This is my last week in Port Douglas, Queensland. Regular readers will know we are British expats and have been living in paradise here for almost six years. They will also know that it hasn’t always been paradise for me. I suffered badly with culture shock and found it hard to adjust. But goodbye Port Douglas, hello new adventure, we’re off to travel for a year or three. Here’s my top ten things that have brought me joy during our time in Port Douglas.
Our Life in Port Douglas, Ten Things I’ll Miss.
1. My Car. I’m not the sort of girl who gets all misty over little red sports cars. They do nothing for me whatsoever. Our dirty great four-wheel drive has been a joy to own. Not because it’s a lovely, comfortable, safe drive with enough room in the back for a baby elephant and the camping gear. More because it’s opened up the country for us and allowed us to see some incredible places that your average tourist would miss.
The drive up to Cooktown from Port Douglas, along the coast on the dirt track, is absolutely breathtaking. You drive through the ancient Daintree rain-forest, catching glimpses of deserted coral fringed beaches. You see incredible bird life, sometimes even cassowaries. We managed to get to the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival in the truck, you just couldn’t get there in a normal car. I’ve always felt safe driving my truck, safe from crazy drivers, dangerous roads and occasional floods. I’ll miss you truck!
2. The Coral Sea. I love mucking about in boats, taking a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef or Low Isles to snorkel or scuba dive is possibly the best way to spend a day here. Unfortunately we haven’t done it more that half a dozen times, it’s too expensive for a family. We get a local discount and occasional freebies, but it’s not something any Port Douglas resident does often. Unless, of course, they stump up the cash to buy their own boat. We considered buying one and decided that taking regular trips was less expensive and less of a nuisance than boat ownership.
3. Dawn Walks on Four Mile Beach. Again, not something I do regularly, I put the kids first and don’t feel I can sneak off and leave them to their dad too often. But when I do escape for a dawn walk, it’s perfect. We’re lucky to have a beach that faces the rising sun. I’m looking forward to a few sunsets for a change as we travel.
4. Prawns and Wine. I used to be allergic to prawns in the UK but I can eat Australian prawns, it’s true! It’s to do with pesticides and other nasties that find their way into the Asian crustaceans we eat back home. I’ve really enjoyed munching prawns at the Marina while the kids throw their shells to the waiting fish. We have a trawler here in Port Douglas that sells it’s catch from the jetty, they’re the best. Prawns without wine is just wrong.
I’m going to be very careful about prawns on our travels, I don’t need my head swelling up again.
5. The Scenery. It’s so pretty, the mountains, the rain-forest and the Coral Sea, Port Douglas has it all.
6.The Wildlife. Frogs, snakes, starfish, turtles, crocodiles, lorikeets, sharks, giant gropers and cockatoos, I’ll miss them all. But not spiders, they’re evil, and not stingers, they’re too much of a danger to my children. It has been an absolute joy being surrounded by so many incredible creatures, but I still hanker after squirrels, foxes and hedgehogs in the back garden sometimes.
7. Luxury Resort Hotels and Million Dollar Boats. We’ve had our share of luxury here, all free, perks of my husband’s Exec Chef job or benefits of knowing the right people. We’ve experienced a lifestyle that we can’t afford and don’t aspire to. I’m actually happier in a guest house with a backpack than in a fancy five-star, but it’s been a lovely glimpse into another world. I really hope the boys don’t think all hotels are like ” Dad’s work” or they’ll be in for a rude awakening.
8.Cairns Homeschool Group. Lovely, genuine people. Great, vibrant kids, we’ve had some fun and educational times in amazing tropical surroundings. I’ll miss our swims at Crystal Cascades or Cairns Lagoon.
9. Rusty’s Market, Cairns. I realised recently that the boys and I have had some of our best times wandering around Rusty’s, sampling the fruit, eating the “street food” on offer. It made me even more certain that travelling Asia would be a winner. This is how we like to be, it is what we enjoy. When I asked Boo, 6, what he was most looking forward to as we travelled, he said “Squid balls”. It’s what he always has at Rusty’s.
10. My House and Garden. At the moment it feels like a prison, a big, white prison that I spend my life cleaning. I’m sure a point will come when I miss it. I remember how excited I was when we first bought it, my first ever double garage with one of those automatic door opener thingums, our own pool, two bathrooms. Will I really be happier with just a backpack to my name? I hope so, but if not, it’s still here waiting for us. It’s good to have options, I’m a lucky girl.
UPDATE: It’s now 5 years since we left Port Douglas and Australia. We haven’t once been back. Of all the places we’ve visited around the globe one country stood out to us, Romania. We now spend most of our time half way up a mountain surrounded by farmers, shepherds and happy expats and truly love live in the village. We’ve also spent a lot of time living in Vietnam and, of course, London. We love both. But for now Romania wins. I still miss my great big truck.