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Introduction to New Zealand

Friday 25th September 2015

sunny 14 °C

It was sad to have to leave Australia today, although it was exciting to be travelling to New Zealand. We had to leave the hotel just before 9am in order to make the short drive to Cairns Airport, return our hire car and check in. This all went without a hitch although we were a bit surprised to be asked at the desk how long we were going to be in New Zealand and our date of departure. This meant pulling out a whole load of paperwork as neither of us was able to provide this information from memory. We had time to get some breakfast before going to the gate and boarding our plane. Unusually for us we were in central aisle seats, I guess we just didn't think to ask when we were checking in. This meant no aerial photos, in fact for the first time since we left the UK i didn't take any photos today apart from a couple of our room.

I sat next to a woman that I would estimate was probably 10 to 15 years older than Nigel and I, and I could just tell it was going to,be an eventful flight from the start. She didn't seem to understand about staying in her seat while the seat belt sign was on, so during a bit of turbulence she just got up a wandered off to the toilet. I felt quite sorry for her because she must have had a different grade of ticket to us as when we were brought a meal she was given a card to choose a snack that she would have to pay for. I am not sure whether she even had any money, but it felt a bit awkward to offer to pay for her. In the end she never did get any food. Everyone that was staying in New Zealand rather that getting a connecting flight had to fill in an entry card. To be fair it was a bit of a pain to fill in, and the print a bit small, but the woman was really struggling. I was pretty sure she wasn't able to read the text so I offered to lend her my reading glasses as I had filled in my form by then. She seemed to be able to understand a few bits but was still struggling so I helped her and told her what she needed to put in where. It was even more problematic when it came to her completing the reverse side with the declarations. At one point she started to tick off and fill in bits on her boarding card as if that was the entry card, until I gently stepped in. I wasn't even sure if I was allowed to help her answer these questions, so in the end I asked if it would be useful if I got one of the cabin staff to help her. She agreed to,this, but still continued to try and struggle on whilst she was waiting for help. By this time I had retrieved my glasses so was able to see the film (Far From the Madding Crowd) that I was trying to watch. I was totally confused by the woman, she was really friendly and nice, but acted as though she had never flown before. She told me at one point that she had been in Australia for four months, if so then almost certainly she must have flown there.

By this stage we were approaching New Zealand and the landing was a little bumpy but not too bad. I concluded that I don't like not being able to see when we are coming into land, another disadvantage of having a central seat. It was ironic because the plane arrived ahead of time, and we got through passport control and baggage reclaim pretty quickly and then we were in the queue for bio-security for over an hour. We had made some declarations on our cards as we had our pack of tea, we had been into wild areas (the Daintree) and the most bizarre question of all, yes we did have shoes we had worn outside! In the end declaring things seemed a positive move, because despite queuing with everyone else when we eventually got to the desk we were allowed through the green channel whereas most other people seemed to have their bags X-rayed as an additional precaution.

We decided to get the shuttle bus to our hotel, bought the tickets and then had to wait for nearly 45 minutes for one to arrive. By the time we got to our hotel it had taken us nearly as long to get from the plane as it had to fly from Cairns to Auckland. We were very glad we bought snacks at the airport as by the time we had checked into the hotel neither of us wanted to go out to eat.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged australia new_zealand Comments (0)

The Last Few Hours in Oz

Thursday 24th September 2015

sunny 27 °C

Sadly today we were having to leave the Daintree and drive back to Cairns in preparation for our flight to New Zealand tomorrow. We had time for breakfast at the lodge before checking out and getting on our way. The drive to Cairns was only about a two hour drive and 75 miles in distance. We had talked about visiting the Daintree Discovery Centre previously but had not had time, so we decided to spend a couple of hours there before lunch. It was another raised rainforest walkway, but despite having visited a couple of these further south, it was worth visiting as each one is different depending on the local flora and fauna. It is also on a cassowary corridor so there was the potential to see more of them. The centre gave out audio guides which gave lots of information about the plant life and animals and you could also select an indigenous commentary which told of how aboriginal people interact with nature, the use of plants for food and medicine and the like. The centre has a large tower that takes you high up into the rainforest canopy and it was fascinating seeing the different types of flora and fauna at each level.

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Once we had finished walking round the centre we had a light lunch before continuing towards the Daintree ferry. Whilst we were waiting to board a guy approached the car and said that there was a crocodile on the far bank, but much as I looked I wasn't able to see one. It was a reminder though of the potential presence of these dangerous animals. From the south bank of the river it was a straightforward journey towards Cairns. The scenery was beautiful and we were a little more able to appreciate it given that we were under less pressure for time than when we drove north a few days earlier.

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We stopped briefly at Rex Lookout a few miles short of Cairns, which gave beautiful views of the coastline.

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Once we arrived in Cairns we managed to find our hotel and checked in and got our bags up into our room. We needed to do some washing and fortunately there was a laundry room so we loaded up a couple of machines which did the job quickly, and whilst the stuff was drying we went to explore the seafront and the town. We were so surprised and disappointed to see that there was no real beach to speak of. Reading an information board it was apparent that the white sand that fringed this bit of coastline was destroyed by over dredging early in the 20th century. Now the beach is replaced with a boardwalk, a tiny town beach and an artificial beach/ lido.

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We were so pleased that we had decided to spend three days a few miles north a Kewarra Beach rather than in Cairns. As we walked along the sea front it was clear that the whole resort was a bit tacky, with soulless restaurants and bars and gift shops. We decided to go back to our hotel and eat there ordering from room service.

Once we got back to our hotel somebody had taken our laundry out of one the dryers, and another person was moaning because our clothes had dried quicker than the standard time and we hadn't taken it out of the machine. Nigel said the man looked even more disgruntled when I took each piece out and fold it before putting it away, he clearly thought I should have just pulled it all out a once and stuffed it in the bag. Just one of the minor irritations of doing your washing in a communal laundry. Dinner was pretty good though, and we got a few bits ready for our departure in the morning and had a reasonably early night.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:06 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches trees australia cairns daintree Comments (0)

Things Wild and Wonderful

Wednesday the 23rd September 2015

sunny 28 °C

Having spent yesterday exploring the Daintree south of where we were staying, today we had decided to go north. The tarmac road ends shortly after Cape Tribulation so we drove there and made that our starting point and then worked our way back south. Because of the uncertainty about the northern beaches we chose to just visit rather than take the risk of encountering any of the potentially dangerous wildlife that can inhabit the waters, such as sharks, salties (saltwater crocodiles), stingers (box jellyfish) and the like. The beach was incredibly beautiful, one of those places that can touch your soul and never leave it. We walked there awhile, taking photographs as we went.

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There was a sandbank shortly out to sea, and having observed other people wading in the waters I knew that it was shallow enough to paddle out in my shorts. I was hoping there might have been some coral in the shallow waters but I didn't see any where I was walking. It's a good job I didn't linger too long or I might have needed to wade rather paddle back. As it was I was rather damp by the time I got back to where Nigel was waiting for me on dry land.

We had a closer look at the mangroves that fringed the beach and having been briefed by Dan on much of the life cycle of the trees yesterday we almost felt like experts looking out for the buttress roots, breathing roots, seedlings etc. We then made our way from the beach up a short board walk up to a lookout overlooking the bay.

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It was so beautiful that I could have happily stayed all day, but as with everything on this trip there was a compromise to be had between what we saw, and how long we saw it for. It was now approaching lunchtime, and as the road was slow and winding and the eateries a little spaced out, we stopped at a cafe called Whet and had a delicious lunch.

Although we had done a number of rainforest board walks there was one en-route that was listed as a botanical walk and had been recommended to us by our hosts. We were really glad that we did because much of the walk took us right into the impenetrable parts of the mangrove swamps in a way that would be almost impossible if one was walking on the ground.

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We also saw a strangler fig that had completely taken over a tree and eventually killed it. I thought was a great walk although it has a bit of a spooky atmosphere. From there we carried on south to Thornton Beach. The first spot we settled on was a bit noisy from a local cafe so we moved to a quieter spot and I got changed into my swimming costume and went for a deep paddle.

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As there were not that many people around on that specific bit of the beach I was a it unsure about the safety, particularly in relation to sharks and stingers. Nigel and I then just sat and relaxed for a while before we continued on in the direction of our accommodation.

Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened that day was seeing a cassowary. Nigel spotted it in a river bed and kindly turned the car around so we could have a closer look. I wouldn't have normally got as close as I did but I was standing in relative safety on a bridge more than a metre above the river.

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Nevertheless I still kept my distance and didn't stay near it for too long. We just made two more short stops, one at a tree plantation where we bought a packet of Daintree's very own tea.

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Finally we stopped off at one of Daintree ice cream makers and sampled their fruit based products going for the combi tub of the day which included passion fruit, pineapple, jack fruit and wattle seed ice cream. All were absolutely delicious, and it was really nice to see much of the fruit growing there on the farm. By this time we were pretty tired and were quite happy to return to our lodge and spend the rest of the evening in our room and the restaurant.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:35 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches ocean australia daintree cassawaries Comments (0)

The Wet Tropics

Tuesday 22nd September 2015

sunny 28 °C

We had arranged to do a twilight tour on the Daintree River and wanted to use the rest of the day to explore the rainforest from our accommodation southwards towards the river. Daylight gave us the opportunity to get a better view of our lodge and the surrounding area.

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We were starting to get used to the animal noises, heard at times in close proximity. The loud bangs of fruit and nuts dropping onto the roof were no longer startling me as they had the first few times this happened. We had a nice freshly prepared breakfast of tropical fruits and scrambled eggs for Nigel and croissants for me. We relaxed for a while and I did some blogging before getting ready to go out. There is a nature walk that can be taken from the lodge down to a nearby creek and back. The path was clearly marked but the rainforest seems particularly wild and remote here and I took particular care where I put my feet. We were constantly on the lookout for cassowaries, a large bird about the size of an emu that is indigenous to the area. They can be quite aggressive, with very sharp talons and people have been seriously injured and indeed killed by them in the past. I think we were both simultaneously wanting to see but being wary of doing so. In the end although we possibly caught a fleeting glimpse of one in the distance we did not have any positive sightings.

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Once back from our walk we were ready to go out for lunch and do some sightseeing. We went to a restaurant nearby that had been recommended to us by our hosts. We had some very nice food, I had a curry and Nigel prawns. As we were going to be out into the evening this was going to be our main meal of the day. There were a number of animals there including parrots and parakeets in cages and snakes inside in vivariums. We got talking to the owner after we had finished eating and he told us that he had only bought the place in January and it was a contents and all deal. He is intending to have built more suitable enclosures for them so that they can spend more time outside. In the meantime he brings them out onto the lawn when ever he can. He brought out a black headed Python and explained how they live and what they feed on.

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He was told us that potentially dangerous animals cannot be released into the wild and that the snake, used to be fed dead animals since it was young wouldn't be able to catch and eat live prey. It was really interesting talking to him, and it was reassuring to know the snakes and birds weren't going to spend their whole lives in small cages. From the restaurant we drove to the beach at Cow Bay.

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This is a lovely broad beach fringed by rainforest with a small creek flanked by mangrove trees. I spoke briefly to a lad who was checking traps in the river. I asked him what he was hoping to catch and somewhat nonchalantly replied 'anything'. I also asked him if crocs venture as far as the beach, he replied that they didn't but would be present further upstream. On that basis I don't think I would have been happy wading in the creek the way he was. Continuing south towards the Daintree river we stopped at the Alexandra Lookout and took a few minutes looking at the stunning view across the rainforest towards the Daintree River.

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We arrived at the north side of river crossing, in plenty of time to meet up with Dan. At the agreed time he came ćhugging into view on his small boat. It turned out that we were the only people on the excursion although Dan had his wife with him for this trip. We set off and Dan encouraged us to ask lots of questions. It soon became apparent that the tide was quite high which reduced the chances of us seeing any crocodiles as they are much easier to see when they are laying on the mud or in shallow water. Nigel spotted a couple at the start of the trip. We were given lots of information about the flora and fauna of the area, particularly about the mangroves and their flowers.

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The whole trip seemed a bit strange however, perhaps because there were only two of us and Dan and the woman with him. In the end it was lovely seeing the river in twilight and after dark but was a bit disappointing in terms of wildlife.

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It also seemed odd that Dan seemed surprised by the height of the tide when he has been working on the river for years. After our allotted time we were rather unceremoniously dropped of at the river bank near where we were parked and Dan and his love disappeared off into the moonlight! We made to drive back to our little bit of the Daintree Rainforest for a quiet and relaxing evening watching a movie and drinking a glass of wine.

Posted by Gill's Travels 06:13 Archived in Australia Tagged flowers australia river rain_forest daintree mangroves Comments (0)

Kuranda and the Daintreee

Monday 21st September 2015

sunny 27 °C

We are on the move again but a days worth of activities on the Kuranda Railway and Skytrain have been booked before we need to think about making the two hour drive up to the Daintree Rain Forest. We planned to be away from the Kewarra Beach Resort by 8:30am to ensure that we arrived at Freshwater Station in plenty of time to board our 9:50am gold class carriage on the scenic train to Kuranda. When we arrived at the station we were given a complimentary 'mocktail' and then we were invited to board. As soon as we got on the train we could tell that it had been worth paying for the upgrade. The carriages were lovely with individual armchairs and there was plenty of space so we could move around the carriage if we wanted to, although all of the paired seats were on the scenic side of the line. We were given a leaflet showing the scenic highlights and there was also a commentary at key points on the journey.

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We slowly wound our way towards the town of Kuranda passing through numerous tunnels and over a couple of spectacular bridges. The train stopped for about ten minutes or more so that people could look at and photograph the Barron Falls.

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Shortly after this stop we arrived in the town. We found it incredibly touristy and were grateful we hadn't allowed more than a couple of hours there. The high street was full or tourist shops and cafes, ranging from the distinctly tacky to more tasteful galleries. We had decided to go to the Butterfly Sanctuary at the top of the high street. There was a large number of butterflies and it became a bit of a challenge trying to take photographs of them.

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The most stunning was the Ulysses which is a vibrant blue, but this seemed to be the most elusive to photograph because of the speed at which it flitted around.

Once we had finished there having began to tire of the heat, we made our way back towards the station in the hope of getting something to eat in the cafe, although they had little left when we got there. We were booked on the 1:30pm Skytrain, the cable car that would take us back down to near our start point. The times seemed quite flexible so we were able to leave a little early. The ride was a little scary with very high towers, way above the rainforest canopy and it seemed to approach the stations at quite a speed coming to a rather abrupt stop. There were two stopping points, one at the other side of the Barron Falls to the railway station and the other at a short Rainforest boardwalk. The views of the falls was spectacular and in some ways more impressive than before.

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When we got of at the second station we were able to join a guided tour with a ranger who explained a lot about the vegetation during the short walk.

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We spent quite a while at each stop and arrived at the bottom station with about 20 Minutes spare before our scheduled bus would take us back to Freshwater Station. One there we needed to get straight into the car and on our way to Daintree. The drive took about two hours through some very green and attractive countryside, past a lot of sugar cane plantations and up to the Daintree Ferry. We just missed a crossing so had to wait a while for it to return. Once across it was quite a short but slow and winding drive to our accommodation at Daintree Wilderness Lodge. It seemed like we had struck gold again as our accommodation is lovely, really in the depths of the rain forest with raised boardwalks between the lodges and reception/ restaurant. We had preordered dinner for 7pm so had over an hour to settle in before we ate. The food was very tasty and was like good quality home cooked food. We couldn't receive television programmes or connect to the internet from our room which was nice for a few nights, but we borrowed a DVD and half watched/ half snoozed for the rest of the evening.

Posted by Gill's Travels 05:38 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls australia cairns kuranda Comments (0)

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