A honeymoon blog post? Considering this was nearly four months ago, it is about time that I get blogging about it. By now you have (hopefully!) read all about our awesome wedding. Seriously, it was one of the best days of our lives. We feel so blessed to have such awesome people in our lives who surrounded us that day. Shortly after our wedding, we headed to the land Down Under for three weeks. Our first stop was Sydney and then Melbourne. From there we headed up to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland to visit with friends who are more like family and to help them celebrate with their own wedding. Whew! It was a blast! We then had one night in Brisbane (hi Dayle & Adrian!) before the last lag of our big trip: the honeymoon.
When planning the honeymoon, I did a lot of research. A lot. We had a few requirements: to see some of that wild Australian nature and to be able to swim. We looked at a few different islands both off of the Southern Coast of Australia and the Eastern. I liked the idea of heading to a tiny island where there would be no need to rent a car but a lot of these options were quite expensive and I was worried that after a couple of days, we may end up bored. We are not super resort-y people. We love to relax by a pool or on the beach but we also love to move around and discover new places. I was doing all of this research in January and I cannot tell you how many hotels/resorts/retreats I emailed for more information and how few of them responded to my inquiry. I was told by a friend that January is when everyone in Oz goes on holiday so it is a bad time to do this sort of research. Or maybe they just did not want our money. Quien sabé?! Since we were traveling in April which is the beginning of winter in Australia, we realised that the South would not be very warm (no swimming!) so we zeroed in on tropical Queensland. Queensland is a big state with a ton of cool stuff to discover (the last time that I was there, I checked out Magnetic Island). I looked up Queensland in my trusty book 1000 Places to See Before You Die and quickly fell in love with the description of the Daintree Rainforest. An ancient rainforest located in a secluded part of Northern Queensland filled with wildlife and vegetation, some of which is seen no where else on earth? And all of this situated a mere 20kms from the Great Barrier Reef?! I was in love.
So we said farewell to all of our Aussie friends (new and old) and took a very early morning flight to Cairns. Within an hour of landing, we were in our rental car, driving on the left side of the road on a five day adventure in the rainforest, just the two of us. Visiting those that you love is really awesome but after such a wild few months in our lives and hosting an awesome wedding, we were really excited for this honeymoon part of the trip.
This was my first time driving on the lefthand side of the road and I have to admit that I was a wee bit nervous. Cairns is a pretty small city so driving there was easy – as was getting to the Daintree/Cape Tribulation. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive from Cairns to the beginning of the Daintree. Our accommodations there included breakfast but all other meals would have to be had at the local restaurants. Because of this, I thought that it would be a good idea to stop in Port Douglas to 1) have lunch and 2) get a few groceries. Port Douglas is a very touristy town that has a cute main drag and is about an hour from Cairns. It is also a hub for snorkeling/scuba trips to the Reef. We grabbed some cheese, bread and olives, along with some ginger beer (I am totally addicted, thanks Australia), beer and wine. I loved the idea of being holed up in our own treehouse in the rainforest with a few of my favourite things.
Groceries in hand, we hit the highway… the big two lane highway that we drove without a turn until we were nearly there. Past Port Douglas you hit sugar cane country. Beside the highway were small tracks and parked train cars that are used during harvest time to get the cane to the mills. Pretty cool.
To get to the Daintree Rainforest, you have to cross the Daintree River. Just before this crossing, there are a handful of tour companies just waiting to give you a cruise on said river in hopes of spotting crocodiles and any other wildlife. Included in our honeymoon package with our accommodation was one of these tours. Our host had suggested that we stop on our way to the Daintree to do the tour. So that morning we woke at 5am in Brisbane and a half day later, we were on a boat in a river looking for crocodiles. Talk about life awesome. We did not book the tour ahead of time but they have many tours throughout the day so it seemed like it is easy to stop by anytime to get in on one. We considered doing the tour on the way back to Cairns after our time in the Daintree because the tour was that great.
The cruise was about an hour and it took us up the river and into a few smaller branches of it. In Australia, you will always here stories from locals about spiders, snakes and crocodiles. Everyone has a story about them. Crocodiles are no joking manner in these parts. You stay away from the water that they are known to live in and the shores and the beaches (they use the ocean to move to different rivers). Knowing that these deadly beasts were hiding in the waters was slightly terrifying (and I fought any urge to put my hand in the water!). We learned a lot about crocs on the tour including that their lifespan is much like us humans. They live with a hierarchy and there is usually always one dominant male in any given area who is the boss of all the ladies. In the Daintree, they call that one Scarface and while we didn’t see him, I can imagine how scary he is at about 5m in length. We did see a few females who our guide estimated at being about three or four years old. We also saw a ton of birds and wildlife including a White-Lipped Tree Frog and a Green Tree Snake. The coolest bird that we saw had to have been the Frogmouth. They are nocturnal birds and I felt really lucky to have spotted one. After having our minds slightly blown away by the wildlife, we got back to the car and headed to the cable ferry which is the only way to cross the Daintree River (at least in these parts). The ride takes about five minutes and then you drive off, into the rainforest.
There is one main road in the Daintree Rainforest/Cape Tribulation area. At times it is very narrow and very windy. I would hate to have motion sickness here. There are some spots where you are able to safely pull over to catch your breath which I did at the first opportunity. This was the view and it was beautiful. Just look at that forest and the ferns.
After all of my research, we had settled on staying at the Cockatoo Hill Retreat and I am so thankful for that. This place was absolutely perfect and our host Carmen was the kindest woman. When we were renting our car, I remembered the Cockatoo website recommending having a 4WD when in the Daintree area. I am happy that we took that advice because driving into Cocktatoo was an adventure on it’s own and I cannot imagine doing it with a regular car. You actually drive over a creek before going up a steep hill before you have made it to your paradise.
Carmen was waiting for us when we arrived. She was lovely and welcoming and full of information for us. She made recommendations for where we should have dinner that evening and what activities we should do (more about that later) and she showed us to our treehouse. Technically I suppose it’s called a cabin but I called it a treehouse because the backend of it was on stilts and it overlooked a lush forest. It was stunning.
We were spoiled by our stay at Cockatoo Hill because we were the only guests there at the time. Breakfast was served in the main area of the retreat at whatever time we wanted. Carmen would make us a strong Bodum of coffee and then we were feast on croissants, toast and jams that she made herself, along with gorgeous fruit salad and yogurt. The Daintree is a unique part of the world and thanks to this, they can grow some pretty spectacular tropical fruits here. Pictured below is a Mangosteen that we got to try. It was delicious. I wish I had more.
One of the best parts about staying at Cockatoo Hill was the Cassowaries. I blogged about them before so I won’t say a ton here but let me tell you 1) they are spectacular birds and 2) I miss them. Carmen had given us the heads up that they may see them, specifically a male dubbed Coco and his three chicks. She said that they had walked through her property the morning that we had arrived so they may be back the next morning. We were told to never get in between Coco and his chicks and to stay a safe distance from them. She said that she had a bell that she would ring in the morning if she saw them before breakfast so that we could get up to see them. I was excited. When we went to bed that night, I laid out some clothes to have them ready should the occassion occur and sure enough, around 8am, the bell rang. “The bell! The bell!” I frantically yelled at Josh. I stepped outside our treehouse, camera in hand. Looked to my left and this is what I saw with Carmen a short distance behind them. My breath was taken away, literally. I never want to forget the feeling of seeing this majestic six foot tall bird for the first time.
We saw Coco and his brood every day that we stayed at Cockatoo Hill, sometimes multiple times in a day and I feel so lucky for it. Carmen told us that some guests come and never see a single Cassowary. On our last day there, we were reluctantly organising our things when I heard some noises outside. I looked down and sure enough, there they were walking under our treehouse.
After breakfast everyday we would head out to explore the area and we would then return around 4pm each day. Then we would sit by the pool to read a little before getting ready for dinner (or before staying in for the night). We would sit outside until the sunset in the quiet of the forest. The only sounds were the birds. The Daintree is a small place with a limited number of restaurants and accommodations. They don’t even have electricity here so everyone relies on solar and generators for that. As a result, it’s very quiet (and dark at night!).
Click below (on the left side of the black box) below to hear how it sounded from our treehouse.
In the mornings I woke up with the sun. Our bed faced directly East and that beautiful sun would gently nudge me awake. Beyond the trees, you can see the Coral Sea and beyond that, the mysterious Great Barrier Reef. But in between here and there, a magical world of creatures that you could hear but could not see.
At night I would lie awake in the pitch black listening to small footsteps beneath the treehouse dreaming up just who they may belong to. A tree kangaroo? Wild pigs? Coco and the little ones?
In the mornings I would make us coffee and we would sit on the deck to drink it. We would read and write and talk and make a plan for the day. (Did I mention that there was no internet? The best.) I loved every second that we spent here. When I am having a bad day, I think back to those quiet moment in our treehouse in the middle of the rainforest and I feel more at peace. I feel so lucky that we were able to discover such a special place on this beautiful earth.
Next up: what we actually did while in the Daintree.
Hint: it included good food and snorkelling with sea turtles.