We left Port Douglas on the 7th January 2021 for the short hop down the coast to Cairns, where we will leave the boat while we pop back to WA for a few weeks. The nearest cyclone rated marina (very important to not think ‘cyclone proof’) is Blue Water Marina at Trinity Beach, 20kms north of Cairns. Its location is inconvenient if you don’t have a car, as there are no shops or services, only a Tavern, (a very nice Tavern, but you can’t get a carton of milk there) but it is cyclone rated and will keep our insurance company happy while we are away from the boat.
Blue Water Marina is up around a bend in Half Moon Creek and we found the entry into the creek a bit hairy. At one point we were so close to the beach that you could jump off the boat directly onto the sand. The channel is dredged to keep it open and deep enough for deep keel boats, but it just doesn’t feel right being that close to dry land. We were quite shocked to see a number of people out paddle boarding, as there are definitely crocs in this river. But on to the marina where we were looking forward to catching up for dinner and cards with the Mac’s again (they have a berth here).
The day after we arrived and got the boat all tied up and ready to leave, WA announced another border closure, so no trip back to see the youngest son and my Mother. Next, we got a message that the River Snorkeling Tour we had booked had been cancelled due to the river being too muddy (something to do with all that rain recently). Oh well, we’ll get to see a bit of Cairns instead and Neon is relieved as he was not looking forward to being put into yet another Kitty Home.
Keeping in the spirit of things not quite going to plan, I dropped my bike on Peter this morning while lowering it off the deck – he seems ok about it. His revenge was to take me on a 20km ride to Palm Cove for brekky the next day – luckily, I have a battery and will happily follow him anywhere for a cooked breakfast.
Later that week we stumbled across the The Cairns Botanical Gardens which are Amazing (definitely a capital A). We had just been looking for somewhere simple to have a pie for lunch, but ended up staying for the entire afternoon and we still didn’t get to see it all.
These gardens were full of a lot of really big versions of what we used to grow as pot plants. Peter is standing next to a Joey Palm in this picture.
There were flowers that could inspire a science fiction movie. This is the Cannonball Plant. Mother-in-Law wanted me to pop one into my handbag for her; but the seeds are indeed the size of a cannon ball and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be happy growing in cold Victoria.
And then there were the plants that have more of a horror movie vibe going. This is a Snake Vine and the overall impression sent shivers up the spine (well mine anyway).
No Venus Fly Traps in the covered conservatory, but I got quite excited when I found this Pitcher Plant. Then…
I found this one!
We ran out of time to walk through all the different environs at the Gardens, but there was time for a quick pic with some Heliconia on the way out.
The following Sunday Peter and Tracy took me walkies to the top of Earl Hill overlooking Trinity Beach. It took 1 ½ hours, and due to the hill thing, it was not flat and easy going, and we got rained on! Nice view from the top though and beautiful walking through the tropical rainforest. The weather behind us is the result of a tropical low getting itself excited a bit further north. When we got back to the marina, we “battened down the boat and the cat” in readiness for a potential cyclone. Tracy was on her own (John was away) so we helped her to get ‘Mad Mac’s’ ready and then played cards to pass the time while the winds picked up.
As it turned out Cyclone Kimi proved to be a very unpredictable little thing and after giving everyone a fright as she headed for the coast, she spun out to the East (due to wind shear) and just dissolved (the correct word is dissipated, but I don’t want to sound too much like a broadcast from the Met.Dept). All that preparation for nothing but a good practice run.
The following week we had a spare couple of hours to kill in the city and decided to spend them at the Aquarium. Not only is it wonderfully airconditioned, but it is right in the center of the city and well worth the visit. It covers the ocean environment and freshwater habitats which was quite interesting.
Some of the most interesting characters there are not actually the fish. This guy was having a good lounge under the heat lamps.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, we managed to get a booking on the last Kuranda Sky-Rail tour before they closed down for a few months until COVID restrictions lifted. It is ab-so-lute-ly brilliant.
It starts with an olde train ride up into the mountains, in beautifully restored carriages (complete with pressed tin ceilings, fluted light fittings and leather seats in that olde-worlde dark green colour). The train winds its way up the steep mountains behind Cairns with a stop along the way to take in the view down to the coastal plain.
At the top there is the usually very busy-with-tourists town of Kuranda; lots of cafes, gift shops, the delightful Butterfly Sanctuary and Koala Gardens and Birdworld and more (really). I intend going back to Kuranda (by car next time as the rail thing is not cheap) to visit the Emu Ridge Gallery as I am a sucker for fossils and gemstones. On this visit we only stayed at the top for lunch and a browse before catching the Gondola cable car back down to the Rainforest Interpretation Centre at Barron Falls Station about a quarter of the way down.
It was pouring with rain the day we were up here, but nothing a big brolly couldn’t handle.
One of the information panels at the Centre was titled ‘An Irreplaceable National Treasure’ with a photo of Sir David Attenborough. I would have thought he was an International Treasure; then I realized it was a quote from Sir D about the Rainforest. It applies to both, equally, I think.
Because there were so few tourists, almost everyone got to travel in a diamond gondola for the trip down. A diamond gondola costs a little bit more and you have to wait for one to arrive (but it wasn’t a long wait). You then have a lovely view through a clear (ish) floor to the forest canopy below.
Overall, we really love this part of Australia. The combination of the tropical rainforest right next to the Barrier reef is truly spectacular. Although quite a lot of things were shut due to COVID, there was still a lot to do and both Cairns and Port Douglas are very easy places to live.
Research Ravings: Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area
The World Heritage Area of the Wet Tropics in Queensland, while only 0.12% of Australia’s land mass, is home for a staggering; 30% of Australia’s bird species, 30% of Australia’s mammal species, 60% Australia’s butterflies, 21% of Australia’s reptiles, 21% of Australia’s cycads, 29% of Australia’s frogs, 65% of Australia’s ferns, 30% of Australia’s orchids.
This is where the research was done that showed that 30% of the water needed by a rainforest does not come from actual rain but from the clouds that surround them (who knew?).
Research Ravings (Yes More): Spaghetti Plots for Tropical Storms
If you have a look at the Spaghetti Plots for pre-cyclone Kimi, you can see that the various models predictions for a possible cyclone path are not really agreeing. Each line in the squiggle is the path predicted by a different computer-model. The ‘Cyclocane’ website (from where this image is taken) lists 15 different models, all with rather unexciting acronyms like HWRF – Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model. If the lines are nice and close together then there is a good chance the scientists actually ‘know’ (a dangerous term to use when talking weather) what the system is going to do. But this mess of squiggles isn’t agreeing on much at all and Kimi’s eventual behaviour showed it was indeed unpredictable. Spaghetti Plots are handy to look at when a storm is developing, as it can give you a heads up. But once a system has been named, an official agency (the BoM in Australia) will put out the best predicted path for you to plan to. [check out spaghetti plots at https://www.cyclocane.com/]
Changed oil and oil filter on stabilizers
Cleaned ECU engine sensor plug (as part of trying to sort out the ongoing Murphy gauge issue)
Adjusted valve clearances on main engine and genset (Pugwash got a lesson from Mark Rathbone the Tech)
Replaced water pump on genset as started leaking
Sanded teak capping and am now oiling instead of varnishing
Changed oil on wing engine
Changed oil and oil filter on transmission
Watermaker freshwater filter (for flushing) leaking through a crack – need to find a replacement