Magnetic Island has been my favorite place to explore thus far. The island itself is part of the Great Barrier Reef, so snorkeling and diving is amazing! There are also tons of secluded bays and beaches to explore, boulders to climb around, and native wildlife (like Koalas, Parrots and Wallabies) to come into contact with. I saw two wallabies, a sting ray, puffer fish, parrot fish, and a slew of birds including Kookaburras, parakeets and rainbow colored parrots. Snorkeling around the reef, away from all the tourist locations was just the experience I was after. It was just two of my friends and I diving into the depths to swim among schools of fish, swaying anemones, jellyfish and crabs (and probably sharks lurking nearby). All you could hear, besides the crash of waves above, was the crackling of the parrot fish feeding on coral.
The hostel we stayed at doubled as a koala refuge, so the animals in the area were more than friendly. One day, during a feeding frenzy, a group of parrots landed on me and proceeded to scream in my ears. I liked them, we made friends, but boy were they loud!! At night, bush possums would descend from the trees like soldiers rappelling into a drop zone. They were running around, wrestling, and causing mischief throughout the camp. There was one with a missing eye that charged my friend Keegan, giving him a bit of a shock. I thought it was pretty funny!
Everywhere you go in Australia, there are outdoor barbeque grills free for use in public areas. All you have to do is push a button until a green light comes on, and an automatic cooking cycle begins. I would use the grills to heat up leftovers, cook burgers, or anything else I had during my travels. On one particular night I decided to cook some fish on the bar-b. We picked up some fresh perch fillets, gave them a generous coating of garlic powder, cajun seasoning, sea salt and black pepper. I spread a couple pats of butter on top, added thinly sliced lemons, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then I just wrapped it up on tin foil and let it bake. In less than a half an hour I had baked fish to contribute to our gypsy caravan supper. Those we were with pitched in fruit, drinks, cheese and chocolate, and we all ate together in front of the ocean listening to music out of a 1980s boombox. Classic!
I arrived back in Cairns yesterday morning and found a place called "Eating @ the edge" that served GF French Toast!! I couldn't believe my luck. When the plate came out I was in awe. I was charged $2.50 extra for the GF bread, but it was totally worth it! The heaping stack was covered in fresh berries, spiced yogurt, and topped with just-picked mint leaves. I rounded the meal out with a Cafe Latte. It was a delicious start of a beautiful day:) A day spent swimming and jumping off of cliffs with friends.
I leave Cairns tonight to head back to Philadelphia. I'm a little sad, but happy to go back to my great life. Plus I really miss my partner Mindy. The whole time I was here, I wished that she and my brother were at my side. Oh well, there will always be the opportunity to do this trip again:) The next big trip will be in November when I go to Puerto Rico to present research I conducted in China. I'll be sure to post what gluten free goodies I find to eat there. In the meantime, I'll be happy to have my kitchen again. It's been a while since I've been able to cook a well-rounded GF meal, and I'm particularly looking forward to making some cookies!!!