|view from the shuttle port at the airport|
I met an Irish woman while waiting for my shuttle that would take me to the next backpackers. She was very pleasent and even gave me the $5 I needed for the shuttle (I had no cash and they only accepted cash). I told her I wold make a point to support some other needy backpacker in her honor.
"Upon arriving at the backpackers I met up with Angie!!! Hooray! we both talked a mile a minute (she had just come from Melbourne) as we walked downtown for our free dinner at a local bar/pub/grill called the Woolshed. The food was terrible but it was free so we were not complaining. Here also we found Alicia (another DLCer) who had been out to the reef already. It was extremely nice to meet up with people I already knew. I was invigorated and refreshed and ready for more travel as a result." -Journal Entry April 13
Cairns itself at first seemed very much like Appleton. It was a city, but a smaller one with not too many tall buildings, it felt safer than Sydney and more familiar more quickly (due to its size). Though by the time I left Cairns seemed nothing at all like Appleton, it is more tropical, a beach town, not a Midwest place.
On the morning 14th I headed out to the reef aboard a sailboat called the Rum Runner with five other tourists and a crew of five. It was a real switch of environment to go from the dusty red outback to the blue and wet water of the ocean! This day I got to do some snorkeling on the reef and one actual dive for 25 minutes.
"there is no bad spot to be out here. at first one reaches the reef and there is really nothing but green coral. but then fish just pop out! loads and loads of fish of all different sizes and colors. It is so fascinating that they all live together peacefully. The actual dive was incredible, but it is so weird to feel the water around you and still be able to breath. I was also a little unnerved by my proximity to the coral. I did not want to touch anything. I have found that there is just something about touching things in water that creeps me out. Luckily for the rest of the snorkels I found a wetsuit so I was entirely protected from touching ANYTHING. this made it better for the rest of the trip." -Journal Entry 14th April
We were on the boat for two days and one night. Unfortunately I never got my sealegs and instead received many bruises from running into everything as the boat rocked. Although I did note that this is not too unusual for me (running into things that is) so really nothing changed. The reef was fantastic, I got to see pretty much every well known reef creature except a ray. I enjoyed the experience and the small personal feeling of the boat and crew vs. tourist ratio was really nice.
the 15th Angie and I had one more day together in Cairns, so we took a bus up to Palm Beach. NOTE: if you are traveling to Cairns rent a car. the public transport is virtually nill and the bus we took pretty much only went to the beach. nowhere else. Anyway, we spent time on the beach (my first beach with palm trees!!! It looked like what I would imagine Hawaii looks like), we made sure only to swim in the enclosed area as there was a sign that warned of saltwater crocodiles....We also went on a beach walk
"not anything special, just a quiet walk along a beautiful tropical beach. However! We reached a rocky bit and I noticed there were crabs!!!! They were everywhere! and would scuttle from underneath the rocks (where one could not see them) to other rocks as one came closer to them. I was terrified! My toes were curling with every step! I kept a brave face though and pushed on, however if one had touched me I would have jumped four feet in the air and crawled backwards (like a crab actually) faster than the speed of light." -journal entry April 15
We saw a sign for sea kayaks to rent and decided it was well worth the money, so Angie and I went Kayaking on the ocean out to an island. It was wonderful! First time sea kayaking for me, peaceful and again, we were on a tropical and blue ocean!!!
The last day in Cairns I was by myself again, I went to Palm Sunday in a small and very welcoming church with real palm fronds! in the morning, but it was the afternoon that was really special. I took a trip out to Hartleys Crocodile Adventures!!!!!!!! Home of over 18 saltwater crocodiles that are larger than 3 meters, as well as many other crocs, some wallabys, kangaroos, koalas etc. But the crocs are the main show.
Satwater crocs are basically the bomb. They can run 40 mph, climb trees, bite with 3,000ppsi, hide in (I kid you not I saw this with my own eyes) 1 foot of water, hold their breath for up to 3 hours, AND due to the salt glands in their cheeks, they live in lakes, ponds, oceans, rivers, waterholes, estuaries, seas, creeks, basically everywhere there is enough water. The biggest croc at Hartley's was 4.6 meters long and was there because he had attacked some fisherman and then found his way 300km back to the same spot after being relocated. The biggest recorded estuarine croc was 8.4 meters long....that's big...
Anyway, I spent the afternoon there just aweing over these amazing dinosaur-like creatures. I spent my last night in Cairns writing in my journal and departed the next morning for Melbourne where I was to meet up with the family that was going to take me in for the last leg of my journey.