Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 21 New Zealand's Hamilton and Cambridge and a dip of Serendipity

Our first stop was Hamilton to visit another map store; The Map and Chart Shop. The owner, Murray was very friendly and offered us some advice on mounting maps to wood blocks.

There's a famous Botanical Garden in Hamilton with various sub-gardens. This first one is an English Tudor Garden. It has only been open a month.

The next garden is a Maori Garden patterned after the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Next came our dip of serendipity. On the way from Hamilton to Cambridge we stopped at this little cafe.. I love soft ice cream and I love raspberries. But I never thought I would see a way to combine them. They do that here. They took a big scoop of fresh raspberries and dropped it in the soft serve machine. The result was pure heaven.
That's our little blue rental car in the carpark.

We actually like the town of Cambridge better than Hamilton. Here's their Art Deco clock tower and the restaurant across the street is Nate's where we have just had the best meal of the trip.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 20 The All Day Trip to New Zealand from Northern Australia

For some reason, it never occurred to us (or our travel agent) to fly directly from Cairns to Auckland. It would have added almost a full day to our trip.

We also learned a lesson about international trips.  We know to allow a full 2 hours prior to departure for an international flight. But the Aussies threw us a curveball.  They run you through an exit procedure PRIOR to security. We hadn't anticipated that. In the US, you just leave. Not in Australia. Or any other country we could remember.  It added about 30 minutes to our trip from check-in to the departure gate. We were still on time, but it made us cut it much closer than we usually do.

It all worked out and we got to Auckland on time. Even though it was late, we stopped at the Vodafone booth in the International terminal and bought a SIM card for my phone for New Zealand.

Day 19 Exploring Port Douglas

By now the heat is really getting to me. The A/C in our room at the B&B has stopped working and it was one very hot night.  What makes up for all this is the adventure of being in a new place and getting know the people of Australia. Our B&B hosts, Pam and John Burden are truly fascinating people with a long and storied career in movies, television and newpapers.  Pam worked with a number of A-List stars and John had a number of positions with the NY Times.  When you sit down over drinks and have a long conversation with folks like these you get to understand the country and its psyche at a whole new level. The time we spent with them is the highlight of our trip, at least so far.
All good trips have to come to an end and our visit to Mossman and Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef was no exception.. sort of. Pam let's us know she's driving down to Cairns the same morning to do a radio show. Even after we left we got to hear her on the car radio as we were leaving town.

By the time we got to Cairns, we were ready for some R&R from our R&R. In other words we just wanted some down time.  So we explored the Esplanade and had a great and leisurely lunch.  Then back to our room for the all-day journey from Cairns to Auckland.

Day 18 The Mossman Gorge and Port Douglas

By now, I think we have seen just about every Aussie tropical animal that's willing to show itself in this heat.  It's been 34 to 35 degrees for the last few days. That's 93 to 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity. The kookaburras sounding off first thing in the morning reminded us we were in the warm tropics   It's great for lizards, spiders and crocs but all the other animals are sleeping on the forest floor in this kind of heat.
So we took this shady walk through the Mossman Gorge. Luckily it was a great path and there were lots of nice things to see, like this giant spider and a pretty waterfall.

It seems that cane toads are a real nuisance in this part of Australia. As you can see they race them in the bars and they organize contests for kids to see how many they can catch.

In the afternoon we explored Port Douglas and learned how to interpret parking signs. 2P means you can park there for free for 2 hours. When we asked about it at the local information desk, we were told we could ignore the 2 hour part since it is the low season and no Aussie in there right mind would be visiting here in this heat. Next we had a leisurely lunch at a great restaurant called Salsa. It was beautiful visit. But most shops and eateries we wide open. For some reason, maybe due to the price of electricity, the A/C was shut off.  It made for some very hot eating and shopping.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 17 The Daintree Rain Forest and Cape Tribulation

Our entire day was devoted to exploring the Daintree tropical rain forest. We were fortunate to have Nicholas Fox as our guide to the Daintree. We started out with a walkabout in the forest over a 2K boardwalk. Due to the heat, we didn't see as many animals as we'd hoped but I have included some pix for the ones we saw. Can you find the Boyd's Forest Dragon in the picture on the right?  It was cool to see him running upright on his two hind legs.

From there we went to see Cape Tribulation, where the rain forest meets the Coral Sea.

Again we saw signs about the dreaded jellyfish stingers.  Who knew that vinegar to reduce the sting.

We stopped for a great lunch at the Daintree Teahouse and ended the day with a river cruise where we saw this guy sunning himself

Day 16 - Great Barrier Reef

We went on a 60 foot catamaran out to Low Island. It's the third one down on this dock with the gray sail cover.
We got out to the island, which is less than halfway out to the outer reef. And it gave Patrice a chance to get off the boat and out to the island and snorkel in shallower waters. They supplied lycra full body suits to prevent dangerous and painful jellyfish stings.
Meanwhile, on the way back they raised the sails with electric winchs and let me ham-it-up at the wheel.  Believe me, the boat was on electronic auto-pilot  at the time

Day 15 Brisbane to Cairns

The rain finally let up as we made our way to Cairns. We rented a little Toyatoa Corolla there and drove to our B&B in Mossman, just north of Port Douglas. The B&B was a little hard to find. We either missed some info on the directions or they were never given to us. No problem, we called the owner and she literally walked us into her B&B.
It overlooks the Mossman Gorge. Here's the view from the breakfast terrace.

It is really hot here 95 degrees and 80 per cent humidity...