Cairns is a typical jumping off place for all the adventure that northeast Australia has to offer, especially the rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. We didn’t take advantage of all that in Cairns because we had the time to dig in a little deeper and get a little closer.
Our first stop from Cairns, then, was the Silky Oaks Lodge just outside of Massman, a little town near the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics of Queensland. These “wet tropics” stretch more than 250 miles along the northeast Australian coast and are noted for their natural beauty and rich biodiversity. Biodiversity indeed. Sitting on the balcony of our cabin just the first day a few parrots hung out playing or fighting, I couldn’t tell. And regularly you’d see the sunlight hit a stunning florescent blue butterfly that just made you swoon. I’m sure a serious nature guy would have seen more than butterflies and parrots, but they made me happy.
The lodge itself was beautiful, quiet and peaceful, set just inside the start of the rainforest itself. It was a perfect setting for me. You were clearly in a rainforest, heaving with lush plants and beautiful butterflies and parrots and all that kind of thing. But because it was on the edge, it was easy to step away and go for a run, too. Perfect.
The “quiet and peaceful” part was a bit of an issue one day, though, as they were renovating a cabin right next to ours. But we didn’t complain because when the manager found that we were planning on just laying low that day, with nothing scheduled except reading and relaxing, he offered us two free spa treatments to get us out of our room, so that worked out just fine. Beyond that the lodge was right on the Mossman River and, with an energetic 20-minute hike upriver on a well-marked trail, we could get to a beautiful and pretty remote swimming hole. Not the best swimming hole in the world, but a very pleasant place to swim, relax, and find a rock to read on.
The big event from Mossman was a drive into Port Douglas down on the coast for a snorkeling adventure on the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest collection of coral reefs and truly a wonder of the world. Mark & I made it here once before, when we vacationed in Australia in 2004. It wasn’t a great experience for us then; we remember it as being too crowded, too many snorkelers in too small a space. This time, though, it was fabulous, definitely putting the Great into the Barrier Reef. There were only maybe 30 or 40 snorkelers on our boat, and we stopped at places with no one else around so there was plenty of room to spread out. No pictures, unfortunately, since we don’t have an underwater camera, but it was fabulous.
In some ways the most important part of our stop in the Wet Tropics was a realization by both of us that we’re getting tired of traveling like this. When we started in 2013 I assumed that after just a couple of years we would start spending longer periods – a month or even two – in any one place. We did stop for a month in Puerta Vallarta, but that was nearly two years ago and we’ve been going pretty steady ever since. Three-and-a-half years now of mostly three- and four-day stops is a little too much.
We’re still eager to spend the next couple weeks exploring Australia so no immediate change of plans but then we’re going to slow down. Probably rent an apartment and spend a month in Bali shortly after New Years, then maybe another month somewhere in Thailand. Both places we know we love. March will bring us more travel and adventure – we’re going to spend a few weeks in over March and April in Japan – but we’re ready for a couple longer-term stays. After we finish up with Australia.