I arrived back in Cairns on February 13th after a quick overnight stop in Darwin, and popped by the doctor's office to check in on the status of my eardrum snafu. Kudos to the Australian health care industry - as a walk-in patient, I was able to promptly see a good doctor at a price equivilant to filling up my gas tank back in the US. Even better than not spending an arm and a leg was the news he had for me - the perforation on my left eardrum had healed up nicely (!!!! yay!!!!), both ears looked pretty raw and worse for the wear, but infection in both was gone (that's what had caused all my problems in the first place) and they are dry and on the mend. After a quick check of my hearing (a-okay on both ears), he sent me on my way with these parting words: "You're looking at anywhere from 4-8 more weeks out of the water, just wait until they're better." Me: "Awesome! But how will I know when they're better?" Doc: "You'll know. You'll feel it when they're back to normal."
A vague answer like that might have been unnerving; for me, it was a perfect reply. I left even more satisfied with the idea that a medical professional trusted me to know my body best. He didn't require follow-ups, to give his permission before I can get back to it, or send me away with a mitt full of prescriptions and instructions and fear; instead, I walked away knowing that if I combine paying more/ better attention with the experience of what normal ears feel like compared to not-in-the-best-shape ears, I'll be able to make the call as to when I can head in the water again.
So I'm really, really happy with that common sense approach to health: don't do it if it doesn't feel okay; you're good to go if it does. I can work with that! Thanks, Australian medical system! :D
I've stayed longer on the Great Barrier Reef than I had anticipated, and the side trip to Indo nipped into my budget. Both are decisions I'm extremely happy with, and both are decisions that cause me to turn up the heat on my next 3 Wonders: Vic Falls, the Rio Harbor, and Paricutin Volcano. Try as I might not to, I still do live in reality... and realize I need to get a move on, and quick, in order to make the Natural Wonder Tour happen within my time and budget goals! In large part, I've mapped out the next couple months based on airline mile usage availability; since I've been back in Cairns I've cranked out dates and booked flights for my next three Wonders! Stay tuned for the itinerary!
On February 25th I touch down in Johannesburg, South Africa, and stay a couple days to dial in my visa for Brazil. On February 28th I arrive in Livingstone, Zambia, my tentative home base for the third Natural Wonder - Victoria Falls! Can you believe it? I hardly can!
I'm so excited to be headed to Victoria Falls so soon, and am really looking forward to hiking the Falls in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. I have a sneaking suspicion that the best way to enjoy Victoria Falls will be from air, and I've never been in a helicopter before... but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it :)
In the meantime, I fully intend on enjoying the rest of my time in Cairns, and on the Great Barrier Reef - even though I can't hop in to enjoy the Reef one more time, I'm still heading out on the Falla a couple more times before I move along. I just love the people she's brought into my life, the experiences I've had because of her, and pretty much everything to do with that beautiful boat. The Falla is special. Really, really special. So I'm glad I'm taking more trips out before we part ways.
And, for the record, I'm quite certain there are no earmuffs in Indonesia. But a combo of earplugs and headbanded Buff worked just fine.
Happy trails, friends!