Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Jack and Carol's in Sydney

This is the first of three new posts. Read our Port Douglas to Lake Tizali posting.

We had a lovely time staying with Andy's aunt's former neighbours. Their daughter Yazi had grown up a lot since Andy last had cornflakes with her. After chauffeuring us from the airport, they laid on a fabulous pool side barbecue. They were very patient listeners, as we told stories from our travels. Their two dogs – Dizzy and Smudge – were gorgeous.

This morning we went to Barronjoey Lighthouse as seen in the hit TV programme – 'Home and Away'. This gave us a chance to see Sydney's Northern beaches.

Thanks for having us!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Great Barrier Reef

In our quest to find Nemo, we booked onto a boat tour to the outer Great Barrier Reef. At 2,000km long, the Great Barrier reef is the biggest structure in the world made by living organisms. (It looked really impressive from the air as we flew to Sydney yesterday – the individual reefs looked like jewels in the sea).

Kitted out in flattering full-body lycra suits to protect against 'stingers' (i.e. jellyfish), we dived into the clear blue water. The water was 27 degrees with excellent visibility. We were looking forward to exploring three sites in the Agincourt reef group.

The snorkelling was phenomenal with beautiful coral formations, large shoals of colourful tropical fish, and even a couple of reef sharks. The hardest thing was trying not to get kicked in the face by other people (mainly kids and their parents) who didn't look where they were going.

At the second site, there was a massive coral wall of about 15 metres. It was full of little caves and overhangs, and we had a great time finding fish and starfish hiding in them. Despite our best efforts, we couldn't see any Nemos around. But we did see at least 50 different species of fish instead. At the third site, an enormous wrasse fish was swimming around us. We both dived down to touch it. One of the other people even gave it a long wet kiss on the mouth. That was a bit too weird...

Paronella Park to Mission Beach

Paronella Park was built, almost single handedly, by Jose Paronella during the 1930s. Being in the wet tropics, vegetation and cyclones are slowly taking their toll on the park. Bizarrely, this just adds to the experience. The night tour included florescent fungi, fireflies, baby bats and huntsman spiders in the 'Tunnel of Love'. An impressive waterfall fed into a lake full of slithering eels. The climax of the tour was the illumination of the castle, set to the music of the major Japanese anime film in which it featured.

Much later than planned, and passing a big snake on the road, we arrived at the camp site in Mission Beach. We were too late to check in so didn't get any keys for the toilet block. Luckily, a very kind Scottish couple leant us their keys. The camp site had a few frogs and toads, one of which joined Jen in the toilet. Jen also saw an echidna – an elongated hedgehog thing with a beak-like snout. Andy only saw the less impressive back end as it disappeared into a bush.

In the morning, we walked along the croc free Mission Beach and had a quick dip in the surf. Whilst coconut palms drooped over the golden sand, a few showers came in to dampen the tropical perfection.

On our way back to Cairns we stopped off at Josephine Falls. It's famed for a beautiful swimming hole with natural rock slides. The current was a little strong in one place, and you momentarily got carried down the river. The look of surprise on Jen's face was priceless.

Read our Port Douglas to Lake Tizali posting.

Port Douglas to Lake Tizali

Leaving Port Douglas in a heavy tropical downpour, we made our way inland to the Atherton Tableland. Higher up, it was much less humid than the coast. Our first stop was Granite Gorge. As our car wasn't insured to drive along dirt roads we had to walk for a while. We passed giant termite mounds and a few large 'beetle things' crushed under car wheels. Once we got to the gorge, we were inundated with wallabies who were used to being hand fed.

After a night spent at Lake Tinaroo – home to a large hydro electric and irrigation scheme, we headed to the Curtain Fig Tree. It was gigantic and well worth the detour. Needing a bit more exercise, we decided to do a walk around Lake Eacham. What should have been a short walk was soon aborted due to a python on the path – our first wild snake. Slightly freaked out by the snake, we were calmed by some of the other wildlife, including some turtles and 30cm-long lizards by the lakeside. Apparently these turtles have the ability to breathe through their bottoms. We wonder if they can talk out of them as well...

A short diversion en-route, with some interesting road signs, took us to a local tea factory which did an impressive cream tea.

Our hectic day of sightseeing then saw us take a sharp turn off the main road to Lake Tizali, where we could spot some wild platypuses – no see, no fee – as our guide stated. Within ten minutes, we sighted our first platypus and were addicted, trying to get better photos each time they surfaced. They were beautiful, swam very elegantly and were a real highlight. We never thought we'd get to see them as they are very elusive.