To help break up my time waiting for something which I had assumed would be sorted for me (it seems that both red tape and my incorrect assumptions are the same the world over), when my initial week in Cairns was over I decided to spend a few days in Port Douglas; a small town just to the north, and travelling to which involves one of the nicest coastal drives in all Australia. Not having seen much of the country so far I decided to give the local bus driver the benefit of the doubt when he proclaimed this, and I was not disappointed. Besides, even if he was just being biased, then I could easily live with this stunning view being mediocre in comparison to even better ones yet to come.
Scenic drive over with, the town itself was also well worth seeing. Although the Port O’Call hostel was about 20 minutes out of the main town, a 20 minute walk along Four Mile Beach just wasn’t long enough in my opinion. But then when a beach is this exotic, four miles isn’t anywhere near long enough either. There’s probably not many people who can claim to have walked in a straight line from Australian coast to Australian coast either, especially in a single day, but thanks to Port Douglas being situated on a small peninsula, it is something that technically I can say I’ve done.
One of many towns on the Great Barrier Reef coastline it also offers snorkeling and diving trips, but the main attraction unique to Port Douglas is most likely the Wildlife Habitat. An open plan animal park in which the dangerous animals, such as the cassowary, are fenced off, but everything else is open plan. You’re free to wander through at your own pace, birds flying freely over your head, and wallabies scratching at your pockets in search of the $2 bag of roo food they can no doubt smell. This can be bought from the entrance desk or cafe, and can be used to hand feed all manner of animals in the grasslands. Most popularly kangaroos and wallabies as the name would suggest, but also the ducks and geese, many of them wild, who have learnt the easiest way to get an easy meal.
In fact rather than animals escaping, it seems that species entering the Habitat’s three different environments, grasslands, wetlands, and rainforest, are the bigger problem. On a guided tour we were told of eels that are able to swim into the Habitat’s waterways, and apparently it’s the unpaid interns’ job to catch them and feed them to the crocodiles also living there. They have both fresh water and estuarine varieties (the latter more commonly but inaccurately known as salt water crocs), although these were most definitely wanted and fenced off inhabitants.
Judging from the lack of signage around it, I’m also guessing the rather large tent spider nest was also an unplanned addition. A presumption that was added to when I saw a similar nest, what I can only describe as a cloud of webstrings with no less than a dozen occupants, situated quite happily in a bush located between someone’s front garden and the pavement. I never did check if they were venomous though.
The Habitat is also one of several places (but only in Queensland) to offer holding a koala opportunity, but for $18, I was more than content to ask a passing stranger to take a photo of me hand feeding a kangaroo. It’s cheaper, to me at least it’s just as Australian, and according to another backpacker at the hostel afterwards, koalas have sharp claws and smell.
The ticket I was given in exchange for my entrance fee was also valid for four days, although the fact that the “four” was written in pen over the top of the printed “two”, leads me to assume this was an off-season special. Not in any rush to head back to Cairns, and quite content where I was, I extended my stay, and took full advantage of the even more extra days on my habitat ticket. After this second visit I walked the long way back to the hostel, again taking a relaxing stroll along Four Mile beach.
To say this was the most tropical beach I have ever experienced is somewhat of an understatement. On one side you have the clear waters of not just the Pacific Ocean, but also the Barrier Reef, and on the other you have dense foliage of palm trees. I’ve been to beaches in Florida and even Kenya, but the one advantage Four Mile has over all of these, is that the only thing it was lacking was other people.
Every now and then there was a couple taking a similar stroll in the opposite direction, and sunbathers dotted around every couple of hundred metres or so, but that was about it. Most people stuck to the north end between the main high street and swimming area, but other than that, almost nothing. Certainly nothing even close to the built up-ness you might expect, and which somewhat spoiled other beaches I’ve been to. Until the day I die I can only hope that Butlins never discover it.
And it’s not just the view, but also the general atmosphere of the place. Walking along I could only hear two things: the gentle waves lapping at my bare feet as I was walking, and the tropical James Bond motif that popped into my head. The one from You Only Live Twice that Robbie Williams stole for Millennium.
In fact I have to say that beach was rather inspiring in terms of songs just singing themselves in my head, as the first day I arrived it had been R.E.M.’s Living Well Is The Best Revenge. Can’t disagree with that at all.