Snakes, Sharks and Crocs…OH MY!

Let me talk about what else we saw along the way! As you head North in Queensland you are heading for the tropical part of Australia. The Southern half is sub-tropical like New Zealand.
We spent 4 days at the Whit Sunday Islands. I never knew Australia had such pristine, white sand beaches as we saw here. This is a group of about 73 islands. The Aboriginal people believe the Serpent Gods laid there eggs here many years ago and these eggs became the islands they are today. Some islands the Aboriginals believe to be cursed. This is partially due to Captain Cook landing here and slaughtering every Aborignal on the island, back in the day. Great Explorer, but not such a gentle caring sort. Anyway, we cruised around here on a local boat, spent time having lunch on the beach, saw lots of Goanna’s (large lizards), hiked to top of a mountain for spectacular views and then made our way to another island for some snorkeling.
There are several hundred types of Jelly Fish…three or four are deadly….those three or four are in Australia. Since it is coming upon summer here and the water is warming up this is considered Stinger Season. They will tell you to wear a “stinger suit” to go in the water to protect you from getting bit by a Jelly or Stinger. They gave us these thin, black spandex suits that covered your body, head, hands etc. Your feet were covered by your fins and the only thing not covered was your face…which your mask and snorkel took care of most of that. We suited up with the rest of the people on the boat and I said to Mike – “Great, now we look like seals!” If the Jelly’s don’t get you the sharks will….I get it now! It all turned out well, we snorkeled and nobody got stung or eaten! It was such a beautiful area. This is also where the Great Barrier Reef starts.
We also found a small hotel on the water called Monte’s. It was in the middle of nowhere, down a dirt road and just gorgeous. They only have about 8 hotel rooms, a small bar/restaurant but it sits on the beach and its just great. We only found it through a local friend telling us about it.
When we left this area we continued North and found a campground again, in the middle of nowhere, in a town called Rolling Stone. Down a dirt road we wandered, through the forest, following a sign promising camping. We found this very beautiful campground right on the beach. Unfortunately, we were not provisioned with much food so we lived on the local prawns, fish and local pineapple for two days. It was ok, we were excited to have beach front accommodations! Our first walk onto the beach we came upon the large “WARNING” sign about no swimming in the water, no walking on water’s edge etc..due to crocs! Ohhhh, we’ve made it to Croc Country… enough said! At least they had a nice pool!
We then headed for Cairns, pronounced Cans. This is a lovely city that many locals believe would be the capital of Queensland if it didn’t have so many things that could kill you…like the crocs. Here we found a campground that was more like a Disneyland Resort….really nice. We managed some day trips through the Rainforest by train to Kuranda, an old mining town. The train itself was from the 1800’s…really unique (and slow). We walked around there and had lunch. I believe Mike ordered the Crocodile Sausage, it’s pretty good. The return trip back down over the top of the rainforest canopy was by Sky Rail, a gondola, a very high gondola. It was a little scary for me but the views were remarkable. When we got close to the coast you had a perfect view of the Coral Sea!
Up Close and Personal With One of the Seven Wonders of The World!
From here we made our way to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation is where the sealed road ends and you can only continue by 4WD. We took the advice of some local friends and waited until we got to Port Douglas to dive and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. You simply can’t come to Australia and not go to the Great Barrier Reef….It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World that you can see from space! It is something like 3,200 miles long!
Our charter boat took us 30km (20 miles) out to the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef! Talk about intimidating. I was very surprised at how clear the water was here. I snorkeled and Mike did some diving. They stopped at 3 different spots throughout the day. I know what you are thinking, what about the stingers, crocs and sharks? My thought exactly but as nature would have it, the water this far out is not warm enough for the stingers so no stinger suits needed. As for sharks…they claim they don’t come that shallow, whatever….and as for crocs they claim they do see the occasional one on the reef but don’t think they generally come that far out….besides the water is too clear for crocs there as they like dirty water they can hide and hunt in. The water was a little cold and the currents very strong but the coral was spectacular. Lot’s of fish, turtles, giant and colorful clams, 400 species of coral! Mike even saw his first Leopard Shark….even the Dive Guide was impressed as that is not a usual sighting.
Port Douglas is also the port where the American couple was left behind when diving and the big Hollywood movie was made, “Open Water”. That dive company has since folded and the locals here all believed strongly that the couple simply planned this and are living happily on an island somewhere.
After our ocean exploration we spent some time in the Daintree Rainforest. This area is “where the ocean meets the forest, and this is exactly what you experience. We have driven through and hiked through the Daintree, which is THE oldest Rainforest on the planet. We learned so much about the rainforest and the life within. We even took a small local boat ride down the Daintree River and spotted some crocs in the wild. Australia has saltwater crocs as well as freshwater crocs. The salties will kill you and eat you whereas the freshies are faster but will likely just take a few nice bites out of you. We also visited a croc farm and were up close to a live feeding of the crocs. I can tell you the noise their jaws make when snapping at food. It is bone chilling or should I say crushing!
Believe it or not we did actually take a swim in two swimming holes along our hike through the rainforest. We did have a local guide with us and the story is this; If the water is clear and cold, no crocs….if its muddy and warmer, crocs. I pointed out to the the guide for future reference, perhaps he should take his clients to the swimming holes prior to the croc sightings…but that’s just me!
We then left Cape Tribulation and headed into the Outback. Everyone warned us “there is nothing there”…and they weren’t kidding. We did see lots of wildlife though. Lot’s of Roos, Emus, wild pigs, cattle, and believe it or not, camels….we thought we were seeing things.
Australia is still in the process of building roads through the Outback so we spent several hundered miles going through such Road Works. The road often goes down to one lane and you will find yourself up against a Road Train coming the opposite direction. The only thing you can do is quickly get off the road. It really is quite dangerous. These Road Trains are the big Mack Trucks that haul up to 5 trails behind them. They swerve all over and don’t even attempt to slow down for anyone. Hence the reason you just get off the road! We spent a few nights in the Outback. Our first place was a little eerie as we were only 1 of 3 people in the whole campground…as it turns out on of the others was from Denver….go figure. We did not get up to pee in the night as it was pitch black and lots of critters to get you!
We ended our journey with a Farm Stay. We stayed on an actual cattle Farm for two nights in the Outback. We rode horses, dirt bikes, milked the cows, fed the calves…the whole picture! Oh, and guess who I found in the HEN HOUSE???? Mike, ofcourse…collecting eggs. We stayed in the bunk house, complete with shared bathrooms and showers! We ate our meals with the owners and farm hands. We had kangaroos run through the kitchen everyday. We just loved it! Mike impressed them so much with his dirt bike skills that they asked him to go round up the horses one morning. There he went driving down the road to roundup the horses. He brought them all back, solo! So now, those of you who know Mike can imagine his head no longer fits through the door and we now have to refer to him as Wrangler Mike!! We were actually sorry to leave Myella Farm but it was a great way to end our month long journey! We travelled over 5,000km (3,350 miles)…that is more than the distance from NY to California!
We are now back on the boat and heading South tomorrow. Pictures are being downloaded and we hope to have an album together on the website very soon….so stay tuned….Life is Good!

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