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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 198-200 – Australia – Port Douglas & Daintree

Using the re-christened Milton phone we’d texted ahead long in advance to ensure we were still OK to take up the kind invite of Tom & Erin. We arrived just as Erin returned from work.

They have a hell of a place. With a pool outside shared by the complex, a high-ceiling open plan living room, kitchen & balcony and lovely ground floor bedrooms it was a really cool spot. When the offer for one of the couples to stay in the spare room came up Rob & Gilly were kind enough to let us have it. Before long Tom was home and was all for taking us down town to see ‘the best sunset in the world’.

We rolled into town and took a wander down to the water’s edge but on this particular evening the weather wasn’t playing fair. Tom & Erin offered to BBQ for us all so we grabbed a few bits from the supermarket and settled in for the evening.

The next day, with Tom & Erin working, we took the vans up to Mossman Gorge, part of the Daintree National Park and rainforest territory. A tour with a local guide was available for a princely sum; Rob & Gilly signed up and had a really informative and entertaining few hours while Fi & I were content to take a wander on our own and snap photos at our own pace – and offset the saving against my new six-string.

All said, while warm the grey cloud cover kept it muggy and such weather is the universal sign to simply leave your lens cap on. Seriously, if anyone reading this (assuming someone actually is reading this!) knows some magical way of taking decent photos under a grey sky please impart that knowledge.

Despite the futility we still took the hike and countless photos and all reconvened later. On our return journey we pulled over at Silky Oaks and took turns in throwing ourselves off a tree stump into the unfathomably cold river. Credit where credit is due – Rob & Gilly were the pioneers (as always) – I wouldn’t have bothered but bravado got the better of me and drove me to a backflip.

Once we’d all dried off it was back to Tom & Erin’s. It was our turn to rustle up a feast and what could be more traditionally British than a Ruby Murray? All hands on deck produced fine fare and Rob even made some of his famous scones for dessert.

A poker game brought the evening to a close and with Tom looking safe for the win a storming comeback from Robbie was too much and it was he that took the $30 pot.

We woke early the next day to dive the Great Barrier Reef – Erin was going to take us out on the boat Tom worked on so one way or another we knew we´d have a great time.

I´ve probably covered this before – I´m not as into diving as most of the divers I´ve met. I´m honestly a bit gutted about this; the people whom I´ve trained with and dived with are some of the most incredible people you could meet and are all so enthusiastic and happy in general to be able to what they do each day. I´m envious. Of course, the good thing is that when you´re around these people they´re wonderfully infectious assuring you of a good time both above and below the waves. So when the opportunity arises to dive with friends I´ll more than likely take it, the only other circumstance these days being the sports-jock cliché equivalent desire to dive with anything either big (whales, whale sharks etc.) or dangerous (great white & tiger sharks etc.). I´ve ticked most other underwater desires now and no matter how much I wish I did I just don´t feel the love for the underwater world that my cooler friends do.

Back in Port Douglas we´d lined up 3 dives and especially enjoyed the second one. The highlight of the whole day was peering into a dark reef to see a clam with what looked like electricity flaring and dancing within it. We also met a grumpy cod who, despite his disposition, was more than happy to pose for photos. The lunch onboard was delicious and a savvy underwater cameraman snapped photo of the five of us posing on the seabed so we had to pick that up to commemorate the day.

On our return we all found ourselves plagued by the typical post-dive exhaustion but soldiered on, pulling a meal together for 4 of us while Tom & Erin attended a farewell party for a friend. We caught a bus into town later to meet them only to find the first establishment took issue with our lack of IDs. I took a ride back while the rest of the gang set out to hunt down a more accommodating venue. It proved more of a struggle than it had any right to be with an hour long series of buses to grab all our passports only to find that the place we ended up at never questioned any of our ages. A good night was had by all well into the early hours.

Sore heads aplenty the next morning though at least we weren´t in Tom´s situation with a 6am start for work. We were due to move on further north but took a while to get started. That did however mean we got to take a nice wander along the beach before Erin fixed us up a hearty and delicious lunch to complete the recovery. We were thoroughly spoiled rotten by Tom & Erin and all look forward to returning the favour sometime in the future.