We stepped off the plane and knew we had landed in paradise. The plane was parked on a thin strip of runway with a clear blue sky, large green mountains for a backdrop and palm trees swaying in the breeze. We thought maybe the pilot had taken a wrong turn somewhere between here and Brisbane and we’d landed in Honolulu – it is that tropical. We stopped for a tourist photo – Adam’s main concern about coming to Port Douglas was the fact that the town over is called Cassowary (very large bird capable of disembowelling you if it chooses to). The flight itself, though very early morning, was beautiful in the early morning sun. We flew over part of the great barrier reef, visible from the height of our plane’s window seat.
Our hire car was ready to go and we were on the road. The little Hyundai Getz matches every other renting foreigners’ car on the road, we see them parked everywhere – but don’t care because we’re finally in charge of where we go and at what time! Driving in automatic is like a go-kart with turbo power, made easier here because we’re still on the same side of the road as the UK, all except the indicator which has swapped places with the windscreen wipers. Take a moment to imagine our first couple of miles navigating through the city of Cairns, turning left and right often, with the windscreen wipers going like the clappers because Adam still hasn’t found the indicators. Eventually we’re on the open road – the Captain Cook Highway – an hour of coastal scenery to our right, and rainforest to our left. We didn’t speak much throughout the journey, just to point out new views or strange signs we’d seen along the way!
We eventually arrived at our new airbnb accommodation and somehow managed to book into the OaksLagoons resort, for $56 a night for two – 6 lagoon pools, 5 minutes from Four Mile beach and a king size bed. We had difficulty contacting our new roommate for the week so called the landlord for some help. He let us know the front door would likely be open so we walked in and had a look around – we found our room mate. Horizontal with his head tipping backwards between the sofa cushions, tongue on display and legs akimbo – fast asleep. Unfortunately the front door slammed behind us so we thought for sure he would stir and come around to find two strangers in his apartment. He remained asleep (more dead than asleep at this stage). We walked by our roommate onto the balcony, found the lagoon pools, patio dining set (as advertised on the website), found our room and speculated on whether or not we should wake him up. Gregg, at least we knew his name, was sleeping like a baby. We unpacked, had been in and out of the open plan living room numerous times, loaded our groceries into the fridge – it’s useful to note Adam’s inability to tread quietly when necessary – yet the only time Gregg stirred was when his own snore blocked his windpipe. We decided to leave him to it and get down to the pool to cool off. We were finally in the sort of weather conditions that we like, hot and humid (tropical)! Speaking of tropical, after 5 minutes of being in the pool and 2 minutes of tanning on the sun beds, the heavens opened. The rain comes and goes so quickly here that you can never keep up. If there’s a grey cloud in the distance you can be sure that within the next 20 minutes it’s going to roll in and you’re going to get soaked, the added benefit of being in the tropics is that 2 minutes later the sun will come out and you’ll dry out quicker than it took to get you drenched!
We took cover under a canopy before heading down to the beach, swimwear on point, towels at the ready, sunglasses and sun lotion were in place. To my horror on arrival we were met by danger signs of the creatures that we would be swimming with if we were to enter the water – ‘causing injury or death’. Adam, however, was elated at the possibility of finding a crocodile that he immediately began the search. With the advice being to keep away from the waters edge at all times and not to enter the mangroves, we decided it would be better to walk down the centre of the thin beach in the hope that nothing would appear from the water on our right, nor the forest on our left. Not the tropical beach experience we had in mind, but still as tropical as you’ll ever get! In the water also lies stingers, box jelly fish (evil spawns of satan) that will hurt you and you will die. We stayed for a quick photo before scampering away from any danger and heading towards the town centre of Port Douglas just in time for the sunset. Here we found hundreds of Laurekeets swarming around flying between the palm trees, all chirping away as loud as they could. Collectively they sounded like broken glass bottles being thrown around the recycling bin! The clouds from earlier were still heavy and heading towards the mountains in the distance. Unfortunately this blocked the sunset for quite a while, eventually the sun poked through and we got some great views cross the ocean with the mountainous backdrop. We sat on a bench left in memory of a teenager who been unfortunate enough to have died from a shark attack a year previous to now. Spearfishing near Rudder Reef, the 18 year old suffered fatal injuries. Though we are learning that the animals out here are incredibly dangerous, more often than not the animals don’t like hanging out with humans the same amount as we don’t with them. Only when you put yourself in a situation where you are at risk will accidents happen – it’s thought that the shark was after Daniels catch of the day rather than him, unfortunately he went with it. The likelihood of me snorkelling ever again is decreasing by the minute.
We woke up to an overcast sky which quickly turned to heavy rain so decided it was a day to visit the Wildlife Habitat here in Port Douglas. Our entry tickets also got us complimentary entry for the next 4 days, in and out of the park as many times as we want! We bought the $2 Roo food, and got given another pack for free – must be the accents – we were not disappointed! Immediately you step into an avery full of tropical birds of all sorts of colours, all on high contrast and flying around you at head height! Continuing through we found the koala talks and learnt that they give birth after only 35 days of gestation, when the jelly bean sized infant finds its own way into the pouch (that opens at the bottom end and not the top for this purpose) and sits there getting nutrients from a tete for up to 5/6 months before making an appearance! Koala’s build up an immunity to the toxins in eucalyptus during this time through the mother digesting the leaves and passing a concoction of diluted toxic nutrients in small doses to the baby Koala – this is what helps these animals stay safe from most predators in the wild (they taste toxic)! We chose not to pay $18 for a photo with one, for less than 30 seconds you hold him and before you know it he’s gone. We petted him for longer in between him being passed around each person who had paid for the opportunity to get up close! We got to the wallaby enclosure and immediately got the bag of food out in the hope that they would grab hold of our hands and nibble away. This in fact took us some time to master as every time we got anywhere near close to one, a small child would run over and scare them away. You can imagine our faces of delight. Continuing through the enclosure we got to the Kangaroos where they were much more approachable, much bigger and much more willing to be fed than the wallabies. To my delight, they were amazingly tame and friendly and we spent the best part of an hour just letting them nibble away at our hands, clamber over to us and just let us pet them for as long as they would tolerate – some more than others. The smaller ones were more tame, and much more willing to be manhandled. Short of picking it up and cradling it I was just about on my limit of cute overload. There was one that was just so content with me being around her that she just chilled, uninterested in food and more interested in having a good scratch! Using our new 4 day passes we popped back on our second to last morning in Port Douglas with our second bag of kangaroo feed and spent another hour getting to know our new bouncy friends. Please understand and forgive our new obsession – and therefore hundreds of photos of these balls of fluff (these are only our favourites – there are thousands more to choose from).
We were up and out of the apartment by 8am ready for our next adventure, we decided we wanted to see what Mossman had to offer, as we knew of the affluent Mossman suburb in Sydney and wanted to compare. We had entered and left Mossman, QLD without realising. A quick U-turn and we returned to see what we’d missed – a couple of cafés and an auto-mobile centre. We knew we were early so weren’t sure if the information centre of the Gorge would be open yet, but tried our luck anyway. By 9am we had sneakers on, backpacks armed with water, sunscreen and water proofs (how are you supposed to prepare for a trek in the rainforest?)! Pamela, an indigenous guide, introduced us to the map and which ways to go. She let us know that there is a 1 mile short track and a 2.4km track that leads on after that, we were here early and happy to have a walk through the rainforest so decided on the longer trail – only then did she let us know that the path is shared by reptiles (venomous reptiles). Not only this, but cassowaries also inhabit the rainforest so we were to be wary of our surroundings. She said “I just let people know so that they are aware” ….I spent the next 2 hours treading extremely carefully. Every tree root looked a snake. It was a toss up between looking down for snakes or up for cassowaries, so Adam looked up and I down. It’s hard not to look up the entire time, the rainforest is beautiful. Lush and green and humid, but through fear of death by venom, the forest bed got 70% of my attention. There were fig trees dotted around the pathway; most of which were planted with the help of bird excrement on a branch which then rooted itself from the top down, surrounding its donor tree and taking in all the nutrients from around it. Subsequently the donor tree becomes undernourished and dies, leaving the fig tree with a hollow centre. Through the middle of Mossman Gorge is the River which, on some days, it is possible to swim in. The water is extremely clear, but fast moving. We think due to the rainfall this week the currents were too strong and signs were up advising people not to jump into the water as lives have previously been taken. We ate lunch out on one of the large rocks just out from the river bank, Adam’s choice. We’ve since learnt that Cassowaries enjoy a cool dip in the river, so we were at high risk munching on our homemade wraps.
After finishing our trek we headed further north along the coast in the hope of finding some beaches that were not crocodile infested. We came across Wonga beach, no crocs but it did have stingers, so we were half way to safety, kind of! The water was so far out we didn’t even make it to the edge, but did take a stroll through the shallow waters picking up the pretty shells and realising they were already the property of the local hermit crabs so promptly putting them back. We saw a fallen tree and took it as a good photo opportunity, so set the self timer and raced around trying to make it into position within 10 seconds – we made it, but in the process I impaled myself on a short branch whilst Adam couldn’t breathe for laughing, and took his time and his own photo opportunity of the event.
We ventured further north, and came to a river in which 3 tourist companies had pop up stalls to entice customers to purchase a ticket onto their crocodile river cruise, with varying prices and no guarantee of crocodile sightings. We decided to save our money and instead catch the car ferry (floating tin can on a pulley rope) across the 50 metre river, we could probably have jumped it, but for $24 return journey we didn’t want to miss out on the chance to see what was on the other side of the ditch.
With the help of our Australian GPS, we went up towards Mount Alexandra where the lookout point sees all the way around the coast that we came from, 25km as the crow flies across the water to Port Douglas. Heading back down the mountain at a snails pace (under my strict instruction), Adam drove carefully to avoid going off the cliff – there were a few holes in the fences and we weren’t about to find out what was down there. We took a detour towards Cape Kimberley as we’d been seeing signs for it and it came up in the GPS as a local place to visit. This route also provided a longer road and an increased chance of us spotting a wild cassowary. Following the unsealed road the whole way to the end only saw us to a dead end, where the beach access point was a swamp area with mangroves growing, a crocodile’s heaven – with signs to let you know to enter at your own risk. So we didn’t dare take a dip and got back into the car and heading back up the 45 degree angle gravel hill that we thought our little automatic wasn’t going to make it back up, but it surprised us! A coastal journey back down to Port Douglas was over in a flash and we were back in the apartment ready for a dip in the pool! We tried to get down to the waters edge in the centre of town for around 5:30-6pm everyday as the view of the sunset from here was beautiful. Unfortunately the rainclouds had their say at that exact time everyday which made it nearly impossible to get a good, bright view – the photos didn’t turn out to bad though thankfully. In this same spot we were witness to hundreds of laurakeets who were buzzing around this one tree with very few leaves but plenty of places to perch. The sound of them altogether sound similar to broken glass smashing into the recycling bin, a sound that isn’t pleasant, but you seem to zone out after a little while. We ate dinner out at a very cool saloon called ‘hogs breath café’ – doesn’t sound appetising, and trust me Adam put in a sales pitch to get me to go in, but it was delicious (after the coffee expert Adam sent his flat white back because it was, in fact, a cappuccino).
We loved Port Douglas, though we didn’t get much time down in Cairns, we were busy every day and the tropical weather kept us on our toes enough to require planning and researching what can be done in the area – so much to do and so little time!