Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Family Visit / Part 1

The co driver’s sister, Kelly and her husband, Mark, came for a two week visit from the USA. Despite travelling for 24 hours they were both sparking on all cylinders during the three hour drive from the airport to the south coast. We went for a short beach walk after lunch, caught up with all the news and after an early dinner we let them hit the sack as jet lag took over.
Next day we found them some kangaroos to photograph up close, fed them fish and chips at the Innes Wharf at the Bay and took them for short drive around the coast.
Next day the weather was predicted to be a bit nasty so we headed over the mountains to Canberra to visit the National War Memorial and the Australian Museum. The weather up there was perfect.
The following day was a beach day, a long walk along Tabourie in the morning followed by surf fishing in the afternoon. Mark bagged his first Australian salmon! He also had his first encounter with Australian venomous wildlife coming across quite a large black snake in the front paddock.

Then we were off the Sydney taking the scenic route along the Grand Pacific Drive, stopping at Gerringong Beach for coffee and at Stanwell Tops near Wollongong to watch the para gliders take off from Bald Hill.
Then it was onto the beach side eastern suburbs for lunch at Bronte and a quick visit, via the famous Bondi Beach, to South Head at the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

Next morning we were up early for the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Well, not me who suffers from terminal acrophobia but the other three. This takes three hours and I spent my time well sitting in the sun beside the opera house with the daughter watching the groups of 'crazies' making their way up and over the top span of the bridge.

After lunch in the Rocks area, we hopped on the Manly ferry for the half hour ride across the harbour to that northern beach side suburb for a coffee. Despite being a commuter service this journey is really like a harbour cruise.
Sunday morning we headed back into town by bus. The Sydney Marathon was on and 35,000 runners cause a bit of traffic chaos so better not to drive. The ladies shopped while the men sat outside the pub, drank a couple of beers and watched the world go by. Then we walked around Circular Quay area, the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens and finally window shopped through the Queen Victoria Building.

Up bright and early the next morning, we headed for the airport to catch our three hour flight to Cairns followed by a one hour drive further north along the Captain Cook Highway to Port Douglas in Queensland.
The history of Port Douglas is based around gold fever. The town was founded in 1877 but the gold rush meant the population quickly escalated as people arrived from all over the country to try and find their fortunes. As the gold dwindled so did the population of the town and industry virtually disappeared. The town was then largely destroyed by a cyclone (hurricane) in 1911 and there seemed little hope of recovery. However, with its natural beauty and unspoilt beaches it was soon rediscovered and slowly but surely the town gained a reputation as a tourist destination. Being the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the world heritage listed Daintree rain forest, it is now popular with Australians as well as foreign visitors.

We had booked what turned out to be a very comfortable villa a few kilometres out of the town centre which had it's own pool and spa, a must in this hot sticky climate.
We bought some good steak and fresh prawns and had a great BBQ meal with a few bottles of wine, particularly Verdelho, which Kelly had discovered she liked.

Next morning we explored the town surrounds, marina and beach. Four Mile Beach is very pretty and was quite crowded. But this is tropical North Queensland and there are a few things to remember. One is this is saltwater crocodile country and, second, during certain times of the year marine stingers frequent the shallows.
The saltwater crocodile is the world's largest reptile. These are found on the northern coast of Australia and inland for up to 100 km or more. It has been reported to grow to lengths of 7 metres and weigh one tonne but the average size is around 4 metres.
Hunted almost to extinction for its skin, the crocodile is now a protected species in Australia. But they do present a danger to humans taking 2 or 3 people annually. One has to be careful on river banks, boat ramps and even the ocean. Warning signs are very prevalent.

Marine “stinger season” generally runs from November through to May or June. During this period, the more dangerous jellyfish are of particular concern. These include the common Box Jellyfish and Irukandji. Severe stings from these may cause victim to stop breathing or their heart to stop, potentially resulting in death. To prevent this happening authorities install stingers nets in the ocean during the season and recommend the use of Lycra stinger suits.
For us the pool was a much better option, even in 'out of season' September

Then we headed for Mossman Gorge. This is a very accessible and scenic section of the world heritage listed Daintree National Park. Strangler figs and epiphytic plants flourish and the crystal clear Mossman River cascades over granite boulders on its way to the ocean. It was an easy stroll along the 700 metres of walking track to viewing platforms over the Mossman River. People were taking advantage of the cool water that races down from the mountains by swimming in the rock pools. No crocs here!
The area is home to the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal Community who organise tours which take visitors through the rainforest explaining traditional Aboriginal rainforest plant use. All tour guides are Kuku Yalanji and well versed on the stories and legends of the area. By the time we reached the two kilometre loop track through the lush, green rainforest the heat and humidity was getting to us so we returned to the car and headed for the small township of Mossman for lunch.

Mossman is very green and lush with an economy built around the sugar mill established in 1894. There are still some excellent examples of older style Queensland houses left in the town.
That night we enjoyed a great seafood meal at 'On the Inlet'. Fresh reef (Kingfish and Coral Trout) and estuary fish (Barramundi) plus Coffin Bay oysters were the order of the day. And a bottle of Lost Block Semillon.
Next morning we dropped the ladies off at the beach and headed for the marina to pick up our half day fishing charter which was to take us into the Dickson Inlet for some estuary fishing. The fish didn't exactly jump into the boat but I caught a nice Javelin Fish (Grunter) and a fighting Mangrove Jack and Mark landed a good sized Giant Travelly. We had expected to see some crocs lying on the mud banks as the tide went out but unfortunately, nothing! Apart from some fairly large mudskippers that is.
Then it was Mex for lunch and home for a swim to prepare ourselves for our big adventure of the trip the next day, a snorkeling trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Looks like you guys had a wonderful time together... family time, laughing, eating, checking out the sights, watching out for scary wildlife! Oh, and shopping! Glad you had the opportunity to spend time together!