It has been a few weeks since we are back home but there are a couple more posts at least to complete our trip to Australia. The last week we were there we went up to Port Douglas, fully aware that a cyclone had devastated Fiji and
Whitesunday but we had booked and organized everything so we went head and hoped for the best.
This time we flew with Virgin Blue and it was a much more pleasant experience than Quantas. Everybody from airport staff to airplane crew were very friendly and helpful both on the way to Cairns and on the return flight. At the airport in Melbourne we also met Joseph Pouliotis, our friend from Adelaide who actually had just landed in Melbourne. We could not see anything on our approach to the Cairns International Airport as the clouds hung low and there were heavy rains. We quickly made our way to the rental company, everything seemed to be a bit more chaotic than at the airports we had seen in Australia and this was low season. We picked up our Suzuki Vitara, I would never recommend this car to anyone. Port Douglas is about 60 kays north of Cairns and the road, named after James Cook, is beautiful. The windy road takes you close to many beaches and the view is just plain spectacular, it would have been even better if the skies were not gray. On our way we past well known beaches like Palm Cove, Trinity Beach, Turtle Beach and others.
Port Douglas was established a little over 100 years ago as a mining town and it was almost deserted at the beginning of the 20th century after the completion of the Kuranda Railway in Cairns and a devastating cyclone in 1911 that left only two buildings standing. In the 1960s the town had a population of less than 100. It wasn’t until the 80’s when the town started to develop into one of the best towns in Australia, it currently ranks on the #3 spot on the 100 Best Towns in Australia. It certainly is a great town. It is a
tropical little heaven with very good beaches and although in high season it doubles in size the town is very small and you can walk it in a couple of hours. On its north side there are very nice homes on a hill that overlooks the Four Mile Beach and the tropical forest that extends all the way to the beach. We stayed on Macrossan Street in a place called Reflections of Port Douglas and Carmel, the owner, made everything possible to make our stay comfortable. Her apartments are great but what I found outstanding is her hospitality and easy going manner, Ben will miss her. Reflections is about two minutes from the beach and five minutes from the center of town so its location is great especially if you have a baby with you.
We only had three full days in Port Douglas so we had to make the most out of it. The main reason for going to Port Douglas was for Beth to go the Great Barrier Reef, one of the two world heritage in the area. So we organized for her to go on a boat on Tuesday, the only day where the weather was going to be half-decent. As Beth gets seasick we had very
little choice as we had to choose the biggest ship that went out there. We chose Quicksilver and if you ever have the chance avoid them. The crew seemed very rude before they even left and from what Beth described they were not very helpful or nice. Anyway, we suspected that it might be that way but we had to choose them. It was already late afternoon so we quickly went onto the Four Mile Beach and took a stroll down the beach. The beach was closed for swimming and the sea was rough but what made this visit to the beach memorable were the warning signs around it. Crocodiles, stingers, slippery rocks, strong currents, tides and we shall not forget the stingrays, Steve Irvin the “Crocodile Hunter” was killed by one off the shores of Port Douglas. So as with most places in Australia dangers lurk around but we adhered to the quintessential Australian adage of no worries and walked on the beach, to be fair we were not alone. Macrossan St. is really the center of town and we headed out that way when we came back from the beach. We found good food, good desserts and as always great coffee, prices were fair with the exception of ice cream which is very expensive everywhere in Australia and not
really as good as our gelaterias here in Germany. Of course all shops were closed and that is really I never understood about Australia, why do shops close so early? We were forced not to spend any money, which is not bad after all. Most liquor shops though are open until very late, I guess work little drink a lot is the motto! That is not bad, not bad at all.
The next day Beth went on to the Great Barrier Reef with Quicksilver and the day did not look good at all. Skies were gray, clouds hung low and it was windy, which means that out in the open sea the waves would be rough. There are hundreds of people that fit on the quicksilver and looking at them board I was wondering if they had read the weather report. There were people with strollers, families with toddlers, elderly people that needed assistance to walk, did they know what they were in for? Ben and me waited for mum to board and we sat at a bar at the marina to have a coffee and Ben his milk. We then got into the car and headed north towards Daintree and Mossmann, I could not wait to get to into the rain forest. We were disappointed, this area has been cleared long ago
for the production of mainly sugar cane and sugar cane fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Mossman is also known for its 2-foot gauge tramways, these trams that look like small trains run along the fields and were crucial for the development of the regional economy and Mossman was bigger and richer than Port Douglas for many years. We then took to the back roads through tiny towns and sugar cane fields, Ben in the mean time was asleep and did not seem to mind the constant opening and shutting of the door as I had to get out to take pictures. This region is so
far from anything and there are just not enough people so the infrastructure is not as great as one would expect but it is a beautiful place to live. It is always green, there is the proximity to the highlands and of course the awesome beaches make this region very attractive. There is always Cairns about 80 km south of Mossman that provides for anything anyone would want. We drove through some streets where houses were literally in the jungle, it is difficult to imagine how you can live so close to “uncomfortable” nature. The low clouds provided for some dramatic scenery as the surrounding hills were engulfed in them. In the afternoon we went to pick Beth up and watched as the Quicksilver catamaran approached the marina and people disembarked. It to
ok a while but then we saw Beth all wobbly, the first thing she said is food but she pale was as pale as alpine snow. They encountered rough seas and well over half the people on that boat became seasick, Beth unfortunately was among them. On the way out she had great difficulty and the pills that they gave her did not help as they did not have time to kick in. Ben was happy to see his mum, we sat at a restaurant at the marina and something small to eat. It was still early but Beth had to relax so we drove to the apartment.
We spend four nights in Port Douglas and we went out all four nights, Macrossan St., the main street in Port Douglas is very nice. It is lined up with small boutique shops (that we never saw in operation) and many restaurants and hotels (remember hotels in Australia are not necessarily hotels in Australia rather they are pubs that may or may not offer rooms to let). We tried a different restaurant each time and once even tried Mexican (my Burritos are better;), the food was good and prices surprisingly down to earth considering that Port Douglas is considered a high end tourist destination, in Europe prices would have been much higher. It rained every night but as during the day it was warm. We decided to drive up to Cape Tribulation on the next day, the route would take us through part of the route that I had just done but we would push on farther north take the ferry over the Daintree river and then drive through the jungle onto Cape Trib as local call it. The road ends at C
ape Trib and there is dirt truck that is impassable for most cars during wet season for I believe about 100km to Cooktown. Cooktown is the place where Captain Cook was stranded for a few weeks on the natural harbor after sustaining heavy damage on his lead ship. It is also in Cooktown that the name Kangaroo came to be as it was one of about 50 words that Cook learned from the local Aborigines, the tribe of Guugu Yimithirr. It was not until the mid sixties that any kind of road actually reached Cape Trib, it proved to be a lively road with loads of
tourists, especially back packers and the younger crowd. The road took as through field of sugar cane to the Daintree river. Once we crossed the river we found ourselves in the rainforest, the windy road was very narrow and the trees were towering over the road, there were only a few spots where we could see the gray skies. It rained almost non stop so we did not have the opportunity to get out of the car for pictures but we nevertheless enjoyed the majestic beauty of one of the oldest forests on earth. We never got see a Cassowary but we saw plenty of spiders a
nd many warning signs to keep off any creek or river banks because of crocodiles. We stopped at the Daintree Discover Center, an excellent little center in the rainforest with skywalks and different displays, signs and information explaining and pointing out the peculiarities and uniqueness of the forest. As it is the rainy season the mosquitos are on overdrive and let
`me tell you if you are ever in this situation wear bright and shiny colors as they are the best defense against them, as fate had it I had a navy blue t-shirt on which attracted mosquitos like you never seen before, they like to hide in the dark. We did visit the center and did walk around for about an hour, we even went up the tower that takes you higher than the tree canopies for a breathtaking view (it was cloudy). It is also here that we saw the tree called the stinging tree or better known locally as “dead man’s itch”. According to the guide book if you are stung you will believe all the stories that surround this tree, there were signs to warn us. Well besides the humidity, rain, toxic trees,
ferocious mosquitoes we also saw spiders that were bigger than the palm of my hand and supposedly there were snakes around. It is an experience to say the least but soaking wet with Ben complaining in his pouch I started dreaming about all that snow that we had back home in Germany! We decided to cut our visit in the center short and head farther north to our destination, Cape Trib. I found it amazing that there were houses scattered about in this so densely forested region. I cannot believe that there are people that voluntarily live on in this place, it is one thing to visit or stay for a little while but to live there forever, hmmm!?! I guess you have to love insects and uncontrolled growth of all sorts of weeds…