Port Douglas

Day 13: Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge

Today was another day for relaxing. The kids (and adults) slept a little later and then we made our way to Mossman Gorge. This is a place that has a few hikes and a suspension bridge. When the water is calm it is safe to swim in as well. Unfortunately when we were there the water was too dangerous for swimming.
After the Gorge we came back to the rental for lunch and then I took Rachel back to the Wildlife Habitat for some more kangaroo feeding. We then came back and picked up the boys and went to the Wednesday market on the pier at Port Douglas. This turned out to be mostly locals selling jewelry. I was hoping there was going to be people selling food.
We came back from the market around 4:30 and then I took the kids swimming in the hotel's massive pool. They were the only ones in the pool. The water was slightly cold but I managed to get in with them for about fifteen minutes.
We then went back to our rental and I went out to pick up takeaway food for dinner.
All-in-all not a very exciting day but it was a relaxing one.

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Day 12: Port Douglas

Today was a day for relaxing. We let the kids sleep in, though they were still up early. Around 10:45 we left the rental and headed to the Wilderness Habitat park which is right outside Port Douglas. This was a lovely little park that had Australian animals. We spent a couple of hours here. We got to see beautiful birds, crocodiles, wallabies, kangaroos, and koalas to name a few animals.

We got back to the rental around 2 and Rachel and I had lunch. Around 3 I took the kids to the massive resort pool. They lasted until one of them needed to use the restroom and then they both decided they were done swimming for the day. We chilled for an hour and then had a family walk along the ocean.

The walk was very nice. The ocean is literally right outside our rental behind the vegetation. While on our walk we found sand bubbler crabs. These crabs create interesting patterns on the beach. They ingest nutrients from the sand and then spit out the sand into tiny balls. It looks like an artist has been on the beach with the patterns these balls form.

We came back from our walk and then the men went out for dinner while Rachel and I made ourselves something back at the rental. The men ended up grabbing take-away at a place named Daves. Apparently if your name is David they take your picture and add your picture to their wall of Dave's. Pretty cool!

Tomorrow should be another relaxing day for everyone. It is also our last full day in Australia:(

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Day 11: Great Barrier Reef

Today was our first excursion to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). I had booked a tour with Sailaway cruises as they were a smaller GBR operator. Our cruise set sail at 8:30 AM and we headed toward the Low Isles. The Low Isles are off the coast of Australia. I chose this as our first snorkeling trip as there was always the option to snorkel off the island if one did not want to go further out and I thought Rachel may be too afraid.

The ride to the island took a little more than an hour. While we were cruising it rained about half of the time, but that was ok as you can still snorkel in the rain. On board they warned us not to touch the coral as it could cut you and it could contain dangerous bacteria which could then cause an infection….

Once we got to the island we divided into two groups: beginners and advanced. Neither child had ever been snorkeling before so we chose the beginner. I had a feeling Rachel was not going to do well with snorkeling and I was right. First, she had a cut on one of her toes and as soon as she put the flippers on it hurt her. Then when it was time to float on the water and snorkel she could not do it as she was afraid she would be cut by the coral and have an infection. I suggested to her instead that we could just stay at the island and have a walk around or snorkel from the shore and she was fine with that.
We walked along the beach while Jonas went snorkeling. We saw lots of coral on the beach and could also see it from the beach. The highlight was seeing a very large and dark blue sea star. We also saw two Reef sharks – one from the boat and one from the shore.

Jonas eventually returned from snorkeling with the group and we took a quick tour around the island. Then we headed back to the boat for a lunch buffet and then had another chance to snorkel or go on a glass bottom boat to see the Reef. The kids and I did this and we were able to see many colors of coral. It was very pretty.
After that the boat returned back to shore. According to Jonas I made three new friends on the boat. I spoke to a couple from Melbourne and a lady from Melbourne. We spoke about differences between our countries and we also briefly spoke about American politics. While we rode back Rachel spent the entire ride laying on the front net of the boat. She was very zen like.

Rumors are that the GBR is dieing because of bleaching. The marine biologist on the boat told us that bleaching occurs when temperatures are too warm for about four weeks. However eventually the reefs start to recover from the bleaching.
We arrived back at shore around 3:45. David picked us up from the dock and we returned back to our condo to freshen up. I then took the kids into town to check out Target Country (it was nothing much, more like a department store). Next we headed to the grocery store to pick up some more snacks and beverages for our place. I spotted a pizza place that had gluten free pizzas so we also brought some pizzas back to the rental for an early dinner.

After our day's adventure at the GBR I cancelled our reservation for our tour on Wednesday as there is no way Rachel would have done the snorkeling further out. I had expected that I would need to do this. This is why I had 48 hours between our adventures. I am ok with this as it means we have more time to be leisurely with other activities these next few days.

Unfortunately I was not able to take many pictures during our Reef visit, so here are some pictures at our resort.

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Day 9: Cairns

We departed Sydney this morning at 8:50 AM on a Virgin Australia flight. I find it interesting to note the differences between airlines. On Virgin they had people board the plane from both the front and the back. The flight safety announcements were recorded but the flight attendants seemed to do the motions in sync. I often wonder how the things airlines do impact the amount of time it takes to load a plane, and which airline has found the most efficient method. I also wonder what the impact would be if people were charged for carryons versus checked luggage, but then I wonder what the impact would be to the ground crew with the increased checked luggage…I think about these things way too much.

We arrived in Cairns around noon. Right away I could tell there are many Asian tourists here. I went to use the toilet and there was a huge sign telling women to sit and not squat….

We then went to pick up our rental and it was a comedy of errors. First – I had received an email from Hertz telling me I had to check in at the desk. We waited for about 15 minutes to get to the front of the line and then the woman tells me since I am Gold I can just go to the booth by the rentals. So we then trek over there. Get there and the woman tells us our car is in stall 230. It was a massive van. We then realized that the keys we had did not open that car….and realized the wrong car was in the stall. The woman inside told us to just go hunting for the car we were supposed to have. We finally found it and then discovered the car was missing a floor board on top of the spare tire. So then we had to get another car….car number three turned out to work for us and then we were off.

We headed to the Cairns Esplanade car park. We parked the car there and then walked to a chain called Grill'd because I read that they had gluten free rolls there for burgers. As we walked there we had to pass the massive pool and Rachel wanted to swim in it immediately and did not want to eat lunch. Anyway, we ate lunch and my burger was delicious. Too bad that chain is not in the US. I cannot remember the last time I was able to order a burger and bun in the US.

Next we headed back to the gigantic pool to go for a swim. Initially Jonas did not want to go in but then he changed his mind. The pool was awesome but a little cold. It was the largest pool I have ever swum in. Parts of the pool had a sandy bottom. It was like swimming in the ocean.

We were not in Cairns very long but my quick observation was that I was thankful we were just stopping through here and not staying here. There is no beach in Cairns. Half the fun of being on the coast of Australia is to be able to walk along the beach and dig in the sand. The area we were in also seemed very touristy- restaurant after restaurant, and there were a lot of people around. I also observed many camper vans and several cars that appeared to have extra gas cans with them. My guess is that the cars with extra gas have been traveling in some of the more remote areas of Australia.

We left Cairns around 3:30 and headed to Port Douglas where we were staying. My brother and Rachel's teacher had both recommended Port Douglas and they also both recommended staying at the same place. TripAdvisor people also suggested Port Douglas over Cairns as well.

The drive to Port Douglas was beautiful. Unfortunately I did not take a lot of pictures today….it reminded me a little bit of Hawaii with the mountains on the left and the ocean on the right.

We made it to Port Douglas an hour later. We proceeded to our rental and Jonas was the first one inside. The look on his face was priceless. This rental was my splurge rental. The unit we are renting is two bedrooms, two baths and two floors. It has three different outside areas. You cannot see the ocean from the rental but it is right beyond the vegetation and you can hear it from the unit. It is in a lovey area where you can walk around and feel secluded.

I left the family at the unit and headed to the grocery store for food. David took the kids to the beach while I was gone. There are two things one needs to be careful about in this part Australia – crocodiles and man-o-wars. There can be crocodiles in the ocean and dusk is one of the times they are most active…so they needed to be on the lookout for these while they played.

I came back from the store and made dinner. We did not end up eating until 8 and by this time the kids were super tired as we had to wake up early to catch our flight. We ate dinner and then told the kids to go to bed.

So not the most exciting day but tomorrow should be more adventurous!

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