Time to sit down and put some context with all the pictures I posted to social media of the past 2 weeks.
After I completed the work part of my trip it was time for 2 weeks of holidays. The first leg of the trip is the Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree is the worlds oldest rainforest and is over 135 million years old. Located just north of Cairns it has one of the most complex eco-systems in the world, is one of the most threatened areas on earth and is almost the same today as it was 100 million years ago. How could I pass up taking a visit?
First step was to get to Cairns. Took a bus back to Sydney. Now I know that Murray’s couch is a great way for getting around but man the seats on that bus are small. The highlight of that 3 hour drive is seeing a herd of Kangaroo on the side of the road. I expected to see kangaroo everywhere on this trip but I only seen 1 up close (Karl the lazy ass in Canberra) and the
herd mob on the side of the road – no pictures as we were moving and no time for the camera. In fact, I ate more kangaroo than I seen. And for the record, when cooked properly….YUM!
Stayed the night at a Sydney airport hotel called the Mantra (these notes are for myself for future trips) and it was a nice spot. Had to take the train from the international terminal over to the domestic and then a short 1km walk. Price was good as was the rooms. Mental note for next time.
The next morning I was off to the domestic terminal for a flight to Cairns. I was flying Jetstar, a budget airline of Qantas. They were quite good but I sure can’t say the same for the domestic terminal. I like arriving at airports rather early so I can get things done and then go have several good cups of coffees somewhere in a stress free environment. I landed at the airport to discover it packed full of people. And you can’t check your bags until at least 2 hours before the flight. I had 30 minutes to kill. Couldn’t even find a place to sit. Discovered that a cruise ship had come in that morning and 3000 passengers were trying to get flights home. Was finally able to check my bags but ended up standing in line for 90 minutes. Remember when the brought the online check-in system? You could drop your bags in a just a few minutes. Now, it takes even longer then when you used to do the entire check-in at the counter. 90 minutes in they realized that people were not going to make flights and suddenly the “gates opened wide”. The stopped checking weights just to get everyone through. Then it was off to security where I had one of my most bizarre security checks ever. They took my little 3 inch hex key. Yup, a hex key. I use it for the head of my tripods. I didn’t have it with me, but the key happened to be in my bag. 3mm’s to big so they confiscated it. Even one of the other guards was shaking his head. Thinking about it later, on Air Canada they then handed me metal knives and forks, way bigger then 3 inches. Did they think I was going to take the plane apart?
The flight itself was good. Jetstar is no frills but the plane was clean, just as much leg room as any AC flight. Just no screens or videos. Who cares. I do like the way Aussie’s load aircraft tho. Just get on the damn thing and once everyone is on board, doors closed, gone. Less then 15 minutes. No bilingual BS, no row numbers, no sections, no babies or elderly, just get on the damn plane. The flight into Cairns is very nice. You are flying over miles and miles of desert and suddenly you have a town and beaches everywhere.
Arrived in Cairns, grabbed an Uber to the hotel. Now at the point I should explain, I was kinda on a budget so I was constantly balancing tripadvisor with hotel prices trying to find good deals. The Queenslander was a decent deal but I doubt if I would stay there again. It was clean, but like many places I experienced in Australia, it is rather dated. I stayed there on the way back as well, primarily as they have laundry facilities, and when you are on a 3 week trip that does become a priority.
I then went out into the town to get a few supplies. It took me some time to be able to describe Cairns. A very sleepy town is the kindest I can come up with. Many years ago I went to Mexico and the layout of the town was very similar, just minus people. I found all the people eventually, they were at the mall. Guess there isn’t much else to do. Found the Coles (a grocery store, not a bookstore in Aussie) and got the supplies I felt I would need, primarily sunscreen and coffee 🙂 and found a great cafe called The Coffee Club. Ended up spending 2 hours there getting my caffeine fix.
Next morning off to get the rental car. Now I mentioned being on a budget… lol During my research I had found a car rental place that was less then half of the normal renters called Apex. Tripadvisor was pretty nice to them and people claim they are cheaper as they have older cars. Well maybe but, my car had less then 10k, a new Toyota Corolla. Perfect for what I needed and worked great. They will be getting a thumbs up from me on TripAdvisor.
Started the drive north to the Daintree. Through about 10 roundabouts. Why don’t we have these? They keep the traffic moving and they really are not that hard once you learn how they work. Even Google Chick knows how to navigate them. Once out of town, the traffic dies right down as you go through Port Douglas and Mossman to get to the edge of the Daintree. Along the way you discover beautiful beaches, lookouts and fabulous driving.
Eventually you come to the Daintree. This is your last stop of civilization. From here, no shore power, no cell and only very expensive satellite internet. I was ready to put all the electronics away for 5 days, except the camera. Each places does have its own power, either through sustainable sources or generators.
You cross the Daintree via a cable ferry that runs every few minutes.
On the other side you begin one of the most amazing and beautiful drives you will ever see. The roads are around trees and hillsides. I would have loved to be scooting through there in my Mini. I drove so far under the speed limit to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. A magical place.
You come up to a lookout shortly after the ferry where you can see where the Daintree River flows into the ocean. Last spot for cell phone as well. After that, D E D that spells dead.
Continued to drive north into the Daintree and by this time I am looking for food. One thing I learned very quickly up there, there is no 5 star anythings. You are deep in the rainforest and everything is on generators. Everything is rustic and some would consider “roughing it”. If you want 5 stars, stay in Mossman or Port Douglas, this place is not for you. I finally found a place called CJ’s. Nothing fancy with a very interesting sever – lol. The place is rustic, right on the beach and has good food. I definitely was not complaining! And no one was on the beach. Well, that is because the Daintree is known for its saltwater crocodiles. No one swims in the ocean if you value your life.
Continuing the drive you become aware of the rainfall. The entire time I was there it was beautiful sunshine, but this place on average gets 79 inches of rain per year. Think about that, 79 inches! Ottawa gets less then 30 inches. You see this with many dry or slow moving rivers and markers along the road showing the water depth. Most vehicles up there are 4×4 with snorkles on the airboxes.
Time to find my accommodations. I chose a place in Cape Tribulation called The Beach House. This is about as north and as deep into the rainforest that you want to go. Past this it is dirt road all the way up to Cooktown. Cape Tribulation was so named by Captain Cook in 1770 when his boat hit the reef and he had to stay put for three months to make repairs. This mishap combined with searing tropical heat and unfriendly locals lead the captain to name the cape after the trials and tribulations he experienced when based here. In fact everything around there has sad names such as Mount Sorrow. I really don’t think he liked it there much – lol.
I arrive at the Beach House and it was pretty much as I had expected after my research. Everything on tripadvisor was true. Whoever took their promotional shots was a hell of a photographer. In fact the cabin I stayed in is the one of the picture but lets just say the lighting was very different, I did not have nice bright comforter or the floor carpeting but after a day there I kinda started to like the place. Only 20% of light gets through the rainforest canopy so by the time it filters through, there is not a lot of light left to play with. Combine that with dark panelling you end up with some rather dark cabins. But it really felt like staying at the cottage. As time went on, you found it comfortable, but I did use the lights a lot to find things in my suitcase. With just a small amount of investment, the owners could make this place really special. The place has laundry, a decent restaurant, a pool and accommodations for everyone. Dorms for backpackers, duplex’s or cabins all alone.
Just off the bar is an amazing beach that you can walk for several km’s. Again, no swimming due to stingers and crocs but great for walking and photos (more on this tomorrow). I got settled into the Beach House and started the relaxing part of my vacation.