Day 38 – Palm Cove

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2016

It was another warm day, but it cooled down a bit after 2 torrential downpours in the morning. Typical of a tropical climate, there was little or no evidence of the rain, when I went for a walk, 1 hour after the rain had stopped.

I took the bus to the Smithfield area to check out the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Centre. The centre was very modern looking and it seemed more of a tourist trap with choreographed programs rather than an authentic display of Aboriginal Culture, so I opted not to view this attraction.

After I returned to Palm Cove, shortly after lunch time, it started to rain again, on-and-off, but this time it was for longer periods of time and not as intense. Even though this is the rainy season here, I haven’t experienced a lot of rain, until today. The wind had also picked up and I watched the palm trees sway, as their fronds waved back and forth in the wind and the heavy rain. I decided to use the time to do some planning and relax a bit, because I had planned a full day of activities for Wednesday.

Day 37 – Cairns Tropical Zoo

Monday, Feb 22, 2016

It was a windy day and the waves were quite high at the beach, however, there were people inside the swim net enjoying the waves. It was still quite warm, however, the morning rain had cooled down the temperature to 28 C (82 F) with a 55% relative humidity.

I spend the day catching up with my journal walking along the beach boardwalk and taking the bus to the Cairns Tropical Zoo. It is not very large but they have a good sampling of native animals and many of the animals are able to wander about and you could feed the koalas and kangaroos and even hold a koala if you wanted to. I took a picture of this kangaroo because she had a joey in her pouch, with its legs and head hanging out as they both ate food on the ground.

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I prefer to see the animals in their natural habitat, however, there are a few, such as the snakes and crocodiles that I prefer to see in a controlled environment.

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I posted all of my pictures on my web drive at

https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=BC9F145E7DC17E78!3401&authkey=!AIQ7f8e3Il7gWPA&ithint=folder%2cjpg

Day 36 – Great Barrier Reef

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016

Today, I would participate in one of the trips I have been looking forward to for quite some time, Scuba Diving and Snorkelling in the outer Great Barrier Reef. I had asked about a shark dive but I was informed that there are no large sharks in this area due to the warm water temperatures. There are just a lot of different species of fish and coral, so I will have to leave shark diving for another time.

This adventure would take most of the day. The resort where I am staying is a 30 minute drive north from the city of Cairns, so a van was to pick me up at a nearby hotel lobby at 6:45 am to take me to the docks in the city.

There was a sudden downpour of rain at 6:30 am and fortunately it stopped in time for me to make the 2 minute walk to the hotel lobby where I would meet my driver. I found the driver and we reached the docks in plenty of time. The company limits the number of passengers on board to 60 people, although, it is capable of taking up to 120, which is good because 60 is the most it can ” comfortably ” handle. To give you an indication of the size of the boat, I took this picture of it from the water, while I was snorkeling.

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It was a one hour boat ride from the docks to the outer reef and while we were on our way, the crew made preparations, instructed the scuba divers on safety protocol, briefed the introductory students on scuba diving and had us sign all of the necessary documentation and release of liability ( i.e. the normal waivers, so that our families couldn’t sue the company if something happened to us ).

When we got to the first dive site, I had to go through some basic diving exercises for them to make sure I knew what to do if I lost my mouth piece, got water in my mask, etc. I had forgotten that my moustache and beard would make it difficult to seal the facemask and therefore, I had to clear it several times while I was in the water.

The experience was wonderful. I was able to dive down and see a lot of the coral from below for 30 minutes and then I was able to snorkel for an hour while taking pictures of the reef and its inhabitants. Although my underwater camera took some good pictures, it still did not capture the beautiful colours that I experienced of the coral and the fish. I have snorkelled in Florida, Hawaii and the caribbean and the experiences were wonderful, but they don’t quite compare to the Great Barrier Reef.

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When it was time for lunch, we were all brought back on board, given a nice meal and then the skipper took us to another location, where I was able to snorkel and take pictures, until it was time to go. Below is a sample of some of the photos I took..

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I’m not sure what this was, but it looked like a huge clam and the white areas appeared to be breathing.

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Just before I finished snorkeling I saw a group of squid swimming in a line towards the boat.

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It was a wonderful ” once in a lifetime ” experience and I have imbedded a link below for anyone who might be interested in seeing all of the pictures.

https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=BC9F145E7DC17E78!3226&authkey=!ANWOzJyz_XNaAkA&ithint=folder%2cjpg

We departed from the dive site at 3 pm, returned to the docks by 4 pm and I was back at the resort by 4:30 pm. On our way back to the Palm Cove area, I was fortunate to see a large group of Wallabies in a field, a few kilometres from the resort, however, I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of them.

When I got back, I took a well-needed shower, wandered to the beach district and had a nice meal at one of the restaurants before relaxing for the night.

My next planned adventure is for Wednesday.

Day 35 – Cairns ( Palm Cove)

Saturday, Feb 20, 2016

I had a good night’s rest and got up early to the songs of tropical wildlife, particularly the birds, some of which were not very pleasant because they made a screeching sound. The magpies and the cockatoos are known for making a lot of noise. Fortunately the noise is predominately only heard at sunrise and sometimes at sunset.

May to September is the high tourist season in Cairns, when it is a little cooler. Why? Because it is stifling hot here from October to April due to the high humidity. The temperature in the morning was 31 C ( 88 F ) and it got as high as 35 ( 95 F ) with 75% relative humidity, which, according to the weather stations, make it ” feel like ” 42 degrees. This is not the time for strenuous activities.

It was my first full day in Cairns and I had no plans so, I spent the day acclimating myself to the location and making plans. I made plans for my stay here, my flight back to Sydney as well as, a place to to stay in Sydney until I fly back home.

This location is very tropical, as you can tell of from the street view where I am staying.

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There is even a short walkway that is an alternate path along the street that gives you a real tropical feeling as you go through it.

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After organizing the rest of my travel I went to the the information site along the beach to organize a few trips. On my way, I considered going for a swim, however, as soon as I got there, I noticed that there was no one in the water along the beautiful ‘ pristine ‘ beach. As I walked along the beach I saw a sign indicating that it wasn’t safe for swimming. Apparently there are a lot of jellyfish, particularly at this time of the season and some can be fatal if you come in contact with them. There was a swim area net in the water but these nets are not always successful in keeping the jellyfish out. You can see the small white outline of the swim net in the water on the right.

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Instead of a swim, I walked along the ” boardwalk ” which had a beautiful view of the shops and restaurants nestled among the trees.

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I stopped at a cafe and had a light breakfast. I saw this sign in one of the shops and I thought it was worth posting because it reflects how much we rely on wifi these days. Which is rather ironic on my part because I’m using wifi to update my journal, however, in my defence, I’m not doing it while I’m in a restaurant. Instead, I’m just talk to myself.

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I entered an information site where the lady helped me organize 2 full-day tours in Cairns. I saw that the building where the information site was located had 2 trees growing through the roof and I found that several of the restaurants and the buildings had done the same. This picture was taken inside the information site building.

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If you look closely at the next picture, you will see two trees that are inside the two adjacent restaurants along the beach walk.

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After arranging some activities, I took the bus to the nearest shopping area to get some groceries, as well as a hat, because I had lost the one that I had bought in Te Anu to replace my Tilley hat that I had left in the San Francisco airport. I don’t like wearing hats, but its the curse for having a bald head in a hot climate!

Tomorrow will be my first full-day tour, because I was informed that it would be the best day to go on the tour due to storms that were being predicting during the week, which might result in the cancellation of the trip.

Day 34 – Torquay to Cairns

Friday, Feb 19, 2016

I had a 1.5 hour drive from Torquay to the Melbourne airport to catch a 4 pm flight from Melbourne to Cairns.

I woke up at 7 am after a good nights sleep, although the ground was a bit uneven. I had lots of time, so I packed my tent, re-arranged my belongings to fit into two backpacks and then I had a leisurely breakfast at a nearby cafe before leaving Torquay.

The drive to Melbourne was uneventful, however, it is a large airport with 4 terminals and when I got off of the highway into the airport, the GPS told me to go to the far right lane but I couldn’t because it was full of cars. I had to improvise, so I drove into the parking garage, grabbed a ticket and drove to the exit hoping that it would allow me to get right back out again. Fortunately this was the case, however, the only option I had, was to drive out of the airport on a small highway for a few miles, before taking a roundabout and driving back to a different entrance into the airport, which allowed me to fill the car with gas before dropping off the car at the rental agency.

Torquay to Melbourne

When I entered the airport, it was 4 hours before my flight. After a little research, I found my terminal and tried to check in but it wouldn’t allow me to do so until 3 hours before the flight was scheduled to leave. This gave me a reason to get a ” flat white ” coffee ** and a snack before trying again. After an hour I checked in and got my boarding pass and baggage ticket, without any problem, however, the automated system told me that I could not check my bag until 2 hours before the flight, so I had another hour wait, before finally ‘checking in’ my bag on the automated conveyor system that weighed the bag and checked the bar code label on it to make sure it met the criteria. After that, it was just a jaunt through security and then a wait in the food court for another hour before the monitors would tell me the gate I was supposed to go to.

1 hour before the flight was to leave, the monitor informed me that my flight would be at gate 45, a good 5 minute walk. When I got there I realized why they hadn’t let us go there earlier. There was nothing at the gates except a few seats and we would have all been standing around in a small area. It was quite the unique experience, but it all turned out just fine. After a late take-off and a 3 hour flight, we arrived in Cairns at 7 pm. It was 8 pm in Melbourne, because there is a 1 hour time change going to Cairns that I wasn’t aware of.

Melbourne to Cairns

As I had been warned, the heat an humidity was stifling when I got off of the airplane onto the tarmac. It was in the mid 30’s C ( 90’s F ) and almost 100% humidity. I was in the tropics.

After I got my bag, I checked to see where my shuttle driver was, only to find out that my ride would not be there until 8:30 pm. When the driver arrived, I was escorted to a van with 5 other people and after 30 minutes consisting of picking up one other person and dropping 4 people off, I arrived at my resort. Before I got there the driver said that she had experienced late check-ins with this resort before. Like many of the accommodations in Australia, the reception desks are not attended at night. She informed me that the last time she brought some foreigners to the resort late at night, they couldn’t speak much english and it took her an hour to figure out how to get them to their room, so she now had experience with it. She drove me to the reception which was at a different unit and she told me that I would have to take the elevator to the first floor and get my paperwork out of the safe around the corner. I found the note at the reception indicating what to do for a late arrival, but when I got to the safe, I didn’t have an access code to open it. So I went back down and called the after-hours number. I was put on hold for about 10 minutes before an agent informed me what the code was and I was able to get my envelope containing the resort information and the key to my room. With the key to my room in hand, the shuttle driver brought me to my unit and I was able to get into my room.

It was a bit of a pleasant shock. I have gone from tenting to a plush resort. This was one of the few times I had pre-arranged a place to stay while travelling. I had traded a timeshare unit for this unit in early January in order to get a place to stay for at least 1 week in the tropical area of Australia but I didn’t know what to expect. It is a very extravagant, 2 bedroom unit, but the most stunning part is the tropical view out of the large windows in the living room and master bedroom, looking past a huge veranda.

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Tomorrow I will have to get acclimatized and figure out whether I will need a car and what I will do for the week that I am here. I will also have to plan my last four days in Australia, as well as, my flight back to Sydney to catch my flight back home.

Note:

** A flat white is a coffee beverage that originated in Australia. The beverage is prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk consisting of small, fine bubbles with a glossy or velvety consistency) over a single shot (AU) or double ristretto shot (NZ) of espresso. It is somewhat similar to the traditional 140 ml (5 imp fl oz) cappuccino or the latte although smaller in volume, therefore having a higher proportion of coffee to milk, and milk that is more velvety in consistency – allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour, while being supported by the milk.

Day 33 – Peterborough to Torquay

Thursday, Feb 18, 2016

Peterborough to Torquay

It had drizzled rain off-and-on all night but it stopped at sunrise. I woke up at 5:30 am, after a good sleep and started to pack up, before walking to a cafe for breakfast. After breakfast I started driving towards Torquay.

I didn’t get too far. I reached several ” lookouts ” that I hadn’t had time to see before and I was glad I had the time to see them now. They were amazing.

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Notice the cave at the right side near the water. Of course I had to go into it.

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I couldn’t believe how big the cave was. This is a picture from the back of the cave facing outwards.

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I had a lot more pictures of the shoreline and I have placed them in a folder and I have imbedded a link to them, in case someone wants to see more pictures indicating the artwork created by the water wind and sand –
https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=BC9F145E7DC17E78!3176&authkey=!AH8gm5jSiwFsuRk&ithint=folder%2cjpg .

As I walked along the paths, I noticed something ” slithering ” away very quickly. It didn’t seem like a snake and later I saw two more. The last one I saw on the path and it stayed around long enough to get a picture of him. I believe it is a newt.

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I stopped for lunch close to Apollo and there were several parakeets outside. I could see why they were there. The owner had bird feeders strategically placed outside the windows which were attracting the parakeets and in turn attracted customers.

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I was about to leave when a young fellow who had just been dropped off by someone at the cafe, waved at me and asked if I could give him a ride to Apollo. I offered him a ride and found out that he was hiking the south coast while his parents were in Sydney at a ” soil ” conference. His father is a soil expert and he is a hotel manager in Wisconsin who loves to hike and travel. I dropped him off at his car in Apollo and then continued on to Torquay.

On the way, I noticed that a fire had recently destroyed many hectares of land along the beach. I saw many evidences of fire damage in northern Canada this summer, but here the vegetation is a little different. Both New Zealand and Australia have fire bans in effect, in many areas because of drought conditions, however this area does not have a fire ban at the moment.

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When I finally reached Torquay, I reserved a campsite, set up my tent and went to the beach. I went into the water but I didn’t swim, because the waves were too rough and there were numerous young people learning to surf.

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This is my last full day in South Australia. Tomorrow I am scheduled to fly to Cairns in the northeast.

Day 32 – Cape Jervis to Peterborough

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2016

Cape Jervis to Peterborough

I like a firm surface to sleep on and I had the ultimate firm mattress under my tent last night. I put on several layers of clothes to make sure that I would not be cold and together with a firm surface, I had a very good night’s sleep, the best so far. There has only been one other time that I have slept better and that was when during my whitewater rafting trip in the Grand Canyon when I slept under the stars without a tent.

I woke up well rested and ready to start driving back to Melbourne. My plan was to get as close to Melbourne by the end of the day so that I could complete the section of the Great Ocean Road I hadn’t travelled before.

I stopped at the same bakery in Myponga that I had visited on the way down to Cape Jervis and had a breakfast pie and a Cappuccino, before continuing my drive. The pies in New Zealand and Australia do not refer to sweet fruit pies like in North America, but generally refer to meat or breakfast pies. Mine had bacon, egg, tomato and a few other goodies inside. It was very good.

No sooner had I passed a sign indicating that there was a potential for kangaroos being on the road for the next 14 km, when I saw one watching me from the side of the road as I passed by. I was glad that he didn’t decide to cross the road at that time. I wasn’t in for a game of ” frogger ‘.

I didn’t stop very often during my drive because I was retracing my steps, however, I did stop at the Father Woods Park to take pictures of the magnificent sculptures at the entrance of the park. I had seen them on my drive to Kangaroo Island but I hadn’t stopped at that time. As quoted from the website:

” On Sunday 23rd May 2010 the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson unveiled tree sculptures at Father Woods Park. It is dedicated to the memory of pioneering Roman Catholic Priest Father Julian Tenison Woods who served in this region from 1857-67.

Sculptor Kevin Gilders has spent many months on the site and has created some amazing designs that are already creating a lot of interest with local residents, as well as those who are visiting the the region or passing through along the highway.”

There are 4 themes.

Bush Priest:

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Good Citizen:

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Scientist and Explorer:

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Founder and Educator:

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I left the park and drove until shortly after 5 pm, when I stopped in Peterborough to get a campsite, pitch my tent, get something to eat and do some laundry. The campsite is one of the best I have been at, so far. It is very clean and the grass sites are in excellent condition. I pitched my tent on top of a nice grassy spot and although it has been drizzling rain off-and-on and it appears that it might rain during the night, I am anticipating that I will have a warm, dry sleep.