Dona and I had been tentatively planning on taking a trip around December to Africa, but this summer our nephew sent us a note saying his wife, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was going to Jakarta, Indonesia to consult on eco-tourism. As a result, they were taking one of their trips of a lifetime to Papua, Indonesia, to search for Birds-of-Paradise. And would we like to go?
It took us about 30 seconds to decide on that. We've always enjoyed David Attenborough's BBC presentations on birds of paradise, but never really thought we'd get to see any in real life.
We figured if we were going to fly half-way around the world for a ten day trip we may as well stay a bit longer and see something else. Neither of us had been to Southwest Australia and we've always wanted to go so we decided to head to Perth, rent a car, and do some exploring.
The month of September in our part of Montana was ugly. It was hot and dry and we had forest fires burning everywhere. The largest fire in the country was burning about two miles due north of our house. The day before we were scheduled to leave we got a preliminary evacuation notice. It was a good time to be gone; I think the health department said the smoke was the equivalent of smoking 5 packs a day. We packed our lightest camping gear, our binoculars and our cameras and headed for the airport.