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Our really quite big adventure, Act 3 - heaven and hell in Queensland

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Jan 12th, 2014, 12:28 PM
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Our really quite big adventure, Act 3 - heaven and hell in Queensland

Day 5 - Bye-bye Hong Kong, hello OZ!

After checking in at the airport, we had about an hour or so to spare so after negotiating passports and security without too many problems, [DH is always one of those who gets singled out for one extra search or other] we wandered around looking at the myriad ways there were to spend your money, before stopping at one of them to have a cup of tea. We must be a sad disappointment to those who run airports as we tend to spend very little, except for the odd beer and snack and the very occasional bit of duty free; we certainly found nothing to buy in HK airport, except a bottle of water for the flight which although it had been sold to us airside, was confiscated at an extra security check on boarding. Why? “You are not allowed to bring liquids of any sort onto flights to Australia”. But why? We never did get an answer to that, and in fact when we flew to Sydney from Christchurch, NZ, there was no problem at all. Weird.

So far as I remember the flight was unremarkable - as usual DH slept, I didn’t, the food was what it was, and we arrived in Brisbane punctually and in good order and in plenty of time for us to catch our connection to Cairns, thank goodness. I had consulted the experts on the Australasia board as to the time it would take to get from the international to the domestic terminal at Brisbane as we had a 3 hour gap between our scheduled arrival time and the departure of our VA flight to Cairns. [Thanks to all who helped to reassure me how easy this would be]. It turned out that it was even easier than we’d thought - we were able to check in at the VA desk in the international terminal, and after catching the courtesy bus to the domestic terminal, all we had to do was a bag drop - easy peasy. Then there was just time for a beer and it was time to board the flight.

I should add that we were mildly amused and indeed bemused by the customs procedure at Brisbane - after we’d collected our luggage, we were made to stand behind a line with our luggage behind us, while a sniffer dog came and checked us out - for what I have no idea. We had no problems at all, however a french couple were picked out by the dog and kept behind for further investigation - perhaps they are still there. Again, nothing like this happened at Sydney, which we found a little puzzling.

Having read some not terribly complimentary things about VA we were pleasantly surprised - there was plenty of room, the food was ok [or perhaps we bought sandwiches to eat on board - one flight has tended to merge into another] and best of all we had a wonderful view out of the window as we flew up the coast of Australia. Not a bad introduction to a new country. Surprisingly soon we were landing in Cairns [I may finally have got some sleep, I confess] and in double quick time we were outside in the heat heading to pick up our hire car.

And what heat. The clothes, not to mention the socks and shoes that we were wearing were somewhat heavy for the temperatures, and we had to negotiate the outside of the airport to locate the car hire - which was convenient hidden behind several others. Dripping with sweat we found it eventually, and were pointed in the direction of a very nice and spacious automatic, which easily took us and our luggage. We had a fun conversation with the manager, who obviously cared not a fig for the fact that there were rather more scratches and marks on the car than were officially recorded [he didn’t put it as politely as that, mind] and assured us that all would be ok when we returned it, as indeed it was, as long as there was just “fair wear and tear”. So we got in the car, turned on the air con, and tried not to cry with relief as our core temperatures slowly returned to normal.

Fortunately the airport is north of Cairns, so there was no need to drive through the city [that pleasure was to come at the end of this part of the trip] and we were soon heading up the coast towards Port Douglas. The car hire people had provided us with a map [I had perhaps stupidly relied on this happening; it didn’t prove to be universal, which caused a few problems later on in NZ] and apart from one wrong turn which was undoubtedly my fault, we found the road very easy to follow. Ideally we would have stopped off along the way - I’d have liked to have seen Palm Cove, for example - but after a 10 hour flight followed by a 3 hour lay-over and a 2 1/2 hour flight, we were both beginning to flag.
Soon enough we were on the outskirts of Port [as the locals apparently call it; I shall do so as well just to avoid typing Port Douglas every time] and despite some road works which caused us to be diverted, found our way into the centre easily enough. On the way along the main drag into Port we spotted the hotel I’d originally booked :
http://www.rendezvoushotels.com/port...efault-en.html
We felt reinforced in our decision to cancel - it was definitely too far out of town to walk, which means either eating in, or one of you not drinking, neither of which are our favourite ways of dining.
Luckily we had downloaded a map with directions to our motel, and finding it was a doddle - we even found a space in the underground garage. This is where we stayed:
http://www.bytheseaportdouglas.com.au/

All of the reviews on TA are spot on - this is a great place to stop if you’re in Port. Close to the town and the beach, within walking distance of the shops and restaurants, easy to drive to and away from. You could pay a lot more for much less. Because we like to spread out I’d booked a one bedded apartment rather than a cheaper studio, and I was so glad we had [and even gladder later on in the trip, for reasons I have mentioned elsewhere and will touch on again below]. For just over £100 per night [the rough limit I’d set myself for our nightly lodging] we had a full kitchen, separate full laundry facilities [which I was also most thankful for] large living room and kitchen, and a small balcony overlooking the garden. We never heard anything from other apartments or indeed other properties nearby, the only things we ever heard were the birds in the morning and evening. Perfect.

By the time we’d settled in it was about 5pm and we were wanting to go out and explore before it got dark, so we set off into the town, looking on the way for somewhere to buy provisions for breakfast, and somewhere to eat. Now, there must be close on a hundred different eating options in Port, and somehow, we ended up in a pub drinking not very good red wine and eating 4 seasons pizzas. Blame our research on restaurants in Port [non-existent], blame jetlag. Blame me. Talk about the lowest common denominator. But to be fair, they tasted fine.

Then almost dropping with tiredness we bought some bread, jam and fruit from the late opening store on the way home, and fell into bed.

Next - a gastric disaster, or the pizza’s revenge.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 12:32 PM
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oops - posted too soon.

what i meant to do was to head this part of our trip with links to Act 1, where i discuss our planning process, for those who might be interested in that sort of thing, and to Act 2, which is my TR of our 3 night stop-over in Hong Kong.

oh well, here they are anyway:

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...-and-beginners

and

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...-and-beginners
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Jan 12th, 2014, 01:06 PM
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oops, again.

this is the one about our stay in HK:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-hong-kong.cfm
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Jan 12th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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Signing on for part three.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 01:23 PM
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Hi thursdaysd - nice to have you along.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 01:32 PM
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Signing on as well. For what it's worth, I cycled from Cairns to "Port" several decades ago.

Cheers to you, Anne.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 01:34 PM
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Hi Ann, I'm following along too. Perhaps you'll give me some ideas for my next trip to Australia as I've never been to Queensland. Did you cuddle with a koala while you were there?

You're right about the additional scrutiny on international flights to Australia. They take biosecurity very seriously. I had to go through more checks coming into Australia than anywhere else I've visited, apparently more so coming from Asia. I did not have as thorough a screening when I fly direct from the U.S. last time.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 01:46 PM
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Good stuff and eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Heaven and hell in Queensland - I like that.
Our tourism slogan used to be "Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next !" But heaven and hell works for me, heavenly weather and hellish beaurocracy !
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Jan 12th, 2014, 02:28 PM
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tp - sadly no koala-cuddling, though we did paddle with a platypus and boggle at a bower-bird or three. but we did love northern Queensland, and it's a place I'd really like to go back to, perhaps at a slightly cooler time of year.

I didn't mind the bio-security so much as the inconsistency - Brisbane was a lot tougher than Sydney, with the exception of an obsession with whether or not we'd been near any fresh water. It might have been because we were coming from Asia I suppose - I hadn't considered that.

Sartoric - the hell is nothing to do with bureaucracy - as you'll discover if you keep reading!

Peter - I'm glad I wasn't trying to cycle it - I think I'd still be on the road now.

Day 6 - coming up!
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Jan 12th, 2014, 03:13 PM
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Hell = Cane toad soup?
I'm enjoying your trip enormously & picking up some good tips for my next FNQ trip. Thanks Anne
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Jan 12th, 2014, 03:22 PM
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Ann, interesting that it was fresh water for you. For me, it was soil, whether I'd been in the forest and brought any with me via the soles of my sneakers.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 06:07 PM
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The pups in Brisbane carried off a woman upon our arrival as well, Ann. I believe she had a chicken sandwich in her luggage.

Looking forward to more!
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Jan 12th, 2014, 11:01 PM
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Hey Ann
I'll keep reading.
I wasn't referring to your hell with bureaucracy, but rather my own - I live in Queensland. PS thanks for spelling it correctly.........
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Jan 12th, 2014, 11:03 PM
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Hi Ann,
Enjoying the ride so far!
The sniffer dogs are taught to sniff for food or plant matter, and they sit down when they find some (non-confrontational approach, likewise beagles are not terribly threatening). Often it's something like a forgotten apple or a sandwich. The fresh water is about organisms like water snails - possible contact with them in fresh water could spell goodbye for a lot of uninfested waterways. I've had the soil thing in Sydney, too - on one trip through Quarantine they were particularly interested to hear if we'd visited any farms. We had come into contact with horses, so they took our sports shoes and washed the soles. Nothing terrible happened to us - if you declare it, Quarantine can be quite civil!

Lavandula
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Jan 12th, 2014, 11:18 PM
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Following along also Ann. DH and I might get to Port Douglas one day!!!
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Jan 12th, 2014, 11:55 PM
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I'm very much enjoying your reports Ann.

The sniffer dogs are in Sydney airport too. Coming back from South America, they are always there to greet passengers. I have a soft spot for beagles so always enjoy seeing them.
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Jan 12th, 2014, 11:56 PM
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lavandula - we did in fact declare that we had been near fresh water when we were entering OZ from NZ; it's difficult not to have done so if you've been on the SI.

We said that we'd been on some boat trips, they nodded us through. They were indeed very civil. As the "something to declare" queue was shorter than the "nothing to declare" queue at Sydney that morning, it made no difference to us. I do understand about bio-security, of course, but this does not strike me as a particularly thorough or accurate way of maintaining it.
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Jan 13th, 2014, 01:30 AM
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I'm along for the ride too.
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Jan 13th, 2014, 02:03 AM
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Following along also Ann. DH and I might get to Port Douglas one day!!!>>

nelsonian - assuming that you live in Nelson [another lovely place] it can't be that hard for you to get there, can it? We met loads of aussies on our way round the SI; I think that there's a direct flight from Christchurch to Brisbane and there are certainly flights to Sydney cos we flew with one. I can't see how anyone wouldn't like northern Queensland - wonderful beaches [albeit you can't swim in the sea for several months of the year, except in the nets] tropical weather, wonderful wildlife, and some great food. My sort of place!

auusie & susan - Welcome. I hope the ride doesn't prove too bumpy!
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Jan 13th, 2014, 09:31 PM
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Ann it is really the fact most of our holidays are used visiting son and DIL and grandkids in Wellington or our DD and SIL in the US!! I have managed to accumulate some for this year but we are going to Hawaii fro two weeks in May. Next time I will look at Port Douglas. I would think going in June or July would be nice weather wise though.
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