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Bora Bora

Snorkel adventure!!!!

sunny 28 °C

I do not have enough words to describe today's wonderful day. The island is more what you would expect from a tropical paradise. We were booked on a snorkelling adventure. We were picked up by speed boat, eight of us and we headed across the bay. The colours of the water change from spot to spot with so many amazing shades of blue, it is unbelievable. We are flying on this boat and we settle ourselves at the front and let the warm wind whip our hair around.

Our first stop is about 20 minutes away at the edge of the reef. We are snorkeled up and we must follow Manuelle as he guides us through channels in the reef. I have seen more in five minutes than I have ever seen before. The lips of the clams are turquoise, then some royal blue, some green, lavender, and other shades.

DSCN0199.jpgWe see the hidey hole of an octopus, but he does not come out to play with us today. There is a sea cucumber the size so a large bolster pillow for the couch. We see a poisonous crown of thorns! The water is so clear....we are thrilled. He leads us through another channel and we must go single file and stay close to the surface. We have not seen a soul since we left.

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Stop two is the other side of the lagoon where we left the ship. We are alone here for a good bit while we snorkel. The challenge is to find a manta ray and follow it. I just get to the deeper water and there are two below me. The larger one leaves and the smaller one circles around beneath me. It heads away and it follow. Soon the are two, then three and then four circling around. They are huge and graceful. It is truley amazing.

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Stop three is more crowded but there is room to spread out. We have a chunk of bread that the fish smell and aggressively go after it. Some of their nips on my hands actually hurt, sort of, well not really, but they can't be ignored. There are so many fish and so many colours. We are warned not to put our feet down to protect the coral, but also to protect ourselves from the stone fish.

We take a very bumpy spin out into open ocean looking for whales, but the season is early and nothing is spotted. Time to head in. 8-(

We stop for a bite at a local cafe, the Aloe Cafe, to grab some internet that comes free with the food. The food was not seasoned at all, but dad was thrilled to eat Mahi Mahi and had a local beer.

Posted by Mari Anne 19:18 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

Papeete

We wandered around before joining a group on an around the Island tour.

sunny 26 °C

We got off the ship early and walked along the sea wall as far as we were able. We snagged one geocache and passed on the other two. One had not been found in a while and the other was placed in front of a property with three barking dogs. Most people have not enjoyed that one or just left it once the dogs start.

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My first Impression is that the water has a slight green tint rather than pure blue. Papeete is a city, small compared to ours but big here. It is fairly clean right here, but gently rustic. Sidewalks, roads and pathways are higgly-piggly. There are major trees growing in the center of the sidewalks some so big you must step off the sidewalks to get around. There is a major road that runs just a bit in from the coast line. There are crosswalks, they have painted lines, but no lights. We did find one place to cross with a traffic light, other than that you are on you own.

Paul Gauguin brought Tahiti to the worlds attentions with his paintings of this place. There is a memorial for Bligh, a War memorial, an interesting Pearl Museum and an interesting mix of Colonial, modern and traditional Tahitian. There are the ruins of what must have been a beautiful building that burned near the waterfront.

We joined the group who had two vans booked. When we got to our vehicle it turned out to be one 45 passenger van with others on board. William the owner was not there and the guide was apologetic, but was only the guide. The circle tour started off with the attitude that we would have a good time anyway. Lisette our guide was good! The second strike for the bus company was there was no mic so those at the back could not hear what Lisette had to say.

At one point the bus stopped as nine (we counted them) gendarmes on motor bikes went by. Lisette was puzzled about this. Part way around the island we learned why. The were doing random checks on drivers and our bus was one of the victims. Our driver passed the screening, but Lisette was concerned for a while.

We stopped at a micro tiny botanical garden where we bought fresh coconut milk, then had our shells cracked open to scoop out the soft yummy insides.

Another stop was the grotto which was pretty cool. The ferns hung from the roof and water dripped constantly. Lisette said the water was cold, but it was pretty warm to us.

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We also stopped at an incredibly tall waterfall. Right now it was not too wide as there was no rain but it is something like 900 feet tall. At that stop the bus next to us burst a hose. We ended up taking along 22 of them. It was very cosy. We also stopped at a view point. Because of the delays we were at the view point for sunset. See, there is always a good side.

Posted by Mari Anne 19:18 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged bus waterfall excursion drive grotto tahiti Comments (0)

Whitsunday Islands

We relax on a sailboat for three wonderful days.

semi-overcast 22 °C

The train arrives and we know we are in seat nine and ten, but not the car. We were told to board the train at car B and someone would be around to tell us where to go... We sat in car B in nine and ten...but no one stopped. We held off unpacking until finally we learned someone else, who had boarded the stop after ours had nine and ten, and they were sitting in six and seven. Finally someone came and she was ticked, not at us, but at David who was supposed to be checking tickets....who wasn't. Once he left the car she said he was driving her crazy so not to worry if we heard screaming. David returned and I suggested we could move to the other car....that seemed to be the best. The other couple were to have come on at Sydney so he assumed we were them....lol

We are now settled. I am watching the Great Gatsby and we have ordered our dinner with wine. The seats are pods are so new and so cool!

Dinner
Lemon Poached Chicken, mixed greens and balsamic reduction
Pepper crusted lamb, cauliflower mash, sugar snap peas and Shiraz jus
Vanilla panna cotta and mixed berry coulis
Wine and tea

The ride is smooth and quiet and I sleep really well. The whole thing folds away during the day. Our breakfast arrives early because we are supposed to be getting off early, but the train is late and we could have had our breakfast when the rest did.

The bus picks us up and a whole bunch of Schoolies get on the bus. We are the only people over 18 on the bus, other than the driver. We drop one group, then another and finally the last get off in town with us. They have a secure area for the Schoolies here. They all have badges after they pay the $50. There is a dance on the beach for them today with lots of security.

We check in for our sail and learn it is today not tomorrow. Hummmm, when did I miss that. No worries. We walk up to our apartment and she just switches today over to the 19th when we get off the boat. We pull out what we need for the boat and Lisa at the apartment takes our packs to store. Back down to the town we pick up a couple of towels, two cloth bags and some after sun lotion. I think we are ready to go. Roger gets some wine to take with us.

There is a market on and we hang out listening to the entertainment. This guy is good and does some nice covers. We have some fruit for tea and later decide to eat at the Hogs Breath cafe. They are all over and we feel we should eat somewhere we can't eat at at home. It is okay. They put slices of beetroot in their burgers in Australia. I like it better than dill pickle.

We wander and it is time for the boat. The walk leads around the harbour to the marina and we can see the crew getting the boat ready. She is 41 feet, a cat named Whitsunday Blue. The others gather. An older couple, Barbara and David from England, a couple our age, Janet and Michael from England, their son Jonathan and his partner from Sydney and us. The crew is Aaron, a funny straightforward Captain and Rea the mate and cook.

Aaron goes through all the safety risks and use of toilets before we get underway, once we are away Rea goes through the housekeeping rules and gets us settled in our cabins. We get an aft cabin, queen bed with ensuite. Yippeeee! I thought we had to share a toilet, which always means making sure you are decent in the middle of the night, but we all get our own. The rules online for packing etc are very specific, but they are not is worried once you get aboard. Ie, they said no wheeled suitcases would be allowed on board so we picked up a couple of soft cloth bags, but Janet showed up with the case and no worries. I guess during the day it lives on the bed and at night in front of the door. There is almost no storage.

We motor for a while and the boat bounces and wallows before we put up the main and jib, then it smooths out. The sun is setting and we can see, fireworks on the mainland and the clouds building around us with thunder and lightening in the distance. We motor into a protected bay on Hook Island in the dark. It takes a long time for the storm to find us and then the rains pour, but we move inside for our dinner and Aaron give so us a chart talk about the islands, the sea life and the history of the area. I am so ready to sleep after our early start.

We are up early. At this time I am sitting forward on the nets and the sun has peeked over the hills and the heat is wonderful. The breeze is cooling and it looks like we will have a wonderful day. All during our trip butterflies drift by, black with a yellow stripe. Some time six or more one after another flutter by.

A good breakfast and we sail for our first stop....it is so relaxing, I have a hard time not falling asleep on the net over the water. Sigh. Our stop is Whitehaven beach. We set anchor in the bay and tender to the beach. It is a walk over the island to the beach. The day is now somewhat overcast. This makes the day very comfortable. The water is warm and inviting. We do not have stinger suits and we are slow to trust that we will be okay. The stingrays are numerous at the beach and pass close to us if we stand quietly. There are some fish and we are treated to juvenile sharks. There are black tipped and reef sharks. It is at first strange to be in the water with sharks...and stingrays. We do spend a few hours here in the water and walking in the powdery sand. There is a German couple in long sleeved white shirts we see them at the look out, we see them walk to the tender beach, we see them walk back to the sandy beach and then back on the tender beach. We overhear them talking to different guides..they have lost their tour. What company....we don't know, how about your guides name...we don't know...he had a shirt with a flower on it and was darker skinned.....last time we saw them they were still talking to people. I am sure someone took them somewhere.

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We meet up with Aaron at one and walk up to the view point. I had seen pictures but I was not prepared for the incredible vista. The colours were amazing. My photos don't do it justice.

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Once back on the boat some plans have changed. The forecast is for thunder showers throughout the area and we are told the plan is for a snorkel over the coral before we head back to the same spot we overnighted last night. This is a good sheltered spot as the night before had been pretty wild for some other boats who had anchored else where.

Aaron takes his time instructing us on snorkeling gear safety and coral conservation. We get our gear, don stinger suits and are quickly in the water. We are the only ones there. The older man on the boat, David, struggled and ended up returning to the boat as did his wife. We stayed as long as we were allowed. The coral is spectacular despite the fact that it is now raining and thunder and lightning are circling us. Okay the lightening is still some ways away. We see a very fast turtle and many fish. At one time something hits my mask and rolls off...it is clear and colourless. A jelly fish? What kind? We see other jelly like creatures with a black center, a salp. A salp is a barrel-shaped, planktonic tunicate. It moves by contracting, thus pumping water through its gelatinous body.

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Back to the boat we get showered and tea is served. The thunder and lightening grows and the big rain hits. Tonight's discussion covers where we were today, and where we might be tomorrow depending on the winds.

The day dawns great again. The night was a little noisier due to a couple of party boats but we are tired and sleep well. There is some rain, but it quits and we can open our hatches to get some fresh air.

Stop one to snorkel is amazing. The bat fish follow us looking for a snack. They are big, well more than a foot long and about that tall. We feed them biscuits by hand. There are a many types and colours of coral and it changes as we swim along the shore. So many fish.

Back on the ship Michael forgets the rule one hand for the boat and takes a fall. He goes flat out and hits his back badly. At first he can't breathe or talk....it takes quite a while before they can help him up and sit. Once we anchor again they get him down to his bunk, but he's in a lot of pain. There is much discussion on how to deal with Michael. Later when we anchor again he is up and moving very slowly. There was some discussion about getting him off for medical attention. If they can hold out until tomorrow they will be flying to Sydney, Michael is now up and seems to be managing.

Tonight we end our day with a beautiful sunset. No other boats around as we drift in the waters before we head in to anchor. The ocean is dead calm. This is the first night without rain. It was wonderful to sit on the deck at sunset. While one might complain about the drizzle and rain, it has made the trip very comfortable. If it had been full on sun, we would be fairly fried. I can hear a kookaburra on the shore behind me, the voices drifting from the stern and the waves lapping on the hull. Can you say 'at peace'.

Our second snorkel is wonderful as well. The best... Swimming with fish that measure four feet or more. Humphead Maori Wrasse.

Our last morning dawns with a brilliant sun, the birds singing, the fish jumping. We are starting a little early today. Group one needs to get to Dreamtime Island before noon to catch a ferry and then a flight from Hamilton Island, the second have a long drive. They asked how we felt about the last day and we said we wanted our last day snorkel, we came a long way and paid a lot to have the trip cut short. It was a good compromise.

The last snorkel was great again. We saw other fish and coral we did not see at our other stops and this time the sun was bright.

The others are anxious to get their connections and are out of the water long before we were. Even so we got to daydream island and hour and a half before their ferry. Michael is doing much better, although he is still in a lot of pain. We are now on our last leg to Airlie Beach.

As we chat I realize they must have switched some cabins. I was sure we had a double bed with shared ensuite, instead we had a queen and private, they gave the shared with double to the young couple across from his parents. Even the older couple had the double with a private ensuite, but it requires you crawling up from the foot of the bed. I am just going to be happy and grateful.

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Posted by Mari Anne 19:34 Archived in Australia Tagged islands beach snorkel whitsunday whitehaven airlie Comments (0)

Airlie Beach

Three days to explore the area after the sail trip.

semi-overcast 24 °C

We arrived off the sailboat and make our way to our apartment. It is a wonderful view over the marina. Better than the view over Airlie beach considering the town is overrun with Schoolies. We can hear a group in the apartments behind us. The worst seems to be the ones on the Gold Coast which is filling the news with their less than safe antics. They are 17 and 18 and running wild.

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The pool at the apartment overlooks the marina and the water is wonderful as the humidity is high right now. It does finally rain, but we had our swim and it stops when it is time to head in for groceries. The little supermarket is outrageous so we only get as little as possible. The next day we walk down the Centennial walk north and find the Coles to stock up for the next few days.

It is a nice walk past some very nice apartments and then some expensive houses that climb the hill. The state high school is here and kids on the Islands must ferry to the mainland then bus to school. From Hamilton Island they are on the ferry about seven and get back around five.

We have a tour to go up the Proserpine the next day to see crocs, but they cancel due to low numbers. Booooooo. We scramble around and finally decide to use the ferry system to explore Daydream Island and Hamilton Island. We get picked up at the apartment which surprised me considering we are at the top of a steep hill and are dropped at the office, where we pick up our ticket and get banded. Glenn the guide for the three island guided tour chats with us and says we can tag along on that tour if we want. Kind of a nice deal since people in that tour paid a lot more. They will add

We get on the ferry and two people drop into the seats in front of us. They are Carol and John. Carol was our dental hygienist for years. How much of a coincidence is that? They are on the three island tour.

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We follow them around on Daydream Island learning the lay of the resort and the history. Glenn is very funny and we enjoy this, but have already decided that when they catch the ferry we will stay on for a swim in the pools, a walk through the rainforest, a geocache and a walk back along the beach track. Before that we enjoy the feeding of the Manta Rays, sharks and various fish in their natural lagoon.

The rays are excited and gather long before feeding time maneuvering for the best position. The staff feed them by slipping bits of fish under the front of the rays by hand. Apparently they have no teeth, but they can give a good squeeze if they catch your fingers. They put a half a fish on a pole to feed the sharks. The sharks snatch the fish and throw their heads back and forth to tear the fish apart. The big one is hungry today....good news for us as they don't eat every day.

Daydream is an Island that is one big resort. There are numerous pools in both ends of the island, an outdoor cinema, a mini golf, and all sorts of water sports. You are warned about the stingers here, but lots don't wear stinger suits. They have only just been sighted up in Cairns, but I would hate to be the first to find one. Irukandji jellyfish are tiny and extremely venomous jellyfish that inhabit marine waters of Australia and which are able to fire their stingers into their victim, causing symptoms collectively known as Irukandji syndrome.

Hamilton island is much larger. The ferry swings by the little airport first then into the marina. We grab our lunch that is included in the deal. The food is decent, but the cockatoos, sulfur crested cockatoos, are entertaining. They are pests watching for people to leave their food unguarded to swoop in and start feasting.

We take the free shuttle around the island to get the lay of the land. There are areas that are for employee housing, the resort area and the locals homes. Every one gets around using golf carts, but they just call them buggies. We make our way around and stop at the look out. What a beautiful place. We can see pretty much 360 degrees. We end up chatting with a couple of young girls from Brisbane who have just finished uni. We join the bus again and make our way to the main resort pool and enjoy a swim. The pool is huge....really huge….

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The ride back to Abel Marina is on a fast direct ferry and the bus drops us home. Time to swim, eat, pack and get ready for the bus in the morning.

Posted by Mari Anne 19:34 Archived in Australia Tagged beach island hamilton airlie prosperpine daydream Comments (0)

Cairns

Our stay at the Shangri la, Green Island Resort, Best Western and the Novotel.

semi-overcast 28 °C

We are in economy on the Queensland Rail and we think the seats recline more than NSW rail. So good because this is a longish leg. There is lots of green and sugar cane. They burn the cane fields and it is smokey today. Only maybe that is the grassland for grazing that was burning because we are told they no longer burn the sugar cane. Once we are on our way the smokes clears and the land changes. First cattle country, green again, they a really dry grassy area and back to green and more sugar cane.

Just a little further we are back into cattle county. They have set the brush on fire on the right and three sections are burning towards each other. The trees are sparse here. The local trees like the fire and do well, IN fact do better with a good burn.

Soon we are in a boggy area with loads of kangaroos and some very large storks.

One thing they had in the coast are green ants. They are bright and kind of translucent and are aggressive. Their bite hurts...one got me on the ankle, I tried to knock him off and he attached himself to my finger. I did get him off with no permanent damage to me. I read later online that some people find the bites really sting and the sting lasts.

We made it. The economy seats are fine and I watched the Black Balloon and To Kill a Mockingbird over the twelve hours. The hotel is easy to find in the dark even with the warm light rain. We learn we have been upgraded to Horizon Club. What does that mean? It means a nicer room than the one we booked, free breakfast, drinks during happy hour, free canapés which are enough to cover dinner and at a great price. The bathroom is as big as our whole unit in Airlie beach and it has a complete glass wall with a blind that comes down for privacy.

We are too late for drinks, but the girl unlocks the cooler and gets us a soft drink. We meet a couple from England and an Aussie lady who is a tour guide for a group of thirty other Brits. We take advantage of the local eateries for a quick bite before returning to the room to enjoy a good soak in the tub....while watching Harry Potter.

Morning comes way too fast. We make our way to the lounge for a good breakfast. Certainly enough to keep us going. We filled our water bottles and take a muffin and apple for our trip. Today we are picked up by bus...the company is well organized, too bad people taking their tours are not. We have a few more pick ups. The two at our next stop are not there, we go and do two other pickups and there is a group of three missing, we pick up the two who have now appeared, do the last two pick ups and the driver gets a message that his missing group is there now....too late to go back. But then we stop at the Aboriginal centre to drop people off, then we drop more off at the skyride before finally getting to the train.

Our destination is Freshwater where we will catch the train to Kuranda. the train was over an hour late, but since it is only coming from Cairns they could have told us much sooner than they did. The carriages are old, but the seating is unimpressive. If I did it again I would spring for the more expensive coach with refreshments. The seats are like pews that seat four across with four facing so that is a lot of feet is a small space. We are in the front row so we have no one facing us.....however the next carriage is underbooked so we are able to spread out over the two cars. If the train was full it would not have been as much fun. We end up sitting with a girl and her mom from Bombay. They are here for a wedding.

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Cairns Kuranda Railway
Desperate calls for a railway to the coast
Cairns win the railway bid

In March 1884, a surveyor named Monk submitted reports from investigations carried out on all the routes marked by Christie Palmerston. This culminated in a decision that would shape the future of North Queensland. The Barron Valley gorge route was chosen. The storm of indignation which followed from Port Douglas and Geraldton was as enormous as the jubilant celebrations from the people in Cairns.

An incredible engineering feat
Construction of the Cairns-Kuranda Railway was, and still is, an engineering feat of tremendous magnitude. This enthralling chapter in the history of North Queensland, stands as testimony to the splendid ambitions, fortitude and suffering of the hundreds of men engaged in its construction. It also stands as a monument to the many men who lost their lives on this amazing project.

The climb began near Redlynch 5.5m above sea level, and continued to the summit at Myola with an altitude of 327.1 m. In all, this section included 15 tunnels, 93 curves and dozens of difficult bridges mounted many meters above ravines and waterfalls.

A railway constructed by hand: Section one of the line ran from Cairns to just beyond Redlynch. The contract won by Mr. P.C. Smith for $40,000. However, work was dogged by bad luck and a possible lack of supervision. Sickness and prevalent amongst the navvies and the working conditions in the swamps and jungles were approaching unbearable.

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So the train ride is fun and the views are great. The area is pretty dry so the river is low and the waterfall is meager. It really roars in December and January. At the top we have time to wander around. There are shops and markets of original stuff, supposedly, but when I asked where some small items were made they couldn't tell me. We grabbed a fruit smoothie and did the river walk. We could see some small crocs in the river.
We caught a small river tour with a pretty entertaining guide. Barefoot and casual he was a wealth of knowledge about the river and it's inhabitants. We saw a Johnson croc sunning himself. They are not a threat to people and don't grow very big. They did have the aggressive salt water crocs, but they have been removed. Even those, he said, are not a threat until they get over two metres. Hmmmmm.

We see turtles, but the fish are hidden under some very muddy water. The river is low today because of the dam, but the rainfall up the valley has sent down the mud.

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We head over the tracks to pick up the sky rail. Now this is impressive. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience spans 7.5kms over Australia’s pristine tropical rainforests. We glide just metres above the rainforest canopy before descending through the canopy layers and deep into the heart of the forest at Skyrail’s two rainforest mid-stations for the ultimate tropical rainforest experience. This is the end of their tourist season until April. The sky rail can take six people per cable car, but they are allowing private cars for pairs or groups.

After the first few bumps we settle in to enjoy the glide over the tree tops. The last segment of the ride is down the finally mountain face. The wind is kicking up and is swaying us slightly.

The bus picks us up and we swing by the train station to pick up a few who did the day in reverse. Just as the train pulls in the skies open and people are scrambling for their buses. We Are still short a few people, but we go to pull out when a group arrives. They almost missed out because they stopped to use the washroom. It would not be a good time to be stuck there.

Now December is the beginning of the rainy season, but it is coming early much to everyone's delight as it has been so dry. What does this mean? Well, we get rain in the evening and sun and some overcast in the morning and afternoon. The place is humid, but not overly hot. It is quite nice really.

We stop at the Horizon Lounge for a drink and canapés. The Brits from the last night come in and we ask them to join us. We talk until it closes and move down to the bar for a soda and chat some more.

Our last full day starts really slow, but breakfast is great and we manage to get organized. We skyped Edmonton where it is 30 below compared to our 30 above. G and L have been out shopping so we know G. is doing better. We manage to do some geocaching which leads us to some cairns regarding the Olympic torch run in 1956, a scout shack which has a scout Stetson as a roof. It was originally a headquarters for Gen. McArthur in WWII.

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Posted by Mari Anne 06:49 Archived in Australia Tagged sky bus train river walk rail croc kurunda Comments (0)

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