It’s been a long time coming but I’m finally getting round to writing up the second half of my trip to the Tropical North with Jake that we took back in June. I’ve gotten hopelessly behind on this blog for various reasons. So I’ve decided to make a real effort to catch up all at once.
Port Douglas is a small resort town north of Cairns. It possesses the huge and pristine Four Mile Beach, a highstreet with some stylish cafes, restaurants and touristy shops, and a whole bunch of hotels, hostels, holiday apartments and resorts. Culturally, there isn’t much to draw you here. But aesthetically, it’s stunning; a tropical paradise that is accessible and convenient when compared to similar environments on, say, the Fiji islands.
While here it hit us how much we had crammed into the preceding few days. Our ambitious plans to explore the Great Barrier Reef evaporated as we opted to sunbake on the glorious white sands of the beach instead. Unlike in Cape Tribulation, the weather was sublime, and the mercury pushed 28 degrees – which was more than welcome after the frigid days I’d been suffering in Sydney prior to leaving. We even had to invest in some suncream because we’d forgotten to bring any, and we both managed a bit of a tan =D
We were pretty content to just relax and enjoy one another’s company for the rest of our stay in Port Douglas. We went out for some Chinese, enjoyed some champagne in the room and made use of the pool at the resort. Sufficiently rested, we were ready to leave after our second night there. One of Jake’s best friends who works as a nurse in Cairns named Tess came to pick us up on her day off, and then proceeded to take us on a driving tour of the Atherton Tablelands – essentially on a long circuitous route that took us via some of her favourite spots in the area and then back to her flat in Cairns.
The tablelands are an environment all by themselves. They are more green, fertile and cool than any place at this latitude has any right to be. Just driving up the first hill away from the coast you’ll sense the cooler and somehow sumptuously healthy air in every sense – as you breathe it, as you feel it on your skin… the landscape is wonderfully picturesque. Gently rolling the hills, patchworked with farmland akin to what you’ll find in England, but somehow the bold and bright green of the grass in Switzerland. The fauna is unique and foreign. Its most magnificent quality is its vastness and variety. We drove for hours through large plains, along roads that twisted up and down the sides of mountains, by pristine lakes and waterfalls – everywhere you looked truly was a spectacle.
Cairns is a strange town. Too many Australians condemn the place for being too small, too far away, and too hot (when Jake told people he was visiting Cairns, the majority of people would respond with an indignant “Why??”). It was all three of those things, but I was surprised to see how lively the town was. Thanks to it being the first or last stop of many a backpacker’s journey along the East coast, the nightlife was actually bustling. The town is however without landmarks and its waterfront is swampy and depressing. The centre is touristy and unphotogenic, but numerous classically Australian venues persist, like outback themed restaurant and bars. The town is most useful as a hub for exploring the nearby treasures of Far North Queensland, but to be fair hardly merits a visit in itself. Our main reason for visiting was to hang out with Tess however, which was of course great fun.
So on our little winter break, we’d soaked up the sun, seen some incredible nature, cruised the Daintree River, explored prehistoric rainforests, taken it easy and ridden a horse. It went all too quickly, and before I knew it, I was back in Sydney and Jake was back in Brisbane… but the next thing on my agenda was making plans to finish up in Sydney and move to Queensland for good. More on that in the next post.