A Travellerspoint blog


Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

November 19-20 Monday (Day 25-26) Anna's post

sunny 31 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

The next day we said goodbye to Port Douglas (I really would love to return with the family one day) and headed north to the Daintree rainforest and Cape Tribulation; an area known as “where the reef meets rainforest”. Again the drive was wonderful and easily managed, even those places where only one car could pass on a narrow bridge. The Daintree rainforest is extensive and we actually had to take a ferry to access the national park. We toured Mossman Gorge, which is nestled in the forest and seemed to be very popular with backpackers. The water was mountain top cold but they didn’t care as they dipped in and sunned themselves on the half submerged rocks.

DSC00921.jpgDSC00925.jpgDSC00926.jpg (Hanging out at Mossman Gorge)

We also viewed some interesting artwork by aboriginals. We drove as far as the paved road would take us and one of the nice things of not being on a tour (of which there are many) is you can skip what doesn’t interest and explore at will. We ate at a backpacker type accommodation at the end of the paved road where the majority of rustic cabins were fighting to resist the encroaching forest and the dining area ended at another amazing white sand beach.

DSC00947.jpg (Long, empty white sand beach close to Cape Tribulation)
DSC00953.jpg (View over Daintree Rainforest)

I entered Oz a bit skeptical re how much I was going to enjoy it but left with a totally satisfied feeling and that it would definitely be worth returning to explore more of the country.

Posted by Elmar123 23:54 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes beaches birds Comments (0)

Port Douglas and Diving the Great Barrier Reef

November 18-19 Monday (Day 23-24) Anna's post

sunny 32 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

As mentioned, we were only able to secure a diving trip from Port Douglas, which is about 90 mins from Cairns. With our budget limitations and the influx of unexpected tourists we’d been staying at a trailer park in Cairns – they actually call it Leisure Park to make it sound more appealing. For 40 AUSD we had a clean cabin with hot stove, mini fridge and TV that gave us privacy if not luxury.

(Home sweet home - living at the Leisure Park)

We’d been warned that Port Douglas would be even more expensive but to our surprise, we were able to secure a quite luxurious fully equipped town house for less around 90 USD. We caught them at the right time apparently as the owner explained that we were benefitting from a half off discount. We were thrilled and that evening prepared our own meal of fresh prawns, noodles and salad. Btw, prawns seem to be sold at bargain prices here - we paid less than 10US$ for a huge bag of them.

(Home cooked dinner at our townhouse in Port Douglas)

The area is beautiful with a much different vibe than Cairns; it’s warmer, both in temperature and friendliness, with quaint shopping areas and a gorgeous 4 mile white sand beach that we could easily walk to from our place. The only drawback is that we couldn’t swim as between October and April the deadly box jelly fish and Irukandji are prevalent. They have no brain, four eyes to avoid collision and can have as many as 60 tentacles covered with stinging cells. It was quite startling to walk this miles long beach with dead calm water looking like it extended to the end of world, white powdery sand fringed with palm and other beach trees, and see no one in the water. There are a few places where they have nets to block the jellyfish but I wasn’t taking any chances with the consequence of possible death looming.

(Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas)

Early the next morning we departed for the Agincourt reef which runs parallel to the Continental Shelf and is located at the very outer edge of the GBR. Our catamaran was geared for scuba diving, snorkeling and hosting about 100 people.

(Boarding the Silversonic in Port Douglas)

The same company also offers another option; a catamaran that docks on a platform built in the middle of the reef and from there you can opt for a submarine type vessel so no breathing apparatus is necessary, take a 10 min helicopter ride, whatever you fancy they can provide for you to view the reef. We had 3 dives and because the box jelly fish are a potential problem had to cover ourselves from head to toes including fingers in a lycra suit (very unforgiving to any excess bulge so you can imagine what that did to us:-).

(In our lycra suits before our first dive at the Great Barrier Reef)

You could then add the typical wetsuit as well but we decided to forego that additional piece as it wasn’t absolutely necessary. There was a strong current with this dive and not being that experienced I worried that I could lose my party but it didn’t take long to adjust to the ebb and flow of the current and there was so much to see (soft corals, grey reef sharks, huge clams that snapped shut when you touched them) and enjoy that you were soon caught up in the beauty surrounding you. There was one rather overenthusiastic diver, who was so concerned with taking pictures and was clearly not an experienced diver, that made us cringe as he bounced off of and trampled on corals with nary a concern. I think such people should be restricted in what they can do underwater. The reefs shouldn’t have to suffer to satisfy careless pleasure.

Posted by Elmar123 23:33 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches Comments (0)

Queensland – The sunshine state

November 16-17 Monday (Day 21-22) Anna's post

sunny 31 °C

We arrived late in the evening in Cairns via Quantas (great airline, comfy plus they served us decent free food) and were startled by the news that despite it being the low season the city was jammed with tourists who’d descended from all corners of the world to see the ‘lunar eclipse’. Apparently there are people who track their occurrence as if seeking the holy grail and travel for days if necessary to watch the 2 minute event in whatever country it’s occurring. For those of a like mind, we’ve been told the next one is in Ghana in 2012 so book early.

I think what this unawareness says about us is that we were really disconnecting; not watching TV and keeping up with only major world news. I can happily report that Elmar and I had not discussed work since we left the US and were totally relaxed and enjoying being with each other immensely. We’re still at the beginning of the trip so in many ways it still feels like a vacation but we’d not experienced any challenges to our relationship yet although I’m sure that will come. So, Cairns is in the north of Oz which is their tropical region (feels odd when you’re used to north being cold and south hot) and is one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. The town thrives on tourists so it’s very accommodating for all types, from back packers (of which there are many) to big spenders. If you speak Japanese or Chinese you will have no difficulty getting around as both languages are posted throughout the city. Restaurants, shopping, tours are readily available but for most you need to be ready to spend quite a bit. The two things that are free and are quite lovely are The Esplanade with its public pool that’s integrated into the lawn and walking area, and the botanical gardens. We had hoped to do a live aboard diving excursion of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) but none were available in Cairns and the best we could do was a one day trip departing from another town (Port Douglas). Our alternative with the unplanned days ahead was to rent a car and see as much as we could of the area. This is a good option as there’s so much to experience. The tropical terrain transitions very quickly to arid then to rainforests so it’s best not to snooze during the trip. The agent at the car rental company was very helpful and divided the map into sections for us so we had a good sense of what would take a half vs full day’s journey. There are many national parks and enough tourist attractions at and between them to satisfy everyone (e.g., swinging through forests on cable lines, cool swimming holes and waterfalls). We enjoyed the drive; stopping whenever something caught our interest and eating at local jaunts.

(View over Cairns from the mountains to the West)

Posted by annamariakronz 23:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

G’day Oz – meeting old friends in Sydney

November 12-15 Monday (Day 18-20) Anna's first post

semi-overcast 18 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

I must admit that I wasn’t anticipating Australia with the same level of excitement as Fiji and initially it seemed as if my expectations were well founded. First, since it was summer I was expecting it to be quite warm and to my surprise it was a bit cool (19C or 66F). We arrived around 8:00 pm after a 5.5 hr flight on Jet Star; one of those budget airlines where you pay to watch a movie or have a drink. Fortunately for us, being hungry was a good thing as we arrived at our friends’ Andrew and Dani Warren Smith’s home where we were welcomed with a warm hug and home cooked meal. They made us feel very much at home and by the next morning we were enfolded into the morning ritual of getting the boys off to school. The boys, Nick, Ross and Matthew are miniatures of Andrew in mannerism (cool and self assured:-), and while they might not appreciate my saying so, totally adorable. I’m not sure how Andrew and Dani accomplish it but they play and interact very well together without the typical squabbling that I would anticipate from 3 active siblings up pretty early and needing to get ready for school.

DSC00819.jpg (Andrew with his three boys)

The second seeming mood killer was the high price of any and everything. There is nothing you can buy in Oz for one dollar and with the exchange rate not favouring the US dollar we or rather I began to feel redundant constantly exclaiming, “OMG, how much? no way!” We decided to spend the morning at the zoo and after a bus and ferry ride that gave us a great view of Sydney’s unique harbor and sky line we wondered through the Taronga zoo seeing up close and personal things you can only see in Oz--Koala bears that are truly as cute as the stuffed versions (you can almost touch them as they are uncaged and basically sleep all day in eucalyptus trees), Kookaburra birds, kangaroos, dingos and wombats to name a few. The only thing we didn’t get a chance to see is the duckbilled platypus as they’re nocturnal.

DSC00783.jpg (Sydney Harbour & Harbour Bridge on the way to Taronga Zoo)

DSC00765.jpg (Anna petting a wallaby at Taronga Zoo)

Of course we had another OMG moment when we strolled by the food court where a fast food (not gourmet) hamburger and fries was about $17AUSD which is roughly around 18 US$ at current exchange rate. We absolutely refused to pay such a ridiculous price and walked off in a righteous huff. But after wandering through the city site seeing for the rest of the afternoon we had to swallow our disgust and satisfy our grumbling tummies. We still complained but realized no one including our stomachs cared. Thank goodness Andrew and Dani’s kind hospitality not only warmed our hearts being in a family atmosphere but also our stomachs.

The other thing I would mention re Sydney is that you should get a handle on where you want to go and how you plan to get there as we found street signs, bus lines and even the bus drivers not particularly tourist friendly. If you don’t know your bus route there are no indications in the bus or clear road signs to alert you when you’re approaching your stop or how close or far you are from your intended destination. As we tried to return to Andrew and Dani’s place we were thankfully helped by a friendly commuter who confirmed the correct stop to await the bus and also let us know that queuing is a must if you don’t want to be reprimanded by residents. This includes all public transportation, even boats/ferries. The only problem we had now is we didn’t know when to exit the bus and of course Elmar being typical male didn’t want to ask. I knew I should have checked anyway when as we hustled off the bus the friendly commuter who knew our destination looking puzzled and with raised eyebrows shook his head at us as the bus pulled away. Now what to do? I thought we should just take a taxi but no, that would have meant ‘someone’ admitting we didn’t know where we were or how to get ‘home’. So we just took off walking. The irritating end to this story for me is that somehow Elmar picked the right direction and without making one wrong turn or using any technology, found the house in 30 mins…sigh. I had so wanted it to be a teachable moment for him☺.

For our second day in Sydney we decided to ‘stay home’ and get caught up on some outstanding ‘to dos’ such as laundry, finally getting internet access so we could upload our first blog entry but most importantly connecting with family. Dani graciously allowed me to use some of her international calling card minutes and I was able to talk with my daughters and nieces who luckily couldn’t see my tears of joy….they would have teased me for sure. I miss them so much already! We unfortunately didn’t find this out until later and while it’s not a super easy process, purchasing telephone minutes is one thing that’s not too expensive. Best of all you can make very cheap calls to the US once you’ve gone through the hoops. You also don’t need a contract so via a local service like Vodaphone which we purchased at a local supermarket we were able to talk to the US as long as we wanted, (once connected) for one Oz dollar. I know, that’s crazy cheap isn’t it? We didn’t discover this until we were heading out of Oz but trust me, I used the phone right up until the flight attendant insisted I turn it off.

But back to the second day where we had a big evening ahead of us. Mark Busine, another great friend in Oz invited us to join his family for a real Oz ‘barbie’ or barbecue for those not familiar with the term. There is nothing that helps you get a pulse on real life in a country more than spending time in someone’s home and we were privileged to have two invitations. The Busine family made us feel special and we had a lot of fun sharing stories, comparing pictures of our travels and enjoying an excellent meal. My heart was full as we left Sydney the next day, I was truly thankful to connect with true friends and be reminded that distance doesn’t really matter when hearts are knitted together. On such an extended trip as well such visits take on even more meaning as it provides a deeper sense of connection and a respite. Other than your partner your connections come from your ability to reach out to strangers, share experiences; seeking and swapping the history and motivation of your journey. If your travels can include visits with friends, I highly recommend it.

IMG_0078.jpg (Barbecue with the Busines)

Posted by Elmar123 21:49 Archived in Australia Tagged people city Comments (0)

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