Cairns, Australia

I’m to the end of a lovely stay with Frances in Far North Queensland, land of crocodiles, beaches, rainforest and the best wild swimming ever!

We’ve hung out for a few days in Cairns and for a day in Port Douglas, loving the beaches and the sun (although not loving the strong winds blowing sand all over us).

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

Yesterday we had a very fun day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.  We saw whales and dolphins from the boat and then checked out some gorgeous coral and colourful fish on the reef itself.  The water was incredibly clear and there was so much to see – just magical.

Earlier this week, we journeyed around the Atherton Tablelands – half rolling dairy farmlands (that everyone kept assuring us are “just like England”!) and half rainforest.  We saw crazy, otherworldly hanging fig trees and breathtaking waterfalls (including Millaa Millaa Falls, where, rumour has it, the video for Peter Andre’s ’90s classic “Mysterious Girl” was shot, pop pickers).

Cathedral fig tree

We also spent an energetic day cycling and canoeing through the rainforest, which I loved.  It’s like no landscape I’ve ever been in before – dense, enchanting, lit with a weird golden-green light breaking through gaps in the canopy, with climbing vines everywhere making wonderful knots, loops and spirals around all the other trees.

Rainforest

Before that, we took a trip north from Cairns, croc-spotting on the Daintree River before hanging out in very very beautiful Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest spills down to meet the sea.

Croc!

Cape Tribulation

We stayed for one night in a hostel in the rainforest itself and felt like extremely adventurous backpackers, contending with cold showers, cold dormitories and ominous noises coming from the trees at night . . .

My favourite bit of these trips was swimming in some really lovely places – in the sea at Cape Tribulation, in swimming holes at Mossman Gorge and Millaa Millaa Falls and finally at Lake Eacham, which involved a hair-raising leap into the freezing cold water off a branch hanging over the lake – so fun!

 

Sydney, Australia

So we were going to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, then realised that it’s only a little bit more expensive to take a helicopter flight over the city.  Bit of a no-brainer, really . . .

Waiting for take-off

In the air

View over the pilot’s shoulder

Sydney from the skies

Circular Quay and Opera House

Manly beach

Bondi

Sydney, Australia

Frances & I have had a lovely long weekend with lots more sightseeing in and around Sydney.

On Friday we went to Taronga Zoo and had a marvellous day meeting lions, tigers, elephants and giraffes as well as some Australian wildlife – kangaroos, echidnas and koalas.  The koalas were definitely the cutest animals (I want to take one home in my backpack!), but the giraffe enclosure had the best views over Sydney Harbour:

Giraffe at Taronga Zoo

Then on Saturday we travelled to Cockatoo Island, an island in Sydney Harbour which has at various points been used as a prison, a school and a shipbuilding centre.  Currently it’s hosting the Biennale of Sydney, a festival of contemporary art where the artworks are installed in and around the old prison and factory buildings.  It’s a pretty amazing event and it was hard to know what to look at first – the artworks or the grand, faded industrial buildings and equipment.

Biennale of Sydney artwork

 

“Cockatoos” on Cockatoo Island

On Sunday we travelled out of Sydney to the (extremely chilly!) Blue Mountains.  We checked out the beautiful scenery around the Three Sisters and took a very steep funicular railway, before exploring the towns of Katoomba and Leura.

Three Sisters

Frances & I wrapped up warm at the Blue Mountains

Sydney, Australia

My namesake and partner in crime has now arrived in Sydney and apparently does not know the meaning of the words “jet lag”!

On Tuesday we took the ferry to Manly for a wander around the harbour and the beach, before hiring bikes and cycling up a very big hill to get to North Head, a lovely viewpoint looking back over Sydney Harbour.

Northampton girls on Manly beach

Cycling round Manly

Yesterday we took advantage of the sunshine and headed for Bondi Beach.  We had lunch overlooking the beach at Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club, possibly the most gloriously situated swimming pool in the world . . .

Bondi Icebergs swimming pool

Bondi Icebergs swimming pool

Lunch overlooking Bondi Beach

After a bit of beach time, we walked along the clifftop walk admiring the surfers from afar and the joggers from up close.  We are starting to feel slightly guilty about our lack of exercise and daily double-scoop ice-creams whilst in Sydney . . .

On Bondi Beach

Clifftops at Bondi

Frances looking beautiful at Bondi

Sydney, Australia

I’ve arrived in Sydney and spent a lovely day walking round the harbour yesterday, dodging the raindrops in the morning and eating an ice-cream in the sunshine in the afternoon.

Sydney Harbour is really spectacular, full of smart boats, bars and people, plus a couple of reasonably famous landmarks . . .

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Me & the Opera House

I’ve now got sore feet but am very excited about exploring the city over the next ten days.