Richard spotted a few whales on his Oxfam training walk, so on this gorgeous 19°C day today, we had no excuse not to drive out to the Cape Solander lookout at the Kamay Botony Bay National Park. It was such a pleasant day the jacket came right off!

Highlights of the event: whale jumped people cheered! Another whale jumped people cheered again! Yet another whale jumped… Whale watching is actually more fun than what this blog post suggests.

Cape Solander, Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Sydney

Whale Watching at Cape Solander, Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Also more fun than what this total lack of whale phone camera picture suggests…

Whale, at the very least, it’s definitely an improvement to last year‘s zero whale spotting!

This is it! The long overdue actual post of my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, referred to on so many previous posts! Richard joined me on the 7-day/6-night trip for full pleasure, and because he was the one with more knowledge of the place and more importantly free time, organised everything leisure.

The Business Half

28-31 May 2015 (Thu-Sun)

Our company was one of the dozen exhibitors at the 4-day biennial ASCCP Scientific Meeting (XXIVth) that ran into the weekend. I normally work behind the scenes, but this wasn’t my first exhibition (first here), only the first outside of Sydney.

iCIMS at ASCCP XXIVth Scientific Meeting (2015)

Our exhibition table at the ASCCP XXIVth Scientific Meeting (2015) (from the event organiser camera)

The most stressful part for me were the conference dinners, in which I wanted to enjoy because foooood, but it was all still business, and portions were ironically tinier for the bigger of the conference dinners. I survived. It was only a small exhibition at this fantabulous hotel and I was in safe hands working alongside veteran colleague and good friend Ali. The zero commute time and change of scenery were of course a plus.

Meanwhile, Richard had to entertain himself by fishing, taking walks and not working. Poor thing.

The Pleasure Half

31 May 2015 (Sun): Short Cruise

It was all holiday from the afternoon on after we packed up work stuff and said farewell to everyone. We didn’t have a lot of free time, but Richard thought doing something different would get me out of my work mindset. He got us tickets on the Sunset Cruise that goes out to Trinity Inlet. Usually there would be a sunset view, but it’s just our luck to have been getting rain in Cairns.

We had the front deck to ourselves for the first half, until they took away the finger food served aboard and people gradually discovered the better view outside. It was a very relaxing cruise even though we didn’t spot any crocodiles and I came back with 3 mosquito bites.

1 Jun 2015 (Mon): Crocodiles and Waterfall

Pleasure day 2 wall of thumbnails before wall of text:

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

We hired a car and drove about 40 minutes to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures with the help of a navigation app, which decided that our word of the day shall be “roundabout”, because there’s a roundabout at just about every intersection in Cairns. We arrived on schedule mid-morning.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventure, June 2015: Crocodile Feeding Show

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, June 2015: Crocodile Feeding Show (Saltwater Crocodiles)

We watched the crocodile feeding show and I learnt the difference between saltwater crocodiles (dangerous!) and the freshies (not so dangerous), but mostly just my preference to not have anything to do with any of them whatsoever thank you very much. We saw other animals like cassowaries, emus and koalas, but the highlight unexpectedly came to me when we walked into an enclosed petting area, where even though we had zero food with us, a hopping thing still chose to hang out with us the whole time when I had only intended to pet the sleeping thing for a little while.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, June 2015: Kangaroo

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, June 2015: Sleeping Thing and Hopping Thing

Yeah, Richard had to reassure me that the sleeping thing and hopping thing were different species when the latter headed straight for me and I panicked, thinking the sleeping thing I petted was the baby of the hopping thing. tongue

We explored the attraction a little more before packing up and returning to the hotel to set off for our next destination.

Millaa Millaa Falls

Millaa Millaa Falls, June 2015

Millaa Millaa Falls all mine!

There were two routes from the hotel to Millaa Millaa Falls, a natural tourist attraction with a beautiful waterfall. Richard chose the shorter of the two routes, which was still a 100 km, 1.5-hour drive, along a winding and windy highway in the light rain. We didn’t get to the waterfalls until after 5 pm.

Millaa Millaa Falls was lovely, if still a bit cold and rocky at the bottom, and empty except for the other older couple who showed up briefly to take pictures. We did the same ourselves and took a quick dip in the lake, and then it was time to brave the drive back — back along the winding road in the wind and rain, quickly losing daylight and eventually in the dark, all the while in the hire car with horribly placed pillars that limited vision further. Kudos to Richard for handling the stress well and bringing us back in one piece.

A hotel staff later told us that some 20 years ago, a whole school bus steered off the same cliffs and many died. Mad kudos to Richard for bringing us back in one piece…

2 Jun 2015 (Tue): Helicopter Flight and Snorkelling

Second last day, last full day of the trip!

Helicopter Flight

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: Reef View from Helicopter

Great Barrier Reef from above

Tickets for the half-day fly/cruise trip for the previous day were all sold out, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because today was pretty much the only sunny day of our entire trip. Win! We took the shuttle bus to the helicopter fields, signed a form to acknowledge that we might die today, weighed ourselves and went into denial about our weight, and waited for the two others who were meant to join us. They didn’t make it in time from their tight schedule so we had our own helicopter. Double win!

This was my first helicopter ride ever and Richard let me take the front seat. The view of the Reef from above was gorgeous and gave me a sense of just how great the Great Barrier Reef was. The flight was only 20 minutes and we had to land far too soon to get on the boat to prepare for our snorkelling session at the Hastings Reef.

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

This was actually also my first time snorkelling. Despite proclaiming to be a relatively good swimmer (well, I did only tick “average” on the death safety survey), I relied on a noodle to float so that I could focus on breathing, which was still ridiculously hard and I gulped a lot of salt water. Things became a lot easier once I switched to a better fit than the standard gear that was too big for me.

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: Snorkelling

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: First time snorkelling! (Richard cam)

The reef! The fish! The water! The sound of fish biting off the coral! If only the weather had been better today. 2 hours of snorkelling didn’t look much on paper, but it was quite a workout. I enjoyed my time more than I thought I could for a first snorkelling trip. (I might or might not have also accidentally dropped a snorkel. tongue )

Night Fishing

After dinner back on land, we ended our night on a bit of fishing at the poorly lit purpose-built jetty. Richard retaught me how to cast since it’s been a while I last tried this. We didn’t catch anything and there’s still much for me to learn.

3 Jun 2015 (Wed): Last Morning and Bonus Photos

There wasn’t enough time to do anything else on the last morning. We checked out of the hotel after our last epic breakfast at the buffet, and headed to the airport for home, Sydney.

Thank you work for giving me this opportunity, and thank you Richard for making yet another trip of ours fun and memorable. If putting on almost 2 kg from that one week doesn’t prove that I had a good time, I don’t know what does. smile

The Link Dump

Date/s Post Link Food? Description
28 May 2015 A Girl’s Gotta Eat flying out
28 May 2015 Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF924
28 May 2015 Corea Corea, Orchid Plaza, Cairns late lunch
May-Jun 2015 La Pizza Trattoria, Cairns dinner, 2 nights!
May-Jun 2015 Devine Gelato, Cairns dessert, 3 nights!
31 May 2015 Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns quick lunch
31 May 2015 The Raw Prawn, Cairns seafood dinner
2 Jun 2015 Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar, Orchid Plaza, Cairns
May-Jun 2015 Food and Catering at Pullman Cairns International various hotel meals
May-Jun 2015 Pullman Cairns International Hotel the hotel itself
3 Jun 2015 Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF925

Blackheath Weekend Day 2: So Green

21 Nov 2014 (Fri), Day 1

Not even a super hot, total-fire-ban weekend could stop us from our planned time away at Blackheath! We took the Friday off from work for this (you know it’s serious business) and some shopping plus driving later, we’re there!

Itinerary of the day: a quick trip to Govetts Leap Lookout before check-in at Redleaf Resort, then off to Megalong Valley Creek (not just a long valley; a Megalong Valley! tongue ), a quick dinner near the resort, and back at Govetts Leap for some sunset photos!

The sky didn’t turn that gorgeous twilight blue, and there were all sorts of bugs flying into my face and a mosquito or two feeding on me, but I don’t regret spending the evening out there. smile

22 Nov 2014 (Sat), Day 2

After our epic breakfast buffet at the resort, we went out to brave the heat and did the Grand Canyon Track. We actually got lucky because Saturday was the coolest day of the whole weekend.

The Grand Canyon Track isn’t as long a walk as the Coast Track that we did the other time, but there was a lot of climb. I kept thinking “We really have to stop going down!” during the first-half of the walk, but I survived the climb back up, mostly thanks to Richard knowing where best to take a break. (We didn’t get to stop at one place because a lady was enjoying hers in the nude in a very visible place.)

After a nice and comfortable shower, we ventured out to Lake Lyell for some fly fishing for Richard and some fly swatting for Vickie. There was a convenient boat ramp at the lake so there were more boats and noise around than we’d like. Dinner was the restaurant inside the golf club across the resort.

23 Nov 2014 (Sun), Day 3

Woke up with sore quads and calves! The good kind of burn. smile We checked out of the resort after our second and last breakfast buffet. It’s scorching hot again but our day wasn’t over just yet! We drove to Echo Point for a quick touristy view of the Three Sisters before heading back to Sydney — with indigestion from overeating at breakfast for me. Oh first world problems.

Didn’t think I could enjoy my time as much as I did with all that heat and flies. Where should we go for our next weekend away?

Guess what we spotted while out for a brief walk without a proper camera? Whales! On a nor’easterly windy day where I could barely stand still!

View from The Esplanade, Cronulla

… I swear we did see whales. I just didn’t manage to capture them on the my phone camera while trying not to eat too much of my own hair the wind was feeding me. tongue

It was another super pleasant and gently breezy 24°C day so there’s no excuse to stay in whatsoever! We decided to head out to the Coast Track at the Royal National Park for a bushwalk, and we certainly planned it a lot better than our last walk to Winifred Falls. tongue

We started at around noon. Richard decided that Marley Beach shall be our halfway point so that we had enough time to do a short walk and back before it gets dark. We also brought our swimmers just in case.

We walked at a very comfortable speed and reached our halfway point on schedule, in about 2 hours. Walking back felt a lot easier.

I saw all the wildlife and animal tracks on the walk!

No, I don’t think I have taken enough pictures. Why do you ask? tongue

After the walk, we took a bit of extra time to drive down to Jibbon Beach for a quick dip. The tide was a lot higher than our last visit and the water was still a little cool. The number of boats there was also far lower than what Richard expected to see for the long weekend.

Such a lovely day out! I can’t wait to explore the rest of Sydney and the world!

The water was still a little cool but it’s finally a pleasantly sunny 24°C. Richard took us on his boat for a nice day out at Jibbon Beach.

It’s high tide so there was very little beach in the beginning. We first went to the Dharawal Aboriginal Engravings Site. Richard was horrified to see that they’d built fences around the area when he used to just run up and down the rocks as a kid. We also thought one of the kangaroo carvings didn’t look very Aboriginal. On our way back to the beach, they told me there’s a secluded spot popular with nude sunbathers, and a nude sunbather we saw (no picture of this, of course!).

After the short walk, we went back to the beach. The water was crystal clear, and the beach wasn’t too busy probably because the water wasn’t warm enough yet. We sat on our beach towels, had a little picnic, swam, got a nice dose of sunlight, and just had the most relaxing day.

I have a feeling I’m going to get quite tanned this summer! smile

The tide was high, there were dead bluebottles all along the shore and not a single dog in sight, and Cronulla Beach was still interesting and beautiful.

Turned out we were only too early for dog o’clock, which I discovered was 4 pm!

Happy dogs make Vickie happy. smile

I can spend all day here listening to the waves and watching all the happy dogs.

When it warms up a bit more, maybe we’d watch the stars at night, too.