Australia - Port Douglas

Trip Start Feb 25, 2006
Trip End Feb 25, 2007

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Hey everyone

Long time no speak - have you missed me?! Hope you are all well.

I've now managed to upload some photos for my Sydney entry, so you might want to take a look if/when you have time. You will notice there are some attached to this entry too - how organised am I?!

Unfortunately my last few days in Sydney I was ill (and feeling v. sorry for myself) with a throat infection/cold thing so I didn't get the chance to do as much as I would have liked to and tried to rest as much as possible in the hope that I would be feeling better for Port Douglas. On the Friday I managed to get out with the guys to the Australian Museum which was really interesting, especially a very informative section on the Indigenous (Aboriginal) people - it was shocking to read what they have been through with their children being taken from them (known as the 'Stolen Generation') and white people killing them as some kind of sick 'sport' to try and rid the country of them, I had no idea that most of it went on.

In the afternoon we got the ferry across to Manly so got some great views (and more photos!) of the harbour bridge and Opera House. We had some lunch, sat on Manly beach, and then Faz got his birthday present (roller skates - something about recapturing his youth now he's 30 I reckon ;-) so we had fun watching him rolling up and down the promenade on his new wheels and found a lovely little shop where us girls (me, Charlie & Jo) all ended up buying something!

Friday night we went out in Paddington, but unfortunately I didn't last long as I wasn't feeling well so I left the others to it, and from all accounts it sounds like they had a great night!

Saturday I decided to stay in and try to get myself better, so unfortunately missed out on my planned trip to Cronulla with Philippa, but hopefully will get to to do that when I am next back in Sydney. In the evening we went out for dinner on Darling Harbour for Charlotte's 30th birthday (which was the following day) and then on to a bar called Pier 26. Again I didn't stay out too late as I was still feeling rough, and on Sunday I stayed in again whilst the others went for brunch and did a lovely long walk from Bondi to Coogee - again something I will do when I am back in Sydney! In the evening everyone was pretty shattered from the last couple of weeks so we went to Wagamamas for dinner and came back and watched the Eurovision of all things - it was even the English version with commentary with good old Terry Wogan, so I felt right at home!

One good thing that happened over my weekend of being ill was that my Mum has booked to come out and visit me later in the year, hurrah!! Really looking forward to seeing her, although got 3 and a half months to wait until I do. She is going to come to Sydney so I will make sure I am back down there for when she arrives, and we are going to spend some time there, and then we're planning to fly to Adelaide, do the Great Ocean Road together and spend some time in Melbourne before she flies out again. Very exciting!!!

On Monday eight of us (me, Faz, Lee, Charlie, Jo, James, Helen and Karen) flew from Sydney to Cairns and picked up our two hire cars to drive up to Port Douglas (about an hour north of Cairns). Once we have managed to find our apartment we were amazed by it - it was mahoosive!! There were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, outside patio with another dining table, barbecue and a huge comfy sofa, and a pool that we shared with a couple of other apartments - just stunning, and made a lovely change from all the hostels I have experienced recently - it's going to take me a while to get back into backpacking mode after it I think!! The weather in Queensland is lovely too which was very welcome, as it's tropical up here it's quite humid, and most days the temperature is about 27/28 deg and the sun shines all the time - bliss!

Our first day in Port Douglas we took it easy and lazed by the pool which was lovely and just what we needed after all the partying and late nights in Sydney. In the afternoon Jo and I went for a walk along Four Mile Beach, which was just across the grass from our apartment. It was really pretty with palm trees and mango trees lining the beach and fallen coconuts and bits of driftwood scattered along it. Later on in the week we heard that a crocodile was spotted on the beach and they were considering closing it which was a bit scary - glad we didn't spot it!!

The next day we took the cars up to Cape Tribulation, crossing the Daintree River on a little car ferry. It was a really humid, tropical, hot day as we drove through the rainforest along winding roads lined with palms and lush green trees. We took a walk through the rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre along the Aerial Walkway on elevated boardwalks, up the Canopy Tower to get some views across the top of the rainforest and along the Bush Tucker Trail. It reminded me of the kind of scenery you see on the TV reality show "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" (which is filmed somewhere near where we were). Whilst in the Daintree we learnt about Cassowarys - big emu-like birds, and about all the poisonous things - animals, plants and fruit (including the aptly named Idiot Fruit) that live and grow in the rainforest. After learning about all of that and also seeing a MAHOOSIVE spider (got a photo of it!), plenty of big webs and lots of creepy crawlies I don't know how the 'celebs' do it, living out in the open rainforest for two weeks - rather them than me!

We then went on a cruise down the Daintree River to see the crocodiles, and we were lucky enough to see three of them - a baby, a mid-size one and one huge fat one (named 'Fat Albert'). Our guide, Terry, told us lots of interesting facts about crocs and also showed us various birds (including bee eaters and a kingfisher) as well as a tree snake and a python curled up in a tree. It was a really good trip.

The next day we went on a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef and it was DEFINITELY the new highlight of my trip - I had SUCH a great day, as I kept telling everyone that evening (sorry if I went on guys!). We were on the boat for about eight hours, so was a good long trip on a lovely, new catamaran called Silver Sonic. The whole day was really well organised, and we even got a fantastic buffet lunch onboard. I was very anxious about getting sea sick as I had heard stories about how rough it can be out there, but I took my trusty Travel Calm tablets and I was fine which I was very pleased about, particuarly as just before we got to the reef we hit some really huge waves and everyone was looking a bit green! We snorkelled at three different dive sites and saw thousands of beautiful, brightly coloured fish - including clown fish (we found Nemo!), zebra striped fish, a parrot fish, angel fish and many many others. I even saw a reef shark!! We were told that they're harmless but it gave me the heebies a bit, so I got out of the water pretty soon after that! Unfortunately none of the others were with me when I saw the shark, and as a result I'm sure they didn't believe me, but there were some photos of it later that the underwater photographer had taken so they had to believe me then ;-)

We also saw some barracuda, which look pretty scary with big teeth, and apparently they can give you a nasty nip. At the second dive site I was trying to get out of the water sharpish after my shark siting but there was one by the back of the boat that people were feeding for some reason and I was like "Erm, can you stop feeding it for a minute so I can get out?" as I was worried it would 'get me' as I swam past! It was funny looking back, but a tad scary at the time!!

We also had to wear stinger suits that had hoods on them so we were literally covered from head to toe (very attractive, see photo!) so we were protected in the eventuality that we encountered any stingers (box jellyfish whose stings can be fatal) as it's still stinger season.

Our snorkel guide, Simon, told us that the last time we visited the first dive site the helicopter had been buzzing around as a hammerhead shark had been spotted in the waters!! Luckily he told us this after we had left otherwise I don't think I would have got in!

The snorkelling was breathtakingly amazing, I kept making 'Wow!' and 'Omigod!' noises through my snorkel as I was just stunned at the amount of fish we could see and the vibrant colours of them and the coral. Charlie said I kept popping my head up and pointing into the water going "Look at this!" - I think that's how I ended up with a sunburnt nose!! The memories of the Great Barrier Reef will definitely stay with me forever, completely unforgettable and it blew me away.

The following day, our last one in Port Douglas, Jo and I drove to an 'Aboriginal Experience' place called Tjapukia. It was really interesting - we watched a couple of videos about the Tjapukia tribe and their beliefs, we saw traditional tribal dancing (which gave me goosebumps, much like the Maori concert in NZ!), then we were given a didgeridoo demonstration, a talk about plants that are used by the Aboriginies for medicinal purposes, and we also got to have a go at spear and boomerang throwing. It was a good experience that took a good couple of hours to get around, and it had a great gift shop with authentic Aboriginal art and didgeridoos for sale. I didn't end up getting a didgeridoo unfortunately, would have been fun practicing that when I get home!!

All too soon it was Saturday and time for the others to head back to Sydney and then back to the UK (for Charlie, Jo, James and Karen). It was really, really sad to say goodbye to them all when they dropped me off at my hostel in Cairns. I had SUCH a great time with them all over the past few weeks - we all got on so well, had many laughs and created lots of happy memories together. I miss you all lots!!

So, now I'm on my own again in Cairns. I spent a couple of nights in Gilligan's, which is a hotel backpacker resort - very swish and funky but a bit impersonal (and expensive!) for my liking. Today I moved to Cairns Girls Hostel which is a lot smaller, more homely and cheaper and has lots of long termers staying there. I am currently job hunting, and if I do manage to find something I will stay where I am I think and hopefully make some new friends there. If I don't manage to find anything then I will head off down the east coast, see if I find some work along the way, and if still no luck I will get some work when I arrive back in Sydney as it should be easier to find work there, and of course I have some lovely pals in Faz, Lee, Philippa and Helen to play with there!

I quite like the idea of staying in Cairns as the weather is guaranteed to be better up here and it's nice that the sun is out every day. Hopefully a job will come up in the next week or two, but I think I will leave that up to fate to decide.

Anyway, that's me for now - another mammoth entry I realise so apologies for that! Look forward to hearing from you all soon with your news.

Love and reef sharks
Shiraznay x
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