As I was eating my ham and Swiss sandwich at the five-star Kewarra Beach Resort’s open-air restaurant, one of the “regulars” slowly sauntered in. The waitresses on duty didn’t seem to notice or care, but I did as it was one of the largest lizards I had ever seen, easily five feet long, two feet high and about one hundred scaly reptilian pounds. It slithered next to my seat and Leann, the waitress, blithely told me not to move fast, just to ignore it, and it would go away. “Sometimes,” she said, “we find him asleep under the raised stove in the kitchen.” I took her advice and figured he was a mascot or some kind of resort pet. But no, he was just one of three who live at the luxurious Kewarra Beach Resort in tropical Cairns in Queensland.
The resort, built about twenty years ago, is spectacular. Each room is a moud or cabin set amongst a man-made rainforest. Once just sugar cane fields, the property is now a lush environment hosting exotic palms and all sorts of tropical flora and fauna. Each moud is built on raised piers a few feet above the ground.
The resort is located a mere twenty minutes from Cairns Airport and there is a complimentary shuttle available to escort you to the resort.
Our journey did not begin there, though. Ten days prior, we took advantage of the Qantas Aussie Air Pass, which included a round-tip to Australia and visits to six cities within the country for the starting price of $1099 US Dollars.
We landed in Melbourne at 7.30 a.m. and took a quick cab ride into the heart of the city. We chose to stay at the Saville nestled between Melbourne’s small but significant Chinatown, and Greek district. The largest Greek population outside Greece is located here, but unlike Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, the Greek presence is low-key and has only a few blocks of sporadically placed restaurants and shops.
Melbourne is an epicurean’s delight. We ate in as many Greek places as possible. One of the best was Elements on Lonsdale, where we had individually prepared moussakas in a contemporary atmosphere that was anything but reminiscent of the Old Country.
We took a comparatively short flight to Alice Springs, a mere three hours, where we connected to a flight to Ayer’s Rock, also known to the Aboriginal people as Uluru. There are four resorts there, all owned by the same company, so you’re a captive audience and the prices reflect it. There’s a small shopping centre, also owned by the same company. Everything has to be brought in from a great distance which makes the price already high to start. There is a resort for each and every pocketbook; campground, a “pioneer” setting, a contemporary hotel, and a five-star resort.
All sorts of excursions are available to Uluru. The rock is impressive. We first saw it from the plane. It just rises up from the desert floor like some red rock cathedral. You can climb it although the local indigenous population requests that you don’t and we honored their request. Besides, they lose a fair number of climbers every year due to heart attack and heat stroke. Somehow, I missed the metaphysical sensation of Uluru. To me, it was a Big Red Rock, impressive in size but not a religious experience by any means, probably due to the flies.
Another thing that was very evident at the park which surrounds Uluru was the absolute lack of Aborigines. In fact, it was only later that night that we actually saw an Aborigine family as they walked through the shopping centre dressed in flannel shirts and jeans, probably employees of the resort or visiting tourists like ourselves.