Diving, Driving, and Sailing

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February 6th 2008
Published: February 6th 2008
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Port DouglasPort DouglasPort Douglas

Sometimes you just have to take a moment and look.
G’day Mate, here we are in Queensland, which is called the Sunshine State. Does that sound like Florida? There are some sunny similarities. Take a glance at an Australian map. We’re starting the next part of our trip on the northeast coast of Australia… Port Douglas to Hervery Bay.

In all honesty, it was good to flee the heat of Alice Springs and head to something more palatable weather-wise. It “only” goes up to about 30 or 31 degrees in Cairns. That’s 86 degrees for you Yankees. Sure it’s humid, but after 106 degree heat, this is almost cozy!

So on Australia Day, when most of the country celebrates the national holiday by ingesting alcohol and barbequed meats, we landed in the city of Cairns, pronounced “cans”. Cairns is a backpacker’s and diver’s paradise. It is a great spot for all water and sun sports. This town is packed full of wonderful restaurants and pubs. This was a great place for us to land and cool off after our oven hot adventure in the desert. It pays to remember that we are in the heat of the summer here in the southern hemisphere. Cairns is the hopping off point
Whitehaven BeachWhitehaven BeachWhitehaven Beach

A beautiful beach in the Whitsunday Islands.
for many adventures, including the Great Barrier Reef.

We decided to rent a car and hit the road again. Turns out, the best deal on a car rental has us driving this little Toyota Corolla all the way to Sydney, which is some 2600 kilometers (1600 miles) from Cairns. Australia has some good roads and highways but not the four-lane interstates we are used to. Some great travel spots are accessed by unpaved roads, but on our travels we will stay on the paved roads. Insurance reasons mostly. On this leg of the journey, we are driving north to Port Douglass and then will head south toward Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, which 1056 miles (1703km) down the Bruce Highway (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway).

The Australian Open has finished now but we have truly enjoyed being in Australia while it is going on. There are a lot of tennis fans here and we have been caught up in all of the excitement. The Aussies love sports, and tennis is big here.

On arrival in Port Douglass, we were able to find a very reasonably priced one bedroom apartment for 3 days. This allowed us to do a little cooking, which we really miss. The price was low because it is no longer the holiday season in Australia, and the kids are back in school from summer break. Great luck for us.

The other great thing about Port Douglass is that we were able to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef. For divers, this is a “can’t miss” place. The reef is considered the largest living thing on the planet. We booked a dive trip on a large dive boat and had a little trepidation because we thought it would be quite crowded. Turns out it was a well run operation and there were only about 16 divers on board along with a couple dozen snorklers.

We dove three sites and enjoyed the large numbers of fish and the beautiful reefs. We encountered a 70 pound cod, which was quite large. Our dive briefing mentioned this friendly resident and instructed us not to wave our hands or fingers as the cod might decide that we were food to take a nibble on. There were also many colorful schools of fish and some good size sea clams. We considered the diving here to be quite good.

From Port Douglass we began the long journey south towards Brisbane. The terrain is fairly flat although there are small mountains on either side of the highway. They are not continuous, but almost haphazard in their placement. The countryside is quite green, as we are in the tropical rain belt of this large country. There are certainly no signs of drought here in this part of Queensland. We have driven past many acres of sugar cane.

In fact there is some very serious flooding to the south of us in the Rockhampton area. In this part of Australia there are two seasons; wet and dry. We are experiencing wet.

We spent a night in Townsville. Such a creative name for a city of over 150,000 people. We can only imagine some group of citizens sitting around in the 1850’s trying to decide what to call their town. Try as they might, the best they can come up with is Townsville. All in all, the town is quite dull, but nice. Enough said.

We decided that we wanted to see a Wombat up close. Since these creatures are endangered and nocturnal we decided to go to a wildlife refuge to see one. The wildlife refuges here are very nice. They have taken in animals that have been injured and cared for them in a very natural setting. It is a good life for the injured animal.

We then pushed further south and found ourselves in Airlee Beach. This is seaside town which is the jumping off point for great sailing among the 70 plus Whitsunday Islands. We found a small studio apartment on the hill overlooking the water. We took a sailing trip to Whitehaven Beach, which is a stunning white sand beach on turquoise green surf about 2 hours from port. We spent the day onboard a well-trophied sailboat named “Maxi Ragamuffin.” This boat had won the famous Sydney to Hobart race some three times, which puts it in rare company. These days, it takes day trips through the islands.

The drive from Airlee Beach to Rock Hampton was uneventful. We drove through a few rain squawls and looked at some cattle, as we have moved into ranch land. We were a little surprised because when you look at the map of the east coast there is one town
Rex LookoutRex LookoutRex Lookout

A great view near Port Douglas
after another long the coast. We thought it might look similar to the east coast of Florida. That could not be further from the truth. Most of these towns have less than 100 people and many have about 20. As we drove along the mileage markers were advertising a town called Marlborough. We decided we would stop there for lunch. We made an assumption that it was a good size town if it was on the highway mileage signs for more than 200 kilometers. When we arrived in town we found it had one hotel, about 8 houses, a really nice local swimming pool and the local hardware/mini-market/ café and that is where we had lunch. We had a heavenly caramel fudge ice cream bar there, so it was worth the stop.

If you aren’t interested in diving or sailing you may not want to travel north of Hervey Bay. This area is populated by sleepy little towns and villages and many of them are not on the water.

In our foreign travels over the past few months everyone we have met has shown interest in our upcoming Presidential elections and has had many questions for us about
Quicksilver Dive BoatQuicksilver Dive BoatQuicksilver Dive Boat

Big, but wasn't a cattle call for us divers...
our election system and the candidates. We are continually amazed how many people watch everything that is going on in America. Everyone is very excited and watching our primaries.

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 26


Dave "crewing" on the RagamuffinDave "crewing" on the Ragamuffin
Dave "crewing" on the Ragamuffin

Hard work or hardly working?
The Maxi RagamuffinThe Maxi Ragamuffin
The Maxi Ragamuffin

Ex-racing boat, now for us casual sailors......

Well taken care of at the animal sanctuary.

Steve Irwin had guts to tangle with this kind of creature!

Mean looking critters......
Dave and a CrocodileDave and a Crocodile
Dave and a Crocodile

Much more manageable.....

Pretty big, eh?

Nocturnal and move very slow....this one was looking for a nap!

This one landed on our apartment balcony.

7th February 2008

Wow - looks like you are having a great time. The photos are lovely. Drive safe - Barb. x
7th February 2008

Hi Merry and Dave. I am enjoying your blog, can't wait for the next one. The boys and I love the pictures. Thanks for sharing.
9th February 2008

Your adventures
Hi Dave This recap reminded me so much of the time I spent there in 2001. I can't wait to return to Cairns and the islands. Keep the travel log coming. I love to keep up with your adventures. Carla
9th February 2008

Great pictures
Hey guys, so glad to be able to stay in touch with your travels! It's impressive that you're able to write in such detail - great stories! Thanks for sharing and looking forward to seeing you both soon. Stay safe!
10th February 2008

Feb 10
Wow - still can't imagine what the real thing looks like. The pics themselves are amazing! Please do explain the ants- how do you "spread" them? Is that like Peanut Butter? (grin!) Love, C

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