Friday 24 July 2009 – boring travel day
I am writing this at 3.30am whilst waiting in the transit lounge at Darwin airport. We girls managed to get several hours sleep on the flight from Singapore, whilst Paul only managed 45 minutes. He is now running on empty so will need a nap later. There has been another time change – the clocks have gone forward another 1.5 hours. Seems unusual to go forward half an hour. Duty Free shop has just opened so will have to go for a look just for something to do! Due to land in Cairns just after 8am, so we will go get our campervan and get ourselves sorted out.
Flight from Darwin was full of Aussie lads on a camping trip away from the 'family' back home. One particularly obnoxious idiot spent the whole flight telling the same rubbish jokes and swearing his head off
. Not a great cultural start for the girls. However seeing the sun rise over the ocean more than made up for it. Breezed through Cairns airport although slightly embarrassed to be picked out by a Beagle on the hunt for illegal food items. We only had a bag stashed with oranges (illegal), half eaten biscuits (strangely legal), dried pineapple (again strangely legal).
Picked up campervan and set off for Cairns for a hearty breakfast at Hides Coffee Cafe. Cairns very much as I remembered it from 20 odd years ago. Girls dunked their tootsies into the Espanade pool on the beach front. After picking up basic provisions we headed up to Port Douglas to first campsite. Captain Cook Highway is absolutely lovely hugging the coast line most of the way – however Ella does not travel well at the best of times so given the added attraction of being thrown around in the campervan it was only a matter of time before she once again hit the sick bag.
All absolutely drained after early start yesterday and very little sleep. Paul got his head down for a much needed snooze and the girls hit the swimming pool which was freezing, by all accounts!Saturday 25 July – beaches, Bart and Byron
Weather is rather cloudy today and significantly cooler than Singapore
. It is probably 10C cooler. Went to Four Mile beach in the morning for a paddle but with threatening rain we decided to visit Hartley’s Crocodile farm. What a fun place. We saw our first koala called Byron and managed to give him a stroke. We also saw our first kookaburras who were hanging around with Byron. Then off to the Croc Attack show which reinforced my opinion that Australia is full of nutters (although this guy didn’t have a beard which is normally a nutter pre-requisitie!). Bart the freshwater crocodile was the star of the show and the keeper spent half the time standing in the pool just a couple of feet away from him antagonizing him with a pole and a dead chicken. Needless to say they can move! Very interesting presentation though. Then off for a boat ride around the lake, home to 18 more crocodiles of various sizes again on the lookout for chicken bits. Cassowary birds and salties, including a huge 375kg one called Paul and koala feeding time. We are going to go back on Monday to see the snake show (probably with another nutter) and catch up with the kangaroos and wallabies. Out to Port Douglas in the evening. The place has changed massively from 20 years ago when it was a sleepy little village. Now wall to wall swanky hotels and backpacker places. Had fish and chips in the Iron Man pub, where they do cane toad racing. I quite fancied watching it, but not for A$5 a pop.Sunday 26 July – Great Barrier Reef
After a hideous night’s sleep and torrential rain thundering on top of the campervan for hours, we woke up early to get ready for our Quicksilver trip to the reef. They phoned to say they weren’t running the trip we had booked on to the Low Isles, but upgraded us free of charge to the Outer Reef trip (saving us A$150!) This is the first time it has rained in 3 months and the journey to the reef was rough
! Ella saw the inside of a sick bag yet again - as did lots of other passengers. Even the staff were warning us it was going to be rough. Saw a humpback whale on the journey out, breaching. Possum, one of the Quicksilver crew reckoned the whale was 13m long. We arrived at Agincourt Reef and went onto the semi submersible boat for our first view of the reef. Loads of brightly coloured fish, clams, and coral (although a lot of the coral was bleached, which isn’t a good sign). Also saw a blue starfish and a jellyfish. Then had lunch, although I wasn’t in the mood for a mountain of prawns (need to take full advantage of the buffet lunch) as still feeling a bit rough. After lunch we got ready to go snorkeling wearing our lycra suits to keep the stingers and sun at bay (no chance of sunburn as it was now raining!). We looked like Blue Men rejects! Snorkelling was good fun – "my favourite bit was seeing all the fish in the water" (Imogen) including potato cod, a huge humpheaded Moari Wrasse and numerous other fish too many to identify (or haven’t got around to that yet). The water was cold and quite choppy which aren’t ideal snorkeling conditions. The girls found it quite hard going in the open water. We finished off at the underwater observatory before heading back to the boat for a hot cup of tea. The journey back was much better for us, although much rougher water. Paul and Ella stood at the back of the boat for most of the way home getting soaked with spray and being jostled around like a fairground ride. I saw a dolphin on the return journey. I am sitting here in the rainforest listening to the sounds of kookaburras and other birds as the sun sets. It has gone dark now at 6.25pm so this is prime time to be eaten alive by the myriad of mossies and other bugs waiting to sink their fangs into our juicy flesh! Imogen seems to be particularly juicy! Paul is off to the Barbie to make our steaks whilst I am drinking a cold beer! This is the life!!!