|Queensland (Brisbane & Cairns) (February 3 - 16, 2002)|
It was a short 1.5 hr drive from Byron Bay to Surfer's Paradise, but other
than having beaches on the same ocean, they are not even remotely similar. Byron Bay
town council had all development stopped a
few years ago. It is the only town of any size I can think of that has no
McDonalds, Burger King or KFC. Surfer's, on the other hand, is just one long
stretch of skyscrapers that is visible from miles away - sort of like
Miami beach. We avoided going anywhere near
We stayed overnight with Joanne, Grant, Jarrad(12), and Danielle(10) Amor in Helensvale. Joanne is Rae's sister, who we stayed with over Christmas in Tauranga. They took us to Sanctuary Cove where we had lunch, and then to their boat where the kids fished.
After a full day at Dreamworld, we drove 45 minutes to Brisbane and stayed 2 nights at the Explorer's Inn on Turbot Street.
I think there must be more zoo's per capita in Australia than any other country. Mind you, they probably have more unique animals per capita as well. All the zoo's have a slightly different focus, so it's difficult to leave one out. The upshot is we went to two more zoos in our last few days in the Brisbane area.
On February 8th, we flew to Cairns in northern Queensland. If you have been following our story, you'll remember that we have had to use our Ansett tickets on Qantas. We were especially concerned because our tickets were for a Sydney -> Cairns flight not a Brisbane->Cairns flight. Well, it was an anti-climax. We had no difficulties at all - the gate agent didn't even mention it when he gave us the boarding passes.
Cairns is the major tourist centre for the Great Barrier Reef. We had no trouble finding accommodation by phone from the airport. We booked a 2 bedroom apartment at the Cairns Queenslander Apartments. The accommodation and facilities were very nice, but it was a bit of a walk to the town centre especially since it was so hot and humid.
Mark completed a four day course and is now a PADI certified junior open water scuba diver. He will become an open water diver automatically when he turns 15 in a year and a half. I joined Mark in lessons and re-certified as an open water diver. I used to be an assistant scuba instructor... but that was 20 years ago and things have changed. Besides, taking the course allowed me to dive with Mark.
While the boys were on the diving course, the girls kept busy too. They spent one day taking the Kuranda Scenic Railway through the rainforest. Then they took the Skyrail gondola back through the rainforest canopy, and visited the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park where they learned a bit about aboriginal culture and how to throw a boomerang and a spear.
The girls joined us on the boat for our first open water dive. They happily snorkeled over a shallower part of the reef while Mark and I dove with our class. Chloe was the big surprise today as she was extremely comfortable in the water with her mask and snorkel. Heather continued with her quiet competence that she has shown since snorkeling in Cuba a few years ago.
I think one of the big factors in getting Chloe to swim was going to "Reef Teach" the night before. A marine biologist gave an extremely entertaining talk in the Reef Teach classroom, describing the kind of aquatic life we could see including telling us what we could touch, and what we could not. We bought Chloe some small plastic pages with colour pictures and names of the reef fish on it - she was very busy identifying fish (and humming to herself) while she swam.
On our second day of reef diving, the girls elected to go to Green Island and explore. They explored the reefs very near the island both from a glass bottom boat and by snorkeling again. They saw much more aquatic life including a honeycomb moray eel (which was trying to feed on smaller passing fish), and some bluespotted lagoon rays.
After a day of administration (homework etc), and a great Valentines Day meal (a seafood platter filled with lobster, crab, 'bugs', barramundi fillets, calamari and whole shrimp), we left Cairns in a rented car for a short drive to Port Douglas, Daintree and Mossman. We took a boat ride up the Daintree River looking for wildlife in the rainforest. We did not see any crocodiles, but there were lots of small birds. For those of you who have read Bill Bryson's "Down Under", our tour boat launched from the same dock where Beryl Wruck met her untimely end by crocodile in 1985. There were crocs around, but they were difficult to see because they weren't sunning themselves on the beach. It was nice to be on the river, but it didn't really compare to our last rainforest boat trip on the Kinabatangan in Borneo. Oops - sorry for saying that. We really are becoming tourist snobs!
We spent the night in Mossman at the White Cockatoo Motel. The next morning, we stopped at the picturesque Mossman Gorge before driving back to Cairns and flying to Darwin.