It had been a string of excruciatingly cold mornings, those ones where you slide shivering from under the warmth of your quilt, your teeth chattering, as you struggle to pull on the pile of clothes you have stacked next to the bed. All in an effort to make it to the gym and get some endorphins released into that too easily winter-depressed brain of yours.
I’d long passed the ‘I love the cold weather when you’re indoors, snuggling on the couch in front of the heater, drinking red wine and eating hearty comfort food’ stage and I just wanted some real warmth and vitamin D.
Remembering that this would happen mid-Winter, months prior I’d booked in a five day tropical break and when the date finally rolled around, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Arriving with goose-bumps at Sydney airport on a freezing Friday at 5am, we were soon on a flight to Cairns. A coffee, that day’s WHO mag and a small nap later, we were in FN QLD and I was stripping off the layers and pulling on the sunnies and Havianas.
We had hired a shiny red RAV 4 and were soon cruising north. Our destination – the Daintree rainforest.
Problems – I am a REALLY bad traveller. I get car-sick, sea-sick and occasionally, plane-sick. There is a big stretch of windy road from Cairns to Port Douglas (beautiful though, as it follows the coast the whole way) and even though it’s only a 50 minute drive, by the time it had straightened out, I needed to stop. But it was lunch time anyway so we had delicious organic wraps and fresh juices from the tiny Goodies Cafe in Mossman.
Car-sickness abated, we continued on, popping the car on the super cute ferry that crosses that Daintree River. Warning signs for crocodiles were everywhere but we didn’t actually see one for the whole trip. Once on the Northern side of the river was when we realised we were actually in the Daintree. Tall trees, vines and lush, green vegetation surround you on either side of the winding road and it’s entirely shaded, as sunlight struggles to get through the thick canopy.
20 minutes later we arrive at Cockatoo Hill Retreat. The pics on the website, as calming and picturesque as they are, truly do not do this place justice. At the end of a long driveway, the open Balinese inspired main house is connected by lush green grass and flowering tropical plants to four treehouses perched in thick, green rainforest and topped off with an infinity pool in the far corner of the garden. Our treehouse was beautiful. It was simple yet five-star, with all of the amenities like the fridge and bathroom sink all fitted in discretely under polished benches made from raw wood. And it somehow managed to be totally open to nature, with a view to die for but be completely private. White cockatoos soar around the tree tops and enormous bright blue butterflies float past. It’s all just so darn idyllic! The owner is a charming woman called Carmen and she’s assisted by her friend Patricia. I can’t reiterate enough how their complete attention to detail made our stay so relaxing and luxurious. From the champagne chilling in the fridge to the bright flower placed on the corner of the doormat after your treehouse had been serviced, from remembering that we ate a particular type of chocolate from the minibar and giving us extras with our nightly cup of tea to booking any of the activities we wanted to do around the area.
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and a Cockatoo Hill Retreat breakfast means you don’t eat again until dinner. Bowls of fruit salad, using exotic tropical fruits that I didn’t even know existed, pots of coffee, baskets of toast and croissants with local fruit jams; all so delicious and served in the main house at whatever time we wanted.
When it came to what we were actually going to do on this trip, my main aim was to relax and recharge. We had no phone or internet coverage so I couldn’t even glance at my blackberry and be drawn into work and there was no TV. I could have been very happy reading, writing, going on the odd exploring walk and eating in cute restaurants and cafes. Husband needed a little more of a schedule or he’d start up his own birdsong. “What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now?” he’d call in a repetitive modulation.
So; we went to the local icecream factory and sampled all the flavours, went jungle surfing at Cape Tribulation (abseiling through the rainforest canopy), went on an unexpectedly fascinating guided walk through the rainforest at Cooper Creek with a Biologist called Piggy, swam in freshwater natural pools with shiny, translucent fish, enjoyed several glasses glass of wine and beers for only $6.50 a round at the local pub, went out to several excellent dinners and, yes, chilled out back at the treehouse.
We hugged Carmen and Patricia goodbye when we left – it had been a perfect start to our holiday. We were headed back to the metropolis of Port Douglas from here (that’s what it would feel like after such silence and no streetlights) but we went via Mossman Gorge. It wasn’t as dense as the rainforest we’d just come from but it was every bit as cleansing. All those walks in the fresh, clear air was making us feel extraordinarily good.
Next stop, the impressive Peninsula Boutique Hotel. It’s settled right on the corner of the quiet end of the main drag and the top end of Four Mile Beach. We were booked into a Coral Sea Spa suite, which had a private balcony facing the ocean, an enormous two person bath and was almost a similar size as our apartment in Sydney ‘sigh’.
Our days in Port Douglas were kicked off by more amazing breakfasts at the hotel then were spent walking around the beaches, looking in the cute shops, going for massages, bike rides and lying by the pool.
The only downside was that the weather took a turn for the cooler as a south-easterly wind started blowing through. This meant we couldn’t go out on the Barrier Reef for a day of snorkelling. Well, we could have but apparently the swell made visibility not so crash hot and the 2 hour boat ride out was guaranteed to make even the strongest stomach seasick (clearly not for me!)
I can’t wait to head up North again for another few days of sunshine. Going in June / July is a good time to go because it’s not boiling hot and there aren’t any bugs / mozzies.
Coming home to freezing Sydney wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it may be and, best of all, after five days of sun, exercise, fine food and vino, time with my man, fresh air and meditation, the stressors of work were much more easily managed. Ah, till we meet again Daintree!