Monday, May 21, 2012

Travels with DJ - our last morning

It was time to pack and head home to Melbourne for me.. and back to the States for DJ.  We had been in Cairns for six days, had covered almost 900kms in that time heading north up the Captain Cook Highway as far as Daintree, as west along the Bruce highway through the hills and valleys of the Atherton Tablelands.

View Larger Map
(our driving route)

We had crammed as much sightseeing as we could into our days and nights, had paddled on deserted beaches, saw the sun rise over quite a few of them, and set over others. 
7.14am: Sunrise at Port Douglas
We had tramped national forests, seen wildlife that we'd only seen previously in zoos, stood below roaring waterfalls, walked in gentle tropical rain, motored silently down magnificent rivers, sat under the amazing canopies of 500 yr old trees bathed in the sounds and the life of forest and wandered the streets of vibrant cairns after dark revelling in the warmth of the climate and the genuine friendliness of its inhabitants.  

8.57pm: The Cairns Esplanade

8.30am Cairns Esplanade
Mark Twain said: "I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them." 

How right he was.  I had left Melbourne with a friend and through the good times on the road we talked, photographed, laughed, took many a wrong turn that led to another wonderful spot....and bonded through our love of Australia and photography, returning with a 'sister'.  I don't think I can ever top the holiday for the wealth of friendship and experiences it brought to me  (I get 'mushy' thinking about lol) ... but I'll try!  DJ will be back in 2015 and we are planning a bigger and longer trip.  

Three years seems so long away.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Travels with DJ Pettitt - Day 6 -Strangler Fig Trees and Waterfalls

It was our last full day in FNQ.... we had both had the best fun - and while looking forward to seeing our furbabies and man babies again... it was a bittersweet last day... one we decided to cram into as much as we could (and this was different you ask? LOL)
Water Fountains at the Esplanade Lagoon
We had been up since 5, taken morning pics from the famous balcony, showered, chatted, perused maps and planned our route.. and it was that without hurrying we still called for our car and headed off around 7.30am in brilliant blue cloudless skies.... we were making for the Atherton Tablelands  again as we wanted to (a) see the famous Strangler Fig Trees and (b) take some waterfall shots.

Our first stop was the Cathedral Fig Tree - a gigantic 500 year old tree located in the Dunbulla State Forest.  It was 5 stories tall and had a huge circumference with a great boardwalk around it.  Absolutely stunning... Thousands of people before us stretching back hundreds of years had also walked around this tree ... felt very small in the great scheme of things.

Leaving the the Cathedral tree we headed for the Curtain Fig Tree at quote the Cairns website:
Curtain Fig Tree - click HERE for video with bird sounds!

This is the most amazing tree you are ever likely to see. It is a picture of a century of natural history – a unique example of nature's unpredictability and power.
The fig tree is from the strangler fig species Fichus virens. The curtain effect results from one tree leaning against another tree on a 45-degree angle. The strangler vine then grew along the oblique angle of the leaning tree, dangling 15 metres to the ground to create the curtain affect.
A wooden boardwalk surrounds the tree so you can see it on any angle. As one of the largest trees in North Queensland, the Curtain Fig Tree is fascinating and unusual. If you're in the Atherton Tablelands, make sure you stop by an have a look.

Like the Cathedral Fig Tree this one was amazing..... I think the Cathedral one was more impressive (re: shape) but they were both jaw dropping.. and the Curtain Fig Tree was in a forest with the most amazing bird sounds and calls.
Millaa Millaa Falls
From here we headed for the waterfall circuit.. our plan was to do Mt Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls.. totally missed it... ended up on the 'other' waterfalls circuit.. which was opportune.. and I'm glad we didnt miss it.  Our first waterfall we came across was Milla Milla (pronounced Mil-lay).

Stunning single drop waterfall into a large pool... with lots of tourists from a tour bus swimming in.. we got off a few shots, then out of the corner of my eye I saw a watery hair flick!  "OHHHH Can she doe that again!!!!"  ooops.. did I say that out loud?  :-|  ............ yep, I did, they heard me... but yes, two lovely german girls were more than happy to do it again.. giving me their camera to take one on theirs as well...

DJ and I shot off some quick shots before the girls had to get back on the bus and continue their tour (we have their email addy to send them the shots) :-)
Frolicking Frauleins
After Milla Milla we headed to Zillee Falls.. didnt like that much as we couldnt get to the bottom so we moved onto Ellinjaa Falls... (tip want to photograph a waterfall?  make sure there is access to the bottom pool)
Ellinjaa Falls

OMG  amazing place.  Definitely IMHO the best waterfall of our trip...

We spent an hour their in the thunder of the falls and spray before calling it a day and heading back to Cairns... little doodlebug was running on the smell of an oily rag by the time we finally made the servo... but it got us there.. and boy did we have a fantastic last day!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Travels With DJ Pettitt - Day 5 - Patronella Park and Josephine Falls

We had been very lucky with the weather thus far and it was still holding.. the day dawned with another beautiful sunrise and a predicted 30C to the sound of bats screeching as they headed back to the hills around 4.30am (yes we're weird, we loved it lol and Joe got to hear it as DJ was on the famous balcony talking to to him at the time)

Sunrise and 30C coming up

We had decided today that as we couldn't do the Kuranda train (closed for maintenance) that we would go to Paronella Park.  This was on both our wish lists but we had figured there wasn't enough days to get it done, with Kuranda Railway out of the equation we called for our car to be brought around and headed out the door around the customary 6.30-7am (I gotta love valet service LOL)

Dunbulla State Forest

Josephine Falls in Dunbulla State Forest looked a promising stop, and was on the way so we headed there first.  Was more than worth the stop.  Stunning walk through rainforests full of tall trees, little streams and rocky pools, past tall trees supporting ferns growing on their branches to an amazing high volume waterfall.   It just pounded over the top like a mini Niagara.
Josephine Falls (a three tier lava  rock flow)
click the link for a short video

We took some photo's from the top then made our way via the walkways to the bottom.  Came across lots of 'young things' swimming and using the waterfalls like water slides.. ahhh to be young again LOL.

good if you're young!

We spent a  very enjoyable couple of hours in the cool of the forest before we headed back to the green doodlebug and made tracks for Paronella Park.
Paronella Park Fountain - fed from the waterfall and hydro

We arrived at Patronella around 12.30pm.. the green doodlebug AC worked great so it was a bit of a shock when we parked and stepped out of the car!  Was quite hot by now... we were welcomed by the owners Mark and Judy (lovely friendly  people) who filled us in on the history of the place and made us feel very welcome. (We weren't important they were doing it to everyone... soooooo friendly, informative and helpful).  We had a delicious lunch of chicken and sun-dried tomato foccacia's and then headed off on the tour.

Jose's decaying spanish castle roams over 13 acres

Our tour guide was Yeng..  very personable young man, full of humour and knowledge who made the tour both informative and fun.  what is it?  hard to explain briefly.. its 13 acres of amazing Amazonian rainforests created  from nothing by Jose Paronella  who made his fortune in sugar cane in the early 1900's.  He originally intended it for his bride Matilda but after working for 11 years to amass his fortune when he returned to Spain she had married another (11 years?  severe lack of patience that girl LOL) So he married her younger sister Margarita and brought her back to Australia where he, with Margarita's;s help, created the amazing Spanish castle in the rainforest.
Paronella Park Waterfall.. supplies their hydro scheme

After the tour we were free to wander at will.... taking some more pics before heading back to cairns late afterrnon. Our clothes were literally sticking to us by this stage (helped in no small way by the camera gear in backpacks)  in the heat and humidity and showers were definitely big on the wish list as we drove... even with the heat we had a ball.  If you ever get to cairns you MUST do Paronella Park....
Two Canon 7d girls.. still hot in the shade! (and I mean the weather! LOL)

We even stopped at a roadside 'honesty' stand on the way home and ate fresh bananas from the fields as we drove... what a day!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Travels with DJ Pettitt - Day 4 - Kuranda

With our standard early start a bit slower we left our room around 7am and headed for Kuranda - our plan was to do the Butterfly Sanctuary and Bird World.  The main street of Kuranda is lined with magnificent Fig Trees... awesome trees... they are like botanical hotels... their branches support many other plants growing on them
Kuranda  main street

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly enclosure in Australia with an all weather flight avairy thats home to around 2000 butterflies

We spent a very enjoyable (but hot lol) hour in the enclosure... saw lots of the lovely bright blue Ulysses butterflies but they were paparazzi shy and wouldn't land for more than a blink of an eye.

After the butterflies we sat for a little while to lower our core temperature from liquified to just hot, then headed over to Birdworld.  LOVED this place.  Another huge indoor avairy type enclosure where you walked around inside with the birds, but setup to look like a rainforest with multi levels... and VERY friendly birds!

This little guy took a shine to us and just would'nt leave us alone lol.. (and note the flat hair, Sunsilk you need to invent a humidity defying wax!)

And handsome but 'naughty' Eric who ate the toggles on my backpack while he sat on my shoulder lol

Travels with DJ Pettitt - Day 3 - Daintree Back To Cairns

During the night the heavens opened with solid tropical rain and it teemed down for a good few hours.  By morning as we headed to the jetty it was light drizzling rain... and a balmy 25C at dawn!

6.30am on the Daintree

We didnt see a lot of birds, the odd Cattle Egret, a Sacred Kingfisher and Welcome Sparrow were about it... but even though it was drizzling rain on and off for the 2 hours of our cruise it was still magic.  Would love to go back again and do it in summer... would love to see a real sunset or sunrise on the river lol
7.30am on Daintree

Unfortunately the rain/drizzle was predicted to settle in for the day so we cut our plans short and headed back to Cairns.... by the time we got a bit further south and closer to cairns the sun was out and it was a beautiful day

Sunset and the bats arrive
We booked into our room at the Sebel a day early (great hotel, highly recommend the staff) and went for a wander around town and dinner - walking past the casino with the sun about to set, I looked up and the sky was full of bats!  great big fruit bats with a 2.5ft wingspan were flying and swooping overhead.  apparently they come into cairns each night at sunset for the fruit trees

View of Cairns from the balcony of our room on the 9th floor

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Travels With DJ Pettitt Day 2 - Thala Beach Resort to Daintree

In what was to be the 'norm' for our entire trip we were both up by 5.30 am and out the door by 6am to catch the sunrise.  Thala Beach Resort has a private beach that was just beautiful... deserted sands, rolling waves, palm trees with coconuts and a glorious sunrise

Sunrise at Oak Beach, Thala Resort

We booked out of our room by 7.30 and headed off to Breakfast With The Birds in Port Douglas.
Rainbow Lorikeet

We entered a super huge avairy where we had a sumptuous breakfast surrounded by loads of Australian Birds, and before we left for our next stop, we wandered through the grasslands habitat, wetlands habitat...  great place... its a 'must do' if you are in the area

Pair of Tawny Frog Mouths
Lesser Sooty Owl (with lunch)
We left Port Douglas in glorious warm sunshine and headed for the Daintree River.  Sun followed us most of the way there, but while it was warm... it became quite overcast as we got closer and closer to Daintree...

Our little green doodlebug

We were staying at Riverview Lodges right on the Daintree River... nice accom but not as flash as our first night..another early again that night as we were booked for a 6.30am cruise on the river
View from the veranda of Riverview Lodges

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Travels with DJPettitt Day 1: Cairns, Mossman Gorge, Port Douglas

Well the retreat and classes are DJ and I flew out of Melbourne and headed to Cairns.

We landed in Cairns on schedule at 9.30 am. (red eye departure of 6am!) the humidity hit us as soon as we left the airport.... was very overcast but 30C.

After a super yummy breakfast of waffles, icecream and strawberries on Cairns Esplanade we headed over the road for a paddle in the Esplanade was a taste of things to come, as the rest of the day unfolded into perfection in paradise.

By lunchtime we were at Mossman Gorge.... I had heard it was good and not to miss, but the advance publicity did not do it justice.....picture an ancient rainforest, fast flowing river rapids, wildlife, mossy rocks, swing bridges and silence apart from the sounds of the forest....

We left mossman mid aftenoon and headed for our first night accom.....Thala Beach Resort....amazing doesn`t come close. On arrival they valet parked our car and took our bags to our room while we had a complimentry welcome drink in the stunning indoor/outdoor bar, then ferried us to our room when it was ready in the golf buggy service.....I think I may never leave!

We are now back in our room, after a sumptous dinner, sated and totally content. The rest of our trip has a lot to live up to!