Darwin and the Northern Territory


Our Queensland beach hopping came to an end on July 14th when we drove back to Cairns to return the hire car and to catch a flight to Darwin. We left Cape Tribulation around 09.00 and seemed to get back to Cairns in no time at all even allowing for a brief and final breakfast pie stop in Mossman. We actually had a few things to do on our final day in Cairns and we ticked these off one by one quite nicely.

Ann wanted to get her hair done before we moved on to Indonesia and as soon as she found an internet connection on her phone she found herself a hairdresser and made an appointment in Cairns for early afternoon. Once we got to Cairns, first stop was Pack and Send. We had decided to send home a number of books and other bits and pieces, including our beloved Garmin sat nav gadget. Whilst it’s inevitable that we need to travel with a fair amount of kit for such a long trip as ours, we wanted  to reduce our luggage as much as possible.We have been travelling with 30kg each plus hand luggage and whilst this isn’t a problem when you’re travelling around in a hire car, it’s a pain in the neck, literally, when you have to lug such a lot of luggage to/around/from airports. We had ditched superfluous/knackered stuff as we travelled but with the help of Pack and Send we got down to around 24kg each and I still got to keep my fishing tackle! We had called in to Pack and Send whilst in Cairns the previous week and within 20 minutes or so we were done and off back to the Pacific Hotel for our final night in Cairns. Once checked in and bags dropped in the room, we were back in our trusty Mitsubishi for a final drive to the Apex Car Rentals depot just a couple of Ks out of town. Apex kindly gave us a lift back to town, our chores almost done. Whilst Ann went off for her hair do, I found a bank to exchange some Ozzy dollars to USD which we would need later to buy visas for Indonesia and then I went for a haircut myself. All nicely coiffured we had a final mooch around the shops managing to resist a couple of urges to make purchases before returning to the hotel to change for dinner. This night we made the quickest decision on a restaurant ever and went to a well reviewed Italian which turned out to be excellent. The following morning, Wednesday July 15th, we checked out of the Pacific and took a short taxi ride to Cairns International Airport for a Jetstar flight to Darwin for our last few days in Australia.

Darwin wasn’t on our original itinerary for this trip as it seemed so far out of the way up there in the Far North but having read TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet etc on the region, we decided to include a few days to visit a couple of the National Parks, Kakadu and Litchfield. This region is so big with distances so huge that you could easily spend 2 weeks in Northern Territory and still not see it all but a couple of days we gives a chance to see the highlights. Also, Darwin fitted in very well with our itinerary which would take us from Australia to the Eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago although later our plan to fly Darwin to East Timor was frustrated -more on that later.

Within  a couple of hours of  leaving Cairns on a Jetstar  flight we had landed at Darwin and with a 50 dollar return airport shuttle (why are these so much cheaper everywhere than the UK?)  we were dropped at our hotel within an hour of landing. The Mediterranean All Suites is a middle budget motel type property handily placed at the edge of the CBD. We chose it because the rooms appeared to be of a reasonable size and came with a full kitchen which would give us the opportunity to cook a meal or two for ourselves if we wanted to. It also has a swimming pool although we didn’t get to use it.

We checked in, dropped the bags and went straight out to have a look around town. I must admit our first impressions weren’t great but after a couple of days visiting Kakadu and Litchfield, we spent our last day in the city and definitely warmed to the place.

Our visits to Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks would involve long trips. It’s possible to combine both Parks and more in a 2 or 3 or more day trip with overnight stays in the Parks but this would involve either camping or staying in hotel accommodation that didn’t look great so we opted for day tours.

Next day, July 16th, we were up early to be collected at 5.30 am by Offroad Dreaming, one of many firms offering tours to the NT National Parks, for our trip to Kakadu.

2015-07-16 08.12.52

Our Guide for the day was Tanya who was excellent in terms of explaining what was what as regards the fauna and flora and the history of the park and the Indigenous people who still live there and on the adjacent aboriginal Arnem Land.

Kakadu National Park is yet another World Heritage Site. It is 170 kms from Darwin and is Australia’s largest terrestrial national park covering almost 20,000 square kilometres. It’s an enormous, biodiverse nature preserve which has the greatest variety of ecosystems in Australia including wetlands, savanna woodlands, mangroves, tidal mudflats, coastal areas, rivers, monsoon forests and sandstone escarpments. It’s home to over 2,000 plant species and wildlife from saltwater crocodiles and Flatback turtles to hundreds of bird species. Aboriginal rock-art paintings dating to prehistoric times can be viewed at a number of places within the park.

The land has been continuously occupied for over 50,000 years by the traditional aboriginal owners who still manage the land along with the Government. The National Park was first created, after much negotiation, in the 1970’s as interest grew in conservation and also the land rights of the Aboriginal people. Additional parcels of land have been added since the park was first created.

Our trip would start with a visit to a wetlands bird sanctuary which was a tad disappointing in terms of numbers and species of birds due to low water levels as Australia was in drought conditions at the time.

We then moved on to Ubirr Rock, an escarpment which looks out over the huge Nadab floodplain towards Arnem Land. This site is sacred to the aborigines and includes some of the oldest rock art in the world. This was a fascinating place. There are interpretive signs around the area but Tanya was excellent in terms of explaining some of the stories told in the pictures.

Ubirr Rock
Ubirr Rock – sacred to the aborigine people with some of the oldest rock art in the world.



2015-07-16 12.06.00


2015-07-16 11.49.56

360 degree views from Nadab Lookout at the top of Ubirr Rock include views of the vast Nadab floodplain ,
360 degree views from Nadab Lookout at the top of Ubirr Rock include views of the vast Nadab floodplain ,


Some examples of the rock art at Ubirr

X-ray art
X-ray art. Some of the art here is over 20,000 years old


2015-07-16 10.45.33


2015-07-16 11.11.21


2015-07-16 11.05.30







2015-07-16 11.32.44


Next, following an excellent picnic lunch, we moved on to the East Alligator River to join the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise. The river is one of three Alligator Rivers erroneously named in the early 1800s by an English explorer who mistook the crocodiles he saw for alligators !


2015-07-16 13.04.06


2015-07-16 13.20.32

The firm running this cruise is aboriginal owned and the benefit of this is that access is gained to the aboriginal Arnem Land which requires permission from the aboriginal owners. The  cruise was first class and definitely another highlight of our trip.

Our aboriginal host, tour guide and boat skipper was Neville. He has a deep knowledge of the river and how the traditional aboriginal owners lived on and beside the river. He explained the history and culture of the people and how things are now in the modern world. His stories were both interesting and amusing but his commitment to the wellbeing of his people and the land is clear to see and he explained his dream that one day, in the area where we stood briefly on Arnem Land, a facility would be developed where visitors could spend time almost “on retreat” to give them a real understanding of the people and their history. As an aside, Ann and I were quite shocked at the ignorance of some of the Australians who were on this tour with us who seemed quite amazed at some of the things they learned on the trip .

2015-07-16 13.45.45

The waters here, like much of  the water in the north of Australia  are infested with crocodiles. Here freshwater crocodiles, found only in Australia, live in freshwater rivers, creeks and pools. They are shy creatures but can become aggressive if disturbed. Estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles live in freshwater and estuarine areas such as floodplains, billabongs, gorges, rivers and coastal waters. Salties are bigger and aggressive and have attacked and killed people in Kakadu.

Between the 1940s and 1960s crocodiles were hunted to near extinction for their skins but by 1971, both species were protected. The numbers of salties increased dramatically and waters previously safe are now not necessarily so and many need to be monitored and managed to ensure public safety.


First crocodile of the day spotted.
First crocodile of the day spotted.


Two more crocs. We saw six orseven during our short cruise on the East Alligator River
Two more crocs. We saw six or seven during our short cruise on the East Alligator River


A small freshwater croc
A small freshwater croc


Lovely scenery on our cruise down to Arnem Land
Lovely scenery on our cruise down to Arnem Land


2015-07-16 14.02.32


2015-07-16 14.03.38


Mrs E on Arnem Land
Mrs E on Arnem Land
Neville strikes the pose ...!
Neville strikes the pose with spear and stick …!


Neville showing us the traditional spears bow and arrows used by the aboriginal hunter gatherers
Neville showing us the traditional spears used by the aboriginal hunter gatherers


And here he demonstrates his prowess as a spear thrower
And here he demonstrates his prowess as a spear thrower

We got back to Darwin around 7.30 pm. It had been an excellent tour but we were shattered. We got Tanya to drop us on Mitchell Street which is the main street for bars and restaurants and went straight to a Nepalese restaurant. Nepalese is one of our favourite foods and we had spotted this place the day before. The meal was OK but only OK. Next day we were going on a trip to Litchfield National Park and we returned to the Mediterranean for an early night even though we would get a lie in tomorrow – we wouldn’t be picked up until 7.30 am .

We used the same tour company for our Litchfield Tour. This time our guide was Lynne who  wasn’t quite as bright and breezy as Tanya the previous day but had a great knowledge of her subject.

First stop of the day was at Batchelor, 100km south of Darwin and the largest town in the area with a population of around 500! There is very little to see here but we stopped to visit the small local history museum which proved to be mildly interesting. The town’s history largely revolves around its role as an airbase supporting the Australian and US Airforces and also as the site of a uranium, mining and processing site following the discovery of uranium at Rum Jungle in 1948. The plant closed in 1971.

After Batchelor we visited the Cathedral Termite Mounds before we drove on to visit a series of waterfalls and swimming holes which without exception were picturesque but also crowded with families. We didn’t swim because of the crowds but we did walk a couple of short trecks before enjoying a picnic lunch.

Termite Mounds

Some of the mounds are over 5 metres talent over 50 years old
Some of the mounds are over 5 metres talent over 50 years old


2015-07-17 10.35.26-2

2015-07-17 10.35.56

Whilst there are a good number of seriously big termite mounds , there are hundreds of smaller ones covering seemingly several acres
Whilst there are a good number of seriously big termite mounds , there are hundreds of smaller ones covering seemingly several acres


Waterfalls and swimming holes

One of several popular swimming holes
One of several popular swimming holes

2015-07-17 13.33.37

2015-07-17 11.22.31


2015-07-17 14.20.50

2015-07-17 14.20.58

2015-07-17 11.34.10

Following lunch our final destination of the day was the Adelaide River for a crocodile cruise. A very entertaining hour or two was spent on a boat learning about crocs and watching them jump out of the water for a meal on a stick. We saw well over a couple of dozen crocs, mostly big ones and all very active and very close up! Mine Host, Harry, was a very enthusiastic Guide and the font of all knowledge when it comes to crocs and he was also very entertaining. In addition to crocs, he also showed us some of the local birdlife and put on an unexpected show of hawks diving for food thrown in the air for them. An excellent tour !

2015-07-17 16.51.27

2015-07-17 17.17.31

2015-07-17 17.07.02

2015-07-17 17.03.28

2015-07-17 17.18.09

2015-07-17 16.49.30

2015-07-17 17.20.35

2015-07-17 17.26.32

2015-07-17 17.25.44

Both Kakadu and Litchfield tours had been excellent but although we were expecting Litchfield to be the better, we much preferred Kakadu because of the greater element of stuff relating to the aboriginies. The rock art had been amazing and it had been very interesting to be able to visit Arnem Land albeit briefly. We will look out to see if Neville succeeds in making his dream of a tourist/cultural centre on Arnem Land come true.

The next day, July 19, was our last day in Australia. We were to check out of the hotel at 10.00 but with our onward flight at 20.00, we had a few hours to kill! We spent an hour or two in a last wander around the shops and then walked down to the Waterfront where on a beautiful hot and sunny Sunday we found the place busy with folk enjoying the weekend.


Here are a few pictures of downtown Darwin and the Waterfront

2015-07-19 12.16.23

2015-07-19 12.15.21


2015-07-18 16.23.17


2015-07-19 12.50.48


2015-07-19 13.09.14


2015-07-15 17.18.35

2015-07-19 12.58.25


2015-07-19 13.08.37


There was live music playing at the Waterfront, the swimming lagoon was full as was the wave lagoon and lots of people were just lazing around on the grassy areas or lunching in the many restaurants and bars. The place had a great vibe and we thought this part of town must be a cool place in which to live. We sat around watching the world go by before lunching at an Irish pub and then walking back to the Mediterranean where I spent half an hour speaking to my credit card company as my card had been rejected for a couple of transactions in the past few days. Seems someone in Peterborough had been trying to buy a camera with my details. The card was cancelled and somehow we needed to get a new one to us for our travels in Indonesia – what a pain!

Our shuttle pick up delivered us to the airport in good time and before we knew it we were on our AirAsia flight to Bali. We had enjoyed an amazing trip to Australia albeit scarred by the tragic loss of our Brian. We hadn’t seen everything by a long chalk; people tell us how fantastic the West and South Australia are not to mention Uluru and Tasmania and perhaps we will return one day to see these places if we can ever manage to save the funds !

Cape Tribulation

We left the Smithfield Terminal of Skyrail around 3pm on July 10th. Our drive north took us back up Captain Cook Highway and then Cape Tribulation Road through the town of Mossman and a few other small settlements along the way and across the Daintree River.

The journey is around 100KM to the Daintree River Crossing. Thankfully the rain that had dogged our day so far cleared as we got further north and it turned out to be a very pleasant drive. The scenery was largely agricultural – the usual sugar cane, bananas and other fruit – with the road in parts hugging a scenic coastline. However, there was a lot of traffic on the road and it was 5:15pm with the light already beginning to fade before we arrived at the Daintree River.

Within half an hour or so we had crossed the river but already it was almost dark. Before long it was pitch black. The road is narrow and winding and although it isn’t sealed everywhere. There are regular speed bumps along the 30-odd KM road to Cape Tribulation and a good few creeks to cross which add to the interest even though they are bridged. Thus it was a slow drive to Cape Trib and it was around 7PM by the time we arrived.

The ubiquitous crocodile warning at the Daintree River Ferry Crossing
The ubiquitous crocodile warning at the Daintree River Ferry Crossing

2015-07-10 17.22.27 Cape Tribulation is within Daintree National Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage area where tropical rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. It’s as far north as you can get in Queensland without a 4×4 vehicle. In fact, the road from the south we travelled in on didn’t exist until a track was bulldozed through in the 1960s and remained a track until it was sealed in 2002.

This is proper David Attenborough country; one of the oldest rainforests in the world – over 100 million years old – and contains the largest range of endangered and rare plant and animal life in the world. Over 30% of Australia’s frog, marsupial and reptile species live here and there are hundreds of species of birds including 13 which are not found anywhere else in the world. And then there are the bats and butterflies!

Alongside the rainforest, separated from it by stunning beaches, lies the Great Barrier Reef. The GBR, the world’s most extensive coral reef system, stretches for 2000KM and supports the most diverse eco-system known to man which has evolved over millions of years. The stats for numbers of fish species and other marine life are quite incredible but I’ll leave those who are interested to check the stats for yourselves.

The road north from Cape Tribulation to the aboriginal village of Wujal Wujal is known as the Bloomfield Track. This 4×4 track didn’t exist until 1984 and was completed only after years of protesting by environmentalists who blockaded the area to keep out the bulldozers. Eventually the road went through but still remains a rough track with many creeks to cross along its length. We thought all the above would make Cape Tribulation an interesting place to visit although it was disappointing (though came as no surprise) that Apex Car Hire wouldn’t permit us to travel the Bloomfield track even though we had hired a 4×4. In truth our Mitsubishi wouldn’t have had the clearance to tackle the track: it’s deeply rutted in places and having been driven down the track by a Guide, I was quite happy not to be driving it.

This area gets plenty of visitors but isn’t yet fully developed for tourism and is still regarded as off the beaten track although there are numbers of B&Bs, camp grounds, eco-resorts and the like. Many of the visitors drive straight through on a 4×4 Wilderness Adventure to Cape York – apparently a “must do” road trip for Australian 4×4 drivers and we saw many small convoys of half a dozen or so jeeps fully laden with fuel and water tanks and goodness knows what. We had booked a 5 night stay as far north as we could at the only beach front resort, Cape Tribulation Beach House, which the owners in their blurb describe as “a stunning 7 acre beach front accommodation nestled between the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.”

We arrived in darkness with Reception closed and a key left with a map of the site but we discovered in the morning that this is most certainly the most stunning location on and in the very edge of the pristine rainforest and on the most beautiful beach overlooking what here is known as the Coral Sea in the South Pacific Ocean. 2015-07-11 15.01.38   The resort caters for back packers with some dormitory accommodation and for non-back packers in rainforest cabins of a variety of styles to suit different budgets. We had one of the more expensive cabins but even so it would be best described as rustic and about as far removed from our Palm Cove resort as it could possibly be.

Our rainforest cabin at
Our rainforest cabin at Cape Trib Beach House.
The cabins are pretty sparsely kitted out but we did have a fridge and a kettle and aircon of sorts ..
The cabins are pretty sparsely kitted out but we did have a fridge and a kettle and aircon of sorts ..

Our timber cabin (or shed) was about as basic as it gets. In addition to a bed there was an open wardrobe/shelves, kettle for a brew and a fridge. Above the fridge pinned to the wall was a notice to the effect that food must not be stored in the cabin as a small mouse-like marsupial called a Melamy is prone to enter the cabins and seek out food! Luckily we hadn’t brought much by way of food as we had read there were a number of wallet-friendly establishments where we could eat cheaply, including the on-site restaurant which actually turned out to be pretty good and at backpacker prices.

There is no phone signal here and very limited WiFi available only in the restaurant which was directly opposite and very close to our cabin. Somehow we managed to get through our 4 days here although it is a pain to be cut off from the outside world particularly for Ann who manages the bookings etc for our apartment in Turkey. Our days here were spent doing nothing much other than walking the beaches and nearby tracks and reading up on our next destination, the Northern Territory. We had lunches and dinners either at the resort or one or other cafe or restaurant nearby and all were very acceptable. 2015-07-11 16.39.09 2015-07-12 13.00.49 2015-07-12 11.19.34 2015-07-12 13.38.34 2015-07-11 08.19.16             Our one and only tour here was a half day 4×4 tour with a local guide Mike D’Arcy who runs a business guiding tourists up the Bloomfield track to Wujal Wujal and beyond sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of the area with his clients. This was undoubtedly a highlight of our entire journey through Queensland.

Our Darcy tour vehicle
Our D’Arcy of Daintree tour vehicle

We arranged our tour with Mike for our second day at Cape Tribulation. He picked us up early doors and we started with a walk along a forest track down to the beach with Mike all the while pointing out an amazing range of plants and trees that we would otherwise have missed. There are many species of plant here that have symbiotic relationships with other plants, trees, algae or even insects. For example, the very common green ant which build large nests in fruit trees help protect the fruit of the tree by dropping down and biting anything that tries to take the fruit away. There are lots of examples of this kind of thing and Mike has a huge repertoire of interesting facts about the fauna and flora here which we found quite astounding.

Here’s a few rainforest photos taken during our tour with Mike D’Arcy:

After our walk we got back in the car to drive the Bloomfield Track to Wujal Wujal a small aboriginal township about 30KM north of Cape Trib. This is a small community of around 500 people and it’s believed there has been settlement here for thousands of years. It’s a poor community with high unemployment. There are government initiatives to create public service work for the people who have little education and few skills to keep them occupied (and away from alcohol) – this is usually in the form of an odd day of work here and there but not permanent full time employment.

It’s hard to believe this seemingly token gesture at helping this community has any real lasting benefit although we did hear that works completed in the community have had some positive effect on the township. The township is policed but seems to be largely-self governing and its leaders work hard to keep alcohol out of the township – alcohol is prohibited and visitors are barred from bringing alcohol into the township.

There is an Aboriginal Arts Centre/Community Centre here with some interesting exhibits for sale created by the local people and some of the work is really beautiful. More interesting though was our meeting with Kathleen Walker and some of her family, members of the clan which has lived here for thousands of years. Kathleen is a leading member of the community here and well respected for her work as part of the Womens’ Justice Group working to keep youngsters on the straight-and-narrow and away from alcohol and substance-abuse.

Kathleen is the traditional owner of the lands here and she took us on a short walk to see one of a number of waterfalls that are sacred to her community. We were allowed to approach the waterfall but not before Kathleen had spoken to her ancestors who guard the sacred falls! This was quite an amazing experience for us as we were able to chat with Kathleen, a lovely and interesting lady, for an hour or so when she explained the recent history of her people and how she was brought up and how she reared her own children to understand the bounties provided by the land in terms of the hunting and trapping of animals and fish and the use of plants and trees and their roots for bush tucker and goodness knows how many medicinal purposes. We found it amazing that there are still communities of people in modern day Australia who continue to use such ancient natural remedies.

Kathleen Walker speaking to her ancestors for permission to allow access tot visitors - us!
Kathleen Walker speaking to her ancestors for permission to allow access to visitors – us!
We had a great chat with Kathleen , pictured here with Ann
We had a great chat with Kathleen , pictured here with Ann

Following our visit to Wujal Wujal we continued our tour with the object of finding a crocodile to photograph. Mike took us along the Bloomfield River and sure enough before and after enjoying tea and home made cake by the river we spotted several of these prehistoric monsters although in each case the beast was some distance away on the far side of the river.

The rainforest, rivers, creeks and waterholes are quite incredible and this really was an amazing tour with an amazing guide – maybe the best tour we have ever been on and one we will definitely repeat if we are lucky enough to re-visit the area.

Here are a few are more pictures these of a riverine nature:2015-07-11 11.28.40 2015-07-11 09.54.51

Spot the fisherman
Spot the fisherman

2015-07-11 09.55.01

2015-07-11 11.19.11

And a few more taken round about Cape Trib:

The Daintree Tea plantation just a few km north of the Daintree River crossing
The Daintree Tea plantation just a few KM north of the Daintree River crossing

2015-07-14 08.25.36

Croc making a meal of something - picture courtesy of
Croc making a meal of something – picture courtesy of Mike D’Arcy
Cassowary with two very young chicks - picture courtesy of
Cassowary with two very young chicks – picture courtesy of Mike D’Arcy

We had a great few days at Cape Trib. Another day with a guide would have been good to do some trecking but now we were looking forward to our final destination in Australia, Darwin, Northern Territory. We would fly to Darwin from Cairns and so next stop Cairns!

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef with Reef Daytripper

Ann had done quite bit of research before we booked our snorkel trip with Reef Daytripper  which is a long standing family business with a boat taking a maximum of 20 passengers – much   smaller than most. With such a small number of passengers but 5 or 6 crew members, they offer the personalised service that we were hoping for. We were excited but also a tad nervous about the trip and didn’t want to go with one of the many operators who have big boats catering for dozens and dozens of folk.

We chose well. The boat was great with only a dozen and a half or so customers mostly younger than us but many like us, with no experience of snorkelling. The crew also were great – very welcoming and good fun. After an early morning cup of tea we were given our safety instructions, a demonstration of how to snorkel safely and details of the coral, fish and other critters we could expect to see under water. We were given the opportunity to choose whether or not to wear a wet suit and were then kitted out with flippers. Ann and I had our our own snorkels and masks with us.

Ann decided to ear a wetsuit - very fetching too
Ann decided to wear a wetsuit – very fetching too
Here she is ready to go.
Here she is ready to go.

We were good to go. We sailed 30KM out to Opulu Reef and then stopped for the first of our two snorkel sessions. This first stop was for an hour and a half or so and the time went by very quickly. We enjoyed it immensely. One of the crew members spent the whole time with Ann making sure she was safe (it’s easy to get dragged away from the boat by the current) and making sure she got to see everything there was to see.

I tried to follow Ann and her new chum around but constantly lost them; my new mask worked a treat and with head under water trying to spot whatever I could, I was constantly distracted and finding myself adrift of the others. Trying to take photographs underwater for the first time was a challenge and unfortunately the results were disappointing.

2015-07-07 11.09.43

2015-07-07 11.29.13

2015-07-07 11.28.25

2015-07-07 13.13.23

2015-07-07 13.13.29

2015-07-07 11.36.00

2015-07-07 11.36.30

We saw some beautiful coloured corals and the fish were amazing. The day was sunny but with cloud constantly passing over and of course vision was much better when the sun was out and especially in those places where the water was a tad cloudy due to tide movement. Snorkelling here felt as though you were in an aquarium and swimming with turtles alongside you was a surreal experience; they got very close up and it was difficult at times to keep some distance from the turtles so as not to touch them. One thing that surprised me was how shallow the water could be so far out from shore – in places it was tricky to avoid touching or even standing on the coral – a definite no-no!

The crew were brilliant.One crew member looked after Ann throughout making sure she got to see everything there was to see.
The crew were brilliant. One crew member looked after Ann throughout making sure she got to see everything there was to see.

After an excellent buffet lunch we moved on to another area of the reef  for our second snorkel session. Here again the experience was amazing, possibly even slightly better as the water was deeper. Ann even got the opportunity to swim up-close (but not too close!) to a sole barracuda. Apparently barracuda are generally docile when swimming in a shoal but can be defensive and aggressive when found on their own – something they only told us later!

2015-07-07 13.42.19

Our snorkel trip finished with some nibbles and fresh fruit and a glass or two of wine. It had been a fab day out and one we would never forget.

The Reef Retreat, Palm Cove

We arrived at our accommodation, Reef Retreat, around 1pm and checked in. This is a low rise “boutique” holiday apartment resort set in a rainforest setting only 50m from the beach. The grounds are full of palms, paperbark trees and tropical plants with a small pool and an al-fresco dining area with BBQs.

We had a very comfortable one bedroomed apartment, nicely kitted out with everything we could possibly need and more for our self catering stay. It also had good free WiFi, always a bonus.

The Reef Retreat2015-07-04 16.29.02

2015-07-04 16.30.29

2015-07-03 13.02.30

2015-07-03 13.03.09

2015-07-03 13.17.01

Palm Cove is a small seaside village in the northernmost part of the state of Queensland which is known as Far North Queensland. The resident population is less than 2,000 but of course that number swells in the holiday season.

The village is named after the palm trees that line its fantastic beaches and it’s regarded as the premier beach resort in the area. We liked the place immediately – there’s nothing not to like! With fab beaches, palm trees and some posh hotels, this is very popular as a wedding destination.

2015-07-04 16.16.13

2015-07-04 16.16.13

2015-07-04 16.25.08

2015-07-04 16.16.58

Palm Cove is an upmarket resort in an affluent area of Queensland. Whilst it is only a small village there are over 30 restaurants and cafes suiting most tastes and most budgets. A weakness is that aside from an off-license attached to a restaurant/bar,there are no grocery stores of any kind in the village other than a very nice but very expensive deli and a small mini-market. There is a very good Coles Supermarket a few minutes drive back down the Captain Cook Highway at Clifton Beach, however.

On our first day here, with no groceries bought as yet, we decided to treat ourselves to a late and leisurely lunch of fresh fish/shell fish and a nice bottle of wine at a seafront restaurant. Later we walked the town window shopping and sussing out some restaurants for another day.

The beach here really is stunning and after our wet week at Mission Beach we were hoping for some better weather. We planned a lazy week of lie-ins and late breakfasts and our only plans were to drive back to Cairns on Monday to collect my snorkel mask, our Great Barrier Reef trip on Tuesday and on Friday morning, before we left to travel north, a cable car ride up the mountains and over the rainforest canopy to Karunda, a small town back on the Atherton Tablelands.

Our weekend was as leisurely as it gets with some nice walks and a visit to Coles to stock up on groceries. A full week self-catering in accommodation with a proper kitchen is great for us as we can get back to our normal diet and not be tempted too much by restaurant treats. It also helps the budget!

Monday came and went and Tuesday was an early start for our Great Barrier Reef trip with a 6:45am pick up from our accommodation.

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Kuranda

We left Palm Cove on Friday July 10th but before heading north to our next destination, we had seats booked on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which is “the world’s most beautiful rainforest experience” according to the brochures.

The cableway with its enclosed gondola carriages starts at Smithfield about 15KM north of Cairns and travels to Karunda a town on the Atherton Tablelands surrounded by World Heritage rainforest, 1,000 feet above and about 25KM from Cairns.

The gondolas glide a few metres above the rainforest canopy with two stations along the route where passengers disembark to take a short tour through a section of the rainforest. A Ranger provides a guided interpretive tour.

The journey gives a birds eye view of the forest and the different types of trees but also the Queensland coast stretching north from Cairns – magnificent views indeed, apparently.

The cableway terminates at Karunda and passengers have the option of returning via the cableway or taking a scenic railway ride back to Freshwater station where a shuttle bus is waiting to return passengers back to the cablecar start point.

We had booked this tour on-line earlier in the week but unfortunately the weather deteriorated and on the morning of the tour the rain was pouring down. It barely seemed worth bothering with the trip except that we had shelled out over AUD200 and there was no possibility of a refund .

Our cable ride started at 9AM but was a total wash out as far as the views were concerned: we couldn’t see a thing. The short walks at the two cable stops were interesting and at least we were loaned umbrellas but in good weather there are spectacular views of a scenic gorge and waterfalls. Unfortunately we could barely see it with the rain and mist.

Our view of the rainforest canopy - not the best!
Our view of the rainforest canopy – not the best!

2015-07-10 09.59.39

2015-07-10 09.46.48

2015-07-10 09.50.06

On a bloody awful wet day , this was a reminder that we were visiting the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics which wouldn't be the Wet Tropics without the rain!
On a bloody awful wet day, this was a reminder that we were visiting the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics which wouldn’t be the Wet Tropics without the rain!

It was something of a relief when we came to the end of the cable ride at Karunda where thankfully the rain eased off a bit!

2015-07-10 10.44.34

2015-07-10 10.35.09

2015-07-10 10.35.31

If you like this kindof thing then Kuranda's the place for you
If you like this kind of thing then Kuranda’s the place for you

2015-07-10 10.12.37

We arrived at Karunda not long after 10AM. Its a pleasant enough town with a few interesting buildings decorated in aboriginal style but otherwise, apart from a nice Information Centre, the town is essentially a market and street mall with shop after shop selling t-shirts, boomerangs and other assorted tourist tat. There’s cafes galore.

We had walked around the town by 11:30 so we ate our picnic lunch early, sat under a sheltered  bench and then completed one of a few rainforest walks of about an hour and a half.We then headed off to the railway station to catch our scenic train ride back to Freshwater station.

Ann on our rainforest walkout Karunda
Ann on our rainforest walkout Karunda
Karunda Railway Station is a lovely old preserved station complete with old fashioned tea room.
Karunda Railway Station is a lovely old preserved station complete with old fashioned tea room.

2015-07-10 10.50.08

The train ride included a photo stop at Baron Falls but we found the trip pretty underwhelming. The actual ride on an old locomotive was nice enough and the history of the construction of the railway is interesting (hand-cut tunnels, etc.) but long stretches of the journey held little or no interest as the views, which would have been magnificent, were obscured by bushes growing along the track. We did get to take a few photos but as you can see the weather didn’t improve.

We were glad when we came to the journeys end and got back to our car at Smithfield.

A few snaps from the train ride

2015-07-10 14.46.06

2015-07-10 14.08.36

2015-07-10 14.47.12

2015-07-10 14.47.03

2015-07-10 14.37.45