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Port Douglas, Daintree, Lizard Island, Queensland

World Trip Two

Thursday, May 21 2009: Hobart-Port Douglas, Australia

Today was one of those very annoying days you have, every now and then, when travelling. Or should I say when you put your life in the hands of the airlines and, ultimately, the weather. We were scheduled to fly from Hobart to Cairns, via Melbourne. But bad weather in Melbourne caused our flight to be rerouted to Sydney. Of course you can imagine the bedlam this caused. We spent the next five hours waiting around in the Sydney airport. Travel consists of much hurrying up to wait; today was a good example of this axiom.

We left Hobart at 4:30 a.m. and arrived in Port Douglas via Cairns at 9:00 p.m.; a very long day.

Friday, May 22 2009: Port Douglas-Daintree, Australia

A little park in Port Douglas.

We spent a full and fantastic day in Port Douglas. The first task of the day was finding breakfast which led us to the main street of Port Douglas. This street is full of restaurants and shops. We had risen early so mostly every place was closed.

The Four Mile Beach.

But there was one early bird café that indulged us. After this we walked to Lookout Point via a little jewel of a park. The views from the park and the lookout were spectacular. We continued our walk to the Four Mile Beach where we strolled on its wide stretch of fine sands.

From here we returned to our apartment, rested a bit, and then drove to Mossman Gorge.

A short walk took us through the lush rain forest to gushing waterfalls and the cool Mossman River. Julia was horrified by a parks sign that stated: "If you touch this plant seek medical advice". From her initial sighting Julia could be seen gliding past all plants with distance to spare.

A primordial monster.

Once safely back in our car, with no plant encounters, we continued to the little and sleepy town of Daintree. Its only claim to fame is its many river cruises to spot crocodiles.

We selected the Electric Boat cruise as the idea of electric drive seemed very novel. As it turned out it was not only novel but its quietness allowed us to get very close to four crocodiles, including a very young baby croc.

We returned to Port Douglas where a Mardi Gras was in progress. The main street was filled with horses, fire trucks, and floats of all description.

An ancient reptile.

From Julia: I cannot imagine how anyone ever came to settle near the Daintree River. It's stunningly beautiful, but filled with crocodiles, stinging trees, and biting insects. We were drawn to see a crocodile, but from the safety of a boat.

Stupidly, I only checked with the boat skipper that it was safe to get a couple of feet away from a large estuarine croc when we actually were a couple of feet away from one. Luckily, he said it was okay. He was a wiry, suntanned, outback sort of guy. And he seemed to love the river and crocodiles. He knew their hangout spots and habits. In a thick Aussie accent he told us all about how they were nearly hunted to extinction, that they are now protected, but still if a human gets eaten by one then the croc is shot in retribution. He pointed to the thick, green rainforest at the banks of the river and told us that the forest and the crocs had been there for the last 150 million years. He sprinkled things like fair dinkum, mate, and good onya into his explanations, which was terribly endearing to me, but David didn"t notice the quaint colloquialisms like I did.

Port Douglas Video

Saturday, May 23 2009: Port Douglas-Lizard Island, Australia

One of the island's namesakes.

After so much rushing around it was now time for Julia and me to kick back and take it easy at the Lizard Island resort. The island is even further north, up the Queensland coast, than Port Douglas. It is also very close to the outer part of the Great Barrier Reef.

The view from our room.

We drove from Port Douglas back to Cairns were we picked up our general aviation flight to the island. A short one hour flight had us landing on the small strip in the middle of the island. This is the second time I have been here, and I still cannot get over how the place reminds me of the tacky TV show Fantasy Island. Not that Lizard Island is tacky. It is rightly a five star resort. But the idea of having your every wish granted, was then, and is now their motto.

Immediately after landing we were greeted by a host and several of the many giant lizards on the island. We were then driven to the lodge and shown around the resort. Soon we were settled in our cabin which overlooks the sunset beach. After much wine and a superb lunch we found ourselves floating about, in snorkel gear, on one of the many little sheltered bays that congregate about the island. Later, we watched the sun set while consuming more wine and then ended the evening enjoying a five star meal.

Lizard Island Landing Video

Sunday, May 24 2009: The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Julia is really liking diving now.

Today we rose early to ensure we could eat a hardy breakfast to prepare us for our day of SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef. We made a short one hour motor in the resort's diving boat to the outer reef where we made two dives. The water temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit; the reef was bursting with colorful coral, and overflowing with magnificent fish.

The dives were made even more pleasant because of the sunshine and calm waters. I have dived and snorkeled in many places all over the world but there is no place that gives me the same experience as diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Even if you never take the trouble to learn to SCUBA dive you must snorkel on this reef, It's so full of life and energy.

Great Barrier Reef Video 01

Monday, May 25 2009: Lizard Island-The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Another early morning followed by our third and last dive on the wonderful Great Barrier Reef. This time we dived only in the morning and were back in time to enjoy lunch at the lodge. We spent the afternoon chatting with other guests and generally goofing off.

The very rich Great Barrier Reef.

Oh well, it is a great place to goof off.

The resort management conducted a small gathering of guests this evening. We gathered to watch the fiery sunset. It was fun speaking with the staff while drinking our G&T. Lizard is an odd place. It is very remote, only accessible by boat or airplane, and it is a long way up the north Queensland coast. This means the employees have to stay on the island for at least three months at a time, and some of them stay much longer than this. If you have to leave you can, but you must pay for the flight yourself. It struck me that you would go quite barmy if you had to stay too long on the island. If your a guest the cost will limit your visit and you are pampered, but if you are working here you have at least three months of service, very hot, humid, and often rainy weather. Plus, many people we spoke to had partners off island which they saw only occasionally. It seems there is a hefty cost to paradise.

Great Barrier Reef Video 02

Tuesday, May 26 2009: Lizard Island-Cook's Lookout, Australia

Watsons Beach.

We seemed to have been bumping into the story of Captain James Cook everywhere we go in Australia and New Zealand. On the north tip of the south island of New Zealand we visited Ship Cove, where Cook anchored his ship the Endeavour. Ship Cove marks the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Track which we walked for a day.

This morning we once again walked on the same ground Cook walked. We made the three hour round trip to the highest point on Lizard Island: Cook's Look. Cook landed on Lizard to climb this mountain so he could find a way out of the labyrinth of coral reefs he was lost in. The granite peak gave him a way to map a path through his imprisoning reefs. He did this and named the island Lizard Island, because of all the lizards he found on it.

A happy but sweaty hiker.

The track took us from the resort, over a small point then down again to the cottage of ill-fated twenty-one year old Mary Watson. She lived there with her husband in 1881, the sole Europeans on the island.

The view from Cook's Look.

All that remains of her house is a small ruined stone wall. While her husband was away fishing for sea slugs she was attacked by a band of Aboriginals. One of her two Chinese servants was killed, and the other injured; speared seven times. Being young and fearing for her baby's life she decided to set out in an iron tub used for boiling sea slugs, a very unseaworthy vessel. She, her new born baby, and the injured Chinese servant left the island. The tub was found several months later on another nearby island, and all three occupants were dead. The little baby's skeletal head was found lying on the mother's chest. They had perished from thirst. It turns out that Lizard Island had been used by the Aboriginals for thousands of years and was quite sacred to them. They saw Mary as an intruder and expelled her. The outrage from the event caused 150 Aboriginals to be killed in retribution; most had nothing to do with the unfortunate act.

From Mary's house we walked along Watsons Beach to the start of the slow and methodical climb up the side of the granite peak. The track was mostly good with a few sections that required a scramble over rough and sharp rocks. Once we arrived at the peak we had superior views of the entire island and the many reefs and other atolls around it; even the mainland could be seen in the distance. It was a spectacular walk and filled us with a sense of history and the harshness of life gone by.

Wednesday, May 27 2009: Lizard Island-Cairns, Australia

What I was looking at when Julia saw the shark.

From Julia: Forty feet down under the ocean with a regulator in your mouth It's quite difficult to communicate. There's a whole system of signals to use, but I haven"t learnt them yet.

So, when David was pointing his camera at a shoal of bright blue little fish swirling around a coral tree, I didn"t know how to communicate to him that there was a seven foot long white tipped shark swimming just behind us. I pulled on his arm and tapped his shoulder but couldn"t get his attention. Several tense moments passed as I prodded David and watched the enormous shark swim calmly past us and disappear into the dark depths of the sea. When David finished his picture taking and looked at me all he saw were my very open eyes and me pointing at nothing. I kept turning around to look for the shark again but she"d gone. Luckily, I was distracted to focus again on the colors and shapes of small fish and coral trees. It just goes to show how pretty the environment is down there, as I soon forgot the giant killer and became entranced by the dream-like world around me.

A small reef shark.

We made it out of the water without any shark attacks and were pampered on the dive boat. There were piles of warm towels to wrap up in and then a feast of shrimp, and other tasty treats to munch on between dives. The resort we are staying in is complete luxury resting precariously on the edge of wilderness. It would be amazing anywhere to be so cared for, and impossible to believe out here miles beyond civilization surrounded by shark-infested waters. It is easy to imagine that if the resort were abandoned within a few weeks it would disappear into the jungle, just leaving a few vine covered ruins for the fruit bats and monitor lizards to nest among. We drift from one glass of wine to the next, from one delicious meal to the next, in a haze of relaxed happiness. Life cannot get any better.

Our first rain shower came in last night. It poured with rain as we watched on from our dinner table. This morning the rain continued on and off. The rain made little difference to the water temperature and so it did not stop Julia from enjoying the reefs at the sunset beach. It is sad to leave Lizard Island but we have so many other adventures ahead of us to look forward to.


Trip stats

Miles Flown: 9,595

Miles Hiked: 152

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 3,966

Miles Sailed: 110


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