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Friday, June 8, 2012

June 7, 2012 - Port Douglas, Reuniting with Some Sydney Friends

A cruise ship had arrived at Port Douglas while we were sojourning at Thala, pouring a throng of visitors into the small town. The wharf had suddenly sprouted scores of vendors along the main passage through which we had to "pardon me" and "excuse me" on the back way to Destiny. By the way, we had checked dive prices from here going out to the Reef but decided for several reasons not to book: they pack the dive boats to overflowing, the boats all seem to converge on the same reefs (making it very crowded), and the prices are unbelievable for a 2-tank dive under these conditions. Being ferried out to the reef like cattle where, we have been informed by those who have gone before us, visibility is cloudy at best had lost its appeal to us. To book a smaller more private dive was so far outside of what we were willing to pay we realized we are better off on our own. You really cannot imagine this unless you come here to witness the mass of humanity that pours in and out of Cairns and Port Douglas alone just to see the Great Barrier Reef. The actual reef system is hundreds of miles long and comprised of hundreds of reefs, however many of them are not visited by the big dive operators. Another reason we didn't do it is that going to Thala had carved out precious cruising time from our schedule to get up the coast over the top of Cape York. We would be going out to the Reef on Destiny anyway.

We spent the day running around town procuring food and supplies to last us through the end of the month. This is the last town along this coast for us. Stepping into Mocka's, we placed our order for pies and croissants to be frozen for us to pick up very early Friday morning. We hope we thought of everything. I'm a little out of "provisioning" practice because we haven't cruised away form civilization in a long while. Leaving here will be quite like that. Although we are still in Australia this is like the last stop on the way to no-man's-land for us.

Back at the marina weaving our way through all the people back to Destiny I set to storing our goods, while Frank cleaned up outside. We had visitors arriving this afternoon. Colin and Scott (s/v Shazaam) from Sydney are holidaying nearby in their caravan (what we call a motor home or RV), and are joining us for happy hour on Destiny and then dinner at the Club. They arrived wearing big smiles and bearing a chilled bottle of very good champagne, which they presented to me for my birthday. I was indeed honored! When champagne glasses were called for, they were crestfallen when I didn't partake. They had forgotten that I had quit drinking several years ago. I assured them that I was very impressed and hugely grateful for their generous gift, then reminded them that this left much more of the precious nectar for them to enjoy. Not to be put off, Frank presented his glass insisting that he would take care of my share with pleasure. What a thoughtful man I married. I joined them by filling my champagne glass with sparkling water as we enjoyed a happy reunion. These two rate high among my favorite Aussies. After we munched on a few appetizers and covered all the goss, we walked over to the RSL Club for dinner. The place was packed to the gills and after we ordered a righteous feast Frank and I understood why the large crowd. The food was outstanding. We seriously stuffed ourselves on the platters of food Frank and Colin ordered for us all to share, and then moaning over our full stomachs we declared that a walk through town was in order to get the digestive systems churning.

As we walked the main drag, approaching a somewhat hidden walkway between two buildings, Colin asked if we had had a chance to dine at Nautilus. We had not and asked him what it was about. He stopped and pointed to the obscure pathway marked by a sign on a small marquis. He and Scott explained that Nautilus is not only the finest restaurant on the coast, it is by far the most beautiful and that dining here is a unique experience. Scott said we must at least have a look. We were intrigued to say the least as we followed them up a beautifully landscaped and steep cinder pathway. Just the walk up was an interesting and scenic little trek. When we arrived at the top we felt we'd stepped into a tropical jungle. My goodness! Whoever built this place put a masterpiece together. There is no ceiling as I think the dining areas are completely out of doors, yet Scott and Colin pointed to upward to call our attention to the retractable roof that was so well disguised we would not have seen it. They remarked that we might have dined here but we would more than likely have been unable to get a table at such a late date. As we stood gaping about we decided to ask if we could arrange to have dessert. The hostess indicated that the restaurant was full to capacity and seemed amused at our request, nonetheless she arranged a 4-person table in what appeared to be a lounge area.

What a lovely, romantic, elegant place to end this delightful evening. Colin said that Nautilus always features a soufflé special which he and Frank both ordered (mango), I chose the pear tarte tatin, while Scott opted for the wonderful chocolaty something. It was heaven. I can't imagine how wonderful dinner must be! We have certainly enjoyed the dining in this part of Australia - these Queenslanders know their way around food. The evening eventually came to a close and we all hugged goodbye hoping this is not for the last time.

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