Today we left Sydney a driving day which reminded one of good old England with driving rain for some 260 Kms of our journey. Still we arrived at the Hunters Valley wine growing area to stay in the very nice Hermitage Lodge. We immediately, at the insistence of you know who , had to visit every winery within striking distance . Luckily we could walk to a number that afternoon and proceeded to taste to excess . Area is known for its Shiraz which as you would expect are very good .
It is at this time worthwhile to note never travel with a "Eats, drinks and wee's companion". One wakes up in the morning to, what shall we have for dinner and what type of wine ?, as it's only 7.00 am you would understand a vague answer which apparently is not good enough and the question gets repeated on the hour every hour until your answer is what her indoors wants. It's easier to ignore when the hourly wee process is undertaken .
Anyway we ate at the hotel restaurant which had won many local awards . The fillet steak was truly beautiful.
Next day we awoke to "what's for supper" followed by detailed instructions given to all participants (me!) as to which winery we would be seeing when not stopping for a wee. At the First Creek winery we spotted loads of kangaroos and over the day returned three times for photos ( it was near the hotel ). Disappointingly many of the Hunter Valley wines are on the shelves of Tesco at cheaper prices. Not to distract from the area which was well worth the visit.
After two days we left for Sydney to get our flight to Cairns. We had as always with hire cars to refill the petrol which meant we needed to enter the middle of the city. Just our luck a truck had crashed in the tunnel approach to Sydney so we took a spur of the moment detour and proceeded to get lost. Sat navigation kept sending us into a car park lookalike which we ignored only to find out it was right all along after much shouting at ourselves, locals and Garmin.
Flight to Cairns is 3 hours and a short hop later we were in our hotel for one night. Uneventful and the next day at 10.00am we boarded our ship the Coral Princess 2 for a 7 night cruise of the Great Barrier Reef, her indoors mentioning what times lunch and where's the bar ?, sound familiar to a certain train journey and wine area visit. Still once settled into cabin 206 we explored the small catamaran which takes 44 passengers but only had 30 on board with us. A word on the food which seemed to always be available and always being consumed by ........., it was superb and worthy of any restaurant. Wines were 35 Australian dollars a bottle and a lot was consumed by all.
Before anything we had to buy a stinger suit which protects one from the Box jelly fish which can kill. You do however look a right Charlie in it . It seems that even in the water Australia has the lost dangerous wildlife.
The routine on the boat was up (discuss food and wee ) go for breakfast, snorkel, mid morning snack, shower ( and wee ) , lunch , snorkel , mid afternoon snack , shower , pre dinner drinks , dinner, discuss food and wine for tomorrow and bed. Exhausting stuff .
With our arrival at the first reef l was called into action given I was on the bridge assisting . The very valuable pass of the radio averting us crashing onto a bubbie , small reef. No awards were offered .
Snorkelling in the 28 degree water was superb with sightings of sharks, rays, turtle but really the small fish and coral ( 400 types ) made the snorkelling . We off course had to discuss how many wee's there were during the snorkel.
Our travelling companions were a right old mix of people from Germany, Denmark, Holland, USA, New Zealand , UK , Spain and Australia. We try to match both crew and passengers to famous people (or characters ) and on this ship we had Miss Marple , Sebastian Vettel , Rick Wakeman and Al Pacino. Fun people with many tales to tell and made for some entertaining evenings especially the quiz won by our table in a drawing play off.
The cruise itself went as far south as the Hinchinbrook channel and as far north as Lizard island , the haunt of the rich and famous. We snorkelled Thetford reef , Nathan reef , Rachel Carson reef ( named by President Clinton on his visit), ribbon 9 reef , ribbon 3 reef and various islands . We also dropped in at Cooktown where Lt J Cook first officially set foot on Australian soil, it has a frontier spirit and well worth a couple of hours.
One morning we climbed Cooks Peak on lizard island, it was the same peak that James Cook climbed to see if he could navigate through the reef . We started at 5.00am in order to get to the 1200 foot summit before the sun came up . Was easily achieved and a wonderful view beckoned and we could see how this view would have helped the good Captain.
It was a real shame to leave the ship, but Bloomfield's beckons .
After another R &R day in Cairns after which we boarded a Cessna caravan for a 40 minute flight to Bloomfield's. The flight took us over Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and views of the rainforest as we arrived at our hotel at the mouth of the Bloomfield River, it was truest a wonderful view . Bloomfield Lodger is described as luxury and remote. We are here for 7 nights and her indoors is discussing food and wine selections already.
Nothing changes ....
Life in Bloomfield is a mixture of doing nothing, eating and drinking, some would say paradise given we have an upgraded room with a stunning view.The activities included a river trip where we spotted salties and a logodilo, a very rare piece of drift wood. We also undertook a guided rainforest walk in which you learn so much about how the aborigines used the Forrest for food and healing. There was one tree leaves that was so painful if you touched it that will cause you to be sedated for 10 days to cope with the pain.
We off course did other rainforest walks ourselves and I have to say it is a nerve racking experience looking for spiders , snakes , lizards and plants all of which can easily kill you . Guess who was in front nearly all the time ?
One night the manager after questioning said " oh yes pythons are around the hotel with a 4 meter one under the swimming pool ". We called him Percy the Python. Any way the next
night over freshly caught canopes the manager came walking through the area with a python wrapped around his arm admittedly only about 1 meter. Her indoors ran way and hid behind a post debugging the myth that l fear snakes more than her . We then started our own late night safaris with flash light and saw massive rat like creatures ( bigger than a small dog ) , lizard's and massive cane toads.
During the day we also saw the illusive tree kangaroo.
The weather was perfect contrary to predictions. Said predictions stopped a Australian TV crew from visiting which I suspect was a good thing or we'd all have been like the cast in The Thin Blue Line .
We leave tomorrow and make our way after a stopover in Sydney to New Zealand.
Impressions of Australia . Expensive ,dangerous reptiles etc , warm , good food , wonderful scenery, terrible papers ,appalling tv but overall bit of a shame to leave but after the first test maybe we should