Hello from Cairns, the final stop on the east coast leg of my Australia tour. We've just checked in to a very nice resort hotel on the edge of town, and I'm utilising a spare hour between arriving here and departing on a pub crawl around town to update my blog. Its been a very long day of driving (around 7 hours excluding stops) and I'm very tired, but I'll try my best to remember the happenings of my 2 days in the beautiful Whitsunday islands.
Some of our group had opted to do a 2 day sailing cruise around the islands, but I was pleased that I chose the cheaper hotel option when I arrived at our beautiful resort island. The island itself was tiny (about 1km long and 300m wide) and the whole thing was devoted to the Daydream Island resort and spas, which was our accommodation for the 3 nights. There was a large hotel at one end of the island which looked a tad dated on the outside, but was very nice inside. It had a pool with a swim up bar, a nice big restaurant and even its own mini coral reef with exotic fish swimming about. At the other end of the island, which was accessed either by a short walk through the rainforest or an easier stroll around a boardwalk, there were a set of small bars, more restaurants, more swimming pools, tennis courts and a pretty interesting looking 19 hole crazy golf course (which I sadly never got chance to test out because nobody wanted to play!).
Despite the summer season the island seemed very quiet, and it had a really relaxing vibe to it. On Monday I was very grateful to have a free day to do nothing - it certainly made a change from rushing around, which is our normal routine. Sadly I did not get the lie in I desired because my roomates woke me up at 6am (they had excursions booked), and I found it impossible to get back to sleep with the 6am sun being so bright. My body clock is also set to be wide awake at that time because of all our early starts. I spent the morning in the hotel pool, and the afternoon in the pool at the other end of the island. It was very relaxing, though I don't think I could do that for any longer than a day without getting bored! Despite the frequent application of factor 30 sunscreen I did get a tad burned in some places I must have missed.
The next day it was another early start for me as I had booked a day's sailing around the islands. Our boat Camira was a very modern catamaran style sailing boat, supposedly one of the fastest of its kind in the world. It was very nicely done out with a sunbathing deck at the front, seating at the back and a kitchen inside. They provided us with ample food all day, and there were even free drinks for us to help ourselves to, including beers. The weather was not good for sailing as there was no wind, but the boat had engines and sped along very smoothly across the flat blue waters. As I mentioned in the last blog the islands have doubled in movies for the Caribbean, and they looked stunning in the sunshine. Most of the islands, including the largest, are uninhabited and relatively unspoilt. They were definitely the nicest part of the Australian coastline we've been to all trip.
Our first stop was the famous Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, which was about a 2 hour sail away. The sand was beautifully white and the a sea perfect blue. It was a quintessential postcard image of paradise. We had an hour to sunbathe and due to the fact I had minor sunburn I kept my T-shirt on. However, I was half asleep and didn't realise my T-shirt was slightly ruffled up at the bottom when I was laying down. I've duly ended up with horrific sunburn on my stomach - by far the worst sunburn I've ever had and in a very uncomfortable place. I hope it goes away soon because bending down is pretty painful at the moment!
After lunch we sailed another hour round to the Hook Passage inbetween Hook and Whitsunday islands. At this point we stopped for around half an hour to go snorkelling. I'd never snorkelled before but decided to give it a go. We had to wear wetsuits to protect us from jellyfish. Judging by how many there were on the beach at Fraser Island I was expecting the water to be full of them, but we actually didn't encounter any. Due to the fact I'm not the greatest swimmer I used a float tube to make it less effort, and it was definitely worth picking up - the water was 5m deep. I really enjoyed cruising around looking at all the tropical "Nemo" style fish and all the coral - visibility was excellent. The Whitsundays are actually part of the inner Great Barrier Reef, and although the coral wasn't as dense as the outer reef it was still amazing to look at. I have booked a tour to the outer reef for Friday and after the snorkelling I am really looking forward to that.
In the evening we had a pool party to help the new people who joined in Whitsundays integrate with the group. We had to be up at 6am this morning though for our long day's driving so I didn't stay too late. On the drive we had stops at a fruit stall in the town of Bowen, which is Australia's mango capital and also where most of the film Australia was filmed. And for lunch we visited the military and mining city of Townsville, which wasn't especially interesting and seemed to be home to some rather strange people. The further north we got the greener the scenery got. Up here in Cairns they get a lot of rain year round, despite the fact that just a few hundred miles further south they get virtually none in the dry season and the land is absolutely barren.
Tomorrow I am visiting the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree Rainforest on Cape Tribulation, and the following day its the Great Barrier Reef proper, so I'll have lots to talk about in my next blog!