Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cairns to Port Douglas to Adelaide

We initially planned to drive from Brisbane to Cairns, since I thought it was just up the road. But in fact, it’s a couple of hours in a plane. As soon as we landed, we knew we were in the tropics. Most Australians don’t come here at this time of the year. “Too hot, too much humidity and rain” they say. They come during their winter. As a result, we got a very good rate at the Shangri La Hotel, which occupies the prime location on the waterfront. I mention this since we discovered that although the chain is building a hotel in Vancouver, it has not yet discovered Canada. As we were leaving, we were asked to fill in a personalized guest questionnaire. When it came to ‘place of residence’ there were about 20 different boxes to check…UK, other Europe; Hong Kong, Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, other Asia. The list was so comprehensive there wasn’t even a box for ‘other’. But when it came to North America: USA. Period. With some national pride, I complained to the front desk clerk who graciously offered to review my concern with the Hotel Manager. She thought he would be interested since he came from….Canada!

We came to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef. There were a lot of tour options, but we chose Reef Magic since it offered everything: a cruise out to an ocean platform with a glass bottom, a semi-submersible boat, snorkeling, diving, a helicopter ride, and most importantly, a seafood buffet lunch. They also offered, for an additional fee, red lycra wet suits that they strongly recommended because we’re in stinger season. We did not hesitate to buy them even though, as you can see, they are not that flattering!

While we didn’t dive, we went snorkeling on the reef. It was outstanding, and we now understand why it is considered one of the wonders of the world. But you don’t need to bother with the helicopter ride.

We went up in the air again on the Skyrail, a 7.5 kilometre cableway above the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest. Normally you take the cable car one way and the train the other. But the train track had been washed out, which wasn’t that surprising when we learned the region can get a metre of rain… a day! Up to 4 metres in a week!

We almost had our own excitement on the way back when a thunderstorm approached while we were up in the air. Fortunately they got us down to an intermediate platform where we waited for the storm to pass over. All I could think of was what a ridiculous way it would have
been to die; “Did you hear about the Gellers?
They were killed by lightening while suspended in a cable car over a rainforest!”

From Cairns, we traveled to the tropical community of Port Douglas. As we toured around, we came across this photo in a restaurant window of a sunburned Bill Clinton who happened to be here having dinner and partying on September 11, 2001, before learning about the planes hitting the World Trade Centre. I’m sure he remembers Port Douglas.

This morning, while I was working on the computer, Sally returned from the gym quite excitedly. She met an English lady who was exercising while her husband also sat in his hotel room on the computer. They are both lawyers who sold their home and left their practices to take a year off and travel around the world. But while I struggle with this blog and stories for the Vancouver Sun Homes Section, he’s using his time to write an entire novel…about quantum physics! Sally arranged for us to explore the local beach together, and we heard their story. While many of their friends questioned why they would want to leave a wonderful life in UK, they too are enjoying the daily adventures of world travel. We both agreed that more people should start organizing their affairs so that they can take a year off. After all, when you ask people what they would do if they learned they only had a year to live, they often say they would take a trip around the world!

This afternoon, we visited nearby Mossman that has some of the most amazing street trees we have ever seen, and the Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary. It was an opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide variety of birds and animals. Almost all were native to the area, and very tame. Except for the crocodiles, from which we kept our distance. My favourite was this ‘toad bird’ which reminds me of someone I used to work with, but I can’t remember who!

We are now on the plane to Adelaide. It’s just over a three hour flight. We had a small problem checking in on Jetstar, Quantas’ discount carrier, since they insisted on weighing our golf clubs, and charging an excess baggage fee. When I complained that their competitor Virgin Blue didn’t charge us for golf clubs, they responded that by carefully watching their weight load, they can charge lower fares. I wanted to ask if they had considered charging thin people a lower fare than fat people. But I didn’t; although it might be an interesting concept for an airline. After all, she was quite right. In the airline business, costs are related to weight. Perhaps Jazz could start a new service. Fly from Vancouver to Toronto for a dollar a pound! That would be a good incentive to give up desserts.