Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reef, trains and Rainforest

The photos on here are in reverse order - Day 3 first and day 1 last - There are loads more on Picasa!!

Our tranport to Cape Tribulation - a cool bus

Mon 24th Jan – Great Barrier Reef boat cruise

I was up bright and early today, The sun is shining and I am off out to the Great Barrier reef.

I made my way to Marlin Wharf and boarded the catamaran that was to take us out to sea. There were about 70 people on board, mostly Japanese, but with a few grumpy Germans and some over enthusiastic Americans too. I appeared to be the only Brit there. I was actually on a different tour than I had booked. It was an upgrade to visit Michaelmas Cay, because the boat I was originally booked in was broken. This tour was actually more than twice the price I paid!!

We left dock at 8.30am and spent two hours motoring out towards the Cay. I spent most of the time reading a book and was surprised at how fast the time passed. We suddenly came across a spectacular piece of scenery. In the deep blue sea, was a spit of sand no more than 150 metres long, with grass growing on it and thousands of sea birds nesting there. It was surrounded by a beautiful green sea. It was what you could describe as a paradise island. This is Michaelmas cay.

We all quickly grabbed our issued snorkel gear and were taken to the beach by a tender that carries about 40 people and after being dropped off, I quickly got my gear on and spent the next hour exploring the Great Barrier Reef itself. It was amazing, with bright vivid colours and al sorts of fish and turtles. Time passed too quickly once again and all too soon we were called back to the boat for lunch. It was a great big buffet lunch and I had my fill, before we started the next phase of the day. A semi submersible pulled alongside the catamaran and we climbed on-board and then down some steps, so that we were sitting below the level of the ocean. We then spent half an hour travelling alongside the reef and being pointed out all the different life that lives there. To be honest, I was a little disappointed at this, because the water was slightly cloudy and you couldn’t make much out through the windows, but it was a nice experience. I was glad then, when we got back to the catamaran, that we were motored back to the beach for another hour of snorkelling. I left my wetsuit behind this time and just swam with my swimmers and snorkel gear on. It was great and a few of us spotted turtles and I saw some kind of big fish, about 5 feet long out of the corner of my eye, before it disappeared out of my sight.

The boat crew then called us back in and we got aboard and headed back home. On the way one of the crew got out his guitar and played some tunes while we rested and drank the free champagne!!

All in all it was a great day out and a great experience. Tonight, Lisa and Andrea are in town, so we are going to meet up for dinner. Then tomorrow I’m out on sky ride to Kuranda, above the rain forest!!

I ventured out into town just after 7pm and eventually met up with Andrea and Lisa at the night market. They were looking around and trying to find sunglasses and flip-flops that they liked. We had a bit of dinner, each of us choosing something different from the variety of food available in the food hall. Then we went for a massage. It wasn’t the best massage I have ever had, but the work on my shoulders was pretty good. Andrea also got some patches to help with circulation, but took them off quickly as she didn’t like them. We then had a good wander around town and along the esplanade, where after a quick incident with a bird, I ended up cleaning Andrea's hair!! I wandered with then for a while before they headed back towards their hostel and I came back to my apartment. It was a really nice mellow evening out and it was lovely to see the girls again.

Tue 25th January -Kuranda railway and Sky train

Today was a day trip into the rainforest.

Even though I’m on holiday, I was up early again and on the bus to Freshwater railway station, where the old train takes us into the mountains. After having a chat with a couple of Liverpudlians (I wont call them scousers, because they were a really nice couple – George and Edna) I boarded the train and spent the next hour and three quarters having a great time - stood between the carriages watching the world go by. Great views, big bridges, tunnels and spectacular waterfalls passed us by until we reached the rainforest town of Kuranda. It was a nice town and I visited the venom zoo, where we saw snakes, tarantulas and scorpions, before I headed back towards the skytrain – a 7.5km cable car through the rainforest. I was going to walk the suggested walks around Kuranda, but they were still flooded!! Bugar!

On the Sky train there were 2 stops. One to see a spectacular view of the 260 metre Barron falls and the other to take a walk through the rainforest itself. It was really quiet because of the shit summer, but I enjoyed a good trip and especially the skytrain itself.

At the end of the skytrain I clambered back onto my coach and fell asleep -it had been a long day!

Back at my apartment I had a bit of sleep and some dinner before meeting Andrea and Lisa for half an hour. They had been to Cape Tribulation, where I am going tomorrow and had had an indifferent day. I then had a couple of beers in PJ Obriens after the girls had gone home for an early night and I ran into George again from today. We had a good chat and then headed our separate ways!

Wednesday 26th Jan – Australia day and Daintree/Cape Tribulation day trip

Yep, I was up early again!! This time I was picked up at 7am, by the driver from Billy Tea tours in the brand new 4x4 offorad vehicle. It was really comfy and being on my own I had two seats to my self all day! On the tour with me from my accommodation was a couple from Mackay -Craig and Shay, who are here in their honeymoon. They are a nice couple and I spent most of the day chatting with them.

After picking up the other 11 customers, Matt, our driver headed north towards Daintree – which is a very important Rainforest area. On the way, we had to stop at a roundabout to pick up the final 2 passengers, who somehow had ended up on a rival tour operators bus by accident. As we headed north we had a good laugh about it and even took over the slower bus that the had gotten off. Th group now consisted of 4 Koreans, 2 Americans, 4 Australians, 2 German, 2 Swiss and 1 Brit – Me!

The first stop of the day was a Daintree river cruise, where we jumped aboard a small boat and looked for wildlife and other interesting stuff in the rainforest. We were much luckier than Andrea and Lisa, who spotted nothing yesterday. We saw three crocodiles, but unfortunately nothing else.

After the cruise, we got back on the bus and continued onwards. Next stop was a walk through the rainforest where Matt, showed us all the different and dangerous bugs, trees and plants that grow there as well as some of the more unusual things, including some very rare trees and poisonous stuff and a massive stick insect! It sounds a bit naff, but it was all done in a light hearted manner and was really enjoyable with the good group we had.

Back onto the bus after an hour or so and it was a short drive to a local roadhouse, where we had massive steaks cooked for us on the barbecue and loads of salad and veg to go with it. We also had a few minutes feeding, the already fat, local kangaroos. Some of the Koreans on the bus had never seen Kangaroos in the flesh and got really excited, whilst Shay was just commenting on the size of the balls on one of them!

After a drive to the end of the road and beyond up a dirt track, we stopped by a beautiful little creek, where we had a chance to swim in the lovely clear water, before a bit more food. This time it was a mixture of tropical fruit – Custard apples, dragon fruit, paw-paw, bananas and fresh pineapple, went down a treat with a cup of traditional made Daintree tea. Brewed in a Billy can and swung over Matts head to get the leaves to drop to the bottom.

We started to head back south and stopped on the way for a quick look at Cape Tribulation itself, which is the spectacular headland and beach at which Captain Cook landed when he got his ship caught on the nearby reef. It is a stunning place, with a beautiful beach and calm clear sea.

The final stop of the day was about 20 minutes later when we had a concoction of strange fruit made into ice cream. I don’t know if I liked it or not. It was cold, refreshing and sweet and some of the flavours were lovely, but some were 'strange'. Either way, it was a lovely way to cool down after our long day out.

It was a couple of hours drive back to Cairns so most people had a little kip on the way, waking up when a good view of the stunning coastline was pointed out by Matt.

Myself, Craig and Shay were the last to be dropped off and thanked Matt for a great day. It has been the best day out of the three I have had this week. The group were good fun and the driver, Matt was really informative, but easy going too. Tonight, I’m meeting up with Andrea and Lisa for a big night out. Its 26th January, which is Australia Day, so everyone will be celebrating including us!!

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