Good ol’ Jetstar did us proud with prompt and efficient flight from Melbourne to Cairns (though a squeaky undercarriage was a new, unnerving experience). A short cab ride took us to our overnight stop and the Celebratory Meal – we had an interesting veggie combo, taking account of our mutual Top Athletic status (Tim seems to think I am not included in this definition, but just who is he to say?).
The usual hire car delays took the menfolk away for an inordinate amount of time (tempted to say ‘bliss’ but they might read this and abandon me in the rainforest), but eventually we were wending our way down the Captain Cook Highway (a World Heritage site), en route to Port Douglas and a warm welcome at Shearwater Street. Halfway there we stopped off at Palm Cove and it was wonderful to kick off the trainers and go beach combing in the balmy sea air. Love the Aussie ice creams! Choice of cream or water base meant I had to have two scoops, of course (Weight Watchers will soon be back on speed dial …), snickers and blueberry, yum. Leo, the Year Two stuffed dog, emerged from his back pack for the first time and was a little daunted by the croc warning signs! This soon sent him scurrying back to the Toyota Yaris ‘trunk’.
The next morning, after perhaps a little too much alcohol the night before, cousin Dawn took us on a guided tour of the rain forest, focusing on the Daintree area between Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation. Having a local ‘guide’ gives such an informed insight – where we would have simply strolled along the tracks of the wet tropics, enjoying the view of creeping vine and towering canopies, Dawn was able to warn us about how to deal with an aggressive Cassowary, discourage a Talking Turkey and extract oneself from the dreaded Waitawhile prickly thorn, so called because you have to ‘wait a while’ to get yourself free. At the end of a 2k stretch, Joe took a dip in a billabong beneath a gentle waterfall, whilst I panicked in case a croc was waiting to pounce. If they don’t get you, one of the many venomous creatures will!
The rest of the day was spent driving through the rainforest to Cape Tribulation, with an epic ferry ride across the crocodile infested river (Dawn had mentioned earlier just how clever they are – crocs observe the routine of their prey, leave them alone for many days and then pounce when your guard is down – that ferry had a very strict routine). This was followed by giant slices of the most delicious carrot and banana cake, to give us strength to go on. At the Cape a short stroll along the crab ‘designed’ golden sand led to a ‘Leo photo opportunity’ as we perched him in the curved, twisted branches of the Mango Grove, before observing the ‘no dogs allowed’ signs and bunging him back in the boot (with Joe attempting to decapitate him in the process by strategically placing that dear little stuffed neck on the lip of the trunk as the lid crashed down). Poor Leo – we were reminded of how the youngsters soaked him in water and stuck him in the freezer overnight in Akaroa, so that he emerged a solid lump of furry ice – if the kids at school only knew the true story of his voyages!
After a relaxing evening and another delicious Aussie meal (barbecue inevitably involved), we slept well before another action packed day. One of the many highlights had to be The Bog. Yep, time to lower the tone and blog about the bog. In Port Douglas there is a public, dual cubicle loo that has to be experienced by any true adventurer, so I did. In you go, bolt the door and a very polite lady announces ‘you have exactly ten minutes until the door opens automatically so that all is revealed to the world’ (OK, not the last ten words but you get the gist). If this has caused any stress, fear not – relaxing music now begins to play, drowning out any voluntary (or involuntary) musical contributions from the current inhabitant. All toilet paper is dispersed electronically at the press of a button. Except it’s only about six squares (I would’ve counted them for the purpose of journalistic accuracy, but the minutes were running out). This results in quick creative thinking in a crisis – press the button, tear, press the button, tear – virtually no time to actually use, the biggest fear is being caught short. The final denouement is another rather worrying notice – ‘this door will automatically unlock when you flush’. All in all a pretty stressful experience, but you’ll be relieved to know I was relieved without incident, unlike Joe the first time he used one. He flushed too soon …
After this unprecedented excitement, we headed off to book our trip to The Reef.
‘No worries,’ she said, ‘there’s loads of space and choice for any day except Thursday when the cruise ships come in.’
‘We can only do tomorrow,’ we say, ‘what day is it?’ (having totally lost track of the days).
Just our luck, though it did solve the dilemma of too much choice making it impossible to reach a decision – there turned out to be just six places left on ‘Wavedancer’, cruising out to the inner reef at the Low Isles just north of Port Douglas. Needless to say we booked up quick, before heading off to Hartley’s Crocodile Park.
I really enjoyed this jolly jaunt, the boys slightly less so, simply because they have this theory it’s better to see the creatures in the wild (don’t ask me why – too many reruns of Crocodile Dundee, I suspect). Still, it was a pretty significant achievement to get Joe in on a child’s ticket, given that it was half price for under 16 and he will be 25 next birthday…
… needless to say, he decided to act his ‘new’ age and ran under the sprinklers waving Leo in the air (who had possibly contributed to the misunderstanding in the first place by being tucked under the arm of Dear Son No 1 as we entered the park).
Having listened to the snake man (Awesome Dude Liam) tell us about the gruesome effects of being bitten by an Inland Taipan whilst one curled around his snake man stick (behave yourselves with any comments), we embarked on the boat tour of the lagoon, with the crocodiles being taunted by a pathetic piece of chicken impaled on yet another stick. I have to admit, the sound of their jaws clamping shut with each near miss will haunt many a nightmare in the years ahead.
At this point my Junior Bloggers insist it is imperative I mention Awesome Dude (AD) asking where we were from; Timothy responded ‘England’. AD said ‘I’ve a song for you – five nil, five nil, five nil…’. Timothy replied, ‘I have one for you – five one, five one …’. I am reliably informed all World Cup fans reading this blog will get the joke. I’m buggered if I do. Something to do with Timbo confusing Spain’s score with Australia’s. (Kindly note this paragraph of the blog was written at Cairn’s airport whilst mildly inebriated).
Later that evening we all went out for dinner and had a wonderful supper on the deck of the Tin Shed, watching the sun go down over the harbour at the totally unreal time of 6pm. So strange to be enjoying winter in Queensland with average temperatures of 27 degrees.