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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.