signing off from the future :).

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