Homeward Bound

This morning I intended to get up about 5am to do another time-lapse video of the sunrise, this time over the Cairns Harbour, but as things work out and unless you set an alarm, you tend to miss them.  Thankfully, I woke up just as the sun was rising and managed a couple of really nice pics!

The Beautiful Cairns Harbour Sunrise

The Beautiful Cairns Harbour Sunrise

 We didn’t have much time prior to our flight back to Sydney, so we pretty much cruised around the Hotel until 10am before we caught a cab to the airport.  The breakfast buffet at the Mercure has a DIY juice bar, so Julie made up a juice with orange, apple, pineapple, lemon, ginger and red chilli.  It actually tasted really nice and pretty warm with the ginger and chilli.

After arriving back in Sydney, we head straight out to Julie’s Nan’s 90th Birthday party, and as Bruce said, we did the fashionably late entrance, which couldn’t be topped considering we came all the way from Cairns! As always it was great to catch up with everyone again, except for maybe Jumma who was relentless in giving it to me over Manly just being knocked out of the finals, even though the Tigers came next to last… Just kidding!!

All in all, it was a great trip up to Cairns, especially Grub’s Trike Tour!!  It was a real shame that we didn’t have the kids with us, but with all the cheap airfares lately, we will definitely be back!!

Rusty’s Market Tour with Executive Chef Markus Strieby

Well as it turns out, when I was looking for somewhere to stay on Wotif yesterday, I booked us into the Cairns Sheridan Hotel and Conference Centre, not the Sheraton Mirage, as I thought it was… I had my doubts at the time as I really didn’t think there was a Sheraton Mirage in Cairns, and also for the fact I don’t think they have rooms for $139 a night?! Moral of the story… When something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

Our Sheridan Hotel Even Came Complete With A Welcome To Pupua New Ginea Guide

Our Sheridan Hotel Even Came Complete With A Welcome To Pupua New Guinea Guide?!

With yesterday’s stuff up, we would have happily spent the night in Port Douglas, but we had to be back in Cairns for an 8am tour of Rusty’s Markets with Mercure Harbourside’s Executive Chef, Markus Strieby.

Julie and Executive Chef Markus Strieby

Julie and Executive Chef Markus Strieby at Rusty’s Markets

After dropping our bags at Reception, we met Markus and were off the Markets. As much as I absolutely love living in Coffs Harbour, your smack bang in the middle of Sydney and Brisbane, and you just don’t get the large variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and spices as you do in the capital cities. More often than not it’s not a problem, but if you’re making a curry from scratch, don’t expect to find any galangal in Coffs…

The Amount of Fresh Produce was Incredible!!

The Amount of Fresh Produce was Incredible!!

The fresh fruit and vegetables at Rusty’s was amazing!! The Markets were absolutely jam packed with local produce that looked as though it had been hand-picked that morning, and there was just so much of it!!. Markus was on a mission to find green peppercorns, whilst we were just stoked to be shown around, sampling all the produce, drinking sugar cane juice and freshly opened coconut water. I also bought a croissant and warm Turkish Bread with a chili garlic dip for lunch, which was unbelievable!!

Julie and Markus

Julie and Markus at Rusty’s Market In Search of Green Peppercorns

Back at the Mercure we were shown our room, which had the most spectacular view over the Harbour and down to the Cairns Lagoon. So happily perched on the balcony, drinking wine and eating our Turkish bread we basically just did work for the rest of the day.

The Beautiful View From Our Room

The Beautiful View From Our Room

That evening we dined in Teshi’s Resturant, which was absolutely fantastic!! If you ever go there, make sure to try the Pineapple, rocket and oyster shooters for an entree, the char grilled kangaroo main and the Pandan Leaf Panacotta dessert. It was all soo good!!

 

Cairns to Port Douglas with Grub’s Personalised Trike Tours

We started the day with a breakfast of champions – 5 assorted macaroons, a strawberry éclair, ham & cheese croissant, and a chocolate croissant from the French Patisserie. All nicely sugared up, we head back to the hotel, and pack our gear as we are heading up to Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge with Grub’s Personalised Trike Tours.

Other than ‘It was one of the most amazing days of my life’, I can’t think of what else to say about Grub’s Trike Tours… It was unbelievable!!!

Just watch the video and you’ll see why.

As soon as we checked out, we see Grub cruise up on his awesome looking custom Boom trike with matching trailer in tow. Now this thing turns heads, and Grub looks exactly like the kind of guy you expect to see riding a Harley Davidson, so it’s a perfect combo!

Being Picked Up By Grub

Being Picked Up By Grub

We get handed our helmets fitted with headphones for Grub’s running commentary, and find our seats before getting strapped in. To start out we wind our way through town and honestly, for the first half an hour you feel like you’re going to fall out; to say this thing has a bit of get up is an understatement!!

Cruising Through Cairns

Cruising Through Cairns

Our first stop was Palm Cove, followed by the incredibly scenic Cook Highway to Port Douglas. As you’ve read, we have travelled this road before and it was awesome then, but being on the bike on a beautiful day with the wind blowing and warm sun, it was the best thing ever!! I was expecting a great day, but nothing of this calibre.

Grub's Trike Tour  - High Re2s

If We Were Any Closer, We’d Be In The Water!!

Grub’s banter on the microphone was hilarious!! He’s telling story after story and Julie’s pointing at me to try and somehow record some of what he’s saying, especially his distinctive laugh, which would make us laugh in return.

We then hop off again at Rex Lookout, which we couldn’t really appreciate last time as we were there during Sydney’s infamous dust storm and the view was really limited. Back on the bike, we start back towards the Highway, and there are girls waving at Grub and he’s waving back and honking the horn, he really is the ultimate tour guide with a massive personality to match!!

The Girls We Kept Meeting Up With

The Girls We Kept Meeting Up With

We wind our way along what both Julie and I think is the most spectacular coastline in Aus. We could literally drive straight off the road and we’d either be on the sand or in the water… This is what we expected the Great Ocean Road to be like, but it has absolutely nothing on the Cook Highway. I’d love to do the trip again and hire Harley’s of our own, but you can guarantee either one of us would end up in the drink from not watching the road.

Is There Any Better Way of Travelling The Cook Highway?

Is There Any Better Way of Travelling The Cook Highway?

Mossman Gorge was the next stop, and one that we’d both been looking forward to so we could go for a swim. This time, the road up to the Gorge has been blocked off and now you hop on the bus to cart you up the hill towards the National Park. The Regeneration Centre where you buy your tickets ($8 each) was only recently completed and it looks fantastic. The local Aboriginal community runs the Centre and they’re obviously doing a great job.

Mossman Gorge Regeneration Centre

Mossman Gorge Regeneration Centre

Up at Mossman Gorge, we head along the newly constructed walkway to the River. None of this was here previously, and as you’d expect, it looks amazing.   They’ve done so well with everything here and even though it was free last time I have no problem paying the $16 for all the new infrastructure. Initially when Grub told us the road is blocked off, I thought ‘yep, another way to fleece tourists’, but it’s not like that at all. Parking was also a major hassle the last time we were here with hundreds of cars and caravans littering the narrow road up the hill and us having to walk for bloody ages with a 2 and 4 year old, dodging oncoming cars, in the stinking heat, trying to get anywhere.

Now at the River, Julie is the first to feel the water with a quick “Nup, I’m not swimming…” It is pretty cold, but god damn it’s good to get in after being I the sun all day. Thank God I put sun cream on before we left or I’d be that bit of bacon in the pic, whilst Julie, without any sun cream on, barely notices the temp.

Mossman Gorge - Such a Fantastic Place to Swim

Mossman Gorge – Such a Fantastic Place to Swim

After diving in with the GoPro and taking some video, a guy swims over and asks if I was from New Zealand. When I said no, he said “Good. What do you call a Kiwi with a camera? A GoBro” I still laugh when I think about it and made sure I told Julie as soon as I got out.

I was half dreading swimming as I didn’t bring along a towel. We were between hotels and I don’t think they overly appreciate customers “borrowing” their linen indefinitely. But by the time I had walked up to the next lookout and the suspension bridge, I was all but dry. The suspension bridge is pretty cool. The old bridge was closed the last time we were here as it was deemed unsafe, so we didn’t even see this part of the Gorge.

So here I am getting video in the middle of the suspension bridge videoing Julie walking towards me when she started bouncing it. I tell you, this bridge gets some serious bounce, and without holding on, I almost flipped over the side.

Mossman Gorge Suspension Bridge

Mossman Gorge Suspension Bridge

Back on the bike we make our way towards Cooya Beach. The last time we were staying in Port Douglas we spent the afternoon here looking for coconuts and trying to open them, of course to no avail. As we were walking along the deserted beach, Grub asked where we were staying in Port. Both Julie and I looked at each other and said that we were booked at the Sheraton in Cairns. Obviously we had not told Grub we needed a lift back to Cairns as he works out of Port Douglas, and all he replied was “oh shit…” Not 5 minutes earlier, he had received a call to book in a tour for 3:30pm that afternoon and with the time being around 1:30pm, he wouldn’t have time to drop us off and get back in time.

After telling Grub that we’d had an awesome day and were more than happy to organise a bus back to Cairns, and him being adamant about not letting that happen, we arranged that Fi, being from the car rental business he shares a office with, would drive us to our Hotel as she was heading to Cairns Airport at 6pm. For us, that was awesome, we got to spend the afternoon wandering around in a place that Julie absolutely loves!!

As you can imagine, the first stop was the Central Hotel for lunch and a few drinks. The service was atrocious as we’d come to expect, but the beer was cold and the burgers were pretty good.

The Central Hotel, Port Douglas

The Central Hotel, Port Douglas

With phone and camera batteries running out of charge, we decided to change venue to recharge and end up at Sassi Cucina E Bar. Now this place was fantastic. I had a couple of Little Critters Pale Ale, whilst Julie had the Chandon. The food was unbelievable as well. The owner there was an absolute walking cliché, he looked exactly like an Italian man you’d expect to see in the movies, drinking vino and eating olives.

Julie and Mr Sassi Cucina E Bar

Julie and Mr Sassi Cucina E Bar

We spent the afternoon at Sassi’s Bar, just loving being back in Port Douglas. The Bar is located opposite the Park and the water, and it was just the perfect way to wind down what had already been a great day.

SkyRail, Kuranda and the Kuranda Scenic Railway

I was up nice early again this morning at around 4am as I wanted to get a time lapse recoding of the sunrise over the Marina and the mountain range. So with the tripod set up and the camera switched on, I wandered back into bed trying to get back to sleep what felt like the next 2 hours. The end result was pretty spectacular, especially when the clouds drift down the mountain as the sun peaks!!

So when we were walking around town yesterday, we saw a Paleo Café that Julie thought would be good for breakfast. Now I think that all these fad diets are just ridiculous and was expecting a pretty shitty breakfast, but it was actually pretty good.

So what is the Paleo Diet you ask? Well apparently, you’re not allowed to eat grains, dairy, processed food, starches and the like, but meat if OK!! So for breakfast, I had the pulled pork with poached eggs on ‘bread’, and Julie had chili poached eggs with the nitrate free smoked bacon.

Am I a fan of the Paleo Diet? Absolutely, any diet where I can have pulled pork and poached eggs for breakfast, I’m there. Will I adhere to the diet? Absolutely not.

On a side note, Julie asked how they make their bread without grain and starch, and old mate behind the counter (yet another who required an attitude adjustment), tried to sell Julie a Paleo cookbook which showed they use 15 eggs to make one small loaf of bread!! So if that was the case, Julie and I estimated that I had nearly 9 eggs for breakfast, so it now looks like I’ve got a heart attack coming my way soon.

The View Over The Marina From The Shangri-La

The View Over The Marina From The Shangri-La

Back in the room we were just lying round relaxing which is something we don’t normally get to do considering we have little kids, when we get a call at 9:45am telling us that our transfer to the SkyRail was here. As expected, I had it in my diary & had been telling Julie that we were being picked up at 10:15am, so neither of us had our gear packed and old mate wasn’t too impressed when we apologised for having the times wrong and would be down in 5.

At the SkyRail we were in one of the Diamond View gondolas, which have a glass bottom floor. Now these ones are pretty awesome, and even though Julie and I aren’t the best with heights, it wasn’t even a consideration. The glass bottom is covered with a clear membrane which is replaced every 10 days, so the view down below was crystal clear. We shot some amazing video and images, and for an extra $10 to upgrade to the Diamond View, it’s absolutely worth it!

Even though we’d been on the SkyRail and Kuranda Scenic Railway (KSR) when we were in Cairns last time, and we still got off at both the Red Peak Station and Baron Falls. The boardwalk is only a couple of hundred metres long through the rainforest which just looks untouched!!

So back at the station we hop on the gondola for the best part of the journey. Once again the view was amazing, and we all commented how on earth they got all the poles and materials to these remote looking places without a hint of damage or vegetation removal in an area that is World Heritage Listed.

Baron Falls with the Karunda Scenic Railway on the Ridge

Baron Falls from the Gondola with the Karunda Scenic Railway on the Ridge

It is on this section of the trip that the Diamond View was absolutely worth it!! The view down below was amazing; at times it looked like we were at least 100m off the rainforest floor and then others where we were just scraping over the tops of the canopy at the highest peaks.

The Rainforest Floor From the Diamond View Gondola

The Rainforest Floor From the Diamond View Gondola

We got off at Baron Falls, and even though there wasn’t much water flowing, it was a hell of a lot more than last time, so that was pretty cool. We took a whole heap of photos and video as usual and walked around the 3 different lookouts. We had a good laugh at how crazy the workers must have been riding across the gorge in the flying fox, and up & down the near sheer gorge embankment in the personnel trolley which looks like the car from the Flintstones. Would have been an incredible ride but you’d have to be as mad as a cut snake to get on in the first place!!

The Flying Fox Used To Carry People Across The Baron Falls

The Flying Fox Used To Carry People Across The Baron Falls

The Personal (Flintstone Looking) Trolley Used To Carry People Up and Down the Escarpment

The Personal (Flintstone Looking) Trolley Used To Carry People Up and Down the Escarpment

After arriving in Kuranda, we make our way into town and pass by all the atrociously bad touristy shops and markets. All the shops just suck and there is not one good thing for sale in any of them. As expected, being in crocodile territory, there were all the crocodile skin products, crocodile heads, and even 2 whole crocodiles about 2 metres in length. I made Julie get photos with one of the crocodile heads and a video of her wrapping herself in a kangaroo skin.

Julie With A Real Crocodile Head Souvenir?!

Julie With A Real Crocodile Head Souvenir?!

Then just as we were saying who on earth buys these ridiculous looking Crocodile Dundee style leather akubras, we walk past 3 young Chinese teenagers sporting one… Honesty, what the hell are they thinking?!

As we were walking up towards the Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary, we stopped out the front of the Peter Jarvis Photography shop, Julie stopped outside to get a photo of the sign. Literally 2 seconds after stopping, a crazy woman who was serving someone runs outside shouting “No photos, no photos!!” and shooed us away like we were pigeons… Now I can understand if we were in the shop, or even taking photos of the canvases in the store, then by all means tell us to stop taking photos, but when we’re outside on the footpath, taking a photo of the hanging street sign, there’s no reason to carry on like an imbecile. To say Julie was annoyed was an understatement, and again, Customer Service 101.

If we had the kids with us, Birdworld and Kuranda Koala Gardens would have been great. I was actually pretty stoked we’d stopped in anyway. At the Bird Sanctuary, these amazing looking native and exotic birds fly around in a large enclosure, where you get to feed them and they freely land on you. We held this beautiful blue macaw, which I don’t think I’d even seen before let alone held.

Julie Entering the Snake Enclosure, With The Rather Large and Active Snakes!!

Julie Entering the Snake Enclosure, With The Rather Large and Active Snakes!!

Taking Turns In Holding The Beautiful Blue Macaw

Taking Turns In Holding The Beautiful Blue Macaw

After this, we walked up to the Butterfly House, where Julie was actively trying to shoot the blue Ulysses butterfly. Again, it was pretty good to go there, but would have been great if the kids were with us, especially Anais with all the Butterflies.

Julie With The Butterflies

Julie With The Butterflies

Having had enough of Kuranda, we wandered back down the street and once again, helped the local economy the best way we know how… Drinks at the Kuranda Hotel.

Supporting The Local Economy The Best Way We Know How!!

Supporting The Local Economy The Best Way We Know How!!

With a few pints and champagnes under our belt, it was nearing time to board the KSR. The view from the train is pretty spectacular, and with us being in First Class, we had an attendant offering us a choice of beer, wine or bubbly all the way down the mountain.

The Beautifully Painted Kuranda Scenic Railway Engine

The Beautifully Painted Kuranda Scenic Railway Engine

From memory there are 17 tunnels on the way down, all of which were dug by hand. Furthermore, if you wanted a job and were willing to excavate on the side of the mountain, you had to bring your own tools…

Entering One Of The Many Hand Excavated Tunnels On The Kuranda Scenic Railway

Entering One Of The Many Hand Excavated Tunnels On The Kuranda Scenic Railway

The first sign that out trip might not be as relaxing and peaceful began just after we found our seats when some young travel agents boarded with partners in tow, talk loud enough for people in the adjoining carriages to hear. Well, things only got louder, and Julie only got angrier, and the wait staff did nothing to quieten them as they unfortunately knew others that worked on-board. Great…

Kuranda Scenic Railway Heritage Seating

Kuranda Scenic Railway Heritage Seating

What everyone learnt was that they were Travel Agents from Cairns, and they managed to drive every person insane with their carrying on. What annoyed Julie was the fact that these imbeciles had their fares comped, while everyone else paid a hell of a lot of money to “enjoy” the experience.

Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class Seating

Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class Seating

Finally, when I could no longer hear the commentary on the load speakers, I “politely” asked them to quieten down. This actually worked for a while but still everyone had to put up with all the crap these 20-somethings had to say.

So KSR, you had a hell of a lot of really unimpressed passengers on-board as a result of these idiots.

And We’re Off To Cairns

We are off once again, this time to Cairns for 5 days. We drove down to Sydney a few days earlier as we had a work meeting in Castle Hill and spent the previous 2 nights staying at the Novotel in Haymarket.

I spent most of Tuesday looking for a new laptop while Julie spent the day in bed writing and photo editing. I absolutely hate shopping and procrastinate to no end, and after about 5 hours I finally end up with a nice and light Toshiba Kira (the one Julie pointed out 2 weeks earlier at home).

We also caught up with Julie’s brother Theo and his wife Lisa for dinner and a few drinks, and so that Lisa could underhandedly tell Julie that she thinks she is a bad mother for the umpteenth time. We had a really nice dinner at the Novotel Restaurant then called it an early-ish night for our early start.

After anxiously waking up every hour on the hour we finally got up at 4am to drive to the Airport in the pouring rain. I dread driving in the city at the best of times, especially coming from Coffs Harbour where there are all of 5 sets of traffic lights.

We arrived in Cairns at 11:30am and hopped in the queue to catch the bus into town… Simple enough task, but we were stuck behind a group of 16 backpackers who couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of standing in line and purchasing tickets.

We eventually hop on the bus and get dropped off at the Shangri-La, our home for the next 2 nights. As you would expect, the Shangri-La is really nice and we have an awesome room overlooking the Marina. We take our customary photos and video, then set off for our first task of the day, buying a new hat and thongs. It seems that in our haste to exit the car this morning in the pouring rain, we left behind our thongs, hat and tripod?!

Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, Carins

Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, Carins

As gorgeous as Cairns, or at least the Esplanade is, it seems little has changed in the way of bums hanging out in front of Cairns Central Shopping Centre. I swear the last time we were here in 2009, there were Police questioning and fining what almost looked like the same people as they were now…

The Beautiful Pool at the Shangri-La Hotel

The Beautiful Pool at the Shangri-La Hotel

Shopping complete, we walked back up to the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon for a swim and to take in the sun which we haven’t seen in Coffs for the past couple of months. The best thing about being so high up the coast is the water temperature… It barely feels like you’re getting wet. When we were at the Novotel in Haymarket, I stopped in to check out the outdoor pool, which is pretty awesome as it is on the 7th floor amongst all the high-rise offices. Anyway, there were 4 pool guys standing there all looking at the chlorinator and heat pump, and thinking they must have just been putting chemicals in the pool, I ask whether it is OK to swim. One of the guys says “Yea, it’s fine but the heat pump stopped working last night, and the water is really cold”. When I ask what temps the water, he tells me that it is normally heated to 30ᵒ but it’s only 23ᵒ at the moment. Now back home, I’m still wearing my steamer every morning and the water is only 17ᵒ, so after having just come down from the gym, the 23ᵒ is barely refreshing.

Back in Cairns again after 5 years!! This place just gets better!!

Back in Cairns again after 5 years!! This place just gets better!!

Next stop was The Pier Bar. How good is this place?! Awesome view, best location, beer on tap which I haven’t tried and friendly staff, which you’d think was pretty commonplace in such a tourist driven location, but seemed to be lacking in just about every shop we went into. And yes, we’re talking about you lady from the bus transfer stand at Cairns Airport, cashier at SDS in Cairns Central and (as far as Julie’s concerned) Rebecca, the French girl from the Greek Restaurant, which in Julie’s words “You need to take your god-damn hands off MY HUSBAND!!” But we will get to that later. And to anyone else that managed to serve us, just because you didn’t make the list didn’t mean you gave good service…

The Pier Hotel, Cairns

The Pier Bar, Cairns

First up was a Matilda Bay Minimum Chips and an Apple Crumble, then closely followed by a Fat Yack Pale Ale and Mango Sunset. Both Julie’s cocktails were unbelievably good. The second one was really strong, but it was the first one that was dangerous, it went down way to easily and Julie had it finished before I’d had a quarter of my pint. We people watched in the bar over drinks for a few hours before heading back to our room.

Quick selfie, before almost getting run over

Quick selfie, before almost getting run over

We’d walked past all the restaurants earlier in the day and decided on Fetta’s Greek Taverna for dinner. The food there is so good and the staff were really attentive. It was like being in the restaurant from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. The owner was walking around, chatting with all the customers, calling out “Who’d like an Ouzo?” and “Where’s the Black Sambuca?” I really want to get a selfie with the owner but Julie wouldn’t let me, saying “no, you’ve been drinking all afternoon, that’s why you think it’s a good idea!” Looking back, I regret not taking the photo… Bloody wife!! We may have left with some dignity, but now I’ve got nothing to look back on and laugh.

The food at Fetta's Greek Taverna was so good!!

The food at Fetta’s Greek Taverna was so good!!

Beerwise, I love trying new beer. So if there is ever a beer I haven’t tried at a bar or in the bottle shop I’m there, likewise at dinner, Ill drink whatever the local beer is. So I started out with the Fix Hellas Larger and followed it up with a Mythos. Both were pretty good, but the Mythos gets my vote.

How good are the Greek Beers!!

How good are the Greek Beers!!

We finished up with a Turkish Coffee, which was actually pretty good considering I don’t drink coffee at all. Now looking back once again, it seems I may have had a bit to drink, as there appears to be video of me trying to fit the whole espresso cup into my mouth… Bloody wife, she’s a bad influence!

So getting back to Rebecca, I actually didn’t realise she gave bad service or that Julie was even unimpressed until the next day. Apparently Rebecca was too attentive to me and refused to look or even acknowledge Julie whenever she spoke. I did think it was weird at the time that she kept talking to us about her travels, and in particular after we mentioned that the food was terrific, she said that she had only worked there for a week and hadn’t even tried the food?!

The Colourful Lanterns at The Esplanade

The Colourful Lanterns at The Esplanade

Back at our room, we recharge all our phones, cameras, laptops and after way too long a day, we crashed out on the super comfy beds…

We’d Love to Hear From You!!

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We look forward to your messages!

Brett and Julie: us@thisiswhereweare.com

Our New Website Is Almost Complete

Please be patient, we are transferring our ThisIsWhereWeAre.com website to wordpress for simplification and ease of updating whilst on the road.

We are putting up our stories and categories from old to new, so whilst it may look like we haven’t updated the site for a few years, it will all be up to date in no time at all (hopefully…)

So please be sure to check back soon to see where we’ve been recently, and how much we’ve grown up, well at least the kids anyway.