Saturday – Sydney by Ferry

April 18, 2006 at 2:12 am (Australia, Report)


Sydney Ferry

Originally uploaded by MikeWilcox.

Ann & Samantha went swimming on Saturday, joining me afterwards for a leisurely breakfast.

If you're staying on circular quay, the obvious thing to do first is get on a ferry. So we did – just around the corner to Darling harbour. We wandered for a while before stopping in a Cafe for lunch.

Ann wanted to see the markets in Paddington, so we then started a convoluted trip – via Circular Quay again – that eventually got us there just before they started to pack away. We know the bus routes a little better now, so know that we could have saved *ages* by walking 2 blocks east. Ho hum.

Afterwards, we meandered back again, and ended up having tea in Darling harbour too. We'll have to go back, to see the aquarium and perhaps one or two of the other museums.

A ferry home got us back in time for Samantha to have a bath, and for daddy to do the nighttime photos that you saw the other day.

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Friday – To Sydney

April 18, 2006 at 2:03 am (Australia, Report)


The Reef from 27000 feet

Originally uploaded by MikeWilcox.

It was time to leave the tropics, and head for Sydney. A shame… I'm not sure I've enjoyed a week's holiday like that since Ann and I were in Kenya. It was excellent!

The check-out time was 10:00, so we organised the transfer coach for the same time – no point in hanging around with all the luggage in the humidity.

There were a couple of local pickups, but no visits to any of the other beaches, so it was quite a quick journey back to Cairns. It gave us plenty of time for lunch before the flight.

The flight itself was fuller than the one from Melbourne, so no face-painting this time. Sam managed to keep herself going with more colouring, and on the whole was pretty good for a long boring flight.

The initial route took a sharp left away from Cairns and over the sea, giving us a great view of various reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. Pretty soon, we were back over land, and the view changed to something hot, red and dusty.

Arrival in Sydney was easy enough – pausing for something for Ann to eat. The train into the centre was easy and quick – nothing like you'd get on a Friday afternoon in Heathrow & London (maybe being Good Friday helped), and left us with a 300m walk to the hotel near Circular Quay.

We changed, and went to the top-floor lounge to take advantage of the free drinks. There were snacks, but not really enough to feed Sam properly. And the lounge was full, so we couldn't get seats with a view at first, but that changed.

But we were all tired, so headed for an earlyish night.

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Fruit Bats

April 18, 2006 at 1:41 am (Australia, Quick News)


Fruit Bat

Originally uploaded by MikeWilcox.

One afternoon, we saw this fruit bat land in the tree outside the apartment. He was pretty busy scouring it for things to eat. And he wasn't small.

Later that evening, as we walked into town, we discovered he was part of an invasion… there were loads in the trees, squawking away, and frequently taking flight.

These weren't the cute, small, almost silent bats that I've watched around the canals in the UK. They're huge… and have a terrifying wingspan when you catch them against the darkening sky. Think Dracula…

Ann didn't say anything, so I'm sure she wasn't impressed.. but Sam was.

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Thursday – Port Douglas

April 18, 2006 at 1:34 am (Australia, Report)

Thursday was a bit of a slow day, and it rained frequently… It was probably the only day that the rain got in the way of things.

Ann caught up with a few more pampering sessions in Port Douglas, while Samantha & I had a couple of sessions in the pool (rain didn't stop play there!), and a walk on the beach. We might only have been 50 yards away from the beach, but we hardly went – there were so many things to do elsewhere.

It has been an excellent time here, and I can recommend Port Douglas over Cairns to anyone. Just remember that the various tours and activities can make a big dent in your wallet!

The last thing to do here was to organise all the washing, ironing and packing before flying to Sydney – an annoying necessity. This wasn't helped by the dishwasher continously tripping out the electricity.

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Wednesday – Birthday

April 15, 2006 at 11:54 pm (Australia)

This was Ann’s Birthday, so started with the various birthday cards. Of course. Ann didn’t know she was getting any cards because Samantha is so good at keeping surprises secret… NOT!

Breakfast was a repeat with the birds, plus a qouch look at the crocs and kangaroos. This time we managed to see & touch a python at their presentation… a strange, soft feel, not at all rough, scaly, or slimy.

We then look the car back – and what a bargain! About £9O for 3 days.

Lunch in town was followed, for Ann, by her going off for a pampering session. Samantha & I headed for the apartment for an afternoon of swimming. While visiting reception, we discovered that they had a couples of ”noodles” – which are 3 ft-long flexible polyethylene tubes. They are used as flotation aids, but are much better than the standard flat boards – they can be held under arms, legs or behind the neck, or simply in the hands. They seem to help add stability too.

With the noodle, Samantha was gradually getting more confident – certainly she was ok with swimming by herself, even if she isn’t very fast!

And what birthday wouldn’t be complete without a meal out?

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Harbour Bridge at Night

April 15, 2006 at 11:47 am (Australia, Quick News)


Harbour Bridge at Night

Originally uploaded by MikeWilcox.

You can't beat having a view like this.

It's well worthwhile going for a club room in the Intercontinental hotel, giving you access to the club lounge on the top floor.

Free drinks between 5:30 and 7:30, and this for a view…

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Leaky Goggles

April 15, 2006 at 10:30 am (Australia)


Mike

Originally uploaded by MikeWilcox.

I was looking at this photo with a larger resolution, and realised it gives a good idea of how much the goggles were leaking in the 1st swim at the reef.

Follow the link to Flickr, and look at one of the larger images – you can quite easily see the water-level inside the mask… and I'd hardly been moving by this point.

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Tuesday – Daintree & Mossman

April 14, 2006 at 11:48 pm (Australia)

Finally, Samantha got to visit the pool again, with a pre- breakfast swim. She’s definitely getting more confident in the water.

We decided to keep the car for a day longer to go up to Mossman and Daintree rainforest. We originally were going to take a tour for this, but the cost of tour of $650 or the car for the day at $60 made the decision easy.

First stop was Mossman gorge, to see the only accessible bit of the rainforest National Park. A short trek through the trees brought us to the gorge, with more of the boardwalk making a decent lookout. Upstream was a cable suspension bridge – rather like the kind of rope bridge you would expect in a Tarzan movie. It actually seemed to be made of metal poles a little like scaffolding poles back home, but it moved around a fair amount as you walked down to the middle. I can understand why there is a limit of 20 people on there.

At this point, the day was pretty wet, and this meant that there weren’t that many people there. Fine by us – it meant a pretty quiet spot as we looked around.

We also stopped for lunch in the small town of Mossman – probably our first stop in a more rural location, where all the shops are aimed at locals and agriculture rather than tourists. It fitted with my image of an outback/rural location, with most of the shops lining the main street being the mish- mash design of privately owned shops rather than the national branded shops we seem to get nowadays in the UK. The street itself has angled parking on either side, plus parking across the middle – very much like the market towns I remember back when I was much younger.

We then drove up towards Daintree village itself – we didn’t have enough time to take the ferry across the river, and tour up to Cape Tribulation (shame – while writing this, I’ve seen some adverts for an interesting-looking discovery centre just 10km north of the ferry). There’s nothing much in the village itself, but between the village and the ferry are a couple of places that run boat trips down the Daintree river.

We shot past the sign for the first before we realised what it was, and stopped at the second. However, they were unsure whether they would ran a tour later, as they were waiting tor a bus that was delayed, and their current boatload had been delayed by the rains earlier in the day. Very nicely, they phoned back to the first to see if they had another tour that day.

So we ended up on Bruce Belcher’s last tour of the day, with an hour-long boat- trip, hunting for wildlife. Of course, most people wanted to see crocs. Preferably engaged in a frantic death- roll with some hapless prey. And of course, this is not what we got to see…

We did get to see a mother, with the remaining few of her brood, sunning themselves on a mudbank – the rest of the brood got washed away by a flood a few days after they hatched. We also saw a tree-snake (harmless), but while manouvering the boat, also found another croc sitting on the mud by my elbow – but I think he was more shocked than I was.

The trip back to Douglas was only eventful by my avoiding the speed-trap in Mossman – probably by my experimenting with the cruise-control!

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The Greedy Kangaroo

April 13, 2006 at 5:01 am (Australia)


The Greedy Kangaroo

Originally uploaded by MikeWilcox.

Here's a kangaroo being fed at the Rainforest Habitat in Port Douglas. It should also give a useful link over to the photographs on Flickr. No more for a couple of days now though… starting to get ready to fly down to Sydney now.

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Monday – Kuranda

April 13, 2006 at 4:07 am (Australia)

With the car, we went a short distance out of Port Douglas for "Breakfast with the birds" – there's a small zoo that specialises in the wetland and rainforest birds, along with the obligatory koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles.

Breakfast is a large hot & cold buffet, but it is located in a large aviary, with a lot of birds flying & walking around. The most persistent ones will jump or fly onto the tables to grab their breakfast – with the egrets being the most daring. The rainbow lorikeets are the cutest, and can be tempted by leaving a glass of orange juice at the end of the table.

One girl had one of the lorikeets perched on her arm, pecking at a pack of honey. Sam wasn't that brave, but she was fine with the birds flying around, and with the lorikeets on the table- but less so with the egrets.

After breakfast, it was time to see the koalas. Sleepy as ever, these were the shorter – haired variety & Sam managed to stroke one of the more tame ones.

Then it was on to the crocodiles – which were even more sleepy – and feeding the kangaroos and the wallabies. we were amazed at Sam… she was fine at doing the feeding!

There was more there than we expected, and we left without having seen it all, as we needed to move on to the next thing. As we left, we discovered that April's special offer was to allow free entry again – wish we knew at the start!

Next stop was at the Kuranda Sky-rail – back down towards Cairns. This is a 5-mile cablecar, with lots of small cars seating 6 or so. I have been In these when skiing, so I was worried how hot a glass-fibre bubble would get in 30' heat. No worries there in the end – plenty of ventilation. See http://www.cairnsattractions.com/a_skyrail.html

The sky-rail took us up a long way. All over the top of 50m-high trees in the rainforest. The first stop-off point was for a board- walk through the rainforest. And I must say- the Aussie's are good at these boardwalks. lt makes for an easy wander, across ground that would be pretty soft and muddy in the wet season.

The second stop-off point was for a view of Barron falls, which is a decent drop for the water, through a gorge. a good view, accessible via (what else) a decent boardwalk.

The last stop took us up to Kuranda village, which probably counts as tourist-hell. Its extremely tourist – probably very different from when Sue first visited maybe 15 years ago. We only had time to do one thing, so went along to the Butterfly sanctuary. This was excellent (but hot… imagine being in a greenhouse in the tropics!), with some huge butterflies wandering around (and landing on people). Sam didn't like them though – isn't it strange the things she copes with, and the things she doesn't? – so it's probably good that we couldn't stay long because the train was due to leave.

The next stop of the day was for the train – the Kuranda Scenic Railway – to take us back down again. This was a narrow-guage railway, originally built over 100 years ago to supply the gold-miners further back in the outback. See http://www.cairnsattractions.com/a_kuranda-railway.html

Back down at sea level, we transferred back to our car, and decided to get food. A Pizza-Hut across the road looked tempting – if only for the convenience. When we got there, it turned out to be a take-away only, so we headed back to Port Douglas instead. Cruising up the main street led us to "Mango Jam" – an interesting-looking restaurant. Indeed the food was great, but the service was better. Everyone was great with Samantha, especially the owner. 5 stars for the approach to the family there – and so glad we didn't end up at Pizza-Hut.

And guess what – we got sat down at the restaurant about 2 minutes before the rain started. Yup, it was heavy… but as regular as clockwork!

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