Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chasing Rainbows on Four Mile Beach with Fleeting Shades of Jade

I must confess that to some degree I have, over time, become a slightly jaded traveler. Even as I write I am sitting in my Phnom Penh hotel room, having just arrived from a seven hour boat ride down the Mekong River, hard pressed to muster the energy to schlep to yet another temple or colorful street market, savor another bite of Khmer cuisine, or attempt to photograph one more sweet brown face. All of that will have to wait until later; too much sensory overload and I cuddle up with Facebook to see what the folks back home are doing. Julie in Ohio has got a red wing at the feeder, packing for Honduras and can't find the right word to describe the harpy eagle she saw in Guyana; Debby back in Oklahoma has had a home visit by a blogging teddy bear and was interviewed for a magazine but none of that stopped her from finishing the prairie chicken painting for the bird festival. I just found my old friend Doug - we lost touch for fifteen years and today he shows up on FB - we survived living in Akron together and I had to come to Cambodia to find him in Minneapolis. Mary in North Carolina quit smoking and it seems to be sticking but she wants to eat instead of blog. So in her honor I order the juiciest cheeseburger with bacon and and a big, fat fried egg on top with extra ketchup for the fries. Here's to you Mary!

Where was I? Oh yes -confessing to be an occasionally jaded traveler. I only mention that because these days when I fall for a place - it means something. I've just about seen it all, done it all and been there and back. But last week I fell hard for Port Douglas in northern Queensland, Australia. This is an amazing, one-of-a-kind place.

Port Douglas, population 4000, is the gateway to both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest and home to Cape Tribulation. The sweet little town itself is a delightful cross of 1960's Key West with 1970's Lahaina. A place where breathtaking, unspoiled rainforest spills right onto miles of even more breathtaking, unspoiled beaches. The hour drive from the airport was like cruising through a wild animal park - wallabies, crocodiles, bustards, fruit bats, imperials doves, turkeys and cassowary crossing signs. I have never in all my travels seen a community whose ecological footprint was so small. Swallows make their nests in the hotel lobby chandelier and nobody blinks an eye, except to avoid the bird poop as it drips on the furniture. Without exception, this is a role mode tourist destination for the rest of the world to follow. Less is truly more. You get the real sense that Port Douglasonians know how to live in harmony with their surroundings. I am impressed indeed. And what beautiful surroundings they are!

With nighttime skies so clear you could reach out pluck the moon.

molten sunrises

tidal flats

delightfully un-manicured beaches

mangrove estuaries


shooting stars

and rainbows!

Lorikeets. Rainbow Lorikeets

right on the beach in front of my hotel.

You've got to love a place that has rainbow lorikeets in the same tree that has rainbow.....


insect hawking

color saturated

rainbow bee-eaters!

All this praise but I should forewarn you that Port Douglas is not necessarily for the faint of heart. It's also home to man-eating crocodiles, lethal-stinging box jelly fish, disemboweling cassowaries, and most recently known as the place where crikey-loving Steve Irwin finally met his match at the end of a stingray tail. Perhaps it's why I love this place - a sort of mutual respect for the wildness of place seems to be the rule of order in this pristine community. The perfect place to become completely enamored with travel again.
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