July 18-19

This transfer from Alice Springs to Cairns went very smoothly. I got out of The Northern Territory without another canceled flight! Yay!!

On the 19th I did a walkaround in Cairns (pronounced CANS, really). Here is a model of the Bolands Center (inside the Bolands Center and looks just like it) built in 1912/13 and one of the many classic buildings to have survived the barrage of cyclones that hit regularly.

There's a handsome marina full of luxury yachts and even an along-side restaurant which I think is unusual.
Heading out for the well-reviewed boardwalk, it didn't look too appealing and I think part of the problem was the low tide that left just a long stretch of muddy shoreline.
This is a plover, two people here told me so and I checked it on the computer. Yes, a plover. Plovers are everywhere in Kauai and they don't look anything like this guy.

What wiki says: "The masked lapwing, also known as the masked plover and often called the spur-winged plover or just plover in its native range..."
My first foot massage of this trip!
Then I took the bus to the Cairns Botanic Garden (Flecker Botanical Gardens). This is their Visitor's Center with a café and shops.
The Conservatory was a relatively modest affair. I followed this butterfly around for 10 minutes trying to get him to sit still for a sec.
This plant name reminded me of Alex and Carol who have retrieved their boat Nepenthe from Florida overland, and re-launched her in Long Beach to the delight of all their SoCal friends and friends from far and wide who will benefit from the welcoming generosity of A&L.
A Bush-Turkey!
I do love a boardwalk because it so often takes you places you wouldn't otherwise get to enjoy.
And you can speed your way past the mosquito farms.

My Cairns accommodation was in an extremely nice hostel, the YHA. I would have nothing but praises were it not that they allowed smoking in the courtyard that permeated the whole area. It's the first time I've run into a pocket of smoke I couldn't escape, so really, that's pretty good.
July 20

The excitement for today: Kuranda, up by train and back on the SkyRail.

Wiki: "Kuranda is positioned on the eastern edge of the Atherton Tableland where the Barron River begins a steep descent to its coastal floodplain. Parts of Kuranda, particularly along its eastern edge, are protected within the Kuranda National Park and Barron Gorge National Park. Both national parks belong to the UNESCO Wet Tropics World Heritage Area."

But basically the town of Kuranda is a funky little down-home shopping opportunity.
It's sugar cane cutting season in North Queensland and we saw these fields throughout the trip to Kuranda and again on the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas.
A nice view of the Kuranda Scenic Railway. You can just see nine cars here and I was in car fourteen so the train is much longer.

I heard sometimes they run as many as seventeen cars, and there are four trains heading up every morning so in the busy season you can imagine the numbers pouring into the little town. But they have to go-go-go when they can because tourism during the wet slows considerably.
Here's another view so we can be impressed by the bridge.
Stoney Creek Falls, a grab shot out the window, where Stoney Creek descends from the Atherton Tablelands to the Cairns coastal plain.
Looking at Trinity Bay, Cairns is to the right just out of view.
Into Kuranda, the train station.
Here in Kuranda we have several large markets with mostly craft stalls, and individual shops with crafts, and people selling crafts on the street.

There are also restaurants of many stripes and some attractions such as a bird place and a koala place...
...and this dinosaur place.

I could have extended my stay by several hours and enjoyed a few of the many fine walks available from here but I didn't have time since I was going on to Port Douglas today.
Heading back on the SkyRail. Ok, this is fine, not scary, no problem until...
...Barron Gorge and the SkyRail just stops. In the air. High high up, stopped and rocking in the noisy hard-blowing way-up-here wind. For a short minute I calculated the odds...fine, I'll be fine, these things Never break.
We had a stop along the way to admire the Barron Falls.
And then back to finish the ride.
Captain Cook Highway joins Cairns and Port Douglas and it is gorgeous along here, from a speeding bus with almost no light out a dirty window, but worth it anyway.
Here's another one with even less light.
July 21

My hostel in Port Douglas is the building on the left and we are completely full. It's big and extremely lively but my room is big too, the biggest yet, en suite, with a/c so I'm not bothered by the lively, and a tv with five movie channels that don't have commercials.

The main street is one up parallel to this street so I couldn't be more central.
I'm a fan of the pub vibe for lunch.

Aussie burger! It includes lightly pickled sliced beets (they call it beetroot and it's a much more popular ingredient than in the US), grilled onions, bacon, lettuce and tomato, and a tomato jam that I think might be unique to each establishment. I like it!

Last night I ate in an Indian restaurant and had a large cheese and garlic naan which was delicious.

Also the previous night in Cairns I went nuts from the market and ate probably 4 or 5 ounces of wonderful Australian blue cheese, an entire tub of quince paste, and fabulous walnut crackers in remembrance of my time in Canberra.
Four Mile Beach, one of the prime attractions in Port Douglas. It arcs all the way around the bay and is quite beautiful.

The sand is so firm and the ground so flat, great for walking although I didn't walk the entire four miles out and four miles back.
This is the full scene where you could swim...
...because see that sign...
...between the two flags is the only life guarded area and swimming in the ocean can be dangerous here.

Now it's winter so it's unlikely to find the box jellyfish, "the world's most venomous creature", in the water. During the summer months you can swim in the ocean only inside stinger resistant enclosures.

If you go outside the enclosures when the stingers are active you'd better be wearing one of the special head-to-toe full-coverage wetsuits or a visit to the hospital might be in your future.
Playing in the water further down the four miles.
See how the foot prints are under the little sand balls meaning the crabs that make those balls did their thing after the walker went by. I'd like to see how they do that!
July 23

Snorkeling at The Great Barrier Reef!

They had a -1.5 snorkel mask which was perfect for me. The mask never leaked and I never flooded the snorkel either. AND they had my favorite, shortie wetsuits with the zipper in front. Gear-wise, Perfect!

(Note for the future: the wetsuits were 5 mil and I might have been better off in a 3, I think, if I ever get around to buying one.)
Oh my oh my. The water was definitely more clear than my week in the Galapagos so I can't compare fairly.

Moved to the Pacific the GBR would run the distance from Vancouver BC to Tijuana MX, the entire west coast of the US and then some, so we saw less than a fingernail of that distance.
From NOAA's website:

"Coral reefs begin to form when free-swimming coral larvae attach to submerged rocks or other hard surfaces along the edges of islands or continents. As the corals grow and expand, reefs take on one of three major characteristic structures —fringing, barrier or atoll."

And here we have the Great Barrier Reef although fringing and atoll reefs are also present.
My Austrian table pals for the trip.

We did three different dives and between each place we had something to eat - morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea. Tea means tea, coffee, juice, fruit, and pastry. Lunch was a small but tasty buffet.
I've been letting my hair grow by default, not having got it cut. It's usually back with a head band and not bothering me At All which is a mini-miracle.
All these close-up fish I bought off the crew photographer. She was one of the five who ran the ship and who did a ton of other things as well as the photos such as giving a reef talk after lunch, helping with the gear, and hold the barf bags for the few who didn't make it through the chop unscathed.
More. There's another one too later on, trying to control the number of pictures I'm using!

She was using the exact same camera as I had and I got no fish picture even one half as good as these. But---she had done it 1,000 times, had the camera in a housing, was wearing weights, and spent most of her time diving with her snorkel. I need to learn how to do that.

This was the best learning experience ever photo-wise. As we all know, it's not the gear.
Just that much different from the fish above.
Clam shells, wow.
We saw so many shapes of coral.

I'm going to talk about coffee.

The Aussies have become, in far less than a decade, total coffee aficionados. Bad coffee is not to be tolerated. If you ask for coffee you might get asked back barista coffee or instant? You don't see a lot of brewed coffee.

They also have a pretty uniform way to order coffee and I've got mine "skinny flat white". There are two sizes, regular and tall so if you don't say tall you are supposed to get regular.

For the first week or so I was going with "flat white" which was ok but really too milky so then I went with "flat white with an extra shot" which was nice with the extra shot but didn't work in cutting the milk because they just added more. Now I'm getting "skinny flat white" which is working best. I don't know what percent they use for skinny...I should find out! They don't have the add-your-own-milk option so that's why I've been working with what there is.

So one time I was in the mood for iced coffee and I saw "iced cappuccino" on the menu, which I ordered, and what I got was a cappuccino float! A cappuccino with ice cream added. Ok, I ate the whole thing.
More close-ups from our crew photographer.

There were so many different kinds of fish...So Many even so many more than these.
During the second dive a couple of the crew ran tours where you could follow them around and they would show you things. Even the best swimmers were using noodles to hold themselves in place...
...and I tried to do it but every time I looked down I got so distracted that I lost the group so I had to give up on the noodle and just go back to floating around in amazement.
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Some more reef shots.
There were two or three reef sharks about.

There was a mildly amusing but ultimately unfortunate moment when one of the crew was doing a talk and at one point while she was talking about the bleaching asked in one breath "are there any Trump supporters here never mind it's a long swim back".
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Looks like an aquarium up in here.
Turtles!
At the end of the day the tide was low enough for a part of the reef to be exposed and the water was sheltered and calm. I didn't flood my snorkel once! Man. I'm even thinking I might try a snorkel dive next time. We'll see!
July 24

A little bit about Port Douglas.

That's it - 4 Mile Beach on one side, the marina on the other side, and the main drag runs between the two.

(internet pic)
At one point this area was a mud flat but then the tide came in and it got shiny and nice.
I've noticed that my normal pattern when coming to a new place (find the main square with the original cathedral and the old government buildings) hasn't happened here in Australia. The main square is hard to find or non-existent and there certainly wasn't one here in Port Douglas.

This church was the oldest, and it is picturesque, but they only use it for weddings.
The main drag had mostly restaurants and shops but also a Coles and a Target.

Everything looked nice, but there was something amiss which I never bothered to identified until I learned that there are 3,000 permanent residents of Port Douglas and 40,000 hotel beds. Ah.
On the marina side.
Anzac Park where families and sweethearts gather, and a drum circle beats away into the night.
Tim Tams, an Australian passion and for a very delicious reason. I'm beginning to miss Tim Tams already.

I'll have to show you how to "slam a Tim Tam".
July 25

A tour of the Daintree Rainforest to Cape Tribulation, both part of the UNESCO Wet Tropics World Heritage area. There were a boggling number of tours to choose from each one ever so slightly different from the others. I chose by elimination and ended up with Daintree Wonder Tours.

Who IS this guy? He was as big as a plate. He could be a Golden Orb Weaver spider.
That figure on the right is, according to the guide, a generic possum.
The whole group but me and another photographer waiting for a shot, lovely folks, and a fine time was had by all.

We had the UK mom, dad, and cutie-pie teenager, a couple from the UK who have been in Australia for 40+ years but still go home to Britain every few years, a Swiss woman, and two couples from Melbourne.
From the sign: "This track winds along the Mossman River before joining Baral Marrjanga. Several small lookouts along the track provide views of the river."

Another viewpoint.
From the sign: "Baral Marrjanga leads through the rainforest to a lookout with views of the Mossman River and the mountain ranges beyond. The track includes two sections of elevated boardwalk which pass through the lower rainforest canopy."
We pulled off the road for this view and then went on for a picnic morning tea.
Our second walk was especially splendid. Everyone had to have a shot of the guide's favorite tree.
Amazing fan palms. I can't find the exact kind but I remember overhearing from the guide that they are ancient.
According to the guide: Make a mental line down the middle of this picture. The left is a 120+ million year old rainforest. The right is a 10-15,000 year old mangrove forest because what was the rainforest on the right was destroyed by a storm all those years ago and a mangrove forest took its place.
A reflection deep in the forest.
Bats! (It's also called a grey-headed flying fox.) First you see one, and then another one...
...and then you notice that there are hundreds of them. You can see at least six in this picture.

Wiki: "The Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of the frog, reptile and marsupial species in Australia, and 90% of Australia's bat and butterfly species. 7% of bird species in the country can be found in this area. There are also over 12,000 species of insects in the rainforest. All of this diversity is contained within an area that takes up 0.1% of the landmass of Australia."
Our volunteer to test the flavor of the lemon ants. Oh yummy. No no, she didn't eat the thing, she just touched it to her tongue.
Another one a lot like the other one.
Cape Tribulation, looking to the actual point...
...and the middle...
...and the other side. I wasn't careful taking the pictures and they didn't pano right. We had fifteen minutes here so it was a pretty quick stop and very pretty. It's isolated too, we had to use a ferry to get over here.

Captain (then Lieutenant) Cook recorded "...the north point [was named] Cape Tribulation because "here begun all our troubles".

Cape Tribulation and a heart.
We had a nice lunch at the Cooper Creek Heritage Lodge. We could choose beef, fish, or veg and (surprise?) I had the barramundi. Then...
...we got to swim in the river by the restaurant, guaranteed no crocs because the water was so cold. I and my UK family were the only ones to swim and it was so much fun, I loved it, it was mostly too deep for me to stand and it was gorgeous.

After the lunch and the swim we stopped off at an all-natural tropical fruit ice cream stand where the guide brought us each a cup with four flavors, all of them unusual and interesting and tasty too.
Our guide David. The last event of the day was a boat ride on the Daintree River to search out crocodiles. We saw plenty of them too, maybe 7 or 8. Almost like it was a crocodile zoo.

From Destination Raintree: "The Daintree River is home to an amazing diversity of life-forms with more than 150 fish species, over 100 crustaceans and the prehistoric-looking Saltwater Crocodile. 30 of Australia's total of 38 mangrove species are found along the Daintree River, ie. more than half the world's total of 72 species are represented in this single estuary - perhaps the most species-rich mangrove estuary in the world."
The biggest...
...and the smallest.
July 26

So the Lady Elliot trip is pretty snazzy (oh yes, you pay!), they sent a town car to drive me the 40 minutes to the small Redcliffe airport for the 1 1/2 hour very slow small plane flight.
A mob of wild kangaroos by the airport getting fenced in on one side and with the new housing development on the other they don't look particularly wild.
A representative from Lady Elliot in the foreground and our 19 year old pilot behind him.
Humming along the coast.
A humpback whale with her BABY that I took from the plane. We were very high of course - I massively enlarged this on the computer.
Our destination, Lady Elliot Island, the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef.
There is a small eco-resort on the islad and this is the view from where you eat.
Patrolling the dining patio, this guy and his 20 best friends just like him.
I took a little swim before the group went out on the glass bottom boat that took us to the premier snorkel site, but the tide was very low and I couldn't safely get over the coral to make it to the reef. It was lovely.
These pictures are not going to be as good as the last set for sure.

First I don't have the pro to sell me good pictures.

Second we weren't in the water for as long as the last trip.

And third, that is a 2" by 3" patch of my skin after the swim. It was the same on all my exposed skin due to the little stingers in the water. Not the stingers that send you to the hospital but bothersome and distracting nonetheless.
And those fish are fast. I have pictures of a lot of tails.
He was a little slower so that was good, I got him before his head disappeared.
Caverns in the coral.
Even not being that good...
...I've still put in So Many!
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Usually you get big crowds of the same fish but this was a fun collection.
The reef at this place was very deep and scuba divers come out here all the time.
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There are many paths like this and I got myself lost-ish in that I had 30 minutes to get to the lighthouse and I took the wrong turn!

The paths are all made of the coral because the whole island is...
...and it's so interesting.
The airport...
...and our flight back. What an adventure!
July 27

A google view of Brisbane. Isn't it interesting how rivers choose their route.
There's going to be a transit strike today, my only full day in Brisbane. So I got out fairly early to catch the still-running bus to Lone Pine, a $50 taxi ride away, 30 minutes by bus.

And speaking of Brisbane, remember Melbrn...similarly, here you say Brisbn.

That bridge, taken from the window of the bus, is a pedestrian passage between the public buildings of South Bank and the Central Business District. I walked over it in the afternoon.

Another bridge. When your city is bisected by a snaking river you're going to have a lot of bridges.
Here it is, Lone Pine, the world's oldest koala sanctuary and the #1 tourist attraction in Brisbane.

This is basically a zoo and if you are troubled by zoos you'll want to roll on by but I will say that this was an amazing zoo.
They had maybe 10 of these collections of eucalyptus trees at eye level and many of the groupings were open, you could touch them if you tried really hard, but you shouldn't.
They had a couple of sleeping Tasmanian Devils.
There were three animals here that at various times I was looking for in the wild and never got to see - a dingo, a cassowary, and a platypus.

This is a dingo, they had a brother and a sister, and they looked exactly like dogs. This place doesn't do any breeding but there is an effort elsewhere to maintain pure dingo bloodlines since in nature they mix with wild dogs.
In Daintree our guide kept teasing us with the possibility of seeing a cassowary since many do live there.

This guy was taller than me. When he raised his head he could look down on me. He uses that horn on his head to break through the rainforest and...
...he uses those toes to kill things. He can leap up and tear with those toes, although they are shy and only attack when provoked.
Me trying to take a selfie being unable to see the camera because of the bright light.

Thankfully selfie-sticks are no longer the plague they once were when you could pretty much guarantee you'd get whacked at a crowded view.
A passer-by took this one.

I was ready to shell out for the 'take your picture with a koala' attraction but the line was Too Long and I couldn't stay too late because I wanted to get the bus back. I learned in the morning that the strike wasn't going to start until 1pm so that was good.

On this lawn were the emus and also kangaroos. There was a place where the kangaroos could get themselves behind a fence for a rest from all the people racing up to them to give them food.
Queensland is the only state in Australia where you can still hold a koala as all the other states have outlawed the practice. I was going to do it anyway but I'm also ok with not doing it since it's supposed to stress out the koalas.
A handsome gang-gang cockatoo.
A platypus - you know what these guys look like really. They are so FAST in the water...
...and it was dark in the room where they had them.
Also from Daintree, a grey-headed flying fox, the largest bat in Australia.
I made the last bus, yay, and back in town I also came across a catty-corner with an old church and a public building.

On the left, the Albert Street Uniting Church, the first Methodist church in Brisbane, a small version built in 1849 and this building finished in 1889.

And on the right, Brisbane City Hall, built in 1930.
I went over to South Bank to the block of public buildings that included the State Library.

There was a small exhibit called 'Freedom Then, Freedom Now' honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum that changed the Australian constitution to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census for the first time.

GOMA - The Gallery of Modern Art. There was a huge Marvel exhibit that must have taken up the majority of the space (I didn't pay the extra charge to see it) because there wasn't much otherwise, or I missed it which is a possibility.

There was also a science museum that was packed with kids enjoying the dinosaurs and gladiators.
South Bank is The Place to be in Brisbane and here is an internet view of one of the sections of the walking path. I didn't do the whole walk because I got lazy and I'm not happy with my pictures. Bad tourist.
A couple of sights from my walk back to the centrally located Annie's Shandon Inn where I'm staying ("welcoming guests to the centre of town for over 120 years"), a very funky little old house broken up into modest accommodation where the price was right and where I was comfortable.
This corner is the entrance to King Edward Park, just down the street from Annie's and around the corner from the train station where, in the morning, I made my way back to Sydney for the last stop of my trip.


If you want to view previous segments you can click on these links:
Sydney June 11-16.
Canberra June 16-20 and Melbourne June 20-23.
Tasmania June 23-July 1.
Broome July 1-8.
Darwin+ and The Red Center July 8-18.
HomeAustralasia • Australia • '17 Jul: Queensland


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