20120907 – Cairns

Friday – clear blue sky and sunny.

Overnight flight from Singapore gets us into Sydney for 05:00. Clear customs in record time, no messing about.

I know I was ashamed of Heathrows buses etc but Sydney is even worse. You have to produce your boarding card; sit in lounge for 20 minutes; then catch a bus to the domestic terminal.  Yes, that’s right you need a boarding card to get on the bus!

Despite my best efforts at Teach Yourself Aus I still can’t understand a word of the announcements – perhaps they’re all ex British Rail announcers who have emigrated to Oz.

Pleasant 3 hour flight up to Cairns.

Pick up Hertz and by 13:00 we’re settled in our executive room in the All Seasons hotel. Lovely big room, bathroom ad small balcony, but come on at least one picture on those bare walls would be nice.

Have a walk down to the Harbour and visit Wolworths – yes they’re still alive and prospering over here – to pick up some food for dinner.




Saturday – warm and sunny.

Up early for breakfast and walk to the harbour to board the 09:00 Reef Magic catamaran out to their platform on the lagoon at Moore Reef. Manage to part with some of my breakfast before we get to the reef platform.

Have a fantastic dive on the Great Barrier Reef. I’m the only certified diver this morning so it’s just me and the guide.



My dive had some great swims through fairly tight coral canyons. With the current these were tricky to negotiate but managed without major incident or damaging any coral. Awesome and the coral canyons really made the dive. At one stage I  just touched a piece of coral with my left hand. Razor sharp results in 3 minor scratches. Moral is have some gloves, no wonder my guide is fully covered from head to finger tips to toes.


It seems like another good reason to be well covered is the delightful Box Jellyfish. One sting and you can be dead in 90 seconds. Impressive eh!

Pleasant lunch on the platform, followed by some snorkelling. By now its getting a tad rougher. Reef is quite shallow in the snorkelling area, only 2 – 3 feet deep. Waves can easily drop you very close to the coral. It would be so easy to end up shredded. Wet suits are a great idea for swimming with razor blades but quite a few people have no protection at all.

Coral and fish aren’t as impressive when snorkelling. Makes scuba with all that kit, training and weight (for future reference I need 6 weights with 3mm wet suite in salt water) well worth it.

This is my sort of diving, warm water; gorgeous coral; pretty fish and less than 40 feet deep.

Wendy braves the semi-submersible sub so I go on the the trip with her. Gives a glimpse of what Scuba is all about. Thankfully we’ve both invested in some Qualms which seem to keep the sea sickness of the sub and the return journey at bay.

Wendy asks some deep metaphysical questions. What do fish do with themselves all day? Do they have a day out to pop and visit parents and friends?  What’s their purpose in life? Who knows!

On the way back we have the advantage of a spot of whale watching. I would post a photo of the whale leaping out but at those distances it’s just a few pixels.

After an fantastic bucket list day we stroll back to the hotel for a mediocre dinner in the hotel followed by a pleasant but expensive bottle of wine, an expensive Aussie beer and an exhausted sleep.

That’s one more ticked off the bucket list. Need to consider some additions.

Sunday – warm, sunny with clouds.

Leisurely breakfast and morning.

Drive up the picturesque coast road to Port Douglas. Joy, just like any French town, there’s a market – how can I be so lucky. Try a real coconut drink then have the contents of the coconut with a banana. This guy really knows how to crack open a coconut. One tap with an iron bar and it’s perfectly cracked in two.  Not really to my liking as the young coconut produces more milk but the flesh which isn’t as nice as the less creamy and drier mature coconut. Interesting how they scoop out the flesh though with what can best be described as a rotating grater on the end of a power drill. Makes it so easy.

Wander down the high street. Pick up a BLT for Wendy. Then view the 4 mile beach. PD is a typical “seaside resort”. Thankfully not a Blackpool but not nearly as nice as Cairns despite everybody else’s opinion to the contrary.

Drive back to Cairns and call in at Palm Cove. Another pleasant beach resort.

Then as a treat for Wendy we call in at the Mall and visit Coles – no they don’t sell ski gear – for some fruit and supplies for our long drive down to Tamborine Mountains. Also manage to pick up some nice Oz wines and Lowenbrau – heaven. Thankfully wine in the big liquor stores is quite cheap, wish we could say the same fore the food – each trip to the supermarket needs another 2nd mortgage.

Call in to a Subway to pick up a sandwich. Subway and wine for dinner, not a chopstick in sight.

Monday – cloudy but warm.

Drive up to sky rail to go up to Kuranda. Closed for maintenance. Train to Kuranda, closed for maintenance. Aboriginal village – yes you’ve spotted the pattern. Co-ordinated customer care!

Drive up to Kuranda. Another World Heritage site – Wet Tropics – tropical rain forest. Kuranda is a quaint village full of shops selling all sort of knick knacks that you neither need nor probably even want – nothing new there then. Of course there are plenty of cafes and restaurants.

Go for a pleasant 3K rain forest walk. Pleasant and not too hot. Good to see that job creation schemes are live and kicking over here. There’s a guy cutting grass in the rain forest!



Take a drive down to Barron Falls and enjoy our lavish lunch of a banana and trail bar by the falls.  Actually the falls look a bit insipid. That’s because the majority of the water is now piped underground to drive a hydro electric scheme. In their hey day they looked pretty powerful.


Back to the hotel for afternoon tea and then take a leisurely stroll, complete with tourist sized camera, around Cairns. It’s a very pleasant and relaxing place.





For dinner this evening we have the pleasure of a MacDonalds, ginger beer and wine. A welcome relief after all that chopstick tucker of last week.

Remember those 3 little coral scratches fron Saturday? Well they’re still showing no sign of healing. Only trivial little scratches. Hardly noticeable but apparently coral scratches need immediate attention and can need anti-biotic cream and tablets. Try some anti-septic stuff – looks like iodine.

It seems like they’re a tad concerned about Electric ants around here – I think they’re the same as the American Fire ants, but of course I’m sure the American ones are bigger and have a better sting.

Interesting sign on the roadside “Gay men – rip and roll”. Don’t get it? Safe sex advert, rip open the condom packet and roll it on your “old fella”.

The Oz “No Entry” sign is “Wrong way go back” – perverse.

Tuesday – torrential down pour, but what can you expect we are in a tropical rainforest.

Leave Cairns and drive about 450 miles down to Airlie Beach. Pleasant little seaside resort. Very picturesque and tropical. Stay in a pleasant Best Western hotel. Very modern and trendy. Manage a enjoyable stroll around the beach. Pick up a Pepperoni pizza for dinner. Real food.

Good to see that it’s not just the UK that suffers from an excess of trivial and stupid laws. How’s this one “It is illegal to drink any alcohol around the pool that was not purchased in the Hotel”. Firstly I hope it’s just a pack of marketing lies. If it’s not then I despair. If whoever passed this law was a full shilling then he would have turned around to the proposer and told them to go fourth and multiply your profits without wasting the laws time. The law is not an extension of your marketing department.

Don’t I just love Oz wine, especially now I’ve found a cheap BWS shop. There’s just no pretensions, unlike the French. Sensible screw top and lovely smooth blended Merlots and Pinot Noir.

Wednesday – hot and sunny.

Drive down to Rockhampton. Road works every 5 minutes.

Rockhampton is a tad disappointing, not really much there although there is a lovely park with waterfalls. It’s main claim to fame seems to be the most protected old buildings on one street in the whole of Oz.

Comfort Inn hotel was interesting. Wifi is free. That’s if you can get on the network and then cope with a blistering 356 Bytes per second. Asked the guy on reception to solve the problem. “No use asking me mate I don’t even know or want to know how to turn a PC on”. Wait until the evening and speak to the owner. Usual fob stories. “Have you put the password in”. “it was ok last night”. Finally convince her to try it and she can’t get on. Conversation the deteriorates. “What do you expect me to do about it?”. “Get onot your support and get it fixed”. “They’ll not come out in the evening”. “There’s nothing I can do”. “You offered me a service and now you’re not delivering”. “Wifi’s free”. “there’s nothing I can do. They’ll charge a fortune. We’re always having problems”. “Ah so there is something you can do”. “Theres nothing I can do”.

At which point she says I can have the room for free. I say no a $20 refund is more than fair. “No you’ll have the room for nothing”. Who am I to argue with stropy Sheila with bad customer service attitude.

Devastated I miss the iPhone 5 announcement.

Thursday – hot and sunny.

More road works as we drive down to Hervey Bay. Arrive around lunch time. Another Comfort Suite. Very comfortable suite for just $99.

Have a pleasant walk down the sea front and a coffee on the beach. All very pleasant. Lovely bay. Flying foxes hang from the trees. For dinner it’s Ned Kelly pie and a Lamington – a dessert of Australian origin. It consists of squares of sponge cake coated first in a layer of traditionally chocolate icing, then in desiccated coconut. All very tasty washed down by a beer and some excellent Merlot.

Unusually breakfast is delivered to your room. Another stroppy Sheila tells us we should have pre-ordered . Do they have a special customer service and  charm school for all these Sheila’s to attend before they’re let loose on those delusional people who think they’re a customer? But alas no one told us we had to pre-order. Moral here seems to be deal with a bloke!

Friday – hot and Sunny.

Last leg of our journey down to Brisbane and onto the Tamborine mountains and our home exchange for the next 19 days.

A little travel quiz to pass away the 1,200 mile journey from Cairns to Brisbane.

What is the biggest industry in Queensland?
Mining. Well thats the Wiki answer but I’m afraid it’s wrong.
Sugar cane. Wrong.
Tourism. Wrong again.
The correct answer is road works. If you don’t believe me try driving the 1,200 miles from Cairns to Brisbane and I’m sure you’ll agree. There are even more road works than in the UK. Unbelievable and unimaginable but true.
Anyway as I just got so fed up with this every 5 minutes that I decided the best solution is if you can’t beat them join them – see picture. Minimum wage, but just think how much misery you are inflicting.

Finally make it to our home exchange. We’re in the midst of a national park and tropical rain forest, all very pleasant and cool – no I’ve not lost the plot and started using such bastardised words. Being 1,500 feet up it’s that bit cooler than on the gold coast.

The house is awesome; fantastic views over the gold coast from our bedroom, office, lounge and Wendy tells me even the kitchen; vaulted ceilings; massive deck; giant barbecue, puts even the Americans to shame; fantastic birds and parrots on the garden. So far no snakes or black spiders!




Went out for dinner with our hosts to a lively Irish bar with  great atmosphere and typical music.

Saturday – hot and sunny.

Our host leave early so we now have this massive house all to our selves. It’s really nice to meet up with the host and have a handover, it’s amazing how much we all have in common.

Breakfast on the deck admiring the views and birds.

Then we drive down to Coolangata – Gold Coast airport – don’t you just love those town names. Car was due to be dropped off at Brisbane Airport  as we have the use of a car with the home exchange. But Hertz are so flexible. Give them and ring and of course sir it’s no problem just drop it off at Coolangata – now that’s what I call service and no extra cost.

Then it’s the dreaded supermarket. Well I wanted to loose some weight, it’s certainly going to be easy here in Oz. Foods that expensive we can’t afford to eat.  Red cross food parcels would be greatly appreciated.

Fortunately there’s plenty of calories in red wine, that’s cheap, along with avos (advacados) – yuk!

Give Pam a ring and set up to visit her down on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.



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