For lecture recess I was lucky enough to spend almost seven whole days in sunny Cairns. Here’s a quick recap of the week.
Day 1: Cairns City
We took the Greyhound up the coast early Saturday morning and got to our hostel just in time for Thea and Ingrid to freak out a tiny bit before being whisked away to SKYDIVE (so much jealous). Meanwhile, Marie and I wandered the touristy parts of Cairns. Aka, all of it. There were all types of souvenir stores accommodating to every kind of shopper. In the same store, you could find signs in both English and Chinese with cheap souvenirs and fancy Uggs. There was also the cheapest fruit market (only 70 cents for an avocado!), a cute night market, and an entire string of stores that definitely belonged in Japan. Eventually we made it to the lagoon (Cairns’ iconic swimming pool) and sat on the grass listening to a band play Bruno Mars covers. I swear, listening to The Lazy Song set the perfect tone for the rest of the week (side note, does anybody else think Bruno Mars looks the tiniest bit like Michael Jackson?). Oh and in case you were wondering, Thea and Ingrid survived and said sky diving was amaaaazing. I can’t wait to go!
Day 2: Waterfalls Tour
So apparently there are a ton of tours that go out to the Tablelands but I’m almost positive that the one we took, Cape Trib Connections, is one of the cheapest and best. Our tour guide, Wiley, had a great sense of humor and knew so much about everything. One of the best parts of the tour was that we really had no idea what to expect for the day so we were pleasantly surprised about almost everything. Here are just some of the highlights. We…
- Slid down a natural water slide at Josephine Falls
- Swam under a waterfall at Milaa Milaa
- Successfully tracked platypuses
- Marveled at a gigantic curtain fig tree
- Jumped out of a tree into a crater lake
Day 3: Cape Tribulation
Again with Cape Trib Connections, we drove up to Cape Tribulation and stayed a night at PK’s hostel in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest (!!!). Along the way, we went on a river cruise and saw baby crocs and even spotted a bearded dragon and a cassowary with its baby chicks! Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to snap a pic of it crossing the street but its a really awesome birds. Third largest in the world.
It was pretty cool staying at Cape Trib since the city’s so small and tucked away that we had no phone service or internet access so it felt great to just slow down and soak in what was around us. I spent 2 hours walking along Myall Beach in which time I decided (1) Captain Cook definitely named the place wrong, (2) waves are fascinating, and (3) sting rays are sneaky little animals. At night, we exchanged a couple card games and marveled at the giant spiders that were as big as my hand.
Day 4: Cape “No Tribulations”
The next day Marie and I went jungle surfing, aka zip lining. Unfortunately, this was actually a little less thrilling than I had expected but it was still pretty cool sailing through the rainforest canopy so early in the morning. Plus they let us do the last stretch upside down and we got to take a picture at “the only spot two world heritage sites meet”. In the afternoon, we were picked up and back down to Cairns. Along the way, we stopped for tropical fruit ice cream (ever heard of wattleseed? It tastes like mocha ice cream), drove through Port Douglas (where all the famous people like Hillary Clinton and Jackie Chan own houses), and took pictures at Mossman Gorge.
Day 5: Great Barrier Reef
Super early in the morning, Cairns Dive Center (another great company), picked us up from our hostel and took us down to the marina for the last part of our trip. And what better way to end the week than to spend it out on the Great Barrier Reef?! The ship was pretty small and so was our cabin, but the food was good and the crew was spectacular! I got to go snorkeling for the first time and even though it was way harder than I would’ve expected, it was INCREDIBLE seeing everything underwater once I got the hang of it. We also went scuba diving which was even more amazing because you’re that much closer to the marine life. A wrasse came so close to us that we were able to pet it! Unfortunately, when we got back on the boat I was feeling pretty seasick and really wasn’t functional for the rest of the night… By the way, thank you so much Ingrid, Marie, and Thea for taking care of me while I was sick! You guys are amazing!
Day 6: GBR
After two more snorkel sessions in which we were literally swimming through coral, I decided unfortunately that it was best for my stomach if I left the ship a day early. So I went back to Cairns and checked into the same hostel as before. Luckily, there were quite a few Dukies there and I got to catch up with a few of them in the evening. We walked over to the Reef Casino and I gambled for the first time in my life — $2.50 each on roulette. Big spenders, I know. And none of us even won. We also tried slots (slots are hard) and spent a decently long time watching a game of blackjack. It was kind of weird watching strangers pull out $50 and $100 bills out of their wallets and casually tossing it on the table. Still, it was pretty awesome running into friends like that in Cairns!
Day 7: Botanical Gardens
The next day I walked about 3km out of the city center to the Cairns Botanical Gardens. Mostly because it was free but also just to see what was there. The gardens themselves actually reminded me a lot of a smaller, more tropical version of the Duke Gardens. It even had its own small clearing complete with old couples birdwatching and little children playing tag! There was even a small art gallery like the Nasher nearby which were housed in old oil drums from WWII. That had some pretty neat art inside as well. Once again, I randomly bumped into some not-strangers in the park. This time they were friends from JCU who were also similarly exploring the city. Heading back to meet the rest of my group, I spent a while just laying on the grass next to the “beach”. By the time everyone was all together, I was feeling pretty tired. In fact, I slept the entire 6 hours back to Townsville and then almost 10 more hours once we reached Rotary.
So even though he end of my trip didn’t play out the way it was supposed to, Cairns still left a fantastic impression on me. I would definitely go back, especially for more snorkeling. At this point I think the most important lessons I’ve learned are (1) always trust people with dreadlocks, (2) never forget to take your motion sickness medicine, and (3) nature is priceless.