As we pushed up through the Pacific Highway towards our next destination we tried to set our expectations. So far we hadn't had the honeymoon experience that we would have wanted to treat ourselves to. We have had an amazing experience and adventure thus far, exploring Sydney, barely surviving Newcastle, connecting with locals in Port Mcquarie, but we hadn't yet been able to sit in luxury and take relaxing time to ourselves.
Byron Bay was our next stop, where we had 2 nights booked at The Byron at Byron Bay. En route we made a short stop for lunch in a small fishing town called Yamba which was recommended for its prawns and other local seafood. Stopping in Yamba, I enjoyed a freshly fried fish and chips lunch, while Hannah attempted to gracefully eat a full crab and prawns. The battle between Hannah and crab was a tightly fought one, but in the end Hannah proved victorious, and the crab was decimated. The town of Yamba was not much more than the fish and chips shop that we stopped at, so we quickly hit the road again, bound for Byron.
We had heard through the grapevine of a small town located deep in the hills about an hour from Byron Bay called Nimbin. Not many people we talked to had ever heard of this small village, but the few we had spoken to about it referred to it as Australia's "Greenest Town", and that it was. The windy roads through small towns, hills, cow fields, and farms took us to the village of Nimbin. Not much more than a couple of streets, backpacker hotels, and a few shops, Nimbin was like a Haight Ashbury which time forgot. Hippies who obviously got stuck in this town in the 70s and never found a way to escape or a need to leave strolled the streets of the town, while a few tourists gazed in the shop windows, undoubtedly not shopping for what they appeared to be. Nimbin was a great side excursion, and a place worth seeing. We ended up in a casual game of pool with a couple from a nearby town who comes to Nimbin once in a while to score, their words, not mine.
When we left Nimbin it was beginning to get dark so we drove as quickly as possible the remaining hour to Byron Bay. Our expectations, having been set pretty low by the last few towns' accommodation were not very high for The Byron which I had booked months ago. We have learned, if nothing else, from this trip, that using the internet, Expedia, Trip Advisor, The Lonely Planet, to book hotels and resorts in another country can be hit or miss. We really need to teach the world how to use Yelp more efficiently.
We had some difficulty finding The Byron. Hannah ran into a small motel to ask the receptionist where it was, and the receptionist's response was "spending loads of money are you?". This renewed Hannah's hope that we may actually find our first true honeymoon spot. How right she was. The Byron at Byron Bay was nothing short of exquisite. It was what we could only describe as an oasis amongst mediocrity. From the moment we walked into the lobby which was a beautiful open air atrium which large fans circling overhead, modern dark wood furniture, and elegant staff we knew we had arrived. We were escorted to our suite, which had been complimentarily upgraded in a golf cart and were simply blown away. The suite was beautiful, there was champagne in the room especially for the honeymooners, it was perfect and just what we had been waiting for. The Byron's property is nestled in a small tropical rain forest on the Pacific coast. Our room was a 5 minute walk to the beach and the entire property was linked by a beautiful boardwalk that curved through the lush rain forest. At one point Hannah and I both had the same thought that the noises being made by the birds were being broadcasted by some PA system, that's how surreal the surroundings felt.
We quickly showered and dressed and went to the restaurant for dinner. The restaurant, much like the lobby was beautiful in the open air. Our romantic table had a beautiful view of the rain forest which stretched in front of us. As we sat down and started to realize that our honeymoon experience had finally begun we were approached by The Byron's owner or manager who simply came over to greet us, congratulate us, and ask our waiter Chris (who we came to refer to as our dream waiter for the rest of the honeymoon) to bring us a couple of glasses of champagne. The greeting was short, sweet, and as classy as The Byron itself. As Chris went to tend to his waiterly duties Hannah and I had a brief chat about how we were honored to be offered the congratulatory drink, but how were were sick of champagne and wished we could ask for something else, but not wanting to kick a gift horse in the mouth, we decided to take the bubbly and smile. This is where we realized we had arrived Eden, as when our waiter returned he looked at us and said "if I were you guys I wouldn't want champagne, I would want a glass of wine or a drink, can I get you that instead". We were floored, and we realized that not only was Chris a fantastic waiter, but he was also a mind reader.
The food at The Byron was exquisite, flawless, not once did we question anything being put in front of us. This reaction continued for 2 days. We spent the next day in the confines of the resort, only leaving the grounds to briefly visit the beach where we braved the desolate stretch of The Pacific where we were the only ones for what appeared to be miles. We spent the next 2 days living in luxury at The Byron, and sad as we were to leave, we had other adventures planned, we could only hope they would be as romantic and beautiful as The Byron.
The next morning we packed up the car, and had a delicious breakfast, avocado, tomato, and mushrooms with poached eggs on a crostini for me and oatmeal baked with bananas and strawberry for the wife. We were then off to Brisbane Airport to catch our flight to Cairns.
When we got the airport we paid the overage charges for Hannah's suitcase, didn't see that coming, and boarded for our short flight.
Cairns is a hub of tourist activity as those wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef and nearby rain forests all seem to stay in this town. We had been advised to skip Cairns altogether and stay in nearby Port Douglas instead. We had booked The Thala Beach Resort just outside of Port Douglas. A few days prior we had booked on the phone and the person we spoke to really sold us on the resort. We definitely weren't at a place as exquisite as The Byron, but it served its purpose. We were upgraded to the most secluded bungalow on the property, which had a very nice view of the beach directly off our balcony. The Thala bar and lodge area had a few redeeming qualities, one of which was a chess board. Hannah and I had great time hanging out, relaxing with a few beers and playing chess. When we were getting too intoxicated to contemplate our next moves it was time for dinner. Dinner that night at the resort should have been skipped altogether. It doesn't matter how much salt or olive oil you use, it doesn't make food taste any better. I will refrain from negativity , but I will tell you that the food at Thala was disappointing.
The next morning we were up at 7am for our 815am pickup for our tour of the Daintree rain forest. The Daintree rain forest, Mossman River, and Mossman Gorge are highly recommended tropical destinations very close to Port Douglas and we were very excited to experience them, not knowing what to expect. Since we had arrived Cairns and Port Douglas there had been torrential rain constantly, this is a tropical part of Australia and we could have expected this may happen. The rain only added to the adventure of our rain forest experience. We curved through steep inclines through the forest with our tour guides Ben and Karen at the helm of our massive 4x4 truck. We would pass underneath waterfalls, and through streams of water which were passing over the road which we were driving. As we curved through the forest we realized that the rain was starting to make some of the roads unpassable. When we passed over a bridge where the river was about 6 feet below the level of the bridge our guides seemed concerned, when we returned an hour later and passed over the same bridge, the water had risen the 6 feet to the level of the bridge, making it dangerously close to being unable to pass.
One particular area of road was completely washed out by a rapidly flowing river. A few tour groups which had crossed the road a few hours ago were stranded on the other side, unable to return. There was concern they would have to stay the night on the other side of the ride. We later learned that a rescue operation had been successful and they were retrieved. Luckily our guides had the forethought to not risk our passing of the road.
During our rain forest excursion we stopped twice at the Daintree ice cream company, a local shop buried in a tropical fruit orchard. Their specialty is home made ice cream made with the fresh tropical fruits that they grow in their orchard. They also sold Hannah's single most favorite snack, dried mangoes. She had run out of dried mangoes earlier in the honeymoon, and has tried frantically in every shop we have run across to find the coveted dried fruit. As if by fate, the Daintree ice cream company had both of Hannah's pleasures, home made tropical ice cream, and dried mangoes. As if by true irony, I forgot the wallet today. We sat and watched with watery eyes as the rest of our tour partook.
That evening we took a bus into the actual town of Port Douglas. We were excited for our upcoming trip the next day to Lizard Island which was planned as the culminating portion of the honeymoon. The town of Port Douglas was a welcome mix of quaint and some great bars and restaurants. At the restaurant called 2 Fish we decided to over do our intake of fried fish and order the feast for two. This was not necessary, and made us both feel very bad about ourselves after eating it.
See you tomorrow....in Lizard Island, somewhere in the Pacific.