As far North as we were going...

Trip Start Jan 31, 2006
Trip End Dec 11, 2006

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Friday, July 28, 2006


The day before we were due to drive up to Port Douglas we discovered that we had been bumped from our accommodation again. I spoke to the manager of the place we were supposed to stay and was told that we had been upgraded (by a whole half star!) to a place called Le Cher Du Monde. I had a quick look on the internet and it looked fine with the bonus of being much closer to the middle of town than the place we had originally booked.

So, we packed up our stuff in Cairns, Richard took a while to say goodbye to the enormous TV and we drove the short drive to Port Douglas. My first impression of Le Cher Du Monde wasn't promising as I was told we were too early and to go away! So, not much French charm there. We went for a walk for an hour down to the marina and around town and then headed back in the hope that we would be allowed in our room. We were and it turned out to be a nice enough self-catering apartment. Having failed to get a table at On The Inlet, a restaurant that had been recommended to us, for dinner that night, we found a fantastic seafood shop where we bought a whole mud crab (all 1.5 kilos of it!) and some prawns so we could make our own dinner.

I settled down to watch TV while R did battle with the crab. We had optimistically bought some nut crackers that we hoped would serve as "crab crackers" but our crab was a feisty one. The nut crackers wouldn't open the claws and neither would me stamping on them. Eventually R resorted to bashing them against the worktop which did the trick. After much bashing, crashing, picking and poking, the crab was defeated and R cooked up a delicious crab and prawn pasta dinner - yum!

We were up bright and early the next day as we had booked places on a reef fishing trip. Neither of us have been fishing before so we were intrigued to see how the day would go. The sun splitting the sky was a good start as we made our way down to our boat, Dragon Lady. There were 8 passengers and 2 crew on the boat and soon we were racing out to the reef. After a quick briefing on how to fish (mainly for R and me as everyone else seemed to know what they were doing) we were let loose with handlines and pilchards for bait. Turns out that fishing is much, much harder than it looks. We could feel the fish biting but we couldn't seem to get them to do more than just steal the pilchard and bypass the hook! However, after a little while I felt my first proper bite. I got all excited and starting trying to pull the fish up, until I realised that I wasn't quite strong enough to pull it all the way up the 40m or so that my line had gone down! I had to get one of the crew to help me but I had landed my first fish - an enormous perch! It was so exciting that I didn't even notice that I had managed to cut my hands to ribbons on the handline...

We moved on to the next fishing spot as we didn't seem to be catching anything else and I got another bite! This time I managed to pull the fish up myself and it turned out to be a trevallion - a big grey fish. It seemed like I was getting the hang of this fishing lark, although I then proceeded to fail to catch anything for the next three hours....

Most of our companions were being quite successful, particularly one guy at the back corner of the boat who seemed to catch a fish every few minutes! Unfortunately a father and son who had come on the trip weren't coping too well with the high waves where we were fishing so they had had to retire to the cabin to lie down and only managed to catch one fish before they had to retire for the whole day...

We kept moving on to a new area as soon as people stopped catching anything, which was fine by me as it seemed like every time we moved on, I would go into the cabin and they would have laid out more food for us! For the next couple of fishing spots, R and I were really just feeding the pilchards to the fish but then R got his first catch and it was a pretty fancy one! He had managed to catch a remora (also known as a shark sucker) which has an odd flat panel of suckers on the top of its head that it uses to suck onto the bottom of sharks. I put my hand on its head to feel them and it was rather an odd sensation as it attached itself to my hand. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to keep that one so it had to go back. This set R off though and in no time he had his second catch - a beautiful spangled emperor (see the photo), which he was allowed to keep!

Neither of us managed to catch anything at the next couple of fishing spots, although I did have two proper bites that managed to get away as I (well, with some help from the crew) was pulling them up. We also managed to attract a shark which was chasing after the catches at the back of the boat. One of our companions had a mighty battle with the shark as he tried to pull in a perch that he had caught. In the end, when he finally managed to get it on board, all that was left of the poor perch was its head!

Eventually we reached the final fishing spot of the day. We decided a change of tactic was in order so R moved to the other side of the boat. It seemed to work as R then caught a little spotty fish that was thrown back, a gold spotted sweetlip and then a beautiful coral trout! I had more luck too and managed to catch an enormous perch and a snapper! We were both delighted with our beginners luck and were able to ignore the fact that we our poor hands were in tatters from the handlines.

It took about 90 minutes to get back to shore and there our fish were given to us to take home. We realised that, with the best will in the world, even we couldn't eat 8 fish in the next 2 days so we kept the trout, the snapper and the smaller perch, gave away the rest of them and set off back to the apartment. The crew had gutted the fish for us so all we (well, Richard) had to do was clean the scales off and throw them on the BBQ. We had the trout for dinner that night and the snapper for lunch the next day and they were both delicious. We had to admit defeat with the perch though and reluctantly gave it to the owner of the apartment block we were staying in.

On our last day in Port Douglas we went for a walk along the beach after having a look around the shops in town. The beach is called Four Mile Beach, and for good reason. It is beautiful and stretches on for miles and miles. After our walk, we were ready for dinner at On The Inlet, as we had managed to get a reservation for that night. Continuing in the fish theme we had fabulous scallops, bouillabase, barramundi and "bugs" which are like small crayfish. We also chose the amusingly named "The Ned" wine (although that will only make sense to the Scots reading this) and finished off with a wickedly tasty white chocolate mousse meringue!

And so our time in Port Douglas was up. We had two days left before we flew back to Sydney from Cairns so we spent one of the days up at the Daintree, the rainforest area north of Port Douglas. Our first stop was at Bruce Belcher's crocodile cruises. Bruce runs hour-long crocodile trips and ours was fantastic. We saw lots of crocs, from enormous males to little baby ones lying on logs on the water. The rest of the boat also saw pythons in the trees although, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't see them. Luckily R could and he took some great photos of them. After a quick lunch in the Daintree Village we took the little chain ferry across the river and drove through the thick rainforest up to Cape Tribulation. Once there we walked through the rainforest to a lookout point where you could see right across the beach which was absolutely stunning. We then had an explore of the beach and R went right in among the mangrove trees to take some excellent photos. From Cape Tribulation we worked our way back down via a couple of amazing beaches, Cow Bay and a final lookout point over the Alexandra Range. It was a stunning drive and I can highly recommend it as a day trip.

We are now back in Cairns writing this and tomorrow fly back to Sydney for one last weekend to see the South Africa v Australia rugby match and to see Sanji again (seeing as Nicola has gone back to Scotland!). Then our time in Australia is up as we fly on to New Zealand next Tuesday, where our next update will come from.
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