Thursday, November 10, 2005

Port Douglas & other fiascos

Hi all,
We managed our entire vacation without seeing a single crocodile. I remarked on this to a lady in the airport who replied 'Its when you dont see them that you need to worry' , so frankly im just happy to be home.
We took a flight from Sydney to Cairns (the flight takes 3 hours in the air (probably a lot longer if it decides to stay on the roads)) and then a transfer to Port Douglas which is a further hour up north by road. Port Douglas is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and, truly, it is incredible. The coastal road drive is just an endless view of quiet uninhabited beaches out the right window and dramatic rainforest strewn mountain views out the left. Sadly the journey ended at our hotel.
We had booked in to the Radisson treetops resort & spa. A facility that, the brochure assured us, was a 4.5 star boutique spa retreat. If i had written the brochure the spa would be a 5 star and the attached hotel would be lucky to make the grade as a b&b in Portsmouth. Yes its true that the reception area with its open plan that backs onto the cunningly designed landscaped rainforest in which the rooms nestle imparts a feeling of well being, especially when you spy the cocktail bar off to the left hand side. However, the rooms themselves are devoid of any lasting memory, the carpets in the hallway more stained than a tramps underpants and the staff had the retention span of a goldfish with Alzheimer's. It took over 20 minutes after checking in for our luggage to arrive. "chill out, you're on holiday" i hear you cry and yes we may have been over reacting, but please take note that it was 34 degrees outside and the humidity was a staggering 73%. This meant that from the short unairconditioned walk from the plane to the terminal building our clothing was literally dripping and, upon checking in, we were in desperate need of a freshen up shower and change of clothes. I may be old fashioned but i am never one to greet the porter naked, straight from the shower, after all where would one keep the tip?

Anyway. Port Douglas is a beautiful place. A small town built along a T shape. the top of the T being the road that runs along the harbour but, as it is built on a peninsular, the bottom of the T runs on to what is known as 4 mile beach (draw your own conclusions here). The town is nothing but 'boutique shops' (everything in Australia is either boutique or Gourmet, i kid you not you can get gourmet pizza, pie, fish & chips they are a nation that over uses any word that makes their products sound better than they truly are) 'Gourmet' restaurants and hotels (by hotels i mean pubs, I'm not sure why pubs are called hotels but its likely to be for purposes of tax evasion). But, tourist traps aside, it is a beautiful old colonial style town.

We spent our time lazing by the pool, examining the rhinoceros beetle just outside our room (whose only movement over 8 days was to climb about 4 inches higher up the branch) and walking the mainly deserted 4 miles of beach.
We had a massage in the spa that was lovely, very gentle and not at all like the brutal beating your body takes in a Thailand massage parlour (easy boys im talking wat po temple not pat pong markets). We also spent a day snorkeling on the reef ( we would have spent more time on the reef but the cost was $160 each!). Whilst snorkeling we saw 2 sharks a white tip and a black tip reef sharks. Now i know most of you at this point will be breaking out in cold sweats and probably cant think of anything more horrifying, but i assure you reef sharks are relatively harmless and are quite awesome to chase around brightly coloured corals.
The day before we left, we hired a car and drove up to Cape Tribulation (Captain James Cook named Cape Tribulation, "because here began all our troubles", when his ship ran aground on what is now known as Endeavour reef off the coast in 1770) Its a lovely part of the world filled with unspoilt rainforest and endless sandy beaches. We also took the time to stop in at Mossman Gorge, a series of natural cold water swimming pools in the flow of the Mossman river. We didnt swim this time round but its definately on the cards.
Of course, the journey would not have been complete without some form of disaster. On the fifth day (of an 8 day holiday) i went into Coles (the local supermarket chain) and had my bank card rejected. My first concern was some kind of fraud but then i convinced myself that as id used the card as security on the room at the hotel, some kind of funds block must be in place. We paid for things from another account and then headed back to the hotel to iron things out. After much discussion with reception, barman and manager it transpired that they only hold $10 on the card so we hit the internet to look at the account and so get to the bottom of the mystery. It transpired that had charged us twice for our flights (approx $750). Rather than call us to let us know they had simply emailed us. It was Saturday and of course none of their customer service lines were open so, after leaving several grumpy voicemail messages, we decided to use alterior funds. Now on return to Sydney we contacted They were less than apologetic and among some of the gems that were thrown at us were 'you shouldnt have gone on holiday without enough money' well gee thanks but we had plenty of cash before you stole it, 'why didnt you just use a credit card rather than calling up and whingeing at us?' and 'so when do you go back to the UK' . Needless to say i have written a very cutting email to the manager and expect to recieve sod all in the way of compensation. Still thats life in oz, a fantastically beautiful country miles from any other continetnt, customer service that befits a continent miles away from civilization. Oh well on the plus side i did get to drink a cherry ripe milkshake, and for those of you who have no idea what that is.....well tough you will just have to drag yer ass over here and find out.

Keith & Saara

P.S. did finally get back to us and have given us some free flights for the inconvenience. So a big thank you to them for finally seeing the light!


At 4:16 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

Your post is very descriptive. How some photos once in a while? My favorite line was "more stained than a tramps underpants." Will and I couldn't stop laughing.
Glad your back.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Kelly O said...

It sounds like you have a wonderful trip. I cannot imagine how you felt when the funds ran out so far from home.

It looks like you will getting another vacation out of the deal. Perhaps if I rented out my children I could raise enough money for a trip?

At 11:05 PM, Blogger Keeefer said...

Hi Shannon & Will, I will try and post some photos for you. I do put photos online but they are in a kodak gallery and so viewed by email invite only. I will try to upload some into here though so you get more of a feel. Of course you are welcome to leave your email addy and be sent all my letters home direct to your inbox along with photo links (though this will diminish my blog traffic and make me appear unpopular).

Just for the record, its one of my favourite lines too! Glad you enjoyed it, now try and drop it into conversation!

Good to hear from you too. Luckily it is nearly summer so i dont need to rely upon you to post me woolies any more (lucky hey :) )
When the funds ran out i was totally stunned. Saara & I tend to live by a fairly regulated spending account and as such can mentally account for 95% of anything we spend over a month. To find ourselves totally broke when we both confirmed that their were more than enough funds was a shock. I think because we have both travelled quite extensivley we are more paranoid than most people when it comes to ready cash availability away from home. Still to get back and be told we should have taken more cash just blew both our minds! If you ever rent the kids i reckon we would take them all, Saara is broody as hell right now and renting someone else to prove that the joy of children lies in being able to return them appeals just now. :)

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Shannon said...

What's the going rate for renting out my kids?

At 9:21 PM, Blogger rebekah said...

photos would be cool although what youre writing is pretty photographic :)

man it sounds like a WONDERFUL trip

i want a massage

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Keeefer said...

Thanks for the compliment Reb :)
Your massage is in the post.

Ok i will try to link some photos to this thing and see what happens.


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