JOURNAL : Dec. 2004
1 December 2004 :
The start of my third calendar month in Australia.
Took the train into the city again, down to Circular Quay, and bought a ticket for the ferry to Watsons Bay. I had already been to the bay on my last visit, albeit by car with Ken and Ian, on the day I visited The Gap. This time however I was on a mission, following up a specific recommendation from ex-colleague (and Aussie) Camilla. Something a bit fishy this time.
Doyles at the Beach restaurant.
Doyles is renowned for the excellence of their fish in fact, it is said that if they cant obtain the fish locally, then its not worth putting on the menu. They must know something, as there have been five generations of Doyles running this restaurant (and about 5 other establishments in the area) and theyre still very much in business.
It was a perfect venue for lunch, with the sound of the waves lapping on the shore, and looking out into the harbour with the Sydney skyline beyond. And the food was excellent, especially the platter as a starter, despite the fact there was no lobster.
2 December 2004 :
Another train into the city, and a chance for me to walk round the Opera House foreshore. This led me to some large iron gates, and into the Royal Botanical Gardens. A great place to walk through, especially down by the waterfront. A superb location, and even better that entry was free of charge.
I needed to keep my eyes open, not just for the stunning views and the various botany, but also so that I was able to avoid collisions with the hundreds of lunchtime joggers.
Back at Circular Quay, I then got confused trying to book a ticket for the Gladesville ferry, as Gladesville no longer appeared on the electronic boards. Since I was here the last time, the powers that be had apparently decided to re-name the Gladesville Wharf. Didnt find any helpful ferry staff, and eventually found out that the wharf was now re-named Huntleys Point. Strangely, once I got on the ferry, the signs on board and the tannoy announcements still referred to the wharf as Gladesville.
Met by Roy (at Huntleys Point), and spent a couple of enjoyable hours with his twin brother Harold, discussing the UK and his reminiscences of when he and wife Isa visited England (and the various relatives) back in 1981.
Finished up the day meeting with Ian and Ken at the Gladesville RSL Club for a Chinese Australian dinner to celebrate Ians birthday, with drinks later on at the Platform 8 bar at the Town Hall hotel in Newtown.
Didnt hear any man walks into a bar-type jokes.
3 December 2004 :
A chilling-out sort of day spent mostly at home so I managed to avoid the few rain showers when they occurred.
Caught up on some reading. Browsed through a few books, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading something a little bit unusual :
1. THE TEACH YOUR CHICKEN TO FLY TRAINING MANUAL (Trevor Weekes)
2. THE ATLAS OF EXPERIENCE (Louise van Swaaij and Jean Klare)
3. PARIS OUT OF HAND A WAYWARD GUIDE (Karen Elizabeth Gordon)
4. HOW TO KEEP DINOSAURS (Robert Marsh)
Any of the above would give you a chuckle.
4 December 2004 :
It was time to say goodbye to Jacqui and Isa, and their four cats. The cats seemed slightly jumpy this morning, but I put it down to their new food (80% kangaroo meat).
Splashed out A$5 to use Virgins Blue Room Lounge at Sydney airport although didnt have time for the massage.
Smooth flight to Proserpine, also known as Whitsunday Coast airport, and a 45-minute coach transfer got me safely to Airlie Beach. Checked in to the Whitsunday Wanderers Resort, where I would be staying for the next two nights.
A real surfers/snorkellers/divers town, with easy boat connections to the various reefs offshore.
Hey dude, it was real cool !
5 December 2004 :
Woke up to rain, but it cleared quickly.
I had booked up a trip with a company called Ocean Rafting out to the Whitsunday islands. Once we had a pre-trip talk, and hired our stinger suits, it was off at great pace upon the Jet Raft. A great way to get about, as its really fast meaning theres less time spent travelling and more time doing the swimming, snorkelling and sightseeing.
Even at great speed, there were times where we could watch fish jumping out of and back into the water, which reminded me a bit of the opening credits to the Gerry Anderson series STINGRAY !
Our first stop was Hook Island, originally named because of its shape
unfortunately, it was discovered years later that it looked nothing like a hook whatsoever. But the name stuck.
This was my first chance at snorkelling, and my first chance at taking photos underwater. But first, we all had to put on our stinger suits, to protect us against the Irukandji Jellyfish and other aquatic nasties.
The snorkelling went reasonably well, although I spent more time concentrating on my breathing, than the picture-taking.
Its hard to explain to people who havent been to the reef just how colourful the fish are and how beautiful the coral is. Amazing.
We then continued back on board the boat, stopping at the world-famous Whitehaven Beach, which certainly lived up to its reputation as being one of the worlds best beaches. Beautifully white sand, around 99.5% pure silicon.
Buffet lunch, a swim and a chance to relax for an hour or so. There was a bit of excitement when a shark was spotted, but it was only a baby.
A short trip round a couple of bays, and then it was a quick 1km walk through the trees up to the Hill Inlet observation point. Absolutely breathtaking.
Lifes a beach.
The whole trip was fantastic so heres a bit of free advertising for Ocean Rafting.
CLICK HERE for more information about 'Ocean Rafting'
6 December 2004 :
A bus to Shute Harbour, and a short wait before setting off to Hamilton Island on the Fantasea Blue Ferries boat. Two short pick-up stops on the way (Daydream Island and South Molle Island).
Arrived well before standard check-in time, but my room was apparently ready so the receptionist happily checked me straight in.
My room was on the 16th floor
so I had fantastic views across the north bay.
Hamilton Island isnt very big, and so was extremely easy to walk round. Signs everywhere asking visitors not to feed the wildlife
. lots of cockatoos flying around, or just sitting around waiting to be fed !
The other thing you cant help but see on Hamilton Island is the hundreds of golf buggys hired by visitors to transport themselves round the island. There are apparently 11kms of roads criss-crossing the island, but I was happy to explore them on foot. I noticed that the buggys were all left-hand drive, despite the fact that everyone still drove on the left-had side as with the rest of Australia.
In the afternoon, I was able to fulfil one of my ambitions in Australia.
To cuddle a koala.
Lets hear you all say aaahh !
Just in case of doubt, the koala is the hairy thing on the right.
Later on, I returned to the Koala Gallery Wildlife Experience, so that I could watch the 4pm feeding of the saltwater crocodile.
Got a good smile for the camera, but was very glad of the fence.
Great barrier, teeth.
Declined to cuddle the python, although gave it a quick stroke. Zero on the slimy scale.
Other animals encountered : cassowary (a bird), paddymelons (a small kangaroo-like marsupial), bettongs and potoroos (other marsupials), wombats, lizards and other assorted reptiles.
Although it was a fairly small wildlife collection, it was very accessible from the boardwalks, and you really got close to the animals, especially the koalas.
7 December 2004 :
An early start today (6.30am collection of luggage). Time for a quick breakfast and a quick walk along the beach.
Picked up at 7.30 for the courtesy coach ride to the airport, which took a grand total of 5 minutes.
Apart from Ayers Rock airport, I think the Hamilton Island one must rank amongst the smallest in the world. And one of the worst organised. It didnt help that one of the incoming planes was delayed, but the check-in queues seemed to be totally random. No announcements. Poor signage.
Everything on Hamilton seems to have a price, even the frequent flyer lounge, which required an admission fee. Declined their offer. Good job, as within 10 minutes, the flight to Cairns was being announced.
Comfortable flight. Made a change to get complementary peanuts on the flight, which was quite apt as I had only paid QANTAS peanuts for the ticket.
My luggage arrived promptly on the carousel, and I booked my place on the Airport transfer bus. I was told Id have to wait fifteen minutes before it departed, which didnt seem too bad.
Anyhow, the reason waiting for the driver can be translated to youre only one passenger, so were not going to bother transferring you until one or more further flights arrive as I was still waiting to depart 45 minutes later, in spite of my regular checking.
Ended up getting half my ticket refunded, and got into a taxi.
First impressions last. I just hope the early pick-up on Friday goes smoothly. Still, the taxi driver was quite cheery, and soon got me to my accommodation the Cairns Holiday Lodge.
Heres something to consider
Its funny how different hotels classify their rooms. Motel-style, Family, Standard, Deluxe, Luxury, Executive etc.
On this occasion, wotif.com hadnt come up with the goods, as the deluxe room with full kitchenette described, and which I was booked into for the next three nights, admittedly at a big discount, was extremely basic
the full kitchenette consisted of a kettle and a toaster. The downside of using wotif.com is that you pre-pay your whole booking, meaning you have little if no room for negotiation once you arrive and see the room. Still, I mustnt grumble though, as the air conditioning system was good quality, and keeping cool is one of the main priorities up here in tropical Queensland.
I wonder though if they have a Trades Descriptions Act here ? I might just draft a letter.
Still, I was keen to explore the city, and in reality I wasnt going to spend too much time in the hotel room.
Walked along the seafront promenade, and passed various interpretive nodes which explained the local historical, environmental and touristy bits that any visitor would find interesting.
Lots of pelicans out on the sand.
One great place to visit was the Peter Lik Gallery. Some amazing photographs, primarily of Australia and America. Originally from Cairns, Peter has won many awards, and is certainly the pride of the city. Theres also galleries in Lahaina, Noosa, Port Douglas and Sydney. Lots of merchandise is available, such as posters and postcards.
Check out the following website, and youll see what I mean.
CLICK HERE for more information on the pictures of Peter Lik
8 December 2004 :
Woke up to rain.
Lots of rain.
Switched on the telly to find that the Gold Coast (situated south from Cairns) had received torrential rain during the previous evening and overnight, and people were now mopping up the mess in their flooded homes. Apparently, the same weather system was heading north to Cairns.
Oh, I nearly lost one of my arms this morning. I was having an early morning stretch, and forgot about the ceiling fan - thank goodness the fan caught my watch and not my arm. Oops ! Memo to self ... for goodness sake keep an eye out for fans, not just crocodiles.
Buses in Cairns are great you can apparently flag them down anywhere. But I chickened out, and I chose to flag it down at a bus stop instead. Spent the day walking round the city, along the waterfront, as well as amongst the various streets. Had lunch at the Sushi Express (same chain as Gold Coast), and this time there was no conveyor belt, but a miniature train on a track to circulate the various dishes.
Later on, I noticed that the sky seemed to be getting quite dark and I didnt even have my sunglasses on. Decided it was probably time to make my way back to the hotel.
From my seat in the bus, I could see that the rain had started. Lots of rain.
Rain often falls in sheets. Well, it looked more like blankets to me.
The promised weather system had arrived.
Jumped off the bus, and made a quick dash back towards to hotel, which fortunately was only about 200 metres away. At 170 metres, I sought refuge at the Fig Tree Lodge. Co-incidentally, the two-hour happy hour was just starting... it wouldve been rude to refuse.
Lots of thunder and lightning. And lots of rain.
The rain eased off just as the happy hour eased off. Great timing.
Nice meal. And pleased to confirm that I dont think I consumed as much liquid as the citys drains.
9 December 2004 :
My trip up to Port Douglas was cancelled due to a technical failure I suspected that they hadnt got many reservations, so just decided not to run the trip. Still, I was feeling quite tired perhaps the past three months were catching up with me.
Decided in the end that I would just chill-out again. Promised myself that I would return to Australia in the not-too-distant future, when I could spend more time exploring the eastern coast, the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the other places that I had simply just scraped the surface of during this trip.
Early to bed ... as the airport transfer coach is booked to pick me up at 4.15 tomorrow morning.
10 December 2004 :
Pick-up coach arrived as planned. Good job I can survive on little sleep, but it was still far too early !
Once past check-in, and through immigration and security, I relaxed in the QANTAS lounge a bit surreal though, as the music in the background included Frosty the Snowman and Chestnuts roasting by an open fire, which are probably the two most inappropriate pieces of festive music for Australia.
Ho ho ho.
NEXT STOP ..... NEW ZEALAND
© Jeremy Cousins, 2004-2014