This had been a long time coming. The long awaited Xmas holiday. Back to a place we first discovered almost a year ago to the day, thanks to a family recommendation (nod to Pam 😊) whilst exploring the East coast in a camper van.
And as if we hadn't waited long enough, the holiday gods were transpiring to make us wait even longer. The 15.00 Jetstar departure to Cairns, Airbus A320, was being inspected in minute detail by not one, not two, but three engineers. I didn't have a good feeling about this. Having extensive experience of budget airlines, I was expecting to have to disembark, and decamp back to the departure lounge. In the event, despite leaving Sydney a full one and a half hours late, I was glad to be leaving at all.
Pulling away from the terminal to the (in ear) strains of Del Amitri. Yes, that Scottish band from time ago. As I had to explain to my travel companion who had never heard of them. The youth of today. The very song I was listening to (The Ones That You Love Lead You Nowhere) was recorded from a concert I was at, in Leeds, 1997, at the Town & Country club for those that remember it.
Now cruising at altitude, sipping a cold Peroni, looking forward to the relaxing week ahead. Sun, sand, and good books. Or so I thought.
We arrived in the midst of a cyclone warning, and to torrential rain. The 30 minute transfer from Cairns airport, north up Captain Cook highway, past Yorkeys Knob (which always fills me with juvenile giggles, but is actually just one of the beach suburbs on the way north), had me very worried. Were we going to have this for the whole week, and be stuck indoors, under house arrest by the weather?
The eternal optimist within me found a silver lining to that worst case of scenarios. Our hotel was in a great location, with our 3rd floor room overlooking the pool, and BBQ area, ringed by trees, looking like the rain forests of the hinterland. There could be worse places to be holed up, with wine, crisps, and an unlimited supply of books (one of the benefits of travelling with an ereader).
Being English, and from the greatest place on earth, Yorkshire, I had learned at a very young age that a bit (read torrential) of rain wasn't going to hurt me, so out for dinner we ventured. Although it is true we didn't venture far. Then again, nothing is very far in (usually) picture postcard perfect Palm Cove. After about a 29 yard hike we arrived at the welcoming doors of Il Forno pizzeria.
A very cute, little authentic pizzeria, upstairs, with views out across the road, to the ocean. So relaxing, with a bottle of Tin Cottage sauv blanc, listening to the early evening waves crashing against the beach. The pizza was good, but I was just a little bit jealous of the child at the next table devouring a Nutella calzone! But, full, and tired after a long day, it was time to retire for the evening.
After a good nights sleep, benefiting from very rare air conditioning, I tentatively opened my eyes, and my ears, carefully listening. Yeah, I had woken to the strains of rain again. That cyclone remained a risk. That said, we ventured outside, determined not to have the inclement weather govern our holiday.
Over a very good breakfast, with the best coffee I ended up having in Palm Cove, at Jack and Shanan's, I was surprised with an early birthday present. An afternoon massage, and a rain therapy treatment (ironic really, considering the amount of rain we were putting up with outside the spa), at Peppers Beach Club day spa. Relaxing, (as best I could when naked but for a modesty towel), getting gently pummelled and exfoliated whilst listening to dolphins having sex.
A great way to spend the first full day of the holiday, setting the tone for the rest. Lunch, accompanied with Margaritas. Not quite Jimmy Buffet standard, but it was 5 o'clock somewhere, so we didn't need an excuse. The rain was relentless but we were kept company with our good friend Stella from Belgium.
The following day, Xmas Eve, dawned dry, and at 7am we were picked up and on our way to Cairns port, for our 8.30am snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Replicating how we spent Xmas Eve last year, albeit that was further south, in the Whitsunday Islands. The 1 hour and 20 minutes on the boat to the reef was very choppy, and I was thankful that I had earlier taken a sea sickness tablet. Judging by the amount of green faces surrounding me, and the rate that the little white bags were getting filled up by retching ship mates, it turned out to be an inspired decision.
And as expected, the day turned out to be awesome. A ripper, in local parlance. Visiting 3 snorkelling/dive sites, we got to see some amazing coral, and sea life, which included a couple of white tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, and the ever elusive Nemo. Yes, this was my first time actually seeing the little fella, despite having snorkelled these waters on multiple occasions. The clownfish, Nemo's "official" title, is a very small fish, and can only be found swimming amongst the anemones that he calls home. We were fortunate to have been directed there by one of the crew, a marine biologist, who knew exactly where the little chap hung out.
Definitely a Xmas Eve to remember. We were back in Cairns for 4.30pm, and soon on our way back to Palm Cove, for the last dinner and drinks of my 43rd year. And what a year.
Another day, another year older. Some people shy away from birthdays. Not even celebrating them. I'm not sure why. For me, it's time to rejoice that I am lucky enough to have my full health, and people in my life that make me happy. We can't take anything for granted, and shouldn't. In keeping with tradition in recent years, it was down the beach with a beer for the obligatory birthday shot. I hope to still be doing this many years from now. The birthday gods had called rank over the weather gods, and I was blessed with a beautiful, sunny day. Another reason to be happy.
Xmas lunch was done more in the Aussie style, than English. No turkey, but bucket loads (literally) of king prawns. With free flowing fizz, and enough chocolate mousse at the end to drown in, we walked away (well, waddled), very full, and very content. As night closed in, I drew the curtains on another great year.
The remaining days of the holiday were blessed with the kind of weather we had packed for, and expected. Beach, and cold drinks weather. Reminding us what is so special about Palm Cove, and what drew us back here in the first place. Far North Queensland really is a beautiful part of Australia, and the world. My only regret was that we weren't staying longer. But we were soon heading back to Sydney, and to finally celebrate "Xmas day" at home. opening presents, and watching Home Alone. Some traditions are too good to die off.