Afternoon cruise to the Low Isles

“Yes, but the winds come up in the afternoon on the ocean,” I said in response to a suggestion we take an afternoon cruise to the Low Isles.

“But you have to see the sunset,” my cousin said.

To be fair, the winds were stirring the waters morning and afternoon, so visibility would be reduced and the quality of the snorkelling on the reef would be compromised. We booked an afternoon cruise with Sailaway out of Port Douglas marina.

It was liSailaway to Low Isleske driving on a bumpy road all the way out to the mooring just off Heritage Island. The captain worked hard. The coral cay was below us and we were keen to explore. Geared up, we sank into the blue water with eyes wide open. We’d been told about the reef sharks and we wanted to see one. Token efforts were made to stay with the main group because it was too much fun exploring underwater alone.

As predicted, visibility was limited to perhaps 4metres. From the surface, the coral was pale and the colours watery. But when I dove down and hung suspended within a metre or so, the colours of the coral and there fish were vibrant. Amazing. And to think government policies treat such beauty with disregard. It saddened me as I marvelled at the beauty a few metres below the surface.

Just as I turned to face a large school of fish I thought to swim into it. Two slow kicks with my fins and then I stopped. Equally unhurried was a reef shark. Perhaps a metre and a half…a metre and a half from my goggles. Its languid movements conveyed a sense of calm and confident control of its domain. The shark had 100% of my attention. It paid me no heed at all. Zero attention.

I caught up with my friend to tell my story. Then came a call to finish up and return to shore. As we started to swim away, there was a stingray snuggled into the sand at the bottom. As we approached, it darted away.

We splashed in the shallow water and then boarded the small, glass-bottomed run-about that took us back to the yacht where wine and wonderful food were laid out.

We’d had a good swim and snorkel didn’t know the best was yet to come.

On the sail home, we sat up near the skipper to watch him steer us up and over the swell. As on the outward journey, he was working hard and having fun. We rode the swell up and down and sometimes through it – to our drenched delight.

As we bounced and rolled and splashed our way back to Port Douglas, the sun was setting in front of us. With the swell near shore reduced and the sun below the ridge, the mood changed. Suddenly calm. It was nature’s closing time and the afternoon felt complete. With weary bodies, joyous spirits and full smiles, we said our thank you and wandered along the wharf for one last drink before heading home.

Yet another full and fun day in Port Douglas!

A day in Port Douglas

Another glorious day in Port Douglas. But today we were heading north.

cooper creekAfter a quick stop at Mossman north of PD for some supplies, we travelled slowly, relishing the morning air and feeling the high peaks of the Atherton Tableland that followed us on our left.

Breakfast at Newell Beach. We weren’t in a hurry. Hot coffee, fresh fruit, a pastry…or two. We strolled it off before getting back in the car for our drive to Daintree Village. We stood looking up and down the Daintree River wondering quietly to ourselves and then later in conversation about the crocodiles that might have been in the river.

One more coffee for the road. Then to the punt across the river. It was like traveling back in time. We remembered punts from our childhoods in NSW and Qld. This ancient transport took us to ancient forests. Indeed we had been transported 300 metres across a river and thousands of years into the past.

Cape Tribulation Road took us slowly up to Mt Alexandra Lookout where we waited until there was almost no one and enjoyed the views down across the plain to where the Daintree River met the sea.

Before we left the carpark, we put the roof down on the Mercedes SLK 350, generously loaned to us by my cousin back in Port Douglas. The lookouts and beaches were spectacular, but the real beauty was above. We stopped and put the seats way back so we could just stare in wonder and the lush and vibrant canopy overhead. We could almost touch the roof of the forest. We agreed that we’d make a return visit to explore the forest floor.

On to Thornton’s Beach. Well…after an ice-cream at the Daintree Ice Cream Company, it was on to Thornton’s Beach for lunch. Our picnic lunch was complete with a yummy Pinot Noir. The beach stretched north and south from where we sat. Low tide gave us plenty to explore in both directions before a short snooze on the sand.

A spicy meal awaited us back in PD. So we decided to leave Cape Trib for our next visit. We packed up and dawdled back in our sports car to the punt.

Yep, another glorious day in PD.

“Are they snow clouds?” asked one of the children from the back seat on the way to Thredbo in early June.

For three separate families, each with children, visions of skiing, of snow-filled hills, of snowmen and snowball fights stirred the blood of adventure. Booking accommodation, repairing or renewing ski gear, sorting and packing, making arrangements with friends and family and work all added to the anticipation of a long weekend in Thredbo – the opening weekend of the 2013 ski season.

The opening weekend.

A special weekend to disappear from the sight of work and the everyday of home. A special weekend to rediscover family and friends and fun together.

One family left early on the Friday to make the most of the weekend. Others left late – getting there when they could. The journey itself was a part of the adventure. All were excited. Some were quietly nervous that there would not be enough snow for skiing.

For one family, there was something extra: Lorraine was throwing a surprise 50th birthday for her husband – “the kids were in on the secret, and this increased the buzz about the trip!”

For Sonya and her family, it was a getaway, a family escape to re-energise and relax. And for Michael’s family, it was “to get the kids onto skis”.

All agreed this was a celebration of being away together.

With crossed fingers, regular checks of online weather reports and longing looks to the sky, each family packed and prayed. One of the children even crossed the fingers of the gloves before putting them into the ski bag.

Holiday packing is notorious for creating memory loss. “Even though we go on holidays a lot as a family, we still get nervous and forget things. This year it was my shampoo and conditioner. But I survived.” That was Lorraine. Michael echoed this thought and said they had to go back for a milk bottle and sun-screen for the back seat window. Sonya was convinced they had forgotten something – “We always do” – but would not know until they arrived.

thredboOn the way, anticipation built with each kilometre. Cars traveled at the pace of excitement and hope – obediently (in most cases) tempered by the slower speed limits of towns along the way. “There are always nongs on the road, but we just took our time. Our focus was on safety not on beating everyone else to this opening weekend,” one said.

All shared a sense of satisfaction of arrival – they were pleased the trip was done and they could now settle into a few days of whatever they wanted.

Opening the door to their getaway accommodation brought deeper sighs of satisfaction. “The property was divine,” Lorraine said about her accommodation, Milkwood.

“Incredible accommodation. The web pages don’t do the place justice inside!” Michael said about Aspect 3. He liked the easy parking, great drying room, the wonderful dining room table, the bbq and the open fire place. “Though, the fire did invite us to have too many red wines and Benedictines on ice!”

For some, the weekend began with football on tv or movies, spaghetti bolognaise or pizza and wine. The birthday surprise was revealed on the Friday night when other family members appeared out of nowhere. “It was a great way to start our weekend at Thredbo!”

Whether it is the first or the fiftieth time to the snow, the thrill and chill of skiing acts like a magnet on thoughts and feelings and actions. But for the opening long weekend and beginning of the snow season at Thredbo, it isn’t just the snow. Thredbo itself is an equal drawcard. The families agreed that Thredbo is the perfect snow-field destination.

Each of the adults felt a slight sense of disappointment that they would not be testing themselves with gravity and skis and snow, but all the families had very full and fun days.

“We had an incredible couple of days” Lorraine said. Her family spent time at the leisure centre and pool and gym. They played on the snowboarding machine and “got the giggles doing the bobsled rides. This year, my son was tall enough to ride by himself – he was very happy.”

Each family took the chairlift to the top of Crackenback and spent hours tobogganing and bum or belly-sliding around on snow drifts up there. Followed by a hot chocolate at Eagle’s Nest. Of course!

One family had the “best snowball fight ever.” It was “the best snowball fight in our lives. It was like Lord of the Flies!”

A snow weekend is fun and active and typically on the go the whole time. Up early, breakfast, gear, tickets, skiing, unpacking, eating sleeping….all moving quickly.
A snow weekend without snow is leisurely. A late finish at night and a late start in the morning. A slow breakfast and stroll. Time to relax and explore and discover.

No snow did not mean an empty weekend. “We did so much!”

There were family games of soccer and basketball. A band and a dance. More pizza. Dinner at Cascades, and a long, long lunch – or two. Bushwalking, Adults and kids riding bikes, playing ball games and sharing meals and drinks with old and newly-made friends. Kids climbing, tumbling, cart-wheeling, running… There was the Thredbo-Land program for kids. “The lessons were superb – my kids had lots of fun. They joined in the snowman building competition. Theirs looked more like a sandcastle. They had as much fun kicking it down as they did making it!”

And there were the fireworks.

“The fireworks were ridiculous!” Lorraine said. Ridiculously amazing is what she meant. “Better even than last year’s, if that’s possible!” said another. “They shook the buildings, and the echo around the mountains turned heads.”

Michael confessed envy. “I sure wanted to get out on my skis on the snow with my kids. We came down to ski. I think it’s great skiing with my son and daughter. It’s something we can do together. It’s wonderful to share the adventure together.” Michael also reflected on how everyone in Thredbo seemed to be in good spirits. “The snow experience creates a sort of common mission for everyone who goes to Thredbo. The snow and children create a whole new world that changes the mindset. It relaxes and opens people up to others – they say hello to each other and are not constantly looking at watches. Look around. People are smiling.” Michael spoke also of a party at Fire Dreaming hosted by Discover Thredbo. “There were people from all over the state and from all walks of life. Most had learnt to ski as kids and were now bringing their kids to the snow.”

The families welcomed leaving cars parked and walking. “In Thredbo, everything’s within walking distance,” said Sonya. “We can chill out and have drink and not have to drive. The small bus is also fantastic to have.”

They wandered along the side of full and fast creeks, they talked, they stopped for photos of mountains and snow on the gum trees, and they enjoyed the space that’s often stolen from busy work-day family lives.

She added, “We like the Thredbo atmosphere. It’s a little European, and it is familiar and comfortable and welcoming. There’s nowhere else like this in NSW. We don’t have to worry about the kids. The staff in the venues are wonderful, and we know there is good medical care here. There’s skiing for all levels, including for those with disabilities. The private lessons – and instructors – are great for the kids. For families, this is ideal.”

“This is a true village. Everything is convenient,” said Michael.

Sonya said, “We stay at Granite Peaks 1 every year because we like it. The cabin is spacious and it feels like ours. We know what to expect. This whole village feels like home. The booking process on is simple and streamlined, and I can pay off the holiday during the year. I rave about it to my friends. The door-code is a fantastic process. We know the manager and he knows us. He really cares! I have to say that the virtual tour of this cabin is good. But the real thing is much better!”

“Our accommodation was beautiful, stunning. The Woodridge area is wonderful. I would absolutely recommend the accommodation and the booking,” Lorraine said.

Thredbo has accommodation to suit a wide range of reasons and guests. These families booked through Discover Thredbo. For Lorraine, “Online is easy. It was my job again this year and the booking was smooth.” Michael agreed that has a great booking system – “it is very straight-forward.”

“We are definitely coming back.”
“We have already booked for mid-season.”
“It was great to escape the flotsam and jetsam of life, and we are coming back” Michael said. “We plan to make this an annual event – a family tradition on the long weekend.

Even with low snow cover, Thredbo is full of things to do.

“Are they snow clouds?” asked one of the children looking out the back window as they drove away from the village.