Golden Anniversary Tour - Tropical North Queensland

Cairns and the Reef

Sunday 29th July, 2018
Monday 30th July, 2018
Tuesday 31st July, 2018

Sunday 29th July, 2018

Drop Cap e decided to leave Cadfael at home, our hitherto trusty Janene having disappeared. Lorraine from next door volunteered to feed him and give him some company, so, leaving him sleeping in the sunshine, we shuttled once again to Rydges Airport Hotel.

Drop Cap eoff, who was leaving for a month in the Philippines on the same day, came also. We had rooms very close to each other and we indulged in a farewell meal together. Not too ruinous I hope, and with a 20% discount because we joined their priority club.
Should have done it years ago, we go there so often!

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Monday 30th July, 2018

Drop Cap eoff had the full breakfast experience at Rydges, but we waited until after we saw him off. We had a delicious yoghurt with mixed berries (me) and banana with spices and coconut yoghurt for Mac, then went back to our room for coffee.

Drop Cap e knew we had to shuttle to Terminal 3 (Domestic) for our flight to Cairns, but Rydges shuttle didn't go at that time, so Mac asked the desk about options. The girl asked if we were flying Qantas, and since we were, she told us that a Qantas shuttle left every ten minutes from the front of the International Terminal. So we wheeled the luggage to the building she indicated. To our surprise, inside the building was the check-in desk, then security screen before we even got on the bus. It was so quick and easy, avoiding all the queuing at the Terminal. We walked on to the bus and it went across the tarmac, among the parked and loading planes. Amazing! We arrived at the door of Terminal 3 via the tarmac and had nothing further to do. The bags had been dropped back at the other terminal and we were free.

Air Museum photograph

QANTAS Heritage Collection

Drop Cap ince we had quite a lot of time to kill, we spent some of it at the Qantas Heritage Collection, which told the story of Qantas from the beginnings to the present, with displays of models, bits of engines, uniforms, menus etc etc. Very interesting.

After this we found a seat overlooking the runways of the International Terminal and I am sure we saw Geoff's plane take off. It was just five minutes later than his schedule as it started to taxi, but it was about 12:20 when it actually took off.

Drop Cap hen we got into our own aeroplane - quite crowded. We were supposed to get lunch and expected the usual trays of plastic wrapped starter, main, dessert, bread, drink , but what we got was a very small hot sandwich roll. Mine was chicken and honey mustard on ciabatta and Mac had roast beef, feta and kale in a turkish roll. Not bad, but very small, would not have been enough for Geoff! We got water and coffee and later a lovely dark chocolate truffle. The sandwiches were in cardboard boxes, better than all the usual plastic waste!

Drop Cap rriving in Cairns, we had no difficulty getting our bags and finding a taxi. It cost $25 to get to the Hilton but I expect that was normal, it was quite a long way.

Hilton Hotel photograph

The Atrium, Hilton Hotel, Cairns

Drop Cap he Hilton Hotel is very good. Someone (probably Deanna) had told them we were celebrating our 50th Anniversary and the lady at the desk congratulated us. The residential floors are all built around an open atrium with tropical palms and other plants flourishing, very attractive. When we got to our room it was lovely, very spacious, lots of storage space - a fridge but no minibar, which suits us, and a bottle of champagne, two flute glasses and chocolates with a card from the management.

Hilton Hotel photograph

Our Spacious Room, Hilton, Cairns

Drop Cap e have a lovely balcony overlooking the water and the Marina where the reef tour boats come in. There are chairs and an outdoor table there too. We rested for a while out there, enjoying all the boats coming and going. I don't know why, but I was quite surprised at the background views of hills all around Cairns. I had no preconceived ideas of the city but found it very attractive.

Balcony view photograph

The View from our Balcony

Drop Cap e went out for a walk along the waterfront, lots of restaurants of all kinds , decorated with coloured lights and seething with happy people. However we had no difficulty finding somewhere to have dinner, the problem was choosing which one.

Marina Sunset photograph

Sunset on the Marina, Cairns

Drop Cap e chose "Ochre", a very Australian themed restaurant and we shared a damper with delicious wattle seed dukkah. Then I had chargrilled kangaroo and Mac had salt and pepper crocodile and prawns both of which we shared. They were starters, but certainly big enough for main meals. We had a glass of sparkling verdelho and shared a cheese plate with dried fruit and nuts. All delicious.

We staggered back to the Hilton where Mac is already snoring and I will join him soon.

Tomorrow we have an excursion to the reef. Can't wait!

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Tuesday 31st July, 2018

Drop Cap ur 50th Anniversary!! It's hard to realise that we have been married for half a century. Where has the time gone? I suppose, looking back, we have done a lot in fifty years, travelled the world, raised two sons who are pushing fifties themselves, studied a lot and just lived! Better than many.

Drop Cap e went down at 0630 for a sumptuous breakfast. I think Mac had everything - cereal, full English, toast and coffee. I had fresh fruit and yoghurt and half an English (one slice bacon, one little sausage, two mushrooms and a hashbrown, no eggs) then a couple of mini croissants with honey and coffee. Very nice, too.

Catamaran photograph

Catamaran Wave Dancer

Drop Cap e were picked up on time by Cameron of QuikSilver and joined a group off to Port Douglas and the reef. We were the only ones going to the Low Isles rather than the Outer Reef but we were happy because Wave Dancer was a big sailing catamaran and much more fun than the floating block of flats the others went on.

Wave Dancer photograph

Wave Dancer

Drop Cap e had an hour's leisurely sail, a bit of a chop, lots of upping and downing but quite gentle, and nothing will ever compare with our White Island trip in New Zealand when we all got soaked with the waves coming aboard.

Island photograph

Low Isles Beach and Lighthouse

Drop Cap e had a chat with a marine biologist named Erica, then arrived at the little island known as the Low Isles (there are two of them but one is a wildlife sanctuary and nobody is allowed on it.) The island is currently uninhabited. There is a lighthouse but it has been automated for over 30 years and is now run by solar panels. There is an inhabited osprey nest on top of the lighthouse, looking like an untidy clown wig! Apparently the authorities don't like the ospreys nesting there because of droppings and fish guts clouding the light's windows, but they can't do much about it. Endangered species rule!

Reef photograph

The Reef from the GB Boat

Drop Cap irst we had half an hour in the glass bottomed boat, looking at the reef. This was very interesting, of course, but slightly disappointing. The reef was not as colourful as I had expected and I felt that the one in New Caledonia was a bit more spectacular. That said, we drifted over large brain coral, lots of little ones, some quite blue, giant clams with fluorescent lips and some fish. We actually saw more fish from the boat later, including some young reef sharks and something very large but unidentified.

Reef photograph

The Reef from GB Boat

Drop Cap he next order of the day was a buffet lunch on board. Luckily most of the others had gone snorkelling so there was not a seething crowd and we found a table and seats in the lounge which made it more comfortable eating than just sitting outside with a plate on your lap. Prawns, squid, ham and chicken and lots of different salads and little bread rolls. We both ate too much, but it was all good.

Low Isles photograph

Low Isles Beach

Grave Site photograph

Historic Grave Site

Drop Cap fter lunch we took the shuttle boat to the beach and went for a walk on the island with the marine biologist. We saw the lighthouse and visited the grave of the first lighthouse keeper's wife, who died of TB at the age of 41. Quite poignant.

Low Isles photograph

Low Isles Beach

Drop Cap he island is tiny, you can walk around it in five minutes. The "sand" is actually crushed coral and very sharp on bare feet and it is fairly barren. There are birds, gulls and ospreys and some others I could not identify but very little else. A couple of houses and of course, the lighthouse. I don't think I would have been keen to keep the light!

Drop Cap e had quite a rock 'n' roll sail back to Port Douglas, while a crew member played guitar and sang some old favourites of the C & W, folk rock genre, very badly! I could only identify the songs by hearing some of the words. Still, we got back to the Hilton, somewhat sunkissed, in time for showers and changing for our Anniversary dinner courtesy of Neil.

More later.


Italian Restaurant photograph

Simply Italian Restaurant at the Hilton

Drop Cap e had a very pleasant meal at Simply Italian. They were expecting us and had organised Neil's credit card etc. We shared a tasting plate with arancini, potato croquettes and pizza, then Mac had lamb shank and I had grilled Atlantic salmon and scallops with a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
The meal was good and the service was efficient and friendly but not over officious. Greg (the boss) gave us a Spanish liqueur gratis with the coffee. "We won't tell Neil about this", he said. We are both a bit squiffy at the moment, combination of sun, sea, wine and food.

Drop Cap omorrow: the Daintree. We are both really wishing we had organised at least one rest day, all our time is taken up and we have to arise at 0600 in order to have breakfast before being picked up!

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