Port Douglas - Paradise Found

Trip Start Nov 12, 2007
Trip End Aug 01, 2008

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

We left Cairns on Saturday morning and congratulated ourselves on finding the cheapest transfer shuttle bus available. When it turned up we were relieved to see it did have wheels and seats. It was immediately clear that we did not fit the normal socio - economic profile of the normal passengers using this service:
- on getting into the bus the average age of the passengers considerably increased
- we were the only ones to fasten our seatbelts
- neither of us were familiar with the expletive filled tune being played on the radio
- we not only had suitcases (which had to go on the seats) we had large suitcases. The looks from the fellow passengers brought back flashbacks of the beagle's contemptuous look in Perth airport
- the driver commented that we were quiet on the journey up, but we had difficulty contributing to the conversations about white water rafting, bungee jumping and techniques when you go sky diving.
- the driver knew where the backpackers / camping sites were but had never heard of our accommodation.

When we alighted from the bus, we felt all of our thirty something years. However, it was a very scenic coastal drive from Cairns to Port Douglas and the driver was very friendly and informative on the way up. Door to door service for under 8 pounds each can't be bad. E
We came to Port Douglas on the advice of Rob Evans and Dave Chew (thanks) and it has been fantastic. We are staying 50yards from Four Mile Beach which is wonderfully quiet and sandy and great for walking (and running before it gets too hot) as it does high 80's every day. You can only swim in a small area though because of the jellyfish.The town is great not too busy with all the facilities and a marina and palm trees everywhere.

On monday we went out onto the Great Barrier Reef to go snorkelling which was one of things we were looking forward to most and it did not disappoint. We went out on one of the smaller boats and there were about 40 of us either snorkelling or diving for the day from the back of the boat. They take you out to three different sites and just let you get on with it. It is fabulous just like being in a giant tropical fish tank with the fish swimming all around and the beautiful coral just below. Can't do justice to it in words but it is just like when you see it underwater on tv. Water was warm and they even had prescription masks so I could see. (Arth and Mike you'd love it). Bit daunting when you first start though, out an hour and half into the sea and nothing on the horizon and they just open the back of the boat and off you go. They do give help to novices and though I had never done it before I wasn't going to wait around for that but was about 50 yards from boat when realised it wasn't my technique but the current which was contributing to my speed and had to work out my flipper technique pretty rapidly. Not that there was any danger as we had flotation devices and I just had to avoid the embarrassment of them sending out the dinghy to fetch me as they had to with some people. At the second and third stops the current was back to the boat so it was very easy and relaxed and the underwater views were so memorable. Not sure anything will beat that on the trip.

The next day Emma decided to have a rest (from me?) as I went on a small 6 person safari into the tropical rainforest behind Port Douglas with a very informative guide. This was another memorable day seeing the forest close up. We went crocodile hunting but (unfortunately or fortunately) we only saw one small youngish croc and not his mummy or daddy. We had a swim in a rainforest stream to cool off which was great though I was a little sceptical until the guide also got in. I was even more nervous when he found some green ants to lick saying they tasted like lemon and were a great source of vitamin C. They actually tasted like the lemon sherbert sweets we had as children but I wont be adding them to my regular diet. Saw loads of plants including the one they get one of the AID's drugs from and even a lawyer vine which is apparently a nasty piece of work.

We were both out on the next trip which was out over the small mountain range behind Cairns/Port Douglas into the small town of Kuranda. We went up in the cable car which is one of the longest rides in the world with views out to sea and over the rainforest canopy as we travelled above it. There were a couple of stops on the way to see the forest and the Barren Falls waterfall which was not anywhere near capacity as they are just coming into their rainy season. Kuranda was a small but pleasant touristy town and we visited a butterfly sanctuary (Emma's idea) and a Koala Park (mine, for obvious reasons for those of you who have known me for a very long time). We then came back down via the scenic mountain railway which winds down the gorge with some great views when you are not in one of the 15 tunnels. A touristy day but still very enjoyable.

A quiet day today and then back on the road and in the air tomorrow. Will report when we can. R
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