Australia : Port Douglas

Two flights, 5 hours waiting in an airport and a 1 1/2 hr drive from Cairns to Port Douglas.

When I read it back it doesn’t seem so long at all! We watched Avatar on our IThings, read a lot of ebooks and did whatever we could to kill time. Painless and the girls were very patient.

Great Barrier Reef

Where we were staying in Port Douglas was awesome; a two bedroom apartment with garden area, whirlpool bath and plunge pool. Fully kitted out BBQ too! (though these may me required by Australian law).  We were going to spend more time lounging and less time rushing to cross things off the bucket-list for this part of the holiday.

Sitting around eating, drinking and reading; woohoo!

We DID spice up the rampant lazy decadence with a couple of trips.

The first was an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. The day commenced with a long boat ride to a permanent pontoon on the reef. Plenty of information about snorkelling and the critters on the reef. We had a lovely buffet lunch when we arrived and then got into our suits.

The suits weren’t wet suits but were rather full body lycra cat-suits to protect us from the various stinging nasties in the sea. To be honest I was initially doubtful I could pull off “head to toe lycra” look but clearly I look good in anything.

Everything was well organised and painless; after eating we picked up snorkels, face-masks and flippers for our respective sizes. They offered ‘prescription’ face-masks on request but I was doubtful they’d have any set for ‘myopic mole’ but they came through with a pretty good approximation of my bottle-top glasses.

Apart from the rules for the reef (don’t damage it, don’t be an idiot) the only rule was “it’s easy to damage yourself, don’t put your flippers on until you’re in the water”. Fairly straight forward but comedy gold was provided by an enormous Japanese tourist staggering about with an oversized pair on, falling over repeatedly and apologising to the various children he sent flying (including one of mine). It was like a particularly low-budget Godzilla re-enactment. Luckily one of the staff overcame the language barrier by repeatedly shouting ‘flippers!’ while waving his hands wildly in the general direction of the sea.

The Reef itself was spectacular. The few hours we had flew by as you watched the various fish trundle around. You’d end up in the middle of brightly-coloured schools and they’d dart towards you as much as away. The girls are good swimmers and we went about the farthest out from the pontoon without realising it. The current was strong but easy to counter with the flippers.

A submersible ride (I like turtles!) and a quick walk through the underwater observatory rounded out the day. The girls picked the brains of one of the resident marine biologists on the way home and I barbecued to finish the day off.

The other trip was day seeing the rainforest. We were met at the hotel by Randall, who was technically our guide. Guide doesn’t quite go far enough though as he drove us, walked us through the various areas, explained what we were seeing, got us to lunch, told us the history of the various areas and stopped us from interacting with the more lethal wildlife. And he pretty much talked non-stop for an entire day without droning or being irritatingly up-beat. He made the day awesome.

Even without Randall-The-Polymath the day would have been great. We were touring a rainforest. I am not an outdoors person (that may be understating the situation colossally).  Walks aren’t my thing; greenery is tedious; I don’t really like beaches and nature just winds me up with its disorganisation and flagrant lack of a fairness but forests; forests were always the exception to my sensible ‘avoid all wildlife, always’ rule.

And this was dense, copious forest-age;

  • The strangler fig that grows down from a seed at the top of an enormous tree, encases it with roots and then remains standing when its host dies away.
  • ‘Stay-Awhile’ vines that you have to wait for help to remove (or carefully backtrack to get them to the barbs to come out how they went in).
  • Bright-purple poisonous ‘plums’ that rely on being eaten by a cassowary before they become fertile.
  • Black palm trees that had bark tougher than stone.

And even when you weren’t seeing something in particular (most of the action happened 10s of metres above us in the canopy) you had a sense of being enfolded by the forest. The paths were only maintained enough to stop them overgrowing completely so you always felt peaceful and secluded.

Amazing.

The other things we did were pretty cool too; we spotted crocs of various sizes on a river boat, saw some gorgeous scenery from different lookouts, had a fantastic steak for lunch and ended the day with 4 scoops of weird and wonderful ice-cream (it varies daily and you don’t get to choose the four flavours; Wattleseed was my favourite).

The day was finished off by a scenic car-ferry ride accompanied by colourful stories of how people had managed to kill themselves on scenic car-ferry rides. Then back home for a couple of BSGs and a beer!

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