Saturday, January 7, 2012

Port Douglas and Jungle Surfing

After our weekend in Brisbane we flew north to Cairns and met up with Tina and Bethany, Laurel's mom and sister. Unfortunately, Bob had not been feeling too well, and had to delay his flight by two days. This meant he would be coming over with Laurel's youngest sister, Olivia who had to come later because of her final exams. Gahh, education!

On our first full day, we drove north to see Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest. The drive from Cairns to Port Douglas is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it was amazing. Mountains to one side, the ocean to the other, and every other turn of the road just brought more beaches and stunning picture opportunities. Here are a few.

This was taken from the best lookout point, after a semi-steep drive to the top of a hill. Like a lot of Australian roads, they are very twisty, but the speed limits are completely the opposite of what you would see in the States. In the States it seems the speed limit tends to be about 10 miles under what you can safely drive on the road. If it's 55, you could easily do 65. Not in Australia. The speed limit is set to "ludicrous." It says you can drive 90 kph all the way from Cairns to Port Douglas, but if we did that we would have run off the road and died within 15 minutes. We probably averaged 60 kph the whole way.

Port Douglas is the tourist trap area. Tons of resort hotels, coffee shops, fancy restaurants, and shopping. Not bad for an afternoon's visit. At the very end of the main strip though is a small church called St. Mary's by the Sea. It's booked for weddings pretty much year round.

There's a large window in the center of the front wall of the church that looks out to the amazing views of the ocean beyond. This is the view the congregation sees. No wonder everyone wants to get married here.

After Port Douglas we kept driving north to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Daintree is the "other" main attraction in the Cairns area. Anywhere else in the world it would get top billing, but it had the bad luck of going up against the Great Barrier Reef. Captain Cook explored the area in the 1800's and judging by how he named everything, absolutely hated the place. Everything has a negative name- Cape Tribulation, Mount Sorrow, etc. This is partially explained by the fact that he shipwrecked on the reef, had to land on the coast, and lost half his crew to malnutrition and disease while the ships were repaired.

On our drive we noticed several of these signs. It turns out they are for cassowaries. A cassowary is a large flightless bird that, we're guessing, must be in the same family as emus and ostriches. There are several thousand living in the Daintree, but sadly we did not see any of them despite our best efforts. Tina had a near sighting the next day, but it turned out just to be a wild peacock.  It's probably the only time seeing a wild peacock would be considered a disappointment.

We had to take a short ferry across the river at one point. The ferry itself was nothing too exciting, but the signs by the river (and anywhere else there was water throughout this whole region) were a whole other story.  We took a picture but it didn't turn out. It warned swimmers to "use caution when swimming, as crocodiles may be present in these waters."  Umm, seriously??  If there's any possibility of crocodiles, there's no chance that I'll be swimming. We had also just learned that the main way the authorities determine if someone has been killed by a shark or a crocodile is if they find any evidence of the person.  Apparently sharks often leave some clothing or remains, whereas you almost never find anything left if it was a crocodile. So not comforting.

Crocodile infested waters aside, this picture we took on the ferry is absolutely beautiful.

After a long, scenic drive we arrived at our destination. Jungle surfing! We had booked a zip line tour of the rainforest for Bethany, Laurel, and Greg. Tina said she would be more than happy to stay on solid ground, and look at our pictures later. It was a blast, although after we got up in the canopy, Greg started thinking maybe Tina was incredibly wise. Extreme height and spindly looking ropes are not his friends. We went on five different zip lines and it was a ton of fun.

The tour guides assigned names from a bunch of helmets they had on hand based on whatever they thought was the funniest combination. The other guy on the trip was named "Barbie" and his girlfriend was "King Kong." Bethany was branded "Pocahontas" and Laurel was "Tank Girl". We have no idea who Tank Girl is, but it's a pretty awesome name.

Greg was Stiffler's Mom!

Bethany started us off right. Go Bethany go!!

Greg approaching the second station. For most of the zip lines we went over in pairs. Laurel took this picture from behind, mid-zip. Greg was going to return the favor and take some pictures of Laurel from mid-air except he was too terrified to let go of the ropes. Awww poor Greg!

Laurel, the Jungle-Surfing Champion.

Super speed!

The last jungle surf was not for the faint of heart. Upside down! Greg did it, just barely. Laurel, as always, completed the challenge with glee.

On the drive home we saw a sign for ice cream and, on a hot day, that clearly needed to happen. Expecting nothing more exciting than Baskin Robbins, we were in for a treat. The Daintree Ice Cream Company offered one thing on the menu- a sampler bowl of the four ice creams of the day that they make on-site each and every day. Everything was also made from local produce, so they were exotic and delicious flavors.

To help explain the flavors they had the fruits there for you to see. Today's flavors were jakfruit, mango, wattleseed, and black sapote. Jakfruit is the big yellow one on the left and it tasted surprisingly like banana bread. Yum! Black sapote is the round one at the bottom and tastes like chocolate pudding. Wattleseed is the funny looking one on the right and tasted like coffee. They didn't display the mango, because well, we all know what mago is. Also delicious was black sapote and wattleseed combined, which tasted like mocha. Mmmm! All the flavors were a big hit; there were two favorite votes for jakfruit, one for wattleseed, and one for black sapote. Poor mango, it just wasn't exotic enough.

Not a bad view to eat ice cream by. Good job, Daintree Rainforest, good job.

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