Monday, June 30, 2014

Cairns 2014: Day Two

After the warmth but overcast grey skies, we woke on day two to glorious sunshine.

We were only at Thala overnight with our next stop the Daintree River - so we called up for the golf buggy to take us to breakfast, and while we ate, they took our luggage back to the car and then had the car waiting for us at the foot of the steps ready to drive off (gotta love the Thala VIP treatment!)
Arriving at the main building for breakfast.. (no thats not a tattoo, is the leg strap of my pants lol)

Our first stop was Mossman Gorge... which has changed a lot since I was there last.. they now have a lovely new visitor centre and big fancy coaches that ferry you from the visitor centre to the gorge for
$15... before you drove your own car down a goat track, over floodways spilling with water all year round and into a tiny car park ...

According to the Qld brochure Mossman is "Crystal-clear water cascades over large granite boulders in the Mossman River gorge. Lush rainforests cloak steep mountainsides from the river banks up to the rugged eastern slopes of the Main Coast Range"

Walking tracks are good.. are little bit of steps and gradients but not too bad on old legs lol.  We walked up to the Rex Creek Bridge... 

its great entertainment to watch people who have never been on it before start to saunter out on it, then stop with a look of shock and grab the sides for support.... they totally walk past this sign...

....its a swing bridge and boy does it swing!  trying to take a photo on it is a challenge.. people keep walking over it.. one step from the edge and you can feel it instantly in the middle.. its like trying to take a photo standing on jello!  I waited for ages until traffic had left both sides.. and it stopped wobbling enough to get this...
We stopped in at the visitor centre on the way out for coffee and a muffin before heading up the Captain Cook Hwy again towards the Daintree... stopping off at Daintree Cruise Centre, just before the village to do a 2 hr Croc Cruise with Adam on the Matilda II.. yes I had the theme song of Gilligans Island stuck in my head for hours lol

According to Adam who is a veritable encyclopedia of croc info - there about about sixty crocs on the Daintree River.. which also according to Adam is a 'low' population... Kakadu has more.  But in his quote for the day "its only take one to ruin your day"

One very well fed croc!

We passed quite a few just lounging around on the banks waiting for someone to wander by... 

Thala Beach to Daintree Village via Mossman Gorge

Cairns 2014: Day One

I love Far North Queensland... the hot, wet tropics to me is more 'Queensland' than the regular tourist mecca of Surfers..... the last time I was there in 2012 I missed seeing/doing a few things so when my sister suggested we head there together I jumped at.  Being a tad OCD when it comes to trip planning the logistics were left in my hands and I organised our budget, bookings an itinerary.. and unlike my BIL didnt get half way there and remember the wallet at home on the kitchen bench :)

Our flight left Melbourne at 6am so we were up at 3.30am and out the house at 4.15am which was a good thing as we kinda got lost finding the long term parking entrance.. in the dark and the rain we totally missed it and ended up back on the freeway, U-turn and head back to the airport.. park the car, jump on the shuttle bus and still made the terminal by 5am.

Our flight left on time and we landed in Cairns at 9.20 ... 25C but windy.. which even with the wind was a big improvement on the 12C that we left back in Melb.  We collected our hire car (a zippy little blue Toyota Yaris) and headed into Cairns for a late breakfast before heading to the Wildlife Habitat at Port Douglas for lunch.

The Wildlife Habitat has been there 25 yrs and apart from birds, also homes Kangaroos, snakes, Koala and Crocodile.   The venue itself is lovley, reasonably priced and lots of free shows once you are in - but skip the buffet lunch and just order what you want from the cafe.. we werent too impressed with the lunch buffet.
Tawny Frogmouth

Black and Gold Speckled Parrot

After leaving the Wildlife Habitat we headed back to Thala Beach and booked in....upon arrival you just drive up to the entrance where you leave the car, hand the keys to the valet and head inside.  While they take your luggage to your room and park your car, you are invited to relax and enjoy the view from the sitting area while sitting on your complimentary tropical punch...

This is how you look when the needy family is left behind :)
after which you are driven to your room in the little golf buggy

Jungle Walk Bungalow

Our bungalow at Thala
'Herbie's Shack'
We settled into our room and then wandered down to the private beach... lo and behold 'Herbies Shack' was open... "Damn" says sister, "who knew that was here!, I didn't bring my purse"... "I knew", said I... "and just in case they were open, I brought I brought the credit card!" .... here, buy the champers and I'll met you at the banana lounges") ..and as it turned out..we didnt need purse or CC it was just booked to our room ;)


Airport to Thala: 51kms

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Princes Pier

I had been wanting to photograph Princes Pier for a while... we finally made it down there on Good Friday.. .choosing that day as we thought it would be quiet, empty, everyone off doing other things for easter.. which it mostly was...

We got there around 7am as the sun was coming up and found a park easy enough at that hour.. there was just us and a few other fishing there...

Rain was predicted for later in the day, but at that hour it was lovely sunrise...

the pier was built between 1912-1915 and was Victoria's third major peir before it fell into disrepair and was closed in 1989.  After a massive renovation it was reopened in 2011.  The old decaying pier walk was removed exposing the pylons and the remaining pier and gatehouse restored.

I do plan to go back again.. would like to get some sunset shots .......all images taken using Canon 7D and an ND 400 filter

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

Early autumn we took a trip up to the Alfred Nicholas Gardens at Sherbrooke.  Packed the camera's and a nice picnic lunch with cakes and wine and off we went.....

The gardens are in the Dandenong Ranges.. and as stunning as the gardens are... the property is hilly and steep.  Very!  by the time we got back to the car I was wishing we packed and oxygen tent instead of the wine ....but we drank it anyway, sitting on the tail gate of the car sipping wine while everyone else that was going back to their cars looked just as winded and puffed as we were.

Originally named Burnham Beeches it was built in the 1920's owned by Alfred Nicholas  the 'Aspro' magnate...the beautiful gardens cover about 13 acres and feature tree ferns, mountain ash trees, lakes and waterfalls

walking all the way down to the ornamental lake you come to a small series of islands connected by footbridges..

at the end of one is a small boathouse....

the gardens are alive all season long with masses of plantings... ...we had hoped to photograph the gardens as the leaves turned.. but the unseasonably warm weather had kept everything green....

Our shortperson travelling companion finally found some autumn leaves.....

the gardens are definitely worth a visit... but plan your day well... there is no cafe onsite so you need to carry everything in if you plan to eat there... didnt see too many bins so we carried our rubbish around for a while too until we found one.  And bear in mind... its a long way back up!  take the paths... they are easier than the steps!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Port of Echuca

One would think we have a 'port' theme happening but it was only two trips in a row :)

Late Feb we headed up the Calder Hwy to Echuca for an overnight trip.  The weather wasnt forcast to be particularly nice on the saturday, but sunday was supposed to be pretty good so we took off anyway.

By the time we were heading through Wallan the rain started to set in.... pic above was taken just out of Rochester.. I spotted the knarly tree, second car behind us spotted the 'roos but they took off as we pulled over...

We were staying at EastEnder Cottage.. booked through Take A Break.. lovely house and very comfy at a very good price... it was still raining on and off when we arrived so we went for a walk around the Port and then came back to the house

When the sun started to come out the kids were given water balloons to play with :)

Sunday morning the rain had stopped.....we went down to the port early morning to get some shots of the river as the sun came up

In the Port Precinct they have many old original buildings still standing... and a stagecoach you can ride pulled by this lovely pair of greys, ...

..driven by a coach driver in driz-a-bones, akubra and complete with beard.. very authentic looking if you overlook the RayBans lol

we took the ride.. didnt realise how awkward it is climbing in and out of the old coach... dont know how the ladies of the 1800's managed in long dresses and corsets! 

Narrow alleway.. got the nephew to pose for me in the arch :)

We took a cruise on the PS Canberra.. well worth it and quite reasonably priced.. 

I choose the Canberra as they allow any kids on board to have a steer of the boat....

.......and you can see the engine and equipment :)

Cruising down the Murray River on PS Canberra
After our cruise and before heading home... we had afternoon tea at Wistaria Tea Rooms.. very nice.. we sat outside with our wine and devonshire tea and watched the world go by for a little while :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Port Of Melbourne

Back in February we took one of the Port of Melbourne's free boat tours.... these run once a month out of both Victoria Harbour at the Docklands, and Gem Peir at Williamstown.

To book your own.. go to Only Melbourne

We took the Gem Pier one because driving to Williamstown is a pleasant drive and parking options arent too onerous (as compared to the nightmare of navigating the docklands and paying parking fees that the Packers would blanche at)

Didnt think to take a pic of the boat that did the tour, but it was VERY nice.  Not a tug or old rust bucket like I was expecting... but a large, comfortable, very well staffed private vessel that the Port of Melbourne pay to do these tours.  Would hate to think what this costs us taxpayers, but unlike paying for an able bodied person to sit on the dole for years without looking for work... I am happy to pay for this.

It was a really, really warm morning - we were on the 11am tour.. and sitting at front in open (best spots for photographs) some fellow passengers started wilting and moved inside.. which allowed us to move a bit closer to the front.. we were wilting too.. but stoic!  wanted those pics.. and knew once she started moving the breeze would make it about 10 degrees cooler up front.. which was the case...

The Williamstown tour takes you to Webb Dock...seeing those big container ships and the cranes operating moving the containers around was amazing...

Those ships and containers are HUGE.. and to watch the cranes move them around like dominoes ... sheesh..

After the cruise ended we took a walk around the HMAS Castlemaine..She's a mine sweeper permanently berthed at Gem Pier.  Admission was $6 per adult or $15 for a family..

It was an interesting wander around the ship... we were advised to go down the stairs backwards... and I can tell you few hail marys were said when we looked at them and descended.. and we're not catholics!  Steps were about as wide as 3" plank and went down at about a 70 degree angle!

the engine room took about three lots of take your life in your hands stairs.. but was worth the trip down... love the old dials and machinery.. and it was all rising and dropping up and down...

We had the 10 yr old great neice with us.. always great value for a laugh.. ahhh to be born before video cassettes (not that she knows what they are).. "whats this room she asks" .. "the radio room" say we... "where's the radio".. "that big thing on the desk!"

Captains cabin... "why does he get such a good room"... "cause he's the Captain!"  ... "Whats that thing on the desk?"  .. "a telephone"... "but where are the buttons"... " no buttons.. you stick your finger in and dial it to the right side and let go"... "but how do you walk around with it?"... "you dont... at least no further than the cord into the wall reaches!" .. I didnt take a pic but you should have seen us explaining a typewriter LOL.. "how do you make the font bigger".. " you dont!" "how do you know what you are writing".. "you put a peice of paper in".. LOL.. 

highly recommend both the Port of Melb tour and the HMAS Castlemaine.. and take a kid with you... love watching them spin out and get their head around things that happened before they were born.. Like round shouldered fridges.. but thats a whole 'nother story :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Few Days In Wagga Wagga

Early in January I travelled to Wagga Wagga with Lucy and Glenda to visit the fourth member of our motley crew, Barb.

Originally we had been planning a weekend away with all four of us together - but Barb's family and  health issues, along Lucy's recent auto accident put paid to that and it was cancelled. Glenda, Lucy and I decided to rent a unit in Wagga for a few days, drive up and surprise her.

To ensure that it all went smoothly we secretly co-ordinated it with her hubby. We should have known better... never involve a man in planning. Barb had a day procedure scheduled for day two of our three day visit - and with the first day taken up largely by travelling our time together was briefer than we would have liked - but that made our time together all the more important. The weather was very kind to us, sunny and warm without being overly hot.

We headed up on the Monday morning - stopped off in Culcairn and had a light lunch at the fabulous bakery there

Plane trees seem to be 'de rigueur' once you hit NSW

While Barb was having her surgery on Tuesday we took a side trip up to Gundagai

Gundagai Railway Station
Gundagai has a lovely old heritage railway station..... you could almost see the travellers of the 1800's stepping off the steam trains........

As well as its heritage bridges...."four bridges spanning the Murrumbidgee flats: the historic Prince Alfred Bridge, the timber Railway Bridge, and now the dual Sheahan bridges of the Hume Highway."

which for 'safety' reasons is barred from walking on  (really? LOL)

and of course, the famous Dog On The Tuckerbox

spotted these vapour trails walking through the park in Wagga.....

and as I had the new Fujifinepix HS50 with me (with its 42x zoom) I was able to track right in and see what was making them

Hampdon Bridge, Wagga
On our last evening we took a drive the Hampdon Bridge in Wagga Wagga itself.. its due for demolition soon.... we were lucky enough to get a fabulous sunset

Too short a visit... am looking forward to Barbs visit here coming up in a couple of months.... when we can really catch up together!