Mum and Dad visit Oz - a trip to North Queensland!

Trip Start Aug 08, 2011
Trip End Jul 22, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Monday, November 12, 2012

After a few days back at work, it was time for some annual leave and a holiday with my parents. The last time we holidayed together I was only 19 and a fresher at university. How time flies - it does not feel almost 8 years ago! My parents flew in to Brisbane on the 24th and I met them the next day due to work commitments (yes I do occasionally have to work!) We met in the evening and I took them to a restaurant overlooking Storytellers bridge which is beautiful lit up at night. The following day we headed to Mt Coot-tha and enjoyed the lookout over Brisbane city and the beautiful botanical gardens. It was fun spending time enjoying photography with Dad - especially as he lent me his fancy lenses! Having only taken up photography as a hobby just prior to moving to Oz, it was nice to share tricks and tips with Dad who has been a photographer much longer than me!  After the botanical gardens, we headed to Southbank for a leisurely stroll along the river. That evening I went out to dinner with my friend Leila as she was kindly having me to stay at her amazing apartment on Southbank. Her balcony directly overlooks the river and the skyline all lit up in multicolours at night - I was in photographers heaven! Thank god I took my tripod! Our meal out was great and we ended the night in a lively little bar by the river with a glass of wine. 

It was up at the crack of sparrows for a 6.10 am flight to Cairns. The flight was uneventful and we hired a car in Cairns. That afternoon we spent wondering around Cairns and then ate out that night. Our hotel was great - very clean and modern. It made a nice change to be staying in a smart hotel rather than my usual backpacking/slumming it! 

Our 1st day trip was to Kuranda Village. We arrived via sky rail (following a few stops to view waterfalls and rainforest.) Kuranda was fantastic and we could easily have spent longer there. Dad and I went to a butterfly sanctuary and got absorbed in our photography whilst mum got just as absorbed in the shops! We then met up to explore the quirky markets. There is a hippy flavour to the village - a little like Byron. We then went back to Cairns via a scenic railway which stopped at the impressive Barron falls. Perhaps it would be even more impressive in the wet season

Our 2nd day trip and probably the most special, was to the Great Barrier Reef. Mum was nervous about the snorkelling so we chose a trip to a platform where there were glass bottomed boats, semisubmersible boats, a viewing gallery etc so she would enjoy the trip regardless. We also stopped at a tropical island on the way where we took a walk and then mum and dad relaxed with an icecream by the pool  whilst I took a dip in the ocean. We then had 3 hours on the platform although the time flew by and we all wished we had longer! Turns out Mum loved the snorkelling - as good as holding a koala apparently! (Which is what they did they day before I met them.) We saw lots of beautiful fish and even a reef shark! The photos do not do it justice at all! We then had a birthday surprise up our sleeves for Mum which somehow we had kept a secret all day - a hellicopter ride back to Cairns over the reef.!! She has always wanted to go up in a hellicopter and where better than the Barrier reef?!  It was a struggle to keep the secret as our boat tickets were the same as our hellicopter ones so everytime we went to board the boat somebody would exclaim ‘ah so your flying back!’ fortunately Mum did not hear this or our cover would be blown! She was extremely surprised when we announced we were flying home and was very excited. The trip was amazing and it was fantastic to gain another perspective of the reef from above! It sees very fitting that although it was my mums birthday present, it was also my parents 35yrs coral wedding anniversary - spent on, above and below the coral sea!

Our last full day in Cairns was spent driving about the Tablelands. The scenery was fantastic despite the weather being overcast and occasionally rainy. We were lucky that it was our only bad weather day and we still enjoyed a drive out amongst spectacular scenery! We made a few stops along the way at Milla Milla waterfalls, a lake and a farm where platypuses are regularly spotted. Unfortunately Mum and I did not spot one although Dad got a quick sighting - not bad for the 2nd rarest animal to be sighted on the planet! That evening Mum and I explored the night markets where I had a $15 back massage which was lovely and relaxing!

The next day we transferred to Port Douglas via Tjapukai. Port Douglas is a sleepy fishing town which appears to be where the rich and famous seem to holiday. There were some very impressive hotels on our way! Ours although less grand was nice enough. The pool area was fantastic and great to swim in! The drive on the way to Port Douglas was absolutely beautiful especially from Rex lookout where forest meets mountains meets sea!
Tjapukai is a cultural centre on the way to Port Douglas from Cairns. It involves a series of demonstrations, talks, performances and try-it-yourself sessions to learn about aboriginal life. It was really enlightening for me as we have a large aboriginal community living near Lismore and so getting a better understanding of the culture must benefit my patients. I hadn’t realised how brutal tribe life was or how it can still be! If a girl does not learn her cooking skills (eg detecting what fruits are poisonous etc) at the age of 12, her punishment might be to have a jagged dagger put through her leg by her grandparents and she may never walk again. The same punishment applies for ‘disrespecting your elders’. If this happens more than twice then the dagger will be through the chest! She explained this can still happen in some communities who practice traditional tribal rules in Outback Australia. we asked how this can happen with state law and she explained that mostly the authorities turn a blind eye in certain areas as long as it stays within the tribe. They will do less patrols etc. She explained that she lives a normal life as you or I with a house, car, computers etc. But every school holiday is spent in the forest with her children living more traditionally from the land. Another woman explained she lives a modern life at the moment but thinks when she has children she will return to the tribe to teach them her family ways. It was a fascinating day and I learnt a lot! 

The next day was Mums actual birthday which we spent at Mossman Gorge. It was so beautiful there. The river was scattered with huge boulders which made for some impressive photos! The water was cold but crocodile free so we enjoyed a swim before doing a rainforest walk. Mum and Dad particularly enjoyed spotting the wildlife and unusual tree formations. We then had a beer whilst tapping into some free wifi before a quick trip to 4mile beach followed by a swim in the hotel pool in the evening and  cooking a BBQ for dinner. 

On our last day in Port Douglas, we headed off to the Daintree Rainforest. It was absolutely beautiful. We began by making the longish trip up to Cape Tribulation - one of the few places where 2 different types of national park meet - rainforest and reef. It was absolutely stunning. After exploring the area a little we found a cafe in the rainforest for lunch. Whilst we were eating, up popped a monitor lizard so I snapped a few piccies. Then we went to another swimming hole. Dad paddled but I was the only one to have a swim this time. It was lovely and cool and I saw lots of fish - fortunately no crocs! Later that afternoon we went on a river cruise to spot crocs. I spotted the first with binnoculars - lying in the mangrove. Later we spotted another in the water. We also saw lots of birdlife including baby swallows along the journey. Even waiting for the boat had been pretty eventful. The lady in the shop showed us a treefrog who had found his way into her shop and was perched on the top of a card stand. It was such a vivid green that it actually looked plastic - until it blinked and croaked! We then saw a snake which shot between Dads legs and veered just before it hit my foot! It was extremely fast! We’re still not sure what type of snake it was. It was only 2ft long and a golden colour. Perhaps a brown tree snake or a copper head. Its always a little scary seeing a brown snake though as it can be difficult to differentiate them from the deadly eastern browns unless you get a good look! Wyn and I went for a walk recently and almost stepped on an eastern brown in flip flops! We were very lucky that it backed off as they are known for being aggressive as well as poisonous! 

Sadly that was our North Queensland adventure over and it was back to normality for me although it was really fun showing Mum and Dad around Byron. Again they were extremely lucky with the weather and it was glorious all week. I took them to the Byron markets on the Sunday (monthly hippy style market great for live music, photography and street food!) This was followed by a swim in the sea which was uncharacteristically very calm with tiny waves perfect for swimming. Usually waves and surfers dominate! The following days we took a few walks such as to Broken Head and up to the lighthouse, explored Byron and Bangalow town centres (Mum loved all the quirky shops and coffee shops. We all visited Crystal Castle - some beautiful gardens and shops with a buddha influence. We went out whale watching but unfortunately didnt see any! Though we did hear 2 calling to each other under the water. WE also spotted some dolphins from the walks so mum was pretty happy with that. Shame about the whales but as a consolation prize, they gave Wyn and I tickets to go back on a snorkelling trip to the reef at Julian Rocks. Unfortunately as it was our last day it was too late to arrange a return trip with Mum and Dad. 
We had a few meals out in my favourite restaurants during the week and one night we had a BBQ at ours and had a few friends over so that my parents could put some faces to names and get to know our friends a little. Another night it was the annual Byron Bay salsa congress so I took Mum along. She really enjoyed watching all the performances. For me it was a great opportunity to have a few dances - I miss my dancing so much! I fully intend to launch myself back into it when we get back to Cardiff! Hopefully by then I’ll be back to predominantly 9-5 shifts! Ok well more likely 8-7.... 
I took my parents to the airport on thursday and they headed off to the Blue Mountains and Sydney for their final days in Australia. From what I’ve heard, they have really enjoyed it so far! It wont be too long before I see them again as with any luck, I should have interviews for GP trainee roles in the UK in early feb so I’ll be back for  a few weeks. In fact its really not long until we are back for good! We leave Byron early April (to go backpacking for 4 months) but with a 3 week trip to New Zealand and 3 weeks in the UK for interviews planned between now and then, that only leaves 13 weeks actually in Byron which will fly by! Better make the most of it!! 

Thats all for now. Next installment : New Zealand Nov 24th-Dec 17th! We are both very excited!!
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