Tuesday, July 26, 2016
We were wiped out last night and went to bed by 8:30 PM. I didn’t need any sleep aid to drift off, even though there was a party going on right outside our window. In fact, we could peer out our window and down onto the patrons. If the window hadn’t been there, we could have spat in their drinks. We weren’t even tempted.
We awoke at 1:00 AM with a start. Greg’s phone was ringing. The caller id pegged it as someone from Clarewood House, where his mother is convalescing after having broken her shoulder. That worried us a bit, and it took us some time to hear from Greg’s sister. It was only Clarewood’s front office calling to say they were rescheduling one of the periodic family meetings to discuss Essie’s progress. They had no way of knowing where we were and that there was a 15 hour time difference. We were relieved it was nothing more serious. We split a sleep aid and went back to bed.
We are leaving for Port Douglas via Cairns today, but our flight was scheduled for the civilized hour of 12:30 PM. That meant that we could sleep late, have a leisurely breakfast and finish packing. Breakfasts at Pier One are marvelous. They have fresh fruits, hot bacon, eggs made as you like, yogurt, cereal, a hash brown with some secret ingredients that we never could get the chef to share–you name it! I had a passion fruit that was so succulent. Greg learned how to order coffee. If you want coffee with cream, you say, “Long black with cream.” The coffee here is strong and delicious. Yesterday our guide (the Ormsome Orm) told us that Starbucks could not make a go of it in Sydney because everyone here is a coffee snob, and the small shops do it so much better than our ubiquitous Seattle chain.
We finished packing, and we were pleased that the same driver who picked us up from the airport was here to take us back. He was an Australian of Indian descent, and he is proud of his country and anxious to give tips about things to see and do. I love it when you get a talkative driver. They generally have the best advice about good places to eat, secret tips and tricks, and so on. He also told us some pretty incredible tales about some of his casino clients. Australians love to gamble, and casinos are everywhere. Where there are gamblers, there are Chinese nationals. (Last year, we ran into many Chinese people in a casino in Myanmar.). Anyway, back to our driver. His company has a private jet that flies in Chinese high rollers for three-day junkets in the casinos. Typically the man gambles, while the limousine driver takes the wife and family on shopping trips. To ride on the private jet, all you need is $5 million (Australian dollars, each worth about $0.80 US) to gamble. Our driver told us that his clients tell him that the casino life is all about the thrills. He told of one young man who laughed at having lost $87,000 in one morning’s gambling. The driver couldn’t see the fun in that, and neither could we. To each his own.
Airport security was a civilized breeze. The lines were not long. We got to keep our shoes and watches on, and no one took away our water. The Australian security screeners were friendly, a marked change from their American counterparts, who appear to be selected on their ability to be surly and unhelpful. My accent tends to generate some questions. One gentleman asked me where I was from, and I told him that I was from the states, particularly Arkansas. He said, “Oh yes, they’ve been having a lot of bush fires there. The smoke has made it all the way to Las Vegas.” I think he is thinking of California, but I can’t blame him. I don’t know my Australian geography for beans, so I can’t laugh at him for confusing Arkansas with California.
Our flight boarded on time. Qantas has an app that streams videos onto your iPhone, so Genene disappeared into anime and Greg read while I blogged.
The airport in Cairns (pronounced Cannes, like the French city known for its film festival) was small and efficient. Cairns is on the northeast coast of Australia, in tropical Queensland. It began as a gold mining and sugar export town but is now famous as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, a place we will visit in upcoming days. We wouldn’t see more than the Cairns airport, since we were driving on up to Port Douglas. Our driver– a middle-aged man of Japanese descent named Sam–was able to meet us in baggage claim and help us wrestle our bags to our car. Along the ride, we saw our first kangaroos in a field in the distance. I did not have my camera out so I missed the shot. I’m sure there will be more.
Sam told us that he spent time in Los Angeles as an exchange student. He never mentioned how he or his ancestors made their way to the land Down Under. He warned us that road to Port Douglas was full of turns, but I thought it was pretty tame. It wasn’t as bad as the Pig Trail in north Arkansas, and it certainly did not compare to some of the Tuscan roads in terms of hairpin curves. The drive was very scenic, but there wasn’t much room for error or you could end up in the ocean. We stopped at a scenic overlook.
We arrived at our resort in late afternoon. We are staying in Thala Beach reserve. It’s beautiful here. Each “room” is actually an individual bungalow built on stilts with impressive views of the rainforest canopy and the ocean. We get at least one free day with no planned activities. I plan to stroll around to the beach and nature preserves.
The dining room, with an ocean view, where we will take our meals:
We spotted our first kookaburra in the tree just outside our room. Everyone in Nashville, Arkansas will remember singing a round about him in Mrs. Cowling’s music class: “Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. Merry, merry king of the bush is he. Laugh, kookaburra, laugh kookaburra, Gay your life must be!” I have many fond memories of the songs we sang in her class, and I always looked forward to going. I think Genene missed out on that experience. She had a music class, but she had to share that time period with computers, art, and a bunch of other ancillary work. I think we had more unstructured time in school as children. Our curriculum was less varied, but the things we did seemed a lot more fun and there was less emphasis on testing and performance. Heck, we didn’t even have computers to learn about! Anyway, here’s the merry, merry king of the bush:
This is the view from our room! The balcony is actually in the treetops of the rainforest. You can hear the ocean waves crashing. I could sit and stare at it for hours.
The resort is a good distance from Port Douglas, and transportation is an issue. We will need to ride a bus if we want to go into town. We were content to eat dinner at the hotel, and we did not suffer. Meals are a multi-course affair, and Australian beers and wines are readily available. Fresh seafood is a staple, and there is even a crocodile curry dish on the menu that we will have to try.
After dinner, we made our way slowly back through the lobby and found to our delight that a wallaby was taking her snacks at the guest seating area. We found out that her name is Apple the Wallaby, and she even has her own hashtag. #AppletheWallaby. Here she is wishing her fans a Merry Christmas:
We are going to like this place!