So how do we manage to fit in the past six or so weeks into one blog update that does not bore the pants off you then?
It seems an age ago that we were in Alice Springs, typing up our last full update, but our journey down the east coast of Australia was going to be whistle stop, and we would not have a chance to update until now.
Luckily, Jackie has a great memory for things, in addition to her nifty secret diary, as Steve cannot even remember New Year let-a-lone Cairns, which was our first destination after Alice Springs.
On arrival in Cairns (pronounced Caaaaaannnns by all natives, we were greeted with slashing rain, an electrical storm and humidity that made Jackie's hair stand up. We had booked into a central location in the city and that would be our base for the night, sharing with two smelly Irish slobs, luckily we were only there for one night.
The next day the weather had cleared up and we went to explore. Cairns is a big town, with not much of a beach, unless you are a crab. We both ventured out to look at the beach, which was covered by thousands upon thousands of mud crabs. We were keeping a close lookout around us for "salties" - salt water crocs that apparently roam these waters, but we had to put up with crabs - for today at least. Due to the croc alerts, there was no swimming in the sea. Instead there was a man- made lagoon built on the sea front that we both wallowed in for the majority of the afternoon, before retiring back to a new better hostel which sold steak that you had to BBQ yourself - Steve was in his element, Jackie had sausages. That evening we went to a backpackers pub called the Woolshed. Cheap drink ensured that people were dancing on the tables and taking part in all sorts of drunken activities.
Next day we were up early to collect our shiny little hire car which would be ours for the next three days as we drove up to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation via the Daintree River and the Mosman gorge. Although it was only a small little car we were thoroughly excited at the prospect of having something of our very own and our own space for three whole days! The coastal route to Port Douglas was breathtaking, a narrow windy road that passed one long golden beach after another then continued through lush rainforested areas. We pulled over at several scenic lookouts and also pit stopped at some gorgeous beaches, although we were still struggling to get our heads around the fact that we were unable to swim in the most inviting ocean that we had ever seen due to it being stinger season, which probably accounts for why they were deserted.
Our first stop was the Daintree River where we booked ourselves onto Bruce Beltchers Crocodile Adventure - the first Australian that we met called Bruce - so they aren't as common as you think! We both had high expectations for Bruce, imagining him to be big Ozzy chap that lived in the rainforest and regularly wrested crocs before breakfast. In reality he was pretty clean shaven and trim guy that had only ever appreciated crocodiles from the safety of his little white boat. As we poodled along the Daintree River taking in the dense rainforest around us Bruce explained that it wasn't really croc season as most of the females are nesting and the Dads were migrating - they don't tell you that when you book! But it seemed our luck was in as after just 10 minutes we came across a large male crocodile that was perched upon the banks on the river, posing for us like an ornament. We couldn't believe our luck! After much photo taking we continued on down the river and Bruce pointed out a baby crocodile, which was just half a meter in size, White Lipped Tree Frogs and several spiders each as ugly as the next.
Our next stop was Coral Bay which couldn't have come soon enough for Jackie who had needed a toilet stop for the past 10 miles. We pulled over to the beach and made our way down to the toilets which were just in sight when we were stopped in our tracks by a Brown snake slithering across our footpath. After remaining deadly still for all of about 30 seconds we quickly retreated and bundled back into the car - the toilet could wait -making a mental note to stop at Coral bay on the way back down to Cairns.
We were booked to stay at Parrot Fish Lodge, and arrived late in the afternoon. The hostel was fairly empty as this was the RAINY season. No one told us this either, yet we were extremely lucky with the weather - it was a scorcher.
The hostel offered FREE dinner for those staying there - yep you guessed it - Pasta again, but beggars cannot be choosers eh! After driving around this pretty harbour village, we settled down for the night before heading off to Cape Tribulation the following day.
Cape Tribulation is one of the wonders of the world where the rainforest meets the reef.Seriously beautiful scenery, back dropped with more wildlife that you could rattle your snake at. We were soon around the pool, relaxing in searing heat. We booked up for a snorkelling trip onto the barrier reef the following day and spent the rest of the day on the beach and around the pool, preparing ourselves for swimming with sharks!!!
Having already snorkelled in Bali, we were both fully confident ahead of our barrier reef adventure - but it totally blew us away. The coral was alive with more colours than josephs dreamcoat, and abundant with more fish than Sainsbury's. From "cleaner" fish, who literally have a cleaning station to ensure that all other fishes are pristine, through to coral reef sharks swimming just 7 metres below our snorkel masks.
In comparison to the coral in Indonesia, the reef is far more alive, untouched and full of life. As we swam across the surface of the reef, Jackie was quick to point out fish that were almost the same size as her, and Steve noticed a reef crayfish, which he mistook for a lobster. Men are known to exaggerate, and Steve is no different, so when he used his arms to demonstrate the size of the "lobster", it took everyone's attention, especially the guide, who soon dived down and tried to wrestle the crayfish to the surface. He told us that if he was to buy this crustacean in the market, it would cost around 190 dollars, so you can see why he was soo keen to get it on the BBQ.However, Steve was right (noted) and this crayfish was to powerful, tugging away and down from the reach of the instructor much to his frustration. A host of turtles, further sharks, stingrays and plethora of brilliantly coloured fish kept us entertained for a good four hours before hoping back on the boat.
On the way back to shore we noticed a number of tuna fish jumping out of the sea which is a sure sign of sharks circling their feed. As we approached and the boat turned the engines off, we were delighted to see 4 huge fins sticking out of the water moving at pace in a circular motion. The instructor had not seen this in the 18 months that he had lived in Cape Tribulation, and was soon masked up and approached the water. To say that he got out, white as a ghost, within seconds was an understatement. The feeding frenzy had scared the living daylights out of him and reality hit home of exactly how dangerous the ocean can be, although it could have been a whole lot worse.
We reached shore, safe, fulfilled and amazed by what we had seen and how it had totally justified the hype that surrounds it. Snorkelling wears you out, and we both passed out fairly early that night.
The following day it was time to return to Cairns, via a host of delightful beaches which were all closed due to a stinger that had slipped through the net and stung a swimmer, who was bobbing about in the stinger-free nets! - enough to put you off going in the sea for ages! As we stopped at one beautiful beach, we were lucky enough to see one of these jellyfish that a lifeguard had caught in his net. It was the size of a pea. No wonder this stinger had managed to get through the net. You had to squint to see it, it was almost see-through, tiny and pretty deadly. That was enough to scare us off getting in the ocean without a stinger suit, which we had worn when snorkelling the reef.
We headed down to Mosman Gorge, a fantastic water hole/billabong that was fresh water = no sharks, crocs or stingers. We cooled off here for a while more before heading back to Cairns, dropping the car back off and headed into town to book two major attractions - Frazer Island and The Whitsundays.
The next day we headed on our first greyhound bus journey as we made our way down the east coast - next destination - Magnetic Island......