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Cairns is totally tropical. Which is odd for a ‘normal’ australian town. You kind of feel you’re on a Caribbean island. But then you get the bus and go to the supermarket and everything is there in a normal everyday way. Mark has fallen in love with the place. I really like it too, it has a very definite holiday kind of vibe to it. It is the wet season, however, and boy has it rained, but it’s not like the unexpected rain we were having in Sydney and on the east coast, it’s tropical rain. So you’re warm at least. Even if it rains so hard in 5/10 mins of being out in it, say waiting for a bus (as happened to us our first night) you are completely a drowned rat. I don’t think my hair ever gets that wet even when I shower. The advantage of course is if my hair is soaked through then it can’t be a big humidity induced frizz!
The city itself is pretty small. There isn’t a beach but a kind of mudflat that goes out quite far, but there are beaches further up the coast.
This is quite a backpacker/traveller town and so there’s lots of cheap pubs and bars and places to eat which has made a nice change. But being a small place, apart from the clubs, most stuff shuts pretty early.
I did discover a new taste sensation in a quirky little place in town called the Lillyput cafe – Paris style eggs, which is soft poached eggs with blue cheese and cream with onion, asparagus, spinach kind of baked in a ramekin thing (but somehow are still soft poached) with sautéed potatoes and Turkish toast. Massive, huge YUM to that!!!
On the whole we have stayed around the house a fair bit. Another airbnb triumpth, the house is an older style and has a swimming pool set amongst a ton of tropical trees and bushes. This actually keeps me out of it as this makes likelihood of snakes and bugs and other things quite high. But it’s not really been sunny enough for me to dip anyhow. The girl who owns the house is a cool lady who’s done a lot of travelling herself and runs a dance school here as well as teaching and doing burleque shows.
The moment I set foot in the house I loved it as she has all kinds of quirky bits of art and photos and pictures and ornaments up. Reminds me a bit of ours – if she likes something, she just sticks it up!! Has made me feel very at home.
Again, the lack of need for security here compared to home leave me gobsmacked. The bathroom is out the backdoor (I tend not to go in the middle of the night as I am a wimp) and the back can be accessed from the front and is full of tropical trees and things that go bump in the night (and actually make a row all times of day and night).
The worst thing about Cairns is the mosquitos – they are plentiful and unforgiving. We are both pickled in bites from head to toe.
I would definitely like to come back in the dry season when the days are fine and you are not so under attack.
Speaking of being under attack – we have been on a couple of adventures the last couple of days, in the domain of the many things in Northern Queensland that will try to kill you.
Firstly we took a trip out to Cape Tribulation – this is about 3 hours away and in the depths of the 140 million year old (I think that stat is correct) Daintree rainforest. The rain forest is just amazing. Utterly breathtaking.
To start proceedings off we went on a river cruise looking for crocodiles. We didn’t see any but I was disturbed enough with the idea that they were there and that those little life jackets tucked up in the roof of the little boat, wouldn’t help us much. I was then completely freaked out when we got off the boat only for it to be mentioned that there is also bull sharks in the river. What the?????
We did see a tree snake swim impressively quickly across the river and up into a tree. As I watched Mark lean over the side of the boat to photograph it (okay, I’d actually sent him up to do it), I made a mental note that if he went in, he was most definitely on his own and he would have to hope for the heroics and kindness of strangers!!
Deeper into the rainforest after a ferry (it’s more like a floating platform) trip across the river we reached Cape Tribulation where we stopped for lunch. The setting was amazing and I did think it would have been nice to stay there. I say did, as there was a few things to change my mind. The beach, just a couple of minutes walk through the rainforest, was very beautiful but firstly it is the season for these tiny little jellyfish called Irucandji, which are the size of your fingernail and invisible and can very easily kill you if they don’t at least put you in critical condition.
Secondly, the salt water crocs from the river also live around the sea and so are also quite likely to snap you up.
By this point, the concept of crocodiles in the sea and sharks in the rivers had quite literally blown my mind. We visited a variety of places through the rainforest and learned and saw some cool stuff. We didn’t spot a Cassowary (a large, emu type bird with a blue head), unfortunately but they are v rare and there are signs everywhere to be careful on the roads as they too often get hit by cars.
One particular sign which was graffitid by a local kid and has become a tourist attraction in it’s own right, creatively used the speed bump sign as part of the warning.
Most of the time we were there, the rain continued to bucket down, so much so, that as we started to leave, water was starting to flood onto the roads at various spots. We got through a couple, but then reached a rather deep one where a few cars were stopped and people were out, kinda staring at it. The issue with this, was that if we couldn’t cross this, then we were stuck in the rainforest that night. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but my frayed nerves didn’t fancy the idea of being surrounded by flood waters carrying said hungry crocodiles. And it’s not as if the place was packed with accommodation – I think it had the one small place we’d gone to for lunch, which I guess if it was full, some kind of camping may have been involved (heart palpitations just thinking about it). In the end, some lovely, tall, german guy got out of the bus to wade into the water to see how deep it was. It above his knees (he was a very tall guy) but our guide decided that there was a good to fair chance the bus could get through it. So we went for it. And we made it – yey! Leaving folks in cars and trucks behind. This is photo from bus as we drove through it.
But that wasn’t the end of it, unfortunately. The rain was still pelting down and we had a fair way to go to get out with a bridge which could potentially flood too. As we drove – quickly – along the small roads with sheer drops down the sides, we kept coming across places we had passed earlier which had trickles of water pouring down the slopes, which were now like waterfalls. It was a happy, happy moment when we reached and crossed the bridge and even happier when the ferry took us over the river back onto the right side for transit home.
We drove higher up and out of the flooding areas and went to Alexandra look out which was pretty amazing and you could look over and see those crazy dark clouds which were pounding the forest.
Aparently, on a clear day you see the island off of which Steve Irwin got killed. I know it was a freak accident but just another example of killer Queensland to me
Many of us slept much of the way back, but I did wake up in time to see loads of wild wallabies. Ah, at last something that can’t get me. At least I not that I’ve heard about …. yet!!!
Next day we went off on another excursion, out to the Great Barrier Reef. This was a full day boat trip and Mark was going to be diving and I was to be …. possibly …. snorkeling. Now, I don’t really like water deeper than my knees and the idea of jumping into the ocean in the middle of nowhere where sharks are a plenty. I was properly feeling sick at the idea of it all and decided I would go in with Mark between his dives and be a proper girl and get him to hold my hand.
Well first off, we had a warning when checking in that the conditions were ‘choppy’. As we set off it didn’t seem too bad, but within 10 minutes the boat was banging about all over the place. By the time we arrived at our location after about an hour, most of the boat was if not actually throwing up, were feeling sick and had a bag to hand or just sitting or lying still with eyes closed. I had done to preventative things – first time ever i took a seasickness tablet that they were selling on board and then, the best tip I have ever learnt – the whole way I just stared at the horizon. When we arrived I was pretty much only person tickety-boo. I think it was mainly the horizon thing as one of the guys Mark was diving with had taken the same tablets and he was feeling pretty green.
It wasn’t as choppy once we stopped but it was far from calm and the visibility off the side of the boat was almost non-existent. Not like the clear water in all the clips you see on tv.
Mark went ahead with his dive and I got kitted out to go sborkelling. This included $6 for a stinger suit – a full body suit to prevent jellyfish stings, particularly from the little ones mentioned early. They ‘suggested’ you wear one but didn’t provide them for free which rankled me a bit (this was a pricey trip!). Anyhow, by the time I had all gear it seemed a bit pointless to go back inside and sit and wait for Mark so putting aside the fact the guide had been telling us that the other day they had a leopard shark and a white tip shark around the boat and that we didn’t have to worry about the white tip (what about the leopard shark !!!????!!!), I slid off the side of the boat to possible death. Yes, of course it is unlikely that they’d take a load of people out and throw them out into water where they were in danger, but still. I was scared. OK? I’m a water baby, and not in the good sense. But it was better visibility than I had thought and there was tons down there. The coral itself wasn’t that impressive but the sheer variety of fish was amazing. My favourite being the the big, friendly Napolean Wrass who liked to hang out by the boat. I didn’t go crazily far and tried to keep at least someone who may be tastier to sharks than I, within easy reach. But I did stay out a while and went out again later in the day to a better part of the reef and was jolly pleased with myself and my outstanding bravery in the face of adversity. I am still waiting for the medal and the message from the queen.
Mark really enjoyed his 3 dives. We got talking with the people in his dive group. We had Antoine from Paris who’d quit his job and come to Australia for a month. Jimmy, from San Francisco, who used to work in Silicone Valley, was now retired. He had first dived in 1964 and after Cairns was going up to Papua New Guinea for 3 weeks. Then there was Suzy, who Mark buddied with, from … Brighton. So, that was a treat to have someone to gossip about home with. She and her other half, another Mark were in Australia for a couple of weeks and had done a bit of Sydney, come up to Cairns (like us, not really being aware what the wet season entailed) and were then heading back to Sydney after Cairns. We ended up going into Cairns with them, after we got off the boat, for a ‘quick drink’ which lasted a bit longer than quick and included a search for somewhere open with Chinese food, and an interesting menu choice for us all as they staff packed the chairs and tables up around us. It was a great night, we all got on really well and had a good laugh and chat and will definitely be looking them up when we get back to Brighton. We just, with a bit of running, got the last bus home too, so well done us.
Next stop is Alice Springs. I am hoping for less mozzies and more sun – it’s the desert, so surely it can’t rain? But I’m not going to jinx it by saying so……..oops, I guess I just did.