Saturday, April 2, 2011

Upside Down - Episode 5

Day 18 - March 28:

After a light breakfast it was time to put all the brains together and decide what would be the activities of choice for Port Douglas.  Before arriving in Port Douglas, the owners of our hotel (Julie and Gavin) had suggested making no bookings until we had an idea of the weather and could discuss options with them.  It was decided to spend the first day taking the Skyrail to Kuranda, and to book for the Great Barrier Reef for Day 19 and a Daintree Rainforest Tour for Day 20.

At 11:00 we left for the Skyrail terminal about an hour south of Port Douglas.  Michel and Chad opted for a return Skyrail ticket, while Dino and Graham chose the Skyrail outbound and the Kuranda Heritage Railway ride for the return.

The trip started with all four boarding the Skyrail for the ride atop the Rainforest.  An informative brochure described what could be seen as you passed over the various towers.  The ride was spectacular.  At the first transfer point - the Red Peak Station - Michel and Chad continued on and Dino and Graham got off to take a guided tour of this section of the rain forest and some of the insects. Michel and Chad would stop-off at the two transfer points on the return journey.

The second part of the ride was to the Baron Falls Station.  At this station, there were fantastic lookouts to the Baron Falls, walkways through the vegetation and an Interpretive Centre.  After some time at this stop, D and G took the final Skyrail ride to Kuranda, a small tourist village on the edge of the rain forest.

It was time for lunch and while eating Michel and Chad appeared.  Apparently they had stopped at the same cafe, opted for the same food and sat at the same table.  M and C left to further explore the village while D and G walked around some interesting tourist shops.

At 3:30 p.m. Dino and Graham  climbed about the Kuranda Heritage Railway for the 1 hout 30minute ride.  The ride included one stop for an up-close look of the Baron Falls.  After experiencing a lot of fantastic views and traveling through 15 tunnels, the train made its way down the mountainside and arrived at exactly 5:00 o'clock at Freshwater Station.  The other two intrepid travelers completed their return Skyrail trip and drove to the same point.  It was then time for the drive back to the hotel.  Julie and Gavin were there to welcome us back and find out how the day had gone.

A brief walk into town was followed by a Mexican Dinner where the owner, another Brit who was born close to where Graham studied in London, provided some background as to how Port Douglas was dealing with all the weather-related problems.  Although many part of Queensland had suffered from the flooding and the cyclone, Port Douglas had only be slightly affected.  Unfortunately, hyped media stories had kept many visitors away.

Day 19 - March 29:

This was the day to go out to the Great Barrier Reef.  A definite highlight of the trip. 

The hotel pick-up was at 8:10 a,m, and at around 9:00 the Poseidon embarked.  With Graham on board, Michel, Chad and Dino wondered if this boat would suffer the same fate as the one in the movie.

After coffee, tea and muffins and brief introductions, the boat left for the 75 km trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.  The decision to rent an underwater digital camera proved to be a good one.  During the journey, information was given regarding the days activities and instructions on using the snorkeling equipment.  All seemed fairly simple but difficulties awaited some!

Once in position, it was time for the first dive.  We all donned our stinger suits and made our way to the stern of the boat.  Chad jumped in like a fish,  Graham followed but could not master breathing through the snorkel.  Dino and Michel experienced similar difficulties.  Chad spent the dive taking some underwater shots of the coral reef, the many brilliantly coloured fish and yes, even some sharks!

Graham's problem was solved when Jason, the instructor, suggested he needed a bigger mouthpiece.  Graham has a big mouth - who would have thought!   With the change to the mouthpiece Graham joined in the dive.  Michel and Dino managed a small dive for their first try.

After about an hour, the first dive was over and the boat headed off to the second location.  The second dive would also last about an hour and was the best of the thee dives. Chad and Graham explored the reef and exchanged camera duties.  Michel got a personal reef tour with Jason and Dino decided he would stay on board.

With two dives completed, it was time to head for the third and last location.  Once the boat was mored it was time for lunch. We wondered if lunch would make the third dive a little more tiring and to some extent this was true.  Michel and Dino passed on this dive but Chad and Graham took the opportunity for one more go.  For this dive, Jason took the group around a section of coral diving down to indicate some to the special creatures that inhabit the coral as well as some of the different coral growths.  Once again, Chad and Graham exchanged camera duties and both got some unique shots.

With the third dive completed, it was time for "tea and biscuits", some "stronger refreshments" and the ride back to Port Douglas Harbour.

Once back at the hotel, Julie and Gavin were there again to welcome us back and make sure we had had another great day.  In fact, they had arranged for free passes to a local Wildlife Sanctuary that we would use on the final morning in Port Douglas,

Back at the hotel there was time for a short dip in the pool.  For the enjoyment of the readers, the four tried their hands at synchronized swimming (any experts can give their technical merit and artistic impression scores).  After a day in the water, it was time to head downtown for dinner. 

Before reaching one of the local pubs we met some fellow travelers from Ottawa. They were at the same restaurant we had been to the night before.  At the pub, we followed the Ausie self-serve procedure and ordered the drinks at one bar, the food at another, and, once the food was ready, collected the food.  It would have been complete if we also cleared the table but the staff took-over for the last action.

Day 20 - March 30:
This day's tour was to the Daintree Rainforest.

For Dino the day started with what appeared to be an allergic reaction on his face to bug bite or something else. He had noticed something the day before but it had worsened overnight. Was it possible this resulted from having spent the day visiting Kuranda with Graham?

This pick-up was at 8:45 and the van arrived exactly on time.  The Ottawa four joined four others, two from Sydney on their honeymoon, and two from Melbourne.

The first part of the tour was a short walk through the Mossman Gorge.  Mossman is the name of a large local sugar refinery.  Sugar is a big industry for the Cairns/Port Douglas area and alongside most of the roads are acres and acres of sugar canes.  During the first walk our first lizard was spotted on a tree near the walkway.

After a brief stop for coffee, tea and muffins, we all boarded a small electric boat for a one-hour ride on the Daintree River. This was listed as a "Crocodile Boat Cruise" and we had the first sighting at the very beginning of the cruise. The guide brought the boat only meters from the resting croc!   A second sighting would follow later.  Both were saltwater crocks, a solitary and aggressive species.

Back in the van it was time for a ferry-ride across the river into the Daintree Rainforest, a walk on Cape Tribulation Beach and a Bar-B-Q lunch in the Noah Valley - a World Heritage private property.


Following lunch there were two more walks through different parts of the Rainforest, one to see the rarest and most primitive flowering plants.  The tour concluded with a brief stop to sample some homemade ice cream of local and exotic fruit flavours and a drive back to the hotel.

With Dino's symptoms persisting, a visit as made to a local "chemist" (aka pharmacy).  The chemist did not consider it serious and recommended an antihistamine.

As was the custom, Julie and Gavin greeted us and all seemed to be going well until a call from Julie at 6:00 p.m. alerted us to a big snag in our plans. 

Heavy rains and floods south of Port Douglas had closed roads on our route and there was no way to avoid them.  With heavy rains still predicted, it was not recommended to start the drive south to Sydney and hope to get through.  Luckily, by 7:30 p.m., flights had been booked to leave Cairns the next day and fly directly to Brisbane.  It was possible to change the hotel booking in Brisbane to arrive several days early and cancel some of the bookings.  We were very lucky that Julie and Gavin had let us know in time.

Somewhat relieved it had been possible to make alternate arrangements so quickly, the flexible four headed for dinner.  It was hoped to have dinner on the waterfront at a local club (one of many clubs in Australia where you get a very good deal) but they were so busy we were out of luck.  Will have to try this again later in the trip.

Day 21 - March 31:

All packed and with a goodbye and considerable thanks to Julie and Gavin, it was off to Breakfast with the Birds at a local Wildlife Sanctuary.

In addition to many different birds, there were various species of Kangaroos, Crocodiles, Lizards, and even a couple Southern Cassowary birds.  A solitary flightless bird that inhabits the floor of the rain forest, eats the large fruit that drops to the ground and, after digestion, its droppings help to distribute the seeds.  It is considered that some seeds need to go through the bird's digestive tract to be able to germinate.

Once the rental car was returned (undamaged again!) we checked-in and fortunately all the checked and carry-on bags were accepted without extra fees.  It was a long wait for the flight which provided a chance to have lunch, relax, and check-out the airport souvenir shops.

The flight to Brisbane was uneventful, except for a very heavy landing.  With yet another rental contract signed and the car loaded it was time to drive to the city of Brisbane.  Even with the GPS this was not a simple matter.  Lots of overpasses confused the GPS.

Now in Brisbane, days earlier than planned, a very late night was spent looking at options for the journey from Brisbane to Sydney.  Unfortunately, the time spent did not yield much as finding hotels for the chosen towns proved very difficult.  Another attempt will be made in the morning.

Day 22 - April 1:

The day before had been a long one so this day did not start that early.  The weather started bright but after breakfast it began to rain.  The best choice for the morning was to continue the search for hotels for the journey from Brisbane to Sydney.  Since the flooding had made it necessary to cancel some hotels, calls were made to confirm the deposits would be refunded.

Dino's infection had worsened so he visited another chemist who kindly arranged for an appointment at a local doctor's office.  He returned with confirmation of an infection from some source and some drugs to help clear it up.

The search for hotels was more successful than the night before and bookings were obtained at all the places we intended to stop, including at Noosa Heads, about an hour north of Brisbane.

With all the bookings made, luckily the rain had stopped and, since parking is difficult and very expensive in Brisbane's Central Business District (CBD), we hopped a cab for the short ride downtown. 

Before walking around the CBD, a light lunch was had at the Grand Central Hotel, a pub style restaurant which seemed very popular with the office and other workers.

After the brief walk about which included a stop-off at St. John's Cathedral, closed to prepare for an evening performance,  we returned to the hotel to freshen-up before heading downtown again for dinner.

Dinner was at a takeaway restaurant on a pedestrian mall and followed by drinks at some of the local pubs.  At the final stop before calling it quits for the night, the pub put on a midnight show that was really really good.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gentlemen,
    Wow, you have seen some spectacular sights. The Baron Falls look especially breathtaking. You had Mexican on the 28th. Seems to me you could have found some place closer to Ottawa to have a taco! CARLA