Our travel day to Port Douglas was a very leisurely one. We had gotten a semi-late check out and so were able to take our time waking up and getting ready. The front desk stored our bags for us while we went out to explore the resort area, eat, and get some last minute souvenirs. The day before Dad had fell in love with a vase by a local artist so went through the process of acquiring that before lunch. After lunch we went our separate ways to gather up various reminders of our time at Uluru before rejoining at the hotel for our shuttle. The airport was no bigger than a McDonald’s store and consisted of two terminals, one set of bathrooms, and a vending machine. Our plane to Cairns was surprisingly big (I was expecting a prop plane) and the flight went quickly. Thankfully our friends from the moonlight dinner the night before had warned us that the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas was a substantial one or else none of us would have been expecting the two hours that it took for the shuttle to take us from the airport to our hotel. When we clambered off the vehicle and got our bags we were all immediately taken with how beautiful our hotel was and how incredibly humid the air was. Going from the intense, dry heat of Uluru to the clingy, humid heat of Port Douglas was a complete 180. Excited to be in a new place (and starving) we decide to take the short walk from our hotel to the main street. The excitement wore off fairly quickly and most of the shops were closed so it was quite dull but we happened across a Mexican restaurant that turned out to be incredible. A margarita, three enchiladas, and part of a chimichanga later and I was beyond full. All three of us said we could go back the next day and none of us were kidding. We walked back to our hotel and enjoyed the room before falling asleep.
The next morning was exciting. Despite having caught up in Lost the night before I had no trouble waking up because today was the day we would be going out to the Great Barrier Reef. I wasn’t quite sure what the set up would be but after we had taken the shuttle to the office and boarded the catamaran I quickly gathered what the day would be like. The boat would take us to a platform out on the far edge of the Reef along the continental shelf. On the platform would be all the snorkel equipment you could possibly require, a buffet lunch, and extra activities that included scuba lessons, a glass bottomed boat, helmet diving, and an underwater reef view. That was the longest 1 and a half boat ride of my life I was so excited! The excitement was slightly tapered when we found out the ‘highly recommended’ lycra suit that would prevent any jellyfish stings were $5 to rent a piece… I’m sorry, but that seemed a bit greedy of the company in my opinion. Oh well. When we docked onto the platform there was quite a rush to the scuba gear and after I had slid into the ever-graceful lycra suit I grabbed a mask and flippers. Dad wasn’t going to join in on the snorkeling because he was going to do a helmet dive later on that day but Mom and I made our way to the snorkel platform where we took a few photos (that you couldn’t tell were of us because of the suits and masks) and dove in. <— that is me not knowing how to describe the experience of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. It was absolutely amazing. The water was actually very warm, like taking a warm bath, and it took me a few minutes to get the hang of swimming in the currents of the ocean. The snorkeling area was roped off by buoys but contained more than enough to keep someone occupied for hours. I got yelled at once for going too far out (surprise surprise) but was soon captivated by trying to dive down closer to the coral. Not being very experienced I was quite pleased with what I was able to do and I definitely want to go back once I can scuba or have more experience. The fish were tons of fun, too! Although the water filters out light very quickly the coral and fish still had great patterns and colors. At one point I even got to see Dad do his helmet diving, which is basically hanging out underwater with a giant dome over your head that ‘keeps you from getting your hair wet’ and allows you to hold some ocean life and witness a fish feeding up close and personal. I spent almost my entire day in the water and only came out to eat lunch and rest for a few minutes. We rode the boat back to Port Douglas and after a few minutes in some shops we decided we’d walk back to the hotel rather than take the shuttle. The Great Barrier Reef experience was my favorite experience of the entire trip and will be the one thing that I will absolutely repeat while I am here in Australia. Unfortunately we were once again too late to catch most of the stores on the main street so the walk wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. We took a few minutes back in the room to change out of our swimsuits and then went back to a pub that had caught our eye on the walk home. After dinner we returned to the room where I had a tiny bought of food poisoning that caused me to take my leave early.
Our second full day in Port Douglas had an early start because we had backtrack most of that two hour shuttle to the airport so we could catch a historical train ride that would take us up to a mountain village called Kurunda. The train ride was interesting and we were served a morning tea while we climbed up through the hills around Cairns. The tracks were very old and had been built by hand so that the mountain communities could survive before the days of cars and planes. At the top we began exploring the small town. There were lots of tiny small businesses that had some very cool things in them and we all got an Aboriginal art piece but were soon disenchanted with the quality of the area. The two markets were not very well kept and kind of confusing to get around inside (plus many of the products were very tacky) but I still enjoyed walking through them as it was a very unique place and reminded me a little bit of Trader’s World back home. We had lunch in Kurunda at a place that looked out right over the rainforest and had a sign that said the establishment wasn’t responsible if a bird came and flew off with your lunch. That never happened, but the fact that there was a sign meant that it had at least once and that is awesome. We went through the streets of the town pretty quickly and not feeling the need to spend money on extracurriculars like Parrot World decided to head back down the mountain early. We may not have done this had we known we wouldn’t be able to catch an earlier shuttle and forced to wait in the cafe for an hour. Mom fell asleep at this point and I flipped through the pages of a few books while Dad browsed the store and got some food. Our shuttle finally came and we stepped off at our resort about an hour later only to head right back out to get some dinner. Before dinner we wandered down towards the public beach where I chased some crabs and inadvertently took a shower when I pressed the button that I thought would turn on the foot wash. After dinner we ambled back and started a load of laundry (always an adventure) but for some reason we were all incredibly tired when we got back to dinner so it was a relatively early night for all of us.
The next morning was the definition of a lazy day. It was the one day when we literally had nothing planned but our travel from Cairns to Sydney so we took advantage by sleeping in, packing slowly, going for a morning swim, and then wandering the streets (with all the shops open!) once we had checked out. We quickly got separated as we were all interested in some stores the others were not. But it was fun to walk the main street and just go into whatever caught your eye. I made my way back to the beach so that I could see it in the daylight but had to return to the hotel shortly after that to catch our shuttle to the airport.
Bye Port Douglas, Hello Sydney!