Sorry we haven't written in awhile...we ran out of time in Cairns, and then we didn't have internet access for awhile.
The big excitement in Cairns was that we got our open water scuba diving certification! Woohoo! Australia threw in an extra money-making hoop and we both had to get medical exams (which we had to pay 60 buck each for). Let me tell you, this was the biggest waste of time and money ever. We showed up to a clinic the first morning we arrived, to a waiting room filled with sick and injured people. A nurse took our basic information as soon as we arrived. She got us worried by saying that our spirometer readings (lung capacity) weren't as high as they should be. Then we had to wait 2 AND A HALF HOURS sitting with sick people waiting for the doctor to check us out. When he finally called our names all he did was as a couple of questions about our history, listed to our heart and lungs and signed his name on a piece of paper. Not exactly how we wanted to start our vacation in the tropics. There were torrential downpours the first day there so we didn't do a whole lot (although we were better off than much of Australia, which has had some serious flooding.
Our next 2 days were spent out on the gorgeous Great Barrier Reef working on our scuba skills and seeing some pretty cool reefs. Our dive instructor was great and put us at ease. The diversity of corals, invertebrates, and fish was just amazing. We weren't allowed to take our underwater camera on our dives since we were getting certified, but another diver took some for us and we took photos while snorkeling. Unfortunately we didn't see any turtles, but we did see a few dolphins on the boat ride back to shore. Even Brian had a great time scuba diving! It probably helped that he didn't have to worry about sharks (they only had little reef sharks there) or killer jellyfish. Our instructor said we did an awesome job and was surprised how quickly we moved through the requirements.
We had a few extra days in Cairns- extra time in case the scuba diving couldn't happen as scheduled. There isn't a whole lot to do in the actual city of Cairns so we relaxed quite a bit, and took a drive up to the northern beaches thinking we'd go for a swim. When we got there, however, there were signs saying that there were jellyfish and crocodiles in the water. We didn't want to risk injury from marine life since scuba diving had gone so well, so we just took a sunset stroll along the beach.
The next day we drove north to a rainforest for a short hike. Wow, was it hot and humid. We only walked 3 kilometers, but by the end we were dripping in sweat and being swarmed by mosquitos. We did see some cool birds though, including a wild turkey. We then made a short drive to Port Douglas for some brunch and shopping. It was still reeeeally hot, so we didn't stay long. Instead we drove south and inland, where there is acutally dairy farming land despite being in the tropics. There's a nice drive past some waterfalls, and they allow swimming around them. The water felt absolutely freezing when we put our feet in, but we decided to go swimming anyway. We were so glad we did because the water actually felt great and it was fun to swim under the waterfalls. Our night ended at a delicious tapas restaurant in Cairns- we seriously want them to open a restaurant in Madison:)
The next day was another early morning- off to the Australian Outback!
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