Country Diaries

Month: October 2016

Rainforest to reef in tropical Queensland

We found paradise in far north Queensland. Here, the rainforest meets the reef and multi-coloured tropical fish swim beneath turquoise waters lapping the shores of sun-drenched, white beaches. 

We spent four amazing days exploring the ancient Daintree Rainforest, snorkelling in the reef and sampling fresh, local produce.

Tropical climates ensure an abundance of sugar cane, lychees and reef fish and the  sweetest, juiciest, pineapple I’ve ever tasted.

The Great Barrier Reef – an underwater paradise

Cairns is the centre of all the action, not the nicest of Aussie towns, but a good base to get out to the Great Barrier Reef.

The reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and will not disappoint. We chose a half-day snorkelling expedition to kick some major bucket list goals!

boat-reefThe boat powered us out the Hastings Reef in about 50 minutes allowing us to spend a glorious two hours in shallow lagoons filled with sea turtles, angel fish and coral trout.

My very own Finding Nemo moment, and truly breathtaking!

Chasing waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands

On our second day, we took a road trip into the Tablelands. Hiring a car is a great way to get the most out of the stunning scenery in this region.

The countryside is phenomenal – rolling green pastures and misty little villages hidden high up in the heart of the mountains.

A dizzying array of cascading pristine waterfalls created by ancient volcanic lava flows, lookout points, wineries and dairy farms mean you can stop off as many, or as few, times as you fancy.

Tropical Port Douglas

By day three, I thought there couldn’t possibly be anything left about this beautiful region to blow my mind.

I soon discovered I was wrong as we drove north one hour up the Bruce Highway (beauty mate!) to Port Douglas.

Port Douglas is darling – a delightful little Aussie town of gleaming white ‘Queenslander’ houses nestled amidst tropical plants and palm trees.

This former fishing town has a laid back vibe and loads of great dining options and cute pubs. If you’re looking for swimming pools, cold Aussie beer, fresh seafood and even cane toad racing – it’s all here.

The ancient Daintree Rainforest

Port Douglas is also the gateway to the ancient Daintree Rainforest. The ferry river crossing will take you, and your car, across the croc-infested waters in a jiffy

We couldn’t help singing the Jurassic park theme tune (Buh-nuh nuh-nuh-nuh. Buh-nuh nuh-nuh-nuh. Buh-nuh nuh. Buh NUH NUH!) as we entered the spectacular forest.

Around 135 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is magical, and one of the most complex eco-systems on earth.

Allow your sense to be assaulted by the mysterious rainforest sounds as golden, dappled sunlight falls through its dense canopy.

If you’re lucky you might spot a Cassowary – these crazy pre-historic looking birds are brightly coloured and about the size of an emu! We missed out, but warning signs for them are everywhere.

Cape Tribulation – rainforest meets reef

We stopped off for rainforest refreshment at The Daintree Ice-cream Company specialising in exotic tropical flavours to sample flavour-busting passionfruit and mango ice blocks. Truly delicious!

Further north, you’ll hit Cape Tribulation – amazing white beaches where the only footprints in the sand will be your own.

Have you been to far north Queensland? Tell me, did you love it as much as I did?

Freak out

If I ever get a bit stressed out, Jim will sing the lyrics to Le Freak, topped off by groovy disco finger-pointing, a few slide-steps and concluding with a loud, and irritating, clap right in my face – ‘Ahhhh, Freak OUT!’ 

It seems appropriate right now however, as our UK plans are falling apart at the last minute and we are quite literally, freaking out.

Our pug, Winston, was supposed to be landing in London tomorrow, we are one week from our Sydney departure and three weeks into my new blog tracking our journey to the English countryside.

And here’s the thing – our plans have been turned upside down. Winston’s flight is cancelled and he is staying here in Sydney.

Surprised? Me too.

In a nutshell. Jim *ahem*, ‘we’ decided perhaps an English recce would be sensible first. Just to scope out the lay of the land before any final decisions are made. (Even though, I was pretty sure we’d already decided).

Remember a couple of blog posts ago when I wrote about how great I felt about finishing work and life in general?

Well, whaddya know? The euphoria wore off and the stress of it all has slowly crept up on and then punched us squarely in the face.

As a general rule, I think I’m fairly easy going. But what I do like in life is a plan.

And, the new plan is to cancel the old plans. And then do a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants-winging-it-no-plan-style-thingy. Which makes me feel distinctly uneasy.

So Winston is currently in long-term doggy day care in Sydney’s inner west. Our furniture shipping to the UK is cancelled. And all our stuff is staying in storage here in Sydney.

I’m detecting a distinct wavering of the ‘Englishness’ in our plans – which seem (correct me if I’m wrong here) to be teetering much more towards Australia right now.

I said to a friend last week, “oh well if anything bad happens, at least it will be good for the blog.”

But here’s the other thing – I didn’t actually, really think anything particularly bad would happen. So, ha – the irony indeed!

We’ve had a delightful array of last-minute problems ranging from broken down cars (Jim) to outrageously expensive emergency root canals (me!)


Given the off-the-charts stress levels we are currently experiencing in Sydney, we felt it would be wise to skip town for a couple of days.

We are now in Cairns, as swimming with rainbow coloured fish on the Great Barrier Reef seemed the most sensible way to re-boot. So far it’s working a charm!

Altogether now, ‘All that pressure got you down, Has your head spinning all around, Ah Freak out!’

Has anyone else had travel plans go disastrously wrong at the last minute? Leave a comment and cheer me up with your tales of woe!

Travel pawsibilities for pets

We’ve been dreaming about relocating from Sydney to the English countryside, and naturally, our pug, Winston is coming too. Now, I’m pretty sure his dreams are more along the lines of bones, pats and walks – so he’s in for quite a shock when he finds himself aboard an A380 heading for London.

Pug love is a deep love and Winston combines great looks and unmistakable charm, not to mention, chocolate-button eyes that melt your soul.

All dogs are loved, but Winston is spoilt to quite ridiculous levels. This is a pup with monster pyjamas (yes, I do know – totally ridiculous), a unicorn costume to wear when he’s feeling ‘whimsical’ and ‘doggles’ to protect his eyes from the sun.

As you can imagine, transporting a dog to the other side of the world does not come without some challenges. Flying can be a traumatic experience for dogs and we’re concerned about the horror stories of dogs – particularly snub-nosed breeds such as pugs – that don’t make it.

Our little guy has never even been to the local park on his own (quite obviously!) so we’re fairly troubled about flying him 17,000 kilometres to a different country.

We’ve been wasting time exploring options to try and avoid Winston flying ‘cargo’ class.

Hands down, the private lear jet is my favourite unrealistic option. Pets are welcome to travel with their owners in the cabin when you fly private.

Can you imagine how fun it would be? We’d meet our pilot, perhaps a quick photo opp before take-off – Winston in the pilot’s hat of course.

We’d have a chuckle at how smart he looks and settle back into the cream leather seats, a glass of bubbles in hand before soaring into the sky in style.

This is an actual thing, that (insanely rich) people actually do. Priority One Jets schedule special rest-stops for your pet, place toys on board and arrange for extra pet-friendly crews.

Sounds paw-fect apart from the $150,000 price tag.

I considered a crowdfunding campaign to see if the kindness of strangers could help Winston with his voyage. I’d just need 150,000 people to donate a dollar each – and we’re away. Who could refuse that face?

Jet-pooling is another option for those keen willing to share the private jet experience – and the price tag. Or empty-legging where you charter the jet for the return leg of its journey. But both options are tough when travelling from Australia.

I even tried a freight ship company offering 40-day voyages from Sydney to London, but they won’t take pets. “Too much paperwork,” the lady decreed. “You won’t find a freight ship that will take him.”

We’ve discussed smuggling him aboard a commercial flight in a pram.  Or perhaps a top hat and a monocle in the guise of an eccentric, very short, and exceptionally unattractive old man.

But then we gave up on the silliness, and thought we’d better crack on with reality.

Winston will be flying – like the other dogs! – in the cargo hold of a commercial flight from Sydney to London.  Our lovely family in the UK will pick him up from Heathrow and Winston will be enjoying the green countryside in Rutland two weeks today.

His crate and paperwork has arrived here in Sydney and he’s not very happy about any of it.


I reckon he’s going to be pretty cross with us for a while, but we’ll make it up to him as soon as we get to Blighty.

A few tips to help your dog prepare for a long-haul flight:

  • Getting your dog used to his travelling crate in short bursts of time so he’s familiar with it;
  • Checking the rules and regulations of the country your pet is travelling to. And watch where the flight takes rest stops – you don’t want your dog sitting on the hot tarmac in Dubai for too long;
  • Placing an item of your clothing in your dog’s crate for the journey will remind them of you
  • Don’t over-feed your pet the night before travel, or drug them – it is not recommended by vets;
  • Providing proof of rabies vaccination – this is vital for your dog to leave the country;
  • Trying out Aptatil collars to relax your dog. These mimic pheromones from the dog’s mother providing a calming effect that might soothe your dog during, and after, his journey.

Has anyone sent their dog on a long-haul flight? How did your pup cope?