Surprise Birthday Trip to.....


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Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Cairns
June 26th 2009
Published: July 1st 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Well, this is probably my last blog entry before Canada! Since winter has set in, life has been a little less hectic and a little more relaxed. So, let’s see, April and May....visiting with friends and family, Mudgee Wine and Food Festival in Manly, I bought a sewing machine!!, found a yoga class and a friend to go with, said bon voyage to good friends Dale and Samina who are off on a year long adventure somewhere in Asia-Pacific, I shook the hand of a famous cricket player Glenn McGrath at the Wharf Bar (not that I knew who he was or anything about cricket!) celebrated happy baby news for Kris and Taryn!! We spent Easter in Coffs Harbour with Katherine, Steve and Matt’s Mom which was very relaxing. The new beachside condo is just beautiful and it will be so nice to visit in the summer. As for the Easter weekend we ate, drank, ate and slept - very lazy since it rained for 3 days straight. And it wasn’t as if they needed rain! Coffs Harbour had had terrible flooding just the week before we got there but luckily Matt’s house is on the top of the hill and
Cairns - Rainforest to ReefCairns - Rainforest to ReefCairns - Rainforest to Reef

As ancient, world heritage rainforest meets the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef.
they were not affected. Lots of chocolate (not an Easter bunny but an Easter bilby - see photo).

We had a long weekend in June for the Queen’s birthday so Matt planned a surprise trip. We took advantage of the extra day, added a couple more of our own and had a fabulous long weekend in ..........Queensland!!!

Cairns and Port Douglas - Where the rainforest meets the reef

After a civilised 8am flight on Friday morning we were in Cairns having a beer at the beachside bar by lunch. It’s so tropical - palm trees, greenery, warm sunshine...all just a 4 hour flight from Sydney! One of my favourite things in Cairns is the public swimming lagoon at the waterfront. It has sand, waterfalls, palm trees, shaded areas and a beach! What a great place to hang out and well situated since you can’t really swim in the ocean in Cairns (it’s mudflats). After perusing the brochures over celebratory drinks, we decided we would try and see a bit of the Daintree region (a world heritage listed rainforest) so we jumped in our little Hyundai Getz and off we went north up the coast. The Captain Cook Highway goes up the coast from Cairns up to Cape Tribulation (the end of the sealed road and the limit for rental cars). It’s a winding road with amazing views to both sides and passes through lots of little beach towns, including Port Douglas. We didn’t have time (or daylight) to go the extra 30 km and ferry ride all the way to Cape Tribulation so we decided to head inland a bit to Daintree Village. It’s a tiny crossroad of a town and we managed to make it just in time to join a Crocodile Cruise!! I was so excited - this was my first time seeing crocodiles in the wild and I wasn’t disappointed! Our river boat driver and guide told us all about the birds (apparently Kingfishers are hard to spot but we found one), vegetation and then of course, the crocs! It was a great way to see a bit of the area, support the local tourism effort and get up close and personal with the animals.
Since it is winter, the sun goes down around 5:30ish so we headed back down to Port Douglas to check-in. Port Douglas is a quiet resort town with an unspoiled beach (4 mile beach) and a marina. It is less commercial than Cairns but also offers day trips out to the reef and into the rainforests. After some wine on the deck overlooking the pool, we decided to head into town for dinner. I guess it was about 9pm which, as it turns out, is a bit late to be looking for somewhere to eat in Port Douglas, even on a Friday night! Most places were closed but we managed to find a little Thai place within stumbling distance of the resort.

On Saturday morning I was very excited - the whole trip was a surprise but I did know we were going to the reef. After the drive along the coast to the marina in Cairns, we boarded the big jetcat out to Green Island. It’s a must-do while in Cairns - the Great Barrier Reef! After a leisurely cruise out to sea, complete with sunshine and coffee on top deck, we docked at the Green Island Pier. It’s just a little island (15 hectares) and is designated a national park. The resort takes up most of the island but there are some beautiful beaches and rainforest
Esplanade at CarinsEsplanade at CarinsEsplanade at Carins

Unfortunately there is not really a beach here, it's more mudflats.
walks and you can shuffle right from the beach in your mask and fins and snorkel and float over the Great Barrier Reef...in balmy 26C water....ahhhhh. Heaven. After an exploration of the reef and a little rest on the beach, we returned to the pier for the first of the fun touristy adventures Matt had signed us up for. The Semi-Submersible tour! Wow - it was amazing. You go down into the glass hull and sit on this little seat - you can see all around you and it does feel like you are far under the water. At one point they stop and feed the fish so you get to see all the locals. So many different kinds and some of them were huge! Sucker fish, bat fish, tuna, parrot fish, giant clams, staghorn coral, plate and brain coral ....... Just call me Captain Nemo! So fun.

After lunch on the boat we went for a short walk around the island and then it was time for the glass bottom boat tour. The kids were squealing with delight watching all the fish close up - it’s a comfortable way to see what’s under the beautiful turquoise water. After
Swimming LagoonSwimming LagoonSwimming Lagoon

I loved this 'pool' - what a great place to hang out and relax. It even had a beach with sand and palm trees. I probably wouldn't have gotten much studying done here....
all that activity on top of the water we just had to get back in for another snorkel. By this time the tide was out and after some quality time hanging out and over the reef, we sat in shallows where the water was like a bath and counted ourselves very, very lucky.
Just before we left I bought some souvenirs from a girl with a funny accent pronouncing Cairns like ‘Carenz’ (not ‘Cans’ like an Aussie) and turns out she was from Whitby, Ontario - small world!
We spent the next couple of hours finding our way back to Port Douglas, stopping at the little beaches along the way... including the beautiful Palm Cove.

We were pretty tired after our big day out in the sun and sea so after a little dinner and a swim in the pool we made it an early night. I knew there was another adventure lined up for Sunday....

After Matt returned from his early morning run on Saturday amazed by the sunrise, I was convinced to get up at 5:45 on Sunday and see it for myself. Wow - definitely worth dragging myself out of bed for. See the photos...and
The visitor centre crocThe visitor centre crocThe visitor centre croc

A practice meeting before the crocodile cruise.
more photos. Then we headed to the Freshwater Railway Station for a day in the rainforest. A historic train ride into the ancient rainforest (some of the oldest in the world!) to the mountain village Kuranda. We stopped for photos at Barron Gorge Observation Deck where I saw my first Ulysses butterfly - the fluorescent blue and black ones. Kurunda itself is pretty touristy - shops and markets and restaurants - but we went on a rainforest walk (where I saw more Ulysses butterflies), had lunch and strolled around with not a care in the world. We found an outlet for mango wine and we bought some mango champagne. Life is pretty good!
For the return trip, instead of taking the train, we took a cable car back out through the rainforest (world heritage listed) where we were only metres from the rainforest canopy and had a sky high view of Cairns and the Coral Sea. It was amazing - what a day! Rainforest to reef indeed!
For our drive back to Port Douglas, the sun was setting over the mountains and the moon was rising over the sugar cane fields which made for some beautiful scenery. We took a
James Cook UniversityJames Cook UniversityJames Cook University

It was strange to see, in person, the university I had been dreaming of going to.
little detour so Matt could give me a lesson on sugarcane. Yummy! We were still full from lunch so we had a light dinner of wine, cheese and local tropical fruit - I took a picture so I could look them up because I didn’t know what it was!

It was a short trip - a taste of Cairns so after another gorgeous sunrise on Monday we drove back along the coast for the last time towards the airport. The view out to the calm ocean was serene. The reef breaks the ocean waves making the shore is calm and flat and peaceful, unlike Manly’s surf beach. I tried just about everything to avoid leaving such a utopia, including hiding my ticket, but really, Manly is not a bad second.

Back in October 2008, PINK! announced she was coming to Australia so I bought two tickets for her June show for myself for my birthday. Since then, her popularity in Australia has skyrocketed - she is the biggest ticket in town by far! And after her concert, I see why. What a performance - I would have paid twice as much for the tickets. She rocks!!! She is doing more than 50 shows over the next couple months which is incredible. With the help of friends and family I managed to stretch my birthday celebrations over a couple of weeks - spoiled rotten! Seafood dinner, beautiful presents, drinks out, magicians, flowers, uggs....thank you so much everyone!!! One of the highlights was Anjela bought us tickets for a whale watching tour and it was absolutely incredible!!! It was an open top jet boat which left right from the Manly Wharf, sped past the apartment and right into/over the ocean swells to find the whales! What a ride! The whales (humpback and southern right whales) migrate from Antarctica up to the Coral Sea and Whitsundays where it’s warm to breed. It took a few minutes but we found a few whales flipping, breaching, waving and flipping their tails. You can see the whales from North Head and sometimes they come in very close to the shore but to be so close in an open boat like that was just amazing. We were laughing saying that the whales probably prepare for their ‘Sydney Show’ - the only show in town bigger than PINK! There was quite a swell so we had a fun ride back and, as we came into marina, a pod of dolphins started jumping off our bow!!! Bonus! This is all right outside of our apartment!!! Wow.
So, in fact, maybe turning 38 isn’t so bad after all....

It’s less than a week until I’m on the plane heading for Canada so I guess I’ll end with .... See you soon!!!

And this just in....
Remember the Earthrace ‘boat’ that was in Manly in January? Well, it now has a noble cause and I’m 110% behind them!!! They are going after the Japanese whalers and, especially after our whale watching tour, more power to them!!!!
See article: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/spaceship-boosts-antiwhaling-force-against-japans-might-20090625-cy7v.html



Additional photos below
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Palm CovePalm Cove
Palm Cove

It's a beach town about 1/2 way between Cairns and Port Douglas.
Out to the Coral SeaOut to the Coral Sea
Out to the Coral Sea

All along the road from Cairns to Port Douglas there were lookouts with some amazing views.
Kangaroos of all sizesKangaroos of all sizes
Kangaroos of all sizes

We actually pulled off the James Cook Highway to get a closeup view of these guys.
And more kangaroosAnd more kangaroos
And more kangaroos

I told you I can't get enough of them!!
Lesson in sugarcaneLesson in sugarcane
Lesson in sugarcane

I had no idea it was so big and hard to cut down. You just peel it and you can suck the sugar juice out. Yummy!


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