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March 18, early morning airport check-in - no picture ID required -  I crash the Ansett Frequent Flyer Club to sponge a real cup of coffee.  We are flying to Cains via Gove, a small mining outpost on the eastern edge of Arnhemland.  Upon arrival in Cains we were whisked off on a two hour southern drive to Cardwell. The scenery was reminiscent of Hawaii: sugar cane fields, banana trees, lush tropical trees, and rain.  The weather was cooperating for us since the road to Cardwell has been flooded out the previous day.   


Jon with Hinchinbrook Island in the BackgroundHinchinbrook Ferry


We caught a ferry to Hinchinbrook Island, our destination for the next several days.  We were the only tourists, three other people were carry supplies over for the resort (our food).  It turns out that officially the resort was closed but they had made a mistake on the days and booked us in anyway.  So while a skeleton crew struggled to clean up the resort after powerful winds, rain and high tides, we had a personal chef, bartender- server, fire twirler for entertainment and room staff.  



Landing at HinchinbrookSunset from Resort Point








Hinchinbrook Island is a state park with the northern point reserved for the resort.  The hilly terrain is clogged with mangrove trees, swamps, and jungle which hosts some nasty crocodiles, snakes and bugs.  The resort is owned by a private individual, anonymous, and run by a paid manager.   There is a common outdoor sheltered dining area and bar. 

Our private dining roomView from the Dining Area







Our rooms were like those found in Big Sur,  treehouse-like linked by elevated boardwalks on the hillside overlooking pristine beaches. We  could sit on our porch, watch the ocean, read and listen to the waves. 

Sitting Area of our RoomOur Tree House Room Exterior







Our first day on the island, we spent the morning exploring and hiking and while it rained in the afternoon we caught up on some reading. 

 
Butterfly Beach Outside the Dining RoomCare on Butterfly Beach




The next morning, Steve, our chef, packed a lunch for us and we set out for South Shepard Beach. We hiked to North Shepard Beach, crossed over the island to Machusla Beach- notorious for crocs- and then hiked back over to South Beach.  

Care at Turtle CoveJon at the Turtle Cove



During our brief rest at Machusla, Jon tested his cell phone by calling his parents. It rained intermittently throughout the day. We saw several 3-4 ft goannas and one huge spider almost nailed us in its web along the trail. 

Mobiles and Crocodiles - Jon calling homeCare at South Beach







Deep in the RainforestJon on North Shepard Beach



Our meals on the island were excellent. We spent a lot of time talking with Steve and Teresa who took care of us during our stay. It is difficult to imagine the resort with a lot of people around since we had it virtually to ourselves. No need to worry about sharing the laundry facilities. 

Steve, Kate and Care at Happy HourKate Prepares a Coctail for Jon and Care



We switched venue on March 21 and headed back to the mainland, proceeded north to Cains and then further up the coast to Thala Resort, just south of Port Douglas.  Thala is the classic well appointed resort situated upon a hillside with 147 acres of private land including a magnificent beach. 
Thala looking South toward Cainscare on Thala Beach


It contained all the amenities: well appointed rooms with balconies, pools, restaurants, bar, etc. Unfortunately we could not swim on the beaches due to the stinging jellyfish during this time of year. We bused into Port Douglas, a beachy keywest-type of town, for dinner.  

Jon at the Thala ResortJon hanging out on Thala Porch



The next morning we were ready to return to Port Douglas and its marina.  We were on our way to the Great Barrier Reef for a day of diving (Jon) and snorkling (Care).  We road out for almost 2 hours and then anchored, jumped in the water and enjoyed the underwater world for several hours.  At times the coral was very shallow so we had to be careful not to harm ourselves as well as the coral.  

Our dive boat at Port Douglas Marina
Diving JonJon Diving on the Great Barrier Reef


The following day we had a very traditional resort day.  We hung out at the pool, read and caught rays.  That evening we sought out an internet cafe, created accounts for ourselves, wrote a few emails, checked the weather in China and the stock market.  Dinner was at the Nautillus, a local restaurant with notoriety derived from Clinton's prior dining appearance there. He ate everything - we heard more Clinton stories as we traced his past itinerary in China.

Poolside in Paradise



On March 24, we headed back south to Sydney.  We stayed overnight at the airport since we would be heading out the next day for Beijing.  Jon and I took a shuttle into Sydney, stopped to buy some Australian wine at the local wine merchant, and then had a great dinner at the Rockpool restaurant located in the Rocks, an area known as the old part of Sydney.  The next afternoon we shipped a  package back to the United States including art work, guide books and extra clothing (warm weather clothing) which we knew we would no longer need on the trip.  Then we took off for China.

 

 

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