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Published: March 25th 2014
G’day from back in Australia. Today we arrived in Port Douglas (roughly 16 ½ degree South Latitude). We had an early excursion today so we had to get a quick start. We had a “small breakfast” in the Horizon Court and then went to the Princess Theater by 7:10 this morning.
Port Douglas is a town which struggled for an identity for a couple of centuries. Its first major claim to fame was as the port town leading to the Australian Gold Field across the mountain range from here. When the gold ran out, they started tin mining. That did not last too long and they moved on to try timber. Then came sugar cane, which still continues to a certain degree today. But the major transportation railroad and highways centered on Cairns with Port Douglas being an also-ran. Finally the village moved into the tourist business (good weather, a nice beach, and reasonably quiet local at the end of a peninsula near the Great Barrier Reef).
Our ship could not dock at the pier because the port is too shallow and the piers are too small. So we anchored out in the bay and
everyone had to come to shore in ship’s tenders. However we were lucky enough to get a catamaran shuttling our tour to land, instead of the ship’s lifeboats. It was faster, much more comfortable, and had restrooms. So we got to shore about 7:45 and found our tour bus.
We had about an hour drive going most of the way toward Cairns. Our guide pointed out various landmarks and told us about things along the way to our first stop. For instance, it is a myth that kangaroos wander around loose in this area (true in the outback but not around here). There are crocodile farms where they raise crocs for food and skins. The collect eggs and then incubate them at a specific temperature to produce male crocodiles (warmer or cooler seems to produce females) which will grow larger and have better skins. She also explained that Palm Trees had been transplanted at a cost of $2000 each – now they produce palm oil as well as having good root systems that hold the soil.
Along the way we passed a couple of fields where the guide said we were seeing Wallabies, but it was
pretty hard to tell anything. This is the rainy season (Jan-Mar) when they typically get over 2 meters or rain. During their summer season the low temperatures get down to 75 on average and a high of around 90. In their winter, the lows are around 60 and the highs more like 80. So it really has a pretty comfortable climate. One claim-to-fame is that back when they filmed the musical movie South Pacific (if anyone remembers the original version), it was filmed her on the peninsula.
About 9:00 our first stop was at the Freshwater Train Station. We had about 45 minutes before we caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway. We had seats in the first car (most of the benches were for 4, but we had the last row and we had 2 seats to ourselves). There were about a dozen cars in the train. It was about an hour and a half to the end of the line, and we saw some very interesting scenery. The train crossed 37 bridges and went through 15 tunnels. It stopped once along the way at Barron Falls Station and we had 10 minutes to get out and observe
a very impressive waterfall. Then it was all aboard and the train finished its run at Kuranda Station about 11:30. Our bus met us at the train station and took us into town about 11:45. We had a little light rain during the train ride, but the temperature was about 80 degrees all day.
We had 1 ½ hours in the small town of Kuranda to get some lunch and do some shopping. We ate at a place that served meat pies. Janet had a beef and cheese with bacon and tomato pie and some iced tea. David had a kangaroo pie (it tastes a lot like beef). This was also the first time in a month that David had a coca cola. After lunch we spent some time in the shops in town and were able to get a few things before we boarded the bus again at 1:15. We then took the bus to the Taranga end of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
This is a cable car system that soars above 4 ½ miles of trees of the rain forest. It was completed in1995 after a year of construction, by lifting all
the towers into position using a helicopter – no roads run through the forest. The gondolas hold up to 6 passengers. There were some ordinary customers but also 4 tour buses from the ships (about 40 people per bus). So it took a while to get our turn to board the gondola. We did get great views of the forest. It reminded us of a similar ride in Costa Rica, except this time the gondolas go above the trees and the ride in Costa Rica was lower and went through the forest. There was one stop along the way where we could view the same waterfall as we saw on the train ride. Then there was a second stop where everyone had to move to a second set of cars. We descended down the mountain and boarded our bus one last time.
Part way through the cable car ride, the battery died in David’s camera and he could not take pictures the last half of the gondola trip. He did still have the camcorder and hopefully some pictures can be extracted from the movies. Fortunately, it had pretty much cleared up and we had goot viewing conditions
- would have been good for pictures.
The bus returned us to Port Douglas about 4:30 and we got back on board the catamaran again. It took us out to the Sun Princess to complete a very enjoyable, but fairly tiring excursion. We got back to the ship a little after 5:00 and had just enough time to clean up for dinner. We did collect several brochures with more information about the train and about the cable car, but we just haven’t gone through it all this evening in time to enhance this story.
Tonight was International Night at the dining room. Janet had shrimp & scallop appetizer, won ton soup, and surf & turf for her entrée. David had duck breast appetizer, leek soup, and also surf & turf. Our waiter Mel thought we didn’t have enough shrimps on our plate, so he brought us some more to add to our dinner. For dessert, Janet had chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup, while David had a butterscotch sundae.
This evening the entertainment was the Donna Campbell show (we saw previously) and a late show with the cello player. They are
having the Deck Party on the Lido Deck at 10:00 but we don’t really feel like going to it. Instead we watched a movie in the cabin (The Lone Ranger). Now it's time to post the blog and get some sleep.
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