Monday, June 14, 2010

Port Douglas trip 2010

Winter in Melbourne means very little reliable wind for kitesurfing, wet weather and cold temperatures.  We decided to have another family holiday this year in Port Douglas, and I would stay another week for kitesurfing.

However, this trip there was no wind most of the time which was dissappointing given a major reason for this trip was to go kitesurfing. I was lucky to get in a couple of good sessions however in the warm tropical water.

There are very few Japanese and other tourists about compared to my visits in previous years. A lot of the hotel chains had 10% occupancy rates, and many private apartments and villas have been empty for extended periods.

A 3 month lease can be negiotated for 2 bedroom villas for around $200 to $250 per week. Daily rentals of around $90 per day are commonplace. A lot of real estate is for sale. It seems that appeciation is low or non-existent. It doesn't look like real estate is a good investment in this region for either rental return or capital gains. However, it could a low point and therefore a good time to invest, but only if tourism increases and the market moves ahead.

This shows the perils inherent in basin and economy on tourism. Cairns and Far North Queensland have 15% unemployment at the moment.
There are also some bogans around in Far North Queensland. Someone set fire to rubbish in a plastic bin at the 4 Mile Beach reserve and left it burning on top of a wooden picnic table. The result was a burnt table covered with litter and melted plastic - a terrible mess.

The Captain Cook highway which hugs the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas is superb.  It has ocean views similar to Victoria's Great Ocean Road and many nice beaches along it.  It is a great road for cycling if you time it when there are few cars - such as early on Sunday morning.

We visited Hartley's Crocodile Farm and were surprised by the range of animals there - including Cassowaries, Jabiru, a Spotted Quoll and of course some huge crocodiles.  It is well worth a visit.

Mosman Gorge is always a favourite.  The fresh flowing water and the rainforest is superb.  On this trip Chloe said "look daddy, a big bird!" and a wild Cassowary walked out of the forests into the carpark - the first I have ever seen in the wild.

We swam in the sea a few times in the stinger nets.  They are usually taken down by May but a lifeguard told me that a stinger was found at Mission Beach a couple of weeks ago, so they kept nets in place for another few weeks as a precaution.  Lots of people have been kitesurfing around Port Douglas an encountered no problems.

We did a day tour to the spectacular Barron River Gorge and visited Kuranda, which is now a major tourist trap.  Lots of souvenir and "local produce shops", some of which are interesting, and the locally grown coffee is good, but it gets a bit overwhelming.

No trace of these further inland at Mareeba - and old style Queensland town.  The Penninsula Development Road that runs inland through Mareeba and north to Cooktown is remote and isolated.  We drove to Mount Molloy then returned to Port Douglas.

Cycling highlights

The cycling was superb as usual. Bike rides up "the hill" on the climb to Julatten are great for training and appreciating the rainforest. There are cassowaries in this forest but I haven't ever seen one on this road. A circuit ride along the Euluma Creek Road was a highlight. Views to the surrounding high peaks such as Black Mountain are spectacular. The area around Julatten is cooler due to its altitude and has lush farm land and a small but active local community. Lots of people around Julatten own big dogs here that are used for pig hunting.

I rode a short detour along Side Road near Julatten and saw a small toothy marsupial road kill. When the road turned to dirt I followed it over a small creek and came across a jungle bush dwelling that was rough and ready. There are some alternative lifestylers tucked around this area too.

In general, drivers treat cyclists with respect in this region. Usually they gave me a wide berth and a few waved hello as they passed.

Mount Molloy seems to be in decline despite its location on the main road from Mareeba to Cooktown. There is a new real estate subdivision selling there but the bakery has closed. Now there is just a cafe and a roadhouse.

The ride to Cape Tribulation is superb.  It is a long day - about 160km - but the rainforest, hills and creeks on the road to Cape Tribulation are wonderful to cycle through.

Quaid Road - an exercise on folly. It was built as a private road by Quaid (local real estate agent) in cahoots with Russ Hinze and Joh Bjelke Peterson (Premier at the time). The intention was to provide fast access from the Cairns airport to a real estate development at Quaids Lake inland. The road climbs up steeply from Wangetti through rainforest. Several landslides have occurred in this region so it is in poor condition. At the top, the road traverses a high plateau and pine plantation and is covered by much leaf litter.

A locked gate is encountered just before it is crossed by a track that connects Julatten and Kuranda. From here the road passes through very deep cuttings and across some long high filled sections. It descends, climbs to a second high point, then descends again and climbs to a third high point. It is in quite good condition along these sections. after the third big descent a smaller climb brings you the final locked gate, which f4WDs have a track around, From here it is open to general traffic. A dirt track to quarry joins it. The road then connects to the Mareeba - Mount Molloy road just near Quaid lake.

It would have been very expensive to build and no sits as a monument to stupidity and avarice. There are very few houses at Quaids lake and nothing else around, The Queensland government still refuses to gazette and maintain it as a public road.

The wind this year was lacking. I got only two good sessions in this trip as bad weather in the south of Australia caused storms in southern Queensland and blocked the seasonal trade winds coming up to Port Douglas and Cairns.

It is hard to get the timing right for wind.  The week before we arrived was very windy.  

My blog  log entries for the kiteboarding:

2010-05-16 Port Douglas flight up

Looking out to Hinchinbrook Island and coming into Cairns.

2010-05-16 Yarrabah

We did a side trip to Yarrabah, and Aboriginal Community south of Cairns.  It is a nice drive to get there and a there is a very steep hill to climb over.  Bike road races are held on the Yarrabah Road, but not up the hill.

2010-05-17 Macrossan St and 4 mile

Macrossan Street is always worth a wander.  Beach gear, restaurants and cafes.  Chloe is wearing a dress from Something Tropical for Kids, which our friends Doug and Wendy manage.

2010-05-18 Hartleys crocodile farm

That is a five meter Saltwater Crocodile under the decking of the cafe at Hartleys.  There are lots of other animals to see too, and the reserve is well kept.  The staff are friendly and helpful.

2010-05-19 Kuranda and Barrons Gorge
A view from the Captain Cook Highway on the road back to Cairns.  We then drove to Kuranda and Barron Gorge.

2010-05-19 Mareeba
Mareeba is an old style Queensland town.

2010-05-20 Dinner at Tin Shed

The Tin Shed is a great place for dinner.  The views across to Thorntons Peak and the Daintree are superb and prawn shells tossed off the balcony are snatched by hungry fish.

2010-05-20 Shannons Lane ford

A lovely ford river crossing near where fruit wines are made.

2010-05-20 Mosman Gorge

The wild cassowary spotted by Chloe at Mosman Gorge.

2010-05-20 Mosman

Mosman is another local town unaffected by tourism.

2010-05-20 Port Douglas hill view

The view from the hill lookout along 4 Mile Beach and back towards Cairns is worth a look.

2010-05-21 Port Douglas Carnivale

Carnivale is a local festival with lots of events and of course a parade.

Here's a video of the Windsell float at Carnivale with me driving.

2010-05-22 Port Douglas 4 mile

Hanging out at 4 Mile Beach park waiting for the wind.

2010-05-24 Sailaway sunset cruise

The sunset cruise on Sailaway is a nice trip.

2010-05-24 Stand up paddle boards at Port Douglas

My first go on a standup paddleboard (SUP).  I was surprised at how much fun it is.  Great for when there is no wind.

2010-05-25 Bike ride to Cape Tribulation

The bike ride from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation is one of the best I have ever done.  Riding through the rainforest is a delight.

2010-05-26 Quaid Road cycle tour

A dog named Moose at the 9 mile Roadhouse on the road to Mount Molloy.  I did this ride from Port Douglas, inland to Mount Molloy, along to Quaid Road, then along it to Wangetti, then back to Port.

2010-05-27 Kitecam 4 mile

Kitecam shots at 4 Mile and on downwinders to the Surf Club.

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