Bus into town at 9.30 am and book day trips for the rest of the week through BTS. At eleven we board the BTS minibus to Mossman Gorge. It is only a half hour drive to the gorge. There are quite a few folk about so we elect not to swim but take a walk through the forest instead. It is very warm and the walk is nice although we don't see too many animals. We get dropped off in town at 3.30 and go down to the marina where we have a nice few drinks at 'On The Inlet' watching the various boats coming back to harbour from the reef. Nip into 'Coles' and get Spag bols ingredients then bus back to Dreamcatcher for dinner.
Day 220 - Wednesday 14 April
The BTS bus picks us up from Dreamcatcher at 8.40 for the trip to Cape Tribulation
. Our driver, Sven from Switzerland, is very enthusiastic and informative. The arranged marriage between driver and passengers is often a fraught one but Sven is an amenable partner. We cross the Daintree River by ferry and stop off at Coopers Gorge for a cruise up the river for some crocodile spotting. Nicola is the first to spot the first of two. Our guide tells the tale of two backpackers who camped illegally by the river ten years ago. An English girl and her Czech partner. When they went missing a search party eventually came across a male and female crocodile near the spot where they were last spotted. The large female was shot and when they cut it open the found the gruesome remains of the English girl. Rather than shoot the other animal they just assumed that the Czech was in the male. Thankfully Nicola asks me, not the guide, whether you can eat the fruit off all 62 varieties of Mangrove trees. Back on the bus Sven drives us to Cape Tribulation. We stroll along the beach while Sven makes tea which we enjoy with choc-chip cookies. As we depart for a private piece of land in the rain forest down by a creek where we jump into canoes and paddle upstream while our BBQ'd lunch is prepared. The crystal clear river contains Jungle Perch and turtles. Steak, chicken, snags and salad then back into the bu sas the rain begins to fall. We drive down to a boardwalk through the forest where Sven fills us in on the various flora and fauna of the rain forest. The huge palms and vines are impressive. They are the largest in the world
. We take off our ponchos and drive back to Port Douglas and get dropped off at DC. We have an early start tomorrow so we just enjoy a couple of glasses of wine then crash.
Day 221 - Thursday 15 April
We get picked up from our apartment by jeep at 8am and taken down to our boat 'Calypso' where we are fitted out for fins and masks (including a prescription mask for Nicola) and then enjoy coffee and muffins before leaving for the reef with 40 others on board. We picked this boat and 'Haba' for Saturday as they were recommended by a chap in Cairns. They are smaller than some of the big 'Quicksilver' catamarans that take hundreds out to the reef. Each trip costs $140 each. The rain eases then stops as we head out to sea. It is 30 miles out to the reef and it is another rough ride. Unfortunately all the boakers are down below so I don't get my normal entertainment. It is nearly two hours before we arrive at our first anchorage. The first reef is called 'Rayman' and despite the choppy waters we spot some lovely fish amongst the colourful reef. After a short trip to another reef and our second snorkel we get out of the water for a nice buffet lunch. After lunch we motor across to our last reef which is perhaps the best. A small knob of coral is alive with fish
. The Clownfish (Nemos) are the stars, swimming out of their protective anemone for which the female will give her life. If she dies the largest male will change sex and become the dominant female. The journey back to port is a bit of a chore but once ashore we get dropped back to our apartment.
Day 222 - Friday 16 April
Golf today at The Sheridan Mirage. I phone the Pro, Rob Brydon, whose name was give to me by his mate in Cairns. He gets me out at 1pm for $85 instead of the normal $145. Firstly I hire a bike from Dreamcatcher and ride along the beach into town for a haircut and to get the underwater cameras developed. The bike is stuck in first gear which is a bit of a waste of the other 23. I peddle furiously back to the course for 1pm. The Pro is a bit dry so I just head out by myself. The course is very impressive. There are a number of Estuarine Crocodiles in the water hazards although I don't spot any. It is a bit boring playing on ones own and I play very badly. I wiz round in my buggy in three hours. I jump back on my bike and join Nicola by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. After showering we walk across the road to The Tavern for a couple of drinks then round to The Beach Shack for dinner. The place is bunged with locals enjoying really good food and the band
. We buy some ballots from the local footy team lads. My name is first out of the hat and I go on stage to draw our prize of a Chook Dinner for Four. Chook is Aussie for chicken. After a lovely lamb curry and Coral Trout for you know who we hand our prize back to the lads for a redraw for their funds. We wont have time to enjoy a double chook dinner each before we leave. We dodge the rain home at ten.
Day 223 - Saturday 17 April
Picked up by the 'Haba Bus' at 7.30 and taken to the boat. It is, of course, lashing. After our safety brief the skipper finds that the engine wont start so we are transferred to The Calypso again. Our skipper on board is Kent again. Calypso is a nicer/newer boat than Haba anyway. The Haba crew, who transfer across, aren't as good as Calypso, nor is the food. This time the rain doesn't stop as we leave the coast. There are only 22 passengers on board as the divers have been taken out in the other Calypso boat. It would be hard to assemble another group of 20 people who are quite so ugly. The world would be done a great service if we were to sink with all lives lost. Excluding of course us - and Kent. Out at 'Rayman Reef', again, the rain is heavy and waters are very very choppy. We consider not going into the sea but thankfully we do and are immediately greeted by a large Barracuda
. Shortly after a large Green Turtle swims gracefully by. An idiot Aussie passenger stands up on the reef, probably killing 3000 years of growth. I can see some of the fish looking up at our ugly group and shaking their heads at each other. Most of the fish have gone to be sick by the time we are back on board. Crappy lunch is gobbled down, huddled in the cabin out of the rain. We swap moorings with an adjacent boat then, after squeezing into our cold, damp stinger suits jump back in. Our last snorkel on The Great Barrier Reef is once more memorable. Our favourite fish so far is still the Double Headed Parrotfish which we saw at The Whitsunday Islands. The trip home through the rain is sad and none of the uglies are even sick for a bit of entertainment. We had booked 'On The Inlet' for dinner for their famous bucket of prawns as a starter. The tradition is to throw the prawn heads into the sea where various fish gather to be fed. The most famous resident is a huge Groper (after which the bar is named) called George. Apparently the staff once lowered a full tuna into the water and George came up and each ¾ of it in one bite. Despite all these attractions we cancel our booking once we are settled back into our apartment and order pizza from The Beach Shack instead. The pizzas are really good and are enjoyed watching the ghastly Monarch of the Glen. That is three Saturdays in a row.
Day 224 - Sunday 18 April
I watch the ladies golf on Tv whilst Nicola has her last swim in the pool
. The owner calls with the bill. We have been charged $170 for our phone bill. Despite my complaints about the size of the bill, the owner refuses to budge claiming that ISDN line charges are high in Port Douglas. This rather takes the gloss off an otherwise enjoyable stay. We go over the road to The Beach Shack for Sunday brunch then sit back in the apartment reading the Sunday papers. BTS pick us up at 3pm and drive us to Cairns Airport at 4pm. Nicola has her nail scissors confiscated then we sit drinking wine waiting for our flight at 1640 to Darwin with Quantas. On board the full flight there are no free drinks and we have run out of cash. Dinner is cold beef and noodles. Mediocre. It takes two and a half hours and Nicola winds her watch back by half an hour to local time. The airport shuttle bus drops us at Cairns Central Hotel which resembles a prison complete with central courtyard. The room is fine however. We go down for a drink at the hotel bar then retire at 11pm.
Day 225 - Monday 19 April
We awake to the clear blue skies of Darwin. We cannot remember the last time it wasn't raining when we got up. We dander into town and board The Tour Tub to see the sights of Darwin. It costs $25 each and is a rip off. The driver/guide has an over active smarm gland
. Bob Monkhouse would have cringed. We jump off at The Botanical Gardens and wander through the forest in 34 degree temperatures. The park is pretty crap. We sweat out of the park and on to The Museum and Art Gallery of The Northern Territories. The best exhibit records the events of Cyclone Tracy of Christmas Day, 1974 which wiped out most of the city. A dark room replays a recording made of the noise of the winds and rain as it tore through Darwin. We jump back on the smarm bus and get dropped back off in town. Darwin gives us our first real contact with Aboriginals. There are lots of them about with their skinny arms and legs and big bellies. They seem a personable bunch although they don't seem to do much more than sitting around in groups under trees. A taxi takes us down to the marine at Cullen Bay. The Buzz Restaurant is very interesting, especially the toilets. The sinks are carved out of lava and the mens urinal is a one way mirror which strains bladder control as you look out onto the restaurant whilst trying to do the biz. To wash ones hands you pull a chain and the water runs down long crystals hanging from the ceiling. The mirror frames are composed of thousands of Coke bottle bottoms wired together. We watch folk boarding various boats heading out to the bay to watch the famous sunset. Bread and dips with a bottle of Sauvingon Blanc then taxi back into town to Shannanigans for sundowners, although we cant see the sun. Soon we cant see very much at all.