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Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 4,5,6,2011 - Thala Beach Lodge

Monday morning greeted us with sunny skies, dozens of stomping feet along the dock, the sound of rumbling helicopter and motor-cat engines and PA systems barking itineraries and safety procedures. Port Douglas was alive and ready for business. Destiny rocked in her berth as the big boats scuttled out toward the Reef, filled to capacity. We were on the commercial wharf. This is when I noticed the monohulls were on the "other pier". Just maybe this is why we got stuck coming into this one. No matter now, we were in. The transport van wouldn't be picking us up until 1:00, giving us plenty of time to walk around town after getting Destiny set up to sit unattended for a few days. Frank remembered that Andy and Melissa had lauded Mocka's Pies in Port Douglas for being the best they had eaten in Australia. Pie to an American generally indicates dessert. A pie to an Aussie is a meal. We've tasted meat pies in many places and generally gave them a pass, but Andy and Mel are not often off the mark so we stopped at Mocka's for lunch. I ordered a mini Original and a Spanokopita (spinach pie). Frank held back, still not convinced this is something he would enjoy settling for a strawberry custard tart. The crust on my pies was as good as any French pastry and the fillings were simply the best flavor combinations. Tasting mine, Frank soon returned to the counter to order his own. We were hooked! Thank you again, Andy and Mel! We asked the clerk if they would prepare some frozen pies for us to take on passage. Of course the response was a cheery, "No worries, Mate!"

Departure time arrived quickly, and fortunately we arrived 10 minutes early for the van. As soon as we boarded he closed the doors and sped off as I was still struggling along with my suitcase. He made a few more stops and by 1:00 we were well out of town heading toward our three-day getaway in paradise. On arrival we were immediately swept away as though we were the most important people on the face of the planet. Our personal hostess gave us a quick tour of the Lodge pointing out the dining, lounging, and bar areas and as she led us past the art gallery, gift shop, pools and lobby she directed our attention to the events board that displayed all of the activities for the week. She explained that their mission was to make our stay as pleasant as possible and that we were not to lift a finger unless we wished to do so. After our short welcome tour she then deposited us onto a large veranda area high above the trees with a sweeping view of the ocean and the resort's sprawling property below. Soon a waiter arrived handing each of us a freshly made tropical fruit drink and urged us to have a short rest until we were summoned by the staff member who would accompany us to our cabin. We relaxed into our seats and let the beauty and serenity wash over us, feeling no need for words.

A short while later our peaceful interlude was disrupted by a gentleman clearing his throat then quietly speaking our names. We both jolted a bit and then gathered ourselves for the short trip to our cabin where our bags awaited. We literally dumped our stuff and set off for a bit of exploring along the 145 acre estate. First was a trek down to the secluded beach.

Thala beach
We walked its entire length, oohing and aweing and then splashed along the water's edge where Frank took a dip but I found it a bit chilly, so I just skipped around in the shallows. What a gem they have here! Next we walked a good bit of the property noting how well hidden each cabin is among the canopy of rainforest. The owners certainly paid great respect to nature when constructing this amazing resort.

At 6 PM we attended a cultural presentation from two elders of the Kuku Yalanji tribe. We learned more from them in 45 minutes than from any other experience we'd had on Aboriginals, their customs, mystical beliefs, diets, history and handiwork. We learned of how they survived in the bush/rainforest and upon what trees, plants, rocks, fruits and animals. They use everything in nature to some degree in ways we would never have dreamed. One gentleman explained the didgeridoo's history and uses. He played for us and this time I felt a great appreciation for the specific sounds and notes that came from this amazing instrument, as never before. We came away from this demonstration with a renewed sense of respect and appreciation of these Aboriginals, their history and culture.

Dinner was nothing short of a culinary spiritual experience. I wish I had taken a copy of the resort's menu so that I could describe the meal parings. To say that I had crispy-skin salmon and Frank eye fillet steak (which we did have) is almost insulting to the chef. Whatever he or she does with food here is pure magic. I could go on and on and on but will leave it at "5-star+". After dinner we were to attend the stargazing at the resort's onsite observatory but those nasty clouds from down south had made their way here and completely obliterated the night sky, so the event was canceled. We opted for hanging out in our cozy cabin - Frank on the porch, feet propped up with his cleansing-ale in his hand while I headed for a great big aromatherapy bubble bath.

Tuesday: today is my birthday, goodness alive I'm 55! Frank presented me a big red hat (a gift on top of this amazing gift!) and promised that today was my day. Although a bit dreary, we donned swimsuits under our clothes anyway hoping we could mentally dissipate the clouds. We enjoyed a truly scrumptious late breakfast. Frank went to heaven on blueberry pancakes while I hovered around the massive honeycomb that drizzled fresh honey onto my awaiting croissant. This will be a difficult place to leave. After breakfast I dragged my laptop out, Frank his iPad, and we attempted to get connected to the outside world. Although wi-fi is free here in the lodge area it is not available anywhere else on the property, so of course anyone who wants to get a signal is assembled in this little area, causing a very slow connection.

We had no cell phone reception, which was fine by us because our intention was to get away for a few days, but both my brother and brother-in-law were also celebrating birthdays and I didn't want to miss giving a shout out at least. We managed to get a few messages out but finally gave up after watching the little icon just spin, connect and then spin finally deciding we could live without internet as well. Trotting our electronics back to the cabin, we wandered the property stopping by the pool and beach during times of intermittent sunlight.

 Trails meandered through the resort leading us up to high vantage points where we would just stand in awe, looking down at the beautiful waters of the Coral Sea on one side, and then on the bush trails we were taken up to the canopy above the cabins where we could see miles of rainforest. We never tired of just gazing out at these magnificent vistas. At 3:00 Herbie's Shack was open for drinks and snacks down on the beach. Frank grabbed a beer, sauntered over to a nearby hammock and plopped right down like he belonged there for eternity, a silly grin plastering his face. I carried my book to a picnic table and read while I sipped my dry ginger ale (wish they had these in America). Life couldn't get much better than this, could it? Yes, it could - dinner was yet to come. We had fallen victim to Thala's chef and couldn't wait until each and every mealtime. For my birthday dinner, Frank had the local fish (Emperor) and I feasted on rack of lamb, followed by an amazing presentation of birthday dessert that of course included chocolate and ice cream and it was some kind of special.

Wednesday was beautiful again, and after enjoying a splendid breakfast we gathered for the guided bushwalk/nature hike that took us through a large part of the resort. Our guide has been with Thala since before its inception when it was a working farm. Part of it is still a coconut farm. We saw some massive spiders, and monitor lizards as well as many species of birds, butterflies and flora. We enjoyed it immensely, and learned quite a lot about the local habitat in this special area of Northern Queensland.

Afterward, we lunched by one of the waterfalls at the rock pool and did nothing else for the entire day. Except dinner!

Thursday, we lingered over breakfast, much in denial about having to leave this secluded paradise. All too soon our 10:00 shuttle arrived to take us back to the real world. We both agreed we would return here in a heartbeat.

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