Tokyo: Senses Working Overtime!

A week doing next to nothing in Fiji turned out to be the perfect preparation for what was to follow: ten days in Tokyo! The contrast could not have been any greater. On arriving at Narita Airport in Tokyo we braced ourselves for our first challenge, the Tokyo transit network.


However, with typical Japanese organisation and efficiency we followed the coloured line painted on the floor that took us from the Airport to the Rail Station and with a little help from a guard found the fastest route into the city without too much difficulty. On buying our tickets we had our first experience of Japanese rail precision. We asked when the next train to the city centre was due: “in four minutes from Platform 1…a two minute walk” came the reply indicating that if we walked with purpose and without deviation or hesitation we would arrive at the platform with two minutes to spare. As long-suffering users of what can loosely be called the British Rail system, we aren’t used to an unquestioned confidence in a train timetable let alone any expectation of trains either arriving on time, or even existing. No such worries in Japan. Over the course of our time in Tokyo (and beyond) not a single train, of the dozens we have taken, were a minute late departing or arriving. Apparently the arrival of a train more than a minute late is treated as a customer care disaster with profuse apologies issued, including a pre-printed note to hand to your employer explaining your late arrival for work.

One of the consequences of a superb (and extremely fast) rail service is that we were able to combine sight-seeing in this astonishing city, with day trips far out into the countryside. This ability to balance extreme urban with relaxing rural makes Tokyo one of the finest places we have visited on our travels.

This contrast was exemplified within the city on our first venture out when we mixed the urban jungle of Shibuya and Harajuku, with the quiet and reflective atmosphere of the Shinto shrine and gardens of Meiji Jingu.

Shibuya is famed for its neon and its diagonal crossroads over which thousands can walk when the pedestrian lights turn green. It’s a mix of Times Square and Oxford Circus – on steroids.

Shibuya Crossing

Having negotiated it safely and promising ourselves a night time return, we headed for Meiji Jingu which abruptly offers a sedate and green environment in stark contrast to its noisy neighbours.

Torii Gates

A long sweeping, gravelly avenue takes you through huge Torii Gates, past a colourful display of Sake barrels that are donated every year to enable Sake offerings to be made to the deities enshrined at Meiji Jingu.

Barrels of Fun

There are gardens galore where you can take diversions deeper into the park, sneaking further away from the crowds. We headed to the main shrine areas where we found people writing wishes on small pieces of wood and hanging them up in the hope that their wishes will be realised by the Shinto gods. It did cross our minds that we should lodge a request for the mighty Albion to stay in the Premier League next season, but decided this was neither appropriate or feasible, even for the great Shinto Gods unless one of them was prepared to sign on as a centre-forward.


The shrine itself is a really impressive concourse and building where we enjoyed the unexpected bonus of seeing a wedding procession move slowly past led by a priest wearing the most extraordinary clogs.


As if to emphasise the two sides of Japan – ancient and modern – we then made the very short trip across the railway line to Harajuku, the epicentre of Tokyo’s alternative fashion culture, and came across another remarkable statement in footwear..and indeed everything else wear.


Singing/wailing away happily she was the perfect welcome to the crazy area of Takeshita Street: you go for retail therapy….. and leave needing a lie down. However, you can get some pet therapy by popping into a Shiba petting store where you can stroke these gorgeous Japanese canine icons – so cute and dainty that you really want to smuggle one out in your shopping.


Trains, trains, trains

Our first day trip out of the city was into the countryside, temples and shrines of Nikko – a favourite jaunt into the mountains north of Tokyo, made so accessible by the Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) that whizz you to and from destinations in speed, style and comfort.


We aren’t train geeks by any stretch of the imagination, but we couldn’t help but get excited watching different Bullet Trains pull up at Ueno Station …they just look so good!




and even Hello Kitty trains!



Nikko hosts the Shinkyo Bridge which acts as a gateway to the parks and shrines. On its own it looks beautiful – but although you can walk over it, it doesn’t actually take you anywhere and it’s rather spoilt by the road and heavy traffic that runs alongside it. Getting a good shot of the bridge takes some rather careful photography and cropping!

Shinkyo Bridge

There are a series of lovely shrines at Nikko that include ornate carvings that leap out at you with their intricacy and colourful design, including three famous monkeys…


and dramatic dragons..


However, it may be that we’ve become slightly jaded and “templed-out” because the area we enjoyed most at Nikko was away from the temples up at Kanmangafuchi Abyss. Here a long line of Bhudda’s decorated with red hats and bibs line a relaxing walk along the gorge.


There is a tradition that you count the Bhudda’s on the way up and on the way back, and you will always be one out due to the so-called “ghost Bhudda”. We tried this – well, Sam did it as I get too easily distracted, and sure enough there was one more on the way back than out.


It’s a very restful walk, especially after Tokyo, and even the crowds at Nikko’s temples!

Gorge at Kanmangafuchi Abyss

On returning to the station we found another masterpiece of train design sitting on the platform. Unfortunately this wasn’t the train taking us home, but it was such a pleasure to look at…isn’t it wonderful to see high quality design and public transport combined.


Just behind the driver’s cabin is the plushest and most high class viewing lounge we’ve ever seen on a train, talk about luxury train travel…



Parkrun in Tokyo has been going for an even shorter time than our new running habit, so it felt extra special to find out where in Tokyo it takes place and work out how to get there. As it’s an 8.00 am start in Tokyo and we had a 30 minute train journey across the city it was quite an early start for us, but it was worth it not only to add Tokyo to our list of parkruns but the locals are incredibly fun and friendly, asking about our travels and what we thought of Japan.

Maybe the Two-Fingered Salute means something else in Tokyo!

Despite being tired, hot and sweaty we made a detour on the way home. I’m a big fan of the film The Third Man and had read that at one of the metro stations the famous film tune is played when trains leave the platform. Sure enough Ebisu Stations’ chosen music – known as Eki-melody – delivers, although it sounds as though its being played on a steel drum rather than a zither: sacrilege!


Senso-Ji and Asakusa

In theory Senso-Ji is a old and venerated shrine that attract tourists and worshippers alike to its site in the bustling neighbourhood of Asakusa. While all of that is true it does get slightly overwhelmed by the fantastically busy and colourful markets that surround it, making it another ideal spot to visit, people watch and immerse yourself in Tokyo lifestyle.

Senso-Ji Shrine in the distance

Many young women and men wear kimono’s in this neighbourhood, adding to the evocative atmosphere…although you won’t find authentic Geisha girls here.

Kimono Kool

…along with weird and wonderful food stalls that sold all sorts of treats that we weren’t tempted to try!

Fish on a Stick Stall

..but eventually hunger got the better of us and we did stop for lunch at a restaurant and enjoyed our first proper sushi since arriving. We plumped for some delicious raw mackerel and spent the next 30 minutes reacquainting ourselves with the art and etiquette of eating with chopsticks.

Holy Mackerel Batman!

To round off our visit to this wonderful neighbourhood a very polite demonstration wandered by that loudly announced the marchers love of dolphins and whales. There were no leaflets distributed or petitions to sign, so we couldn’t be sure if this was about conservation or admiration. Whichever, it was typically good natured, enthusiastic and honourable which seems to be a Japanese hallmark.

Love Protesters

Mount Fuji

Our second day trip out of the city is an absolute must: Mount Fuji. Once again the rail system delivered us to our destination with effortless efficiency. Given that we were officially in rainy season, and its great height, we had been warned that we might not see much of this Japanese icon. On arrival we feared that the brief glimpses we were getting of the peak, as dramatic as they were cloaked in cloud, might be as good as it got…


Remarkably, however, as the day drew on the cloud lifted and we made our way to Lake Kawaguchi where we were told there were the best views of Fuji. Sure enough we were able to marvel at this magnificent sight.

Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi

With the clouds rolling by, the mountain seemed to be constantly changing character and we even had the bonus of watching a water-skier flashing past on the water with the mountain as a backdrop – what an incomparable setting. There are a few things to do in the Five Lakes area including a pleasant cable car ride and a multitude of museums, but we found wandering around looking at Fuji from different angles couldn’t be beaten by any of the other attractions.

A Busted Flush and a Flustered Bush!

We really need to talk Japanese toilets. First they delight you – is there anything better than plonking yourself down on a heated loo seat? It’s a treat you can routinely look forward to in Japan. But just as you’ve got comfy your eyes stray to the toilet control panel and instructions….and the torment begins. Which button to press, and how to start and more importantly stop the damn thing.

Toilet instructions: this one was relatively straight forward!

During a thoroughly enjoyable guided electric bike ride through Tokyo we stopped for a quick comfort break. Sam suddenly shot out of the toilet looking decidedly “flushed” and very wet! Apparently she had started randomly jabbing at the buttons by the toilet which caused a geyser like jet of water to shoot up between her legs, soaking her clothes. Our honourable Japanese guide discreetly avoided asking why her t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms were now soaking wet and clinging to her.

A few other strange things happened on the bike ride. We came across a group of people dressed in Super Mario gear driving Go-Karts ON THE ROAD ….

The Ultimate Go-Kart Track!

…and at the beautiful gardens surrounding the Imperial Palace we witnessed an enraged security guard wielding a large stick and shouting angrily at a tourist (Chinese we believe) who had the temerity to step beyond the boundary line de-marked by his green and white bollards. It was rather scary and put a bit of a dampener on the picturesque setting.

Simultaneous Equation: Chinese Tourist x Small Angry Man x  Large Stick = Big Trouble

….and we were treated to a display by an origami grand master whose skills seemed to be fading: he was all fingers and thumbs (ho ho).


After hearing we were English, he made Sam an English rose with a few quick moves of his fingers and voila – a perfect rose.


The whiff of weirdness is another one of Tokyo’s attractions. We have to admit that the last thing we expected to find at the top of Tokyo’s very impressive Sky Tower was a Hello Kitty exhibition…


…but you can’t help but enjoy the moment and pose. For some reason Kitty looked extremely angry and sinister in this shot, which given her outfit seemed an odd pose to strike. Normality (that is a relative expression in Tokyo) was restored when Sam sat with the feline wonder…


Everywhere you turn in Tokyo seems to present you with another unexpected and amusing, larger than life sight that leaves you scratching your head and fumbling for your camera….

I Cant Explain #1

The 20k e-bike trip around the city, involved much cycling on the pavement – the norm here – which necessitated a lot of swerving around pedestrians, but it was great fun, especially having the boost an e-bike gives you.

Sam looking good….before the toilet incident

We were the only two on the guided tour, so had the benefit of a guide all to ourselves, taking us off the beaten track to Tokyo’s backstreets and lesser knows areas. It culminated in a great sushi lunch where our guide politely pointed out the correct etiquette of eating Japanese food. Yes, it is ok to slurp and burp your way through the menu!

Under the calm surface of the soup lurked all sorts of fish parts! Yum….

It turned out to be a far better way of seeing the city than by river. Sadly you don’t get to see very much of any interest pootling along the Sumida River – unlike in other major cities, it just doesn’t work in Tokyo. Indeed the most interesting sight is the boat itself which has been designed to look like a bullet train.

Bullet Boat

Neon Nights and Tokyo’s Dark Side

No trip to Tokyo would be complete without the sensory overload that Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara deliver in spades.

Shinjuku Street Shot

Akihabara was our least favourite as we aren’t computer game or comic geeks for whom this neighbourhood must be nirvana. However, the most disturbing aspect of Akihabara are the girls working on the street dressed in schoolgirl outfits ostensibly to entice you into restaurants and cafes for food, music and conversation. However, at best these “maid cafes” are the thin end of the wedge that will see many of these girls finding themselves working in the sex industry. There is an unhealthy interest in dating adolescent girls (known as JK girls) in Japan, and the bizarre infantilisation of young women in cartoon imagery and in reality. It’s all rather grotesque and strengthens the country’s reputation for misogyny. While in Tokyo a news feature reported Japan’s (male naturally) Labour Minister saying high heels for women at work were “necessary and appropriate”. What a shameful thing for anyone to say, let alone a Government Minister.

Shibuya and Shinjuku by night are extraordinary sights, with day-glo colours filling the night sky and your senses.


Our favourite find was Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, a narrow alleyway flanked on both sides by tiny crowded bars and eateries, bursting with life and tourist camera flashes.

Shinjuku Alleyways

We managed to squeeze our way into one of the bars that had maximum seating for eight. Crammed in against a well-stocked bar (which was bigger than the seating area) we spent a very happy hour enjoying a beer and incredibly cosy atmosphere.

Possibly the world’s smallest bar!

Given the lack of space it was very difficult to find an angle to capture the bar properly in a photo, but here is another example of the intimacy of this fantastic little alley.

Tiny Eatery

We returned to Shibuya’s crazy intersection by night to find it even busier, with several hundred people launching themselves across the crossing at the same time. It’s not clear if people actually want to get somewhere when they cross or simply want to experience the sensation of being carried along by and towards a pedestrian swarm! At no point during these night time forays into the bustling hotspots, or indeed anywhere else in Tokyo, did we feel unsafe, intimidated or sense the need to be extra cautious. It feels like a very safe place to be a foreign tourist.

I Can’t Explain #2

Calmer Kamakura

Our final trip to the pretty town of Kamakura ended up being a bit of a wash out as for the first time on the trip we felt the brunt of rainy season. It wasn’t heavy, but instead misty rain that seems to get you wetter than a downpour and gets right into your bones. Armed with brollies we made our way around the cluster of shrines and temples coming across an archery centre by chance…

Kamakura Archer

…and a beautiful Japanese Garden beside a Bhuddist Temple..

Japanese Garden Tranquility

Delightful as the temple buildings are, it was one of the ceilings that really caught our eye with its striking design and colour.

Crazy Dragon Ceiling!

Intriguingly we came across a site that used to provide protection for women escaping abusive husbands at a time when divorce was not possible – a sort of ancient women’s refuge. These grounds were beautiful and it remains a venerated site, with Bhudda providing a serene presence among the flowers.

Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall


Tokyo is everything you hope it will be and so much more. A wonderful mix of old and new that can overwhelm at times but offer respite and reflection at others. We were fortunate to have such a relatively long stay, but felt we had only started to scratch the surface, and as with any great destination it more than satisfies your appetite for adventure and wonder, but leaves you wanting more. Perfect.

Top Travelling Tips

If you plan to spend time travelling in Japan, even if its just Tokyo and its surrounds, its well worth getting a Japan Rail Pass. These give you free travel on the JR network throughout the country, including the incredible Shinkasen (Bullet Train) service. We found them incredibly convenient and good value. They can be bough for one, two or three weeks – but must be purchased before you arrive. So it pays to plan ahead. The pass doesn’t cover all rail networks, of which there are dozens, by the JR network is very comprehensive and we only used other networks a handful of times.

The other must-do is downloading the Train App: Japan Travel by Navitime. An excellent App that helps you journey plan in real time with full confidence on the times quoted. It helped us plan trips in the cities and all over the country with no difficulties.


Next Up: It’s a Japanese Triple Header: Kyoto – Hiroshima – Osaka.


Into The Wilds: Far North Queensland

Danger: FNQ!

When it comes to warnings about the risks of nature, Queensland certainly pulls out the stops! In our previous blog on Maryborough, on the States’ Central Coast, we mentioned the threat of wild dingoes and err…killer cones on Fraser Island.

Of course there are dangers throughout the country with snakes, spiders, sharks and riptides to name but a few. However, Far North Queensland takes danger to another level. In addition to all of the above you have the proliferation of crocodiles for which FNQ is famous; a multitude of unpleasant Marine Stingers; sea-snakes; toe nipping mud-crabs; the astonishing and terrifying Cassowary; wayward Coconuts of ill intent; the venemous Gympie-Gympie Stinging Tree (we aren’t making this up!); and Bob Katter, an equally poisonous populist politician whose views and values have been carbon-dated back to medieval times. These were the ones we came across, and we imagine there are many, many more we remain happily oblivious to.

Palm Cove Beach: A typical local warning sign

Port Douglas and the Daintree Forest

After flying up the coast from Brisbane to Cairns we picked up our umpteenth hire car and drove north towards Port Douglas. Port Douglas is a lovely spot and is very popular with tourists on account of Four Mile Beach, which became our latest running track….

Run Sam Run!

….and a busy town that had a real buzz about it and possibly the most picturesque Chapel in Australia.

St Mary’s Chapel, Port Douglas

More importantly though, Port Douglas is the ideal jumping off point for a trip up into the stunning Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, up in the north easterly corner of the country. The trip to the Daintree Rainforest feels like journeying back to Jurassic Park.

Daintree Rain Forest Canopy

A wonderful set of walkways and a tower take you through a verdant jungle full of palms and ferns. The view over the forest reveals a sea of shades of green

On the floor of the forest

Thanks to my brother Dirk we had become aware of the remarkable but illusive Cassowary, a prehistoric looking bird with striking features but with a fearsome reputation as one of the most dangerous birds in the world. One recently killed a man in Florida slicing through arteries with its fearsome claws. Full size males can stand 2 metres tall and there are warnings about what to do if you meet one and it becomes aggressive – back away slowly and calmly. Unless mating or chick rearing they are solitary creatures searching the jungle floor for fruit.

Be Cassowary!

As a result it was a real mixture of excitement and fear when we saw one appear close by on one of the forest boardwalks. They are bizarre and look as though they’ve been put together with a random set of left over parts from other animals. Although similar to emus and ostriches they are quite unique and despite the striking plumage your eyes are drawn to those huge dagger like claws. Over the next hour we enjoyed a few sightings and fearless Sam showed remarkable calm to record the cassowaries wandering by. They are likely to be more aggressive if they are male and with chicks. Fortunately we seemed to have a close encounter with a smaller female. A meeting with an intimidating full size male was to follow later in our travels.

The Daintree Rainforest spills down onto the coastline and the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, with more beautiful stretches of sand and mysterious mangroves at Cape Tribulation. With the heat, humidity and lush jungle landscape it really did feel as though we were back in South East Asia.

Beach at Cape Tribulation

Of course no trip to FNQ would be complete without seeing crocodiles. There are croc warning signs galore by beaches and rivers but spotting one randomly is quite rare…unless you’ve done something very silly and they’ve spotted you first! For some reason German’s have been fatally disposed to not heeding warnings and all the  signs now include an “Achtung!”

Croc on the banks of the Daintree

Having ridden our luck with the Cassowaries we decided the best way to see crocs wasn’t to goose step into the sea while singing “Deutschland Uber Alles” but jump on a boat tour on the Daintree River where a trusty and experienced guide would hopefully spot a few for us. Sure enough we soon found a few lazing on the river bank.


They are terrifying. Our guide ran through their extraordinary senses when monitoring prey, the speed they accelerate when attacking (35kmph), and of course the bone-crushing pressure they apply with those astonishing jaws and teeth. It’s little wonder they are top of the food chain.

Another excellent local diversion is Mossman Gorge, with more boardwalks, bridges and jungle walks that take you past the fast flowing river and craggy gorge….

Mossman Gorge in full flow

…into the jungle where we stumbled upon another unexpected wildlife sighting: a wild pig snuffling away in the ground.

Wild Pig!

Apparently there are lots of these pigs in the jungle and some make the treacherous swim across the Daintree River to “Pig Island” but many don’t make the short crossing instead providing the crocs with a rather tasty bacon snack.


Cairns saw our seventh and final house / pet sit of our Australian travels, and we went out with a bang looking after a Great Dane called Xena and Rio, a temperamental parrot!

The Great Great Dane Xena

Xena is a gorgeous gentle giant who loved her cuddles and just wanted to laze around in our company. She did enjoy playing in the garden and with a dog that size you need to be quite careful to avoid her flattening you – she isn’t the most graceful dog in the world as this slow-mo of her trying to catch a ball shows

Despite the enormous difference in size, it was Rio who was the most bossy of the two by far. While docile Xena happily dozed away, Rio would squawk loudly demanding  food and attention. Much to Sam’s horror I developed quite a rapport with Rio by having extended conversations with my new feathered friend which mostly involved my blasting out a series of high-pitched whistles. Rio seemed to appreciate my efforts.

The main tourist attraction in Cairns is the Skyway, a series of cable car journeys that take you high into the mountains that tower over Cairns to the village of Karunda.

Going Up!

Here there is a strange mix of authentic aboriginal stores and goods, along with a surprising number of Chinese retailers! From Karunda you can either take the cable car back down or jump on an old vintage railway rattler that takes an hour and a half to trundle down the mountain – obviously we went for this option.


It’s quite an amazing feat of engineering, with the track wending its way down the mountain through countless tunnels that were excavated with the help of a lot of explosives, several bridges, and turns so tight that you could see most of the train up ahead.

Around the Bend

Wongaling Beach

Okay, try saying Wongaling without bursting into The Wombles song – no, we couldn’t either…for three days we intermittently sang the theme tune to a kids programme as we made this our base in the Mission Beach area – a very easy going backpacker kind of place that enjoys a vast stretch of sand, but it’s only the small netted off area you can safely swim in the sea – a real frustration when you see these super beaches.

Swimming Net at Mission Beach – low tide

Inland from Mission Beach is the small town of Tully in which you can find an enormous gum boot – this is rural FNQ after all – and if you feel so inclined (we didn’t) you can go inside it and climb to the top to view the uninspiring town centre. However, we are doing Tully something of a dis-service. Tully sits under what we in the UK would definitely consider mountains, and seeing tidy residential streets with the mountains for a backdrop looked slightly surreal.

Not a bad view out of your window

Better still a short drive from town is Alligator’s Nest a freshwater lake with no nasties to contend with and gorgeous clear water that you could drink without getting any salty aftertaste. Unlike the sea however it had a really cool edge to it, the waters having come down from a high altitude. Despite appearing calm, a strong undercurrent soon took you downstream quickly if you didn’t swim against it.

Tully does have a major claim to fame….and it’s not the giant Gum Boot. A week after our visit it was hosting the White Water Rafting World Championships upstream at Tully Gorge.

Upstream River Tully

We drove higher and higher into the gorge stopping regularly to scramble down the riverside to see the roaring River Tully. We doff our caps to the crazy folks who launch themselves downstream carried along by the swirling torrents through the jagged rocks and boulders.

River Tully Rapids

It took about an hour to get to the Gorge and it was interesting to drive through acre upon acre of agricultural land that comprised of huge fields of either sugar cane or banana plants. You cannot overstate how important the agricultural crops are here and how few people there are.

The Banana Bunch

Mission Beach turned out to be Cassowary central with signs everywhere warning of them in the vicinity. We saw a pair at South Mission beside the road. Having got quite close to them up in Daintree we pulled up, got out of the car and took a good look at them.

You looking at me…?

Unfortunately it was at this point that they also took a good look at us and we saw just how big a male Cassowary is – close to 6ft – muscular and intimidating. We quickly abandoned the “stay calm and back away slowly” advice, instead we both screamed turned on our heels and legged it back to the car locking ourselves in from these angry birds!

Look at the expression on that face!

Magnetic Island
So what is it that attracted us to this beautiful small island? Well it’s a great alternative to Townsville which you leave to get to “Maggie Island”. Small enough to drive around in less than an hour it has great beaches and a series of snorkelling spots.

Everything you need to know about Magnetic Island in one photo…..

We found Horseshoe Bay and spent a couple of idyllic days on the beach carefully positioning ourselves in the shade of palm trees but not directly beneath the flight path of Coconuts that sway high above unsuspecting sunbathers waiting to commit grievous bodily harm, or worse.


We didn’t brave swimming outside of the beach nets despite assurances that the Stinger season was over, and when I went out to sea on a Paddle Board I have to confess that even the remotest chance of jelly fish saw me “engage my core” and maintain perfect balance for an hour’s paddle around the bay – funny what you can achieve with the right motivation!

An upright kinda fellow…

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
The longest stay on this drive was at Airlie Beach which we would use as a base for our travels into the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. After two sun-filled days on Maggie, we hit really poor weather. On our first day at Airlie it rained so much and constantly that it became an “admin day” – a very necessary evil when travelling long term. Emails were dealt with, future accommodation researched and booked, blogs written and published. I even sorted out my consultancy accounts and tax – that’s how much it rained! These are the unglamorous but wholly necessary days that travellers rarely mention but are incredibly important to a successful trip.

With a slight improvement in the weather the next day we explored the coastline at Hydeaway Bay and Dingo Beach, both quiet and picturesque spots where we had next to no one for company.

Wild Hydeaway Bay

On our last trip to Oz, a few years ago, during the horrible return crossing from Rottnest Island to Freo, my nephew John recommended ginger for sea-sickness. We have religiously followed this advice ever since and it’s worked (thanks JC!). So with tummies full of ginger bear sweets we coped admirably with the choppy journey to Whitehaven in the Whitsundays. The crossing was quite rough in parts which saw waves crashing overboard and soaking us.

We can “insta” with the best of  them!

Here you find the archetypal white sands and turquoise sea of the reef. It looks too good to be true, and despite the tourist Insta-frenzy there is more than enough space to explore and escape the posing hordes.

A view from the lookout on Whitehaven

We combined this trip with beach time and snorkelling where we got to see the coral of the Great Barrier Reef for the first time. Normally we get really excited by the incredibly colourful fish when we snorkel, but here it was the coral itself that was mesmerising, looking like it was breathing as it moved in the sea currents. Sadly no pic of this as the Go-Pro was lost several weeks ago (see Adelaide blog for that disaster!). So here is another of Whitehaven Beaches.

Whitehaven Beaches

The next day we boarded the ferry to Hamilton Island, another small isle that acts as a hub for trips to the outer areas of the Reef. Here transport is by golf buggy only and we spent the day traversing the island admiring its wonderful views..

High on Hamilton, looking out to sea

..glorious bird life…


…and finding more reasons not to go into the water:


Airlie Beach Park Run

Our running continues apace… a very pedestrian pace but I’ve taken the bold step of joining a Running Club… I say “Running Club” it’s more of a non-running club: The Derek Zoolander Centre For Kids Who Can’t Run Good. With no restrictions on entry other than a love for all things Zoolander and a complete inability to run, this is the Club for me. Club tradition has it that on seeing a photographer at a parkrun event members should try to “pop a z” at the camera, creating a Z with your hands in homage to our idol. Sounds easy? When you don’t run good having the wherewithal to create alphabet hands shapes is really quite difficult as evidenced by my shocking effort below.


This wasn’t the only mishap of our run as Sam managed to get lost, run up a hill totally unnecessarily and wasted even more energy abusing a parkrun volunteer for not guiding her in the right direction. I regret to say there is no photographic evidence of this incident. It was, however, a lovely setting for a run adjacent to one of the local marina’s.

Abel Point Marina

Our last few days in Australia saw us travelling back up the coast to Cairns, but we did manage a stopover at Alva Beach, a very far flung spot with a huge wind blown sandy bay and spit that had a wild, untamed feel to it. It was such an unexpected find and end to our FNQ road trip, another example of the seemingly endless wonders this country has tucked away if you are lucky enough to stumble on them.

Moonrise during Sunset on Alva Beach

We loved our time in FNQ – it has so much to offer beyond the obvious attraction of the Great Barrier Reef. We plan to return as we want to see more of the Reef. It’s not a place we could live though. To have those gorgeous beaches teasing you, calling you to come in and try the water when you know you can’t – it’s impossible. Just take a look at this sign on the dangers of Marine Stingers: “victim may stop breathing and rapidly lose consciousness” …..”a dreadful feeling of anxiety and ill health”. Thanks, but no thanks!

Fearsome Stingers


Next Up: Our Australia Round Up