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October Update #2 -- Far North Queensland

So here's the next installment of Adventures Down Under...  Grab a coffee and prepare yourself.... it's long!
 
During our Spring Break (which was in early October... WEIRD!), we went to Far North Queensland, home to gorgeous beaches, stunning mountains, the oldest rainforest on earth, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef & lots of crocodiles.  Rather than giving you all the details, I'll just highlight what we did.  This way, you can ask questions about things you'd like to know more about AND you'll understand why all of us are EXHAUSTED despite the fact that we get a 2 to 3 week break from school every 10 weeks.  
 
 
DAY 1 - 
  • Fly to Cairns, arriving at 1PM
  • Drive directly to Hartley's Crocodile Adventure where we get to watch a man come very close to being eaten by a crocodile. When we saw the sign that declared Hartley's Crocodile Adventure to have "The Best Crocodile Show in Australia," we were a little skeptical.  We shouldn't have been.  The show was AMAZING!  Primarily because the guy running it was a maniac and apparently had a very bad personal relationship with the crocodile in the show.  The combination made for a very exciting show!  Have you ever heard the sound a crocodile makes when snapping his jaws shut?  It's louder than you can imagine!
  • Drive to Port Douglas, where we are staying.  "Reception" was closed, so the guy just left the door to the apartment open for us.  We are definitely not in Acton anymore!
  • Quick dip in the pool.
  • Dinner followed by Cane Toad Races. Yes, cane toad races.
 
Day 2 - 
  • Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef - As you'd imagine, there were amazing fish & beautiful coral.
  • Dolphin "Show" - Yep, a pod of dolphins just happened to swing by for a little play time!  Unfortunately we weren't in the water at the time, but it was fun to watch from the pontoon.  
  • Quick dip in the pool.  Really??  The boys hadn't had enough of the water for one day??
  • Back to Port Douglas for dinner at a Mexican Restaurant!!!  Have I mentioned that there is no good Mexican food in Sydney??  We didn't find any in Port Douglas either, but it wasn't bad.  At this point, pretty much anything will do.
  • Walk on Port Douglas' 4 Mile Beach
 
Day 3 - 
  • Enjoy sunrise on 4 Mile Beach (just a block from our apartment).  OK, truth be told, only Mike went to watch the sunrise.
  • Drive up to the tablelands, which requires driving up a mountain.  There were more motorcycles than cars on this road for a reason... it would be a great place to ride a motorcycle!!
  • Drive through a bush fire.  No, this was not planned!  At first there were small fires in the distance.  Then there were small fires right beside the road.  Finally, there were 10 meter high flames about 30 meters off the road.  Luckily there was no wind and the there were cars coming from the other direction, so we pushed on and were soon out of the fire region.  Though we were never in any real danger, my heart was pounding!  And I realized that this is the reality that all the home owners in rural Australia have to deal with on a daily basis. 
  • Tour Skyway Coffee Plantation - I had no idea that coffee "berries" look like cranberries, or that there are only 2 types of coffee beans in the world.  Our tour guide, who could play the role of Crocodile Dundee without much effort, was amazing!  Well worth the drive through the bush fire!!
  • The Crystal Caves, our next stop, was definitely NOT worth any drive or the $55 we spent to explore the "caves."  We got sucked in by a great brochure and our love of caves.  Well, the "cave" was a storefront.  Out the back of the store, some crazy gem collector decided to build a fake cave out of styrofoam.  We clearly have suckers and/or tourists written all on our foreheads!
  • MINJIN SWING !!!! - Max & Alex were strapped to a rope and then hoisted up 45 meters over the rainforest.  When Alex pulled the cord, they flew through the air Superman style, almost hitting a couple buildings.  After they stopped screaming, they began begging to do it a second time.  Definitely a highlight... for them anyway.  
  • Dinner in Cairns.  Walk along the boardwalk, feeling very thankful that we decided NOT to stay in Cairns!
 
Day 4 -
  • Watch a little Patriots football !! Very few NFL games are broadcast here.  So when we happened upon a Sunday night game (which is Monday morning in Australia), I was afraid that I wouldn't e able to get the 4 boys out of the apartment.  We miss football!!
  • Aboriginal Introduction to the Rainforest - An Aboriginal gentleman took us for a hike through the Daintree Rainforest, teaching us about the way his ancestors used the forest... the nut that is so full of oil that the women would take a tiny bite to "keep them regular" and then use the rest as fuel for the fire, the barely detectable markers in the forest that reminded the Aboriginals of the paths to follow during their migration, the way they created and used body paints, the part of the river that belonged only to the women of the tribe that was called "the birthing suite" for obvious reasons.  At the end of the walk & talk, he told us that what he shared with us was just the beginning of all the things you need to know to live in the rainforest.  In fact, what he told us is what a 3 year old would be expected to know, yet we had a hard time grasping it all.  It was a magical and fascinating hour & a half.
  • Drive to Cape Tribulation - Why worth mentioning?  First was the 5 minute car ferry across the Daintree River.  Not sure why they can't just build a bridge.  Next came the narrow road up the mountain that was often edged by a sheer cliff and no guard rail.  But the best part of the drive was the 1-way bridge that was made of wood.  That alone wouldn't be a problem except that the wood had clearly rotted over time, creating holes in the bridge.  Fix them?  Sure... just put an appropriately sized piece of 2x4 in the hole and you're good to go.  No joke!
  • Go Canopy Surfing - All of us did a zipline through the rainforest.  Can you guess who was the most nervous about this??  Bet you can't!
  • Visit the Daintree Discovery Center - An elevated walk through the rainforest and a climb to the top of the canopy.
  • Stop at just a couple of the amazingly beautiful and yet completely empty beaches between Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas.
  • Tried to convince everyone to hike Mosman Gorge on our way back to Port Douglas but they refused.  I guess I can only push so hard :)
 
Day 5 
  • Ride Skyrail - This roundtrip gondola ride through the rainforest took almost 2.5 hours.  Amazing views.  Perfect activity for a very tired family of 5.
  • Take ferry to Fitzroy Island -  We spent our last 2 minutes on this island that is National Park located on the inner part of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Feed the tropical fish from the island's jetty - The twice daily feedings pretty much defined our days while we were on Fitzroy Island.  
  • Swim with a massive school of fish - Remember the ones from Finding Nemo that stick together, making them look bigger than they are, to scare off predators?  There were literally 10's of thousands of these fish in the shallow area at the beach.  The boys would swim into the school and suddenly find themselves with a perfect ring of fish surrounding them.
 
Day 6 - 
  • Hike to Secret Garden - It's such a secret that we never actually found a garden.  We did, however, find a baby python snake.
  • Feed the fish
  • Hike to "Nudey Beach" which we were assured was NOT a nude beach.  Someone forgot to tell one very topless woman.  The boys didn't mind.
  • Snorkel & then snorkel some more - Among the amazing fish right there were a school of young barracuda, beautifully colored parrot fish, rabbit fish that changed color when they were happy (having been fed), a couple lion fish, lots of clown fish & angel fish, and squid that came out at night.  At one point, there was a shark but I'm not sure what kind.  Not the vicious kind, though I'm told we could have swam with them had we taken the snorkel tour that goes to the other side of the island... No thanks!  Pretty remarkable!  Equally amazing was the coral at the island.  It was much closer to the surface here, so it had much more vibrant colors.  Also, that made snorkeling more exciting since there were times when we could only use our arms to get over the coral.  Moving our legs/flippers would have resulted in lots of coral cuts.
  • Swim at the pool.
  • You get the picture...  A lot of water play & relaxing.
 
Day 7 - 
  • Final swim & snorkel
  • Ferry to Cairns
  • Fly to Sydney
 
 
After reading that, is it any wonder that the boys declared this the best vacation EVER?  I must say that one of the boys did say "other than Disney."  Nothing can touch our great trips to Orlando with the Davis clan :)
 
Hope you all had a great Halloween, and didn't get too bummed out by the power outage!  Here in Australia, we learned our lesson last year... Don't try to do what you do at home; do something different... so we're going on a ghost tour of an old quarantine station with several friends.  Hope it isn't too scary.
 

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