Drury Family Tour of Australia Part 4
29/08/2019 – Parmigiana
Arrived in the evening and checked into the Hilton Double tree. Rooms were basic for the price but the hotel was in a great location on the sea front in the middle of everything and 10 minutes’ walk to the harbor where all the reef trips leave from. There was a very confusing sign to find our rooms, after a few seconds of arguing “it’s this way” we realised it was a huge loop so we were all right.
It was now 9pm by the time we dropped our things so there wasn’t much time to get a feel for anything we just wanted to find some food. To be honest most things were closing but we did find a nice pub on the seafront still serving, I had the chicken parmigiana, it seems this is staple Australian food – apparently that’s what Aussies do, they look at other food like the famous Mediterranean Eggplant Parmesan and decide to strip out the veg and add a load of meat in the form of chicken and ham and some extra cheese – its pretty good too!
We had a little look around a night market and on the way back to the hotel got some nice desert from a gelato stall (still open at 11pm), picked up some supplies form the supermarket and grabbed one of every leaflet in the hotel lobby to figure out what to do tomorrow.
30/08/2019 – Rain Forrest
Started the day by booking a rain forest nature walk for this afternoon with Wait a While Night Nature Tours. Matthew and Gill wanted to chill so I went to explore the town. Walking along the seafront it’s nothing like the Gold Coast instead of a surfers beach it is all mud flats, which are full of wildlife. I spotted loads of different birds on my morning stroll including a kingfisher and some pelicans.
Had a traditional Australian breakfast something called a “McMuffin”. Hey! don’t judge, we don’t have to sample local cuisine every day, sometimes comfort junk can be what you need. Also it is part of a scientific study, I have a theory that the same meal tastes very different depending where you are in the world even though it’s supposed to be the same and what better test than a McDonalds which is the most widely spread restaurant in the world.
Hotel pickup at 13:30, a small group of 8, the guide was a friendly chap called Paul, from Birkenhead, he came here for a month to check out the wildlife 21 years ago and never left. First stop on the way to the forest was to see some wild wallabies, many had joeys in their pouches and were adorable.
Paul is a fountain of knowledge, a true naturalist, he just never stopped educating us. A great example was reaching out to grab a little green ant, he explained that aborigines eat them, they are a good source of protein and taste great. He said we could sample it without taking a life if we wanted, just catch one and lick it. So we did, and guess what? . . . it tasted great like a fresh lime, due to the formic acid, in fact you can order cocktails in Cairns with green ants in for flavor. To be honest I’m not sure who was more surprised me that an ant tasted so good or the ant having a great human pick him up, lick his arse then put him back on the fence. I have to wonder if ants could talk whether he would tell his mates what just happened to him and if they would believe him.
Next stop was a tree full of flying foxes (otherwise known as giant fruit bats) a very cool sight, they look like cute lemurs with wings.
We drove for around an hour up the mountain into the oldest continuous living rain forest in the world stopping to take a few phtos of the amazing views. We then stopped for a cuppa and a “Tim Tam Slam” – this is a new one to us but it’s really nice – I encourage you to try it, in this part of the world a Tim Tam is a type of chocolate biscuit, if you are from the UK it’s basically a Penguin Biscuit. To “Slam” you bite off opposite corners of the biscuit (breaking the chocolate seal) dunk one end in your cuppa and suck the other end like a straw, as soon as you feel the brew coming though shove the whole thing in your mouth as it disintegrates into a pile of chocolate molten goodness! – don’t leave it too late or the whole thing will end up in your brew – needless to say next time we stopped for supplies we bought some Tim Tams to slam later.
After our refreshments we went for a walk. We saw loads of cool bird life and some trees that look like they are straight out of lord of the rings or Avatar. A couple of the group walking right next to Paul caught sight of a tiny Poteroo but it legged it before we could see it – lesson learned, Stick as close to your guide as you can to see the most stuff!
After a quick ride in the van we stopped next at a tea plantation to look for the extremely rare tree kangaroo. As we set out looking Matthew shouted from the back he had spotted a mother and a baby that no one else saw, not even Paul. Matt showed everyone where to find them and we all had a great view. Paul said some people are born with the hunters eye for spotting wildlife and Matt should get himself a visa and do this for a living with him (I was very proud of him).
Seeing the tree kangaroo in the wild was brilliant, but the next stop was the one I was waiting for, the chance to see an ultra-rare platypus in the wild. Once again Paul didn’t disappoint, we saw 3, even getting within a couple of feet of one. They get spooked easy so the trick is to wait for him to dive then get yourself into position ready for a photo, take it with as little movement as possible then when he dives relocate and repeat, following him down the river! – I would have been happy to do this all night but we did have other stuff to see.
After watching the sunset we stopped for a nice meal and a well-earned beer. After dinner we were back out looking for critters in the dark. It was really good. Paul led the way with just his wide bream headlamp, spotlight and laser pointer, we didn’t have any lights he would see snails eyes glint back at him and then light them up with the spotlight, we saw many types of possum, Bats, Owls, Pademelons, Rats – Gill even saw a bandicoot. The view of the stars and the Milky Way was staggering, such a shame we couldn’t photograph it.
We all got in the van for the hour journey home very happy with a brilliant day. Thing is it wasn’t an hour journey, if you could fault Paul on anything it would be the speed of his driving on the way back home, quick is a serious understatement – he would give Louis Hamilton a run for him money.
Looking forward to visiting the famous great barrier reef tomorrow, but to be honest todays experience will take some beating it was right up there with my favorite things we have ever done. If you go to Cairns obviously your attention will be on the reef but I would encourage anyone to set aside half a day to go looking for wildlife with Paul, you won’t regret it!
31/08/2019 – Barrier Reef
A 6:30am get up and a walk to the jetty passing the resident bird life on the seafront to board the “passions of paradise” for our day at the Great Barrier Reef. This is the first time we have been on a large snorkeling tour catamaran, usually opting for a small boat tour but we had it recommended to us so we gave it a try.
After 2 hours at sea we arrived at the reef and were straight in the water. I made a note to make sure to look out for Matthew because the way the wet suit was crushing my nuts there wasn’t much chance of making another Matthew if he went missing. The snorkeling was good, visibility was decent and there was plenty to look at.
After 90 minutes in the water we stopped for lunch (a lovely curry made by the chef on board) then moved 15 minutes further down the reef and went in again at Hastings Reef. The highlight was once again swimming with turtles and Matthew also saw a shark and some squid when he went off on his own.
Even though there was like 100 people on this boat you never felt cramped or had to wait for anything. Also they had a bar with drinks and snacks, and free hot soup when you got out of the water to warm you up, it was well done really. I would do a big boat again in the future. On the way back to shore we had a presentation by a biologist about everything we had seen, he also told us that the media coverage regarding the reef dying and disappearing is utter rubbish, I won’t go into his reasoning here but he did make a compelling argument.
We all agreed that we had a lovely day however we also agreed that although visiting the Great Barrier Reef is certainly one of those iconic bucket list items and we were very happy to have done it, that the snorkeling in the Red Sea is far better.
In the evening we had Fish and Chips – once again the fish was fabulous, fresh and tasty with a light golden beer batter but the chips were weird hard French Fry type things, I have come to the conclusion on this holiday that Aussies are crap at doing chips.
01/08/2019 – Fishing not Flying
Those of you back in Shanghai will know that I have been on a strict regime in the lead up to this holiday to lose some weight, having lost 15kg I was well on track to my goal of being light enough to skydive, and today was the day. Unfortunately enjoying my holiday had added a little podge back on (see parmigiana earlier) and so I was going to be borderline so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to. It turns out that the treats didn’t matter because since I had enquired months ago they had changed the weight limit and reduced it by 10KG – so I wasn’t borderline I was nowhere near . . . . Gutted! . . . . Oh well I will do it, it just won’t be in Australia, will take some more time and lose some more weight and find somewhere else cool to have a go!
So I needed to find something else to do today instead, what better way to cheer me up than a morning fishing! I went out into the bay and caught some little grunters.
Unfortunately we didn’t get anything big, the guide said the weather was poor for barramundi, it didn’t matter I had a lovely time, after all its called fishing, not catching and the view was lovely. A nice touch was picking up a crab pot and cooking the contents on board as we fished, you can’t get any fresher than that – delicious! Ken (the guide) did have a bit of fit when I picked up the crab, as I was holding it wrong, apparently they can reach under their belly and crush fingers. He showed me how to hold it without sustaining another holiday animal related injury.
While I was fishing Gill and Matt went for breakfast and a walk around town, we met up later and had a relax at the hotel. We started talking about our next stop and Matthew was getting visibly anxious. On some of the flights he has had toothache to some degree, but as soon as we land it’s been totally fine so he didn’t want to do anything about it, however I think the last one must have been particularly painful as now he was afraid of it happening again.
I’m not sure how our insurance covers dental, and Australia is famous for having some of the most expensive dental care in the world but at the end of the day what does it matter when your lad is in need. So I found him a dentist, they booked him straight in within the hour, she said the last filling he had done in the UK wasn’t very good, had some rotten tooth still in and trapped air which was causing the pain when the pressure changed, she sorted it out on the spot and said he should be fine now. I was so pleased for him but dreading the bill . . . . . what a pleasant surprise – 150 quid all in! and sure enough it worked a treat, no more issues for the rest of the trip and much happier Matthew!
Ironically, just above the dentist we found the most amazing sweet shop stocking all our favourite UK goodies and jars of sweets from our childhood, We stocked up on all sorts of nice things!
Fish and crappy chips again for tea (hey the fish here is really good!) a couple of beers and an early night ready for our flight to Sydney tomorrow.