A Travellerspoint blog

Driving on the 'wrong' side

Brisbane to Port Macquarie

rain 26 °C

Based on the recommendation from some new friends I met on the dive boat we decided to fly to Brisbane and drive to Port Macquarie. This was a test of the committed. The place we reserved a car from didn't have any cars so we wandered over to Avis and in no time we were headed out in no time. The overall drive that took about 10 hours but we made some interesting stops. Getting used to driving on the left side of the road wasn't hard once you got used to the many round-abouts here. There are very few stop lights or signs we've seen so far.

One of the stops was Byron Bay lighthouse. It was also the easternmost point of Australia. The lighthouse, set against the clear blue sky was beautiful to photograph and the seas below made for great scenic vistas with endless sky and seas beyond.

We also found a town called Mooball which had a gas station/cafe all done in cow theme. I am not sure where the name comes from but it was too good a name to pass up.

The rest of the drive to Port Macquararie was not eventful until we got about 30 minutes from the resort. Another big rainstorm came over us and the stars and moon that lit the journey earlier were gone. All we had to guide us were the taillights of the truck in front of us. We could catch fleeting glimpses of the road signs. We finally made it to the resort and got in with no problem.

One thing we immediately noticed is the resorts that are wholly owned by WorldMark are much friendlier then those that share properties.

Posted by garciamag 17:39 Archived in Australia Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Daintree Rain forest

It rains in the rain forest?

rain 27 °C
View Headed to Oz on garciamag's travel map.

Our time in Cairns is coming to a close. We have our last adventure planned for the Daintree rain forest and a river boat cruise. Unfortunately, the weather isn't on our side. It was raining at 6:45 (yes AM) when the coach came to pick us up.

The drive out the the rain forest included several stops to pick up other guests so it took about 2:30 before we finally got to our first stop. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave us details the whole way up.

We finally stopped at a river bend down river from where we were heading. Lucky for us the rain had a break in it so we could explore. As it turns out this part of the rain forest is regrowth so wasn't natural but had grown back quick densely.

The next stop after seeing many sugar cane and other crops that did well in this part of the state we had a very nice lunch and a visit to another beach. While it was pouring (with a capital P) when we arrived after a delicious lunch the rain again gave us a break to explore the beach which looked like the Swiss Family Robinson could have lived there.

Next stop the Daintree River Cruise. This stop started dry but after the normal break for tea and cookies we headed down to the river boat. This is open boat with a cover but no cover on the sides or front. This was all well and good until another heavy shower approached the river. This were no where to go so we drove right through the front. We all ended up quite wet but the effort was rewarded. We saw a few crocodiles and a king fisher the was quite brightly colored.

The bus driver/tour guide met us at the ferry crossing on the other side of the river and off we went to the Daintree rain forest. This was slightly different from the rain forest at Kuranda in that much of it had been logged earlier in the 19th and 20th centuries so much of this was regrowth. It was lush and thick and green but not as tall as Kuranda.

The drive home was long since we were the last drop almost 13 hours after we started but it was a good end to very exciting adventures in Cairns.

Tomorrow we head for Brisbane then drive to our next stop Port MacQuararie.

Posted by garciamag 17:04 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Meeting new friends from all over

overcast 27 °C

The weather wasn't looking to good but I was determined to get some real dives in on the GBR. I found out that there are no night dives on the reef unless you spend the night on a live aboard. So, since I had planned to dive on both Saturday and Sunday it was decided to stretch the trip into an overnight visit. A live-aboard is a great way to dive. This was my first live aboard dive trip but certainly won't be my last. I met a guy from Boston on the shuttle to the boat and we ended up diving and rooming together.

The ride out the the reef is done on a day boat. We did two dives on Norman reef and had time for a snorkel as well before we were transferred to the overnight boat. The overnight boat names the Ocean Quest stands on station in the ocean for up to three months at a time! They rotate passengers and crew with the day boat but otherwise they stay out until they need to refuel and get more fresh water.

Diving on a boat isn't much different from normal diving but on a live-aboard its a very condensed. I did seven dives on the reef at four different sites including a night dive. The dives were very similar due the rain and rough weather except for the night dives and the last dive.

While the surface was choppy once you hit about 10 feet or so it smoothed out but the visibility wasn't great. Still the water was warm and I saw many types of coral, lots and lots of fish and some other wild life as well.

The topper was probably the night dive. They turn on the lights and the night starts around 7:30. While this might not seem too late it was the 4th dive of the night. But the was the possibility of sharks! And Grand Trevallier's sp? The latter are huge fish that we were warned would 'fish' using our lights. ;-)

We were not disappointed on either score. There were black tipped reef sharks right off the boat and more down below. I met many folks on the boat but one in particular was an Israeli, going to school in Australia named Alon. He did the night dive with me and had not seen sharks before while diving. While he was an experienced diver it was fun to see his expression when the sharks arrived.

The Grand Trevallier's, true to form followed our lights and tried to eat anything we highlighted with our lights. We moved the lights around so as not to make it too easy for them to get their fill.

At the bottom of an opening in the reef we ran into another group the had descended just before Alon and I. They were led by on of the boat crew and she motioned us all to the bottom. We all knelled on the bottom and covered our lights. The darkness was total and immense but very liberating at the same time.

As Alon and I headed back to the boat he saw another shark and disappeared from sight. Not good to loose a buddy in sight of the boat! But I followed procedure and sure enough he came up right below me. As I waited two sharks swam within arms reach of me. Very cool.

The first dive of the morning (6:30am) wasn't too spectacular due to the weather. It had rained all night and the viz was not good. But we did get to see a lion fish and the was good.

The next dive was number 50 for me and helped me qualify for my Master's Dive certificate but was, again, not great.

The last dive however, did turn out to be very good. With the tide changing the water cleared and the surge settled so it was a very good dive allowing my buddy and I to 'camp' in different places and just watch the action on the reef unfold.

After the last dive we hooked up with the Reef Quest, the day boat the brought many of us out the day before for the ride home. There was talk about a front coming in with a possible cyclone headed towards Cairns in a day or so. The right home was at a steady 18 knots and was kind of exciting.

I hope return to the reef again when the weather is nicer. When I do, I will be doing it on a live-aboard. There is just no other way to do it!

Tomorrow, we head down into the Daintree Rainforest.

Posted by garciamag 16:35 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Kuranda and the night zoo

Rainforest and animals oh my

overcast 27 °C

Today we headed up into the rainforest to a town called Kuranda. The ride over the tops of the trees were amazing. The view was incredible. We made a couple of stops along the way to check the views and it is wonderful to stand and see only the tops of trees for as far as the eye can see.

In Kuranda we wandered the village which has lots of small shops and resturants. They don't tip normally in Australia so its kinda of wierd the way the resturants work. In many you order your food then sit down and someone brings it to you.

After a nice hike along a river and through the rainforest we stopped for a bite to eat. We bought some cool stuff to bring back and really enjoyed the place. On the way down, we stopped to see Baron Falls. It was nice to see, the ground rumbled but there were trees blocking many of the outlooks but it was still a good experience.

After the long ride down from the rainforest, we took a break and then headed for the night zoo. This is a regular zoo during the day but at night we have a much smaller group. The adventure starts with dinner and the offer of as much as you want to drink. Apparently, they encourage the visitors to help themselves to beer and wine so they are more open to participating with the 'concert' at then end of the evening.

During the visit we saw a very cool owl, bats, crocks and, of course, Koalas and Kangaroos. We got some great Koalas, Kangaroos and lots of crocks. We even got to pat a wombat!

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One of the best parts of the night zoo was getting to feed and pet the kangaroos. Inside this enclosure there must have been 50 or so kangaroos hanging around the campfire despite it being 80f degrees or so.
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Then evening ended with a concert and many of the visitors singing and dancing to Australian songs.

Posted by garciamag 12:23 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

The Great Barrier Reef

Exploring the largest living thing in the world

overcast

As we headed out to the reef it was raining. We hoped weather was better out on the reef and we were not disappointed. About an hour and 10 minutes out from the terminals at Cairns we were parked off of Michaelmas Quay (pronounced KEY) on the Great Barrier Reef. The water was spectacular. Michaelmas Quay is a spit of coral sand. About 2/3 of it is a bird sanctuary. They ferry the swimmers over by a smaller boat that drops you right on the sand. You just have to swim or snorkel right into the water.

The GBR (as its called here) is full of life. Lots of different fish, anenomes, and many types of coral. We both snorkeled for a while then went back to the big boat for lunch. After lunch Julie enjoyed the sun on the coral sand beach and I went looking for some critters to photograph.

Julie even babysat for a younger couple so they could enjoy a snorkel together while out on the quay. As it turns out they were from Edmonds, just a couple of towns over from us. Another example of how small the world can be.

After several hours on the reef it was time to go home. But the adventure wasn't over. Many of the boats that head out the reef are twin hull designs to help keep them stable. Ours was one of these. Between the two pontoos is an open grid that folks can sit on and watch the water pass under the boat.

On the way home the seas got a bid choppy. Not unlike Hawaii, where the afternoons bring wind and some heavier seas depending on which side of the islands you are on. So as this big boat bored through the waves they started crashing over the starboard (the right side for you landlubbers) side of the boat. The waves also came crashing through the grid and splashing over the starboard side chasing all of the people on that side to the back side of the boat....except your's truly. I thought why worry about getting wet when on a sailboat. So as each wave crashed up and over, I was soaked again and again. Each time I would take my very wet towel, try to dry my face, wring out the towel and wait until the next wave. I rarely had to wait long. This defiance apparently was very entertaining to both passengers and crew and I refused to be chased from my otherwise comfortable perch. At one point I calmly pulled my mask and snorkel from my bag and put it on. This brought a very nice thumbs up from on of the crew.

All in all it was a great day and a super introduction to the Great Barrier Reef.

Tomorrow we head for Kuranda a village atop the Rainforest. We get there by a tram and pass over the rainforest. Tune in for tomorrows report.

Posted by garciamag 16:21 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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