The end may be nigh, but we were going to make the most of our last copuple of weeks in Australia, so what better place to start than Cairns - the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
First though we went to a place called Mission Beach, where pretty much there was just a beach. You see before all this exhausting adventure some rest was needed ;0) Have a look at the pics, it was a pretty place.
So, where were we, ah yes Cairns. The city itself is a buzzing, tourist ridden place - we liked it. It has good night markets with cheap chinese, a free lagoon because the sea is a bit jellyfish friendly. yay. However, we were told that Port Douglas, a mere hour away was absolutely lovely and has better trips to the reef so we headed there. They weren't wrong.
An added bonus to Port Douglas was the nightly cane toad racing! Yes those same ones we were hunting with Dale's parents, we were now going to race. We were very excited. It was a raffle system to choose who raced the athletic toads and lucky for Lisa she was chosen. Then she was made to kiss it. Gemma was in stitches. As you can tell from the pictures it wasn't a nice experience for her and it stayed grossly toad shaped! How rude. But the pleasantries dealt with it was onto the serious business of racing.
The idea is to catch the frog when it jumps off the table and put it into a bucket. However, Lisa's toad was a bit cunning and hopped it down the side of the stage. Needless to say she did not win, but miraculously came a decent 4th of 7. It was hilarious, we may try and bring the craze to England.
The next day, having selected our super dooper trip, visiting no less than 3 reef sites on the furthest edge of the reef, we were off to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
It really did not disappoint. Each site just got better and better - with big clams that shut when you cast a shadow over them, colourful fish, big cod, snapper and lots of cool looking coral, oh yeah and sharks!! Seriously. The man on the boat chucked some food overboard and immediately a 2-3 foot reef shark nabbed it. We were worried. We were assured that these were only babies and that when they get old enough to want to eat you they move across to the deep blue. We trusted them, and actually they seemed rather shy around us, so no pictures :0( We have swum in shark infested waters though!.
The experience was exceptional and the marine life so weird, wonderful and close that it's hard to believe that there is talk about it not surviving beyond another 20 years. we hope it's not true and that you can get to see it for yourselves.
From one wildlife experience we decided to hire a car and take ourselves to a place called Cape Tribulation, known for its crocodile population. We got up early and made it onto the first boat trip of the day, hunting for a glimpse at the crocs. We were told that as it was a public holiday some had moved away from the crowds, but we still saw quite a few - including one which was partially hidden as it was lying in wait by the waters edge for a wild pig. We didn't stick around to see whether it would get bored and go for us instead. We even saw baby crocs. They look really mean even when young, we wouldn't mess with them. Satisfied with our croc sightings, we did not expect to be shown up close a deadly snake lazing in the wild, but we did. Eek.
Our close encounters did not end there. Cape Tribulation has many humorous signs warning about 'Casowaries', huge emu like birds who just wander about the place and can attack humans. We had been warned about them by Ros and Peter and were eager to see one as well as see these hilarious road signs. We were so busy taking a picture of the sign, that we didn't actually realise there was a casowarie right behind it! They are HUGE and weird looking birds.
As you can imagine after all this wildlife we needed another rest. So we went to Magnetic Island, a beautiful island with a beautiful hostel and beautiful views. We liked it so much we stayed by the pool the whole time.
The rest was actually needed, due to the mammoth journey ahead of us by bus all the way to the top of Australia to Darwin (36 hours). We decided to break it up though and spent 2 days in the 'Real Australia'- i.e middle of nowhere - in a mining town called Mount Isa. It's setting was unique, surrounded by nothing but shrub and then this big mine and river. The skyline was a stunning contrast at sunset.
Well rested, we were ready for our next adventure to the Northern Territory, where wildlilfe gets even bigger and scarier...