This beach was so gorgeous, palm fringed with coconuts you could collect and eat.
We arrived in Cairns mid evening and were immediately hit by the heat and humidity of the city which was quite welcome after the rain in Alice. We checked into our hostel and set straight off to the city centre to 'enjoy' our first free meal at the Woolshed where where we were to have many more meals during our stay...
The Woolshed is a dubious pub/restaurant where many hostels offer either a free meal or an upgrade for a cheap price. If we were 18 years old then this place would probably seem like heaven on earth with wet t-shirt nights, jock nights and other such fun and frovility but, (sadly) we are now 30 and haven't come travelling for all night binge sessions in Australia's answer to Ibiza so we set ourselves into the routine of eating early to be outta there before these events began.. sad we know but it just isn't our thing these days!
Cairns is a nice city and is well laid out so we ended up staying much longer than we had planned, 8 days in total and just took it all in very slowly as it really is hot hot hot
here. We spent a large number of our days relaxing by the lagoon in the city centre. This place is just amazing and has obviously been put in because of Cairns's lack of beach but it is so welcome as you can actually go in the water and cool off rather than look at it (more on why this is later on). We are just constantly amazed that you have these such things here in Australia along with free BBQ areas, skate parks, volleyball pitches etc, because in the UK these wouldn't even survive the night before they were smashed to bits which is quite sad really. Things like this really make you realise why so many English are so desperate to get out here.
Up to 4 times a day we would walk along the Esplanade from the hostel to town which is a really nice walk along the ocean front on wooden decking. At low tide you can see millions of little fiddler crabs and sand hoppers running around and we loved to watch these scoot into their holes as soon as anyone got too close. This along with the constant threat of saltwater crocs crawling up
and eating you alive made for a fun walk for us each day!
We did venture out of the city centre on a couple of days though, one day visiting the local Palm Cove resort, a very exclusive development about 20 minutes from the centre and the home to a lovely palm fringed beach. As we said though, with many of North Queenslands beaches you can only sit on the beach and look at the water, that is unless they have a stinger net which thankfully Palm Cove does have. All along the beaches you are warned of the dangers of going into the water and dying a horrible death from Box jellyfish, Sharks or Crocs... now everyone will completely understand why Sophie is so scared of going in the water! It is quite serious though and you will only ever find people in the water in the safety of the nets but even then you are not completely safe because the Irukandji jellyfish is so tiny it can slip though the nets so you take your chances that these are not around when you get in!
Another day we hired a car with our friend Nik we'd
Golden Orb Spider
This was in the trees along the road and the biggest (and scariest) spider we've seen to date. Check the size against Dale's hand!
met on the Uluru trip. We took the car North up to Cape Tribulation which is home to some of the oldest rainforest in the world and many more beautiful beaches (with sea you can't go in of course!). The day we chose to do this the weather was really really hot and it's amazing how you get hit by it after leaving the refuge of the air conditioned car. We took a short boardwalk though the rainforest & mangrove and were facinated to watch the strange crabs below and even an eel being chased by a group of fish.
But of course, the highlight of our time in Cairns was what the majority of people go there for.. a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Sophie had done this trip before and was keen to go again so agreed to spend a few extra dollars to go on the trip Dale had set his heart on which was supposed to give us 6 hours on the reef and boomnetting fun on the way back which sounded great fun, we really should have known from previous experience that any company can promise the earth but actually delivering it is
This was in the palm trees just outside our hostel and about 1m big.
a completely different thing..
The snorkelling was amazing, we can't argue with that. After enjoying a yummy breakfast we arrived at our first dive site at 10am and immediately got in the water to get the most of our snorkelling time. As many people know Sophie is quite scared of the ocean so it took her a few minutes of squealing and flapping around with her floating device and Dale sternly telling her that if she was going to continue scaring off all the fish then maybe she should go back on the boat, before she got into the swing of things and really started to enjoy herself. There were hundreds of fish to see including our favourites the Parrot Fish with their pecky mouths, some were really huge up to a couple of feet big which was quite exciting to see. There were a few jellyfish there on our first dive too but they were quite harmless and even Sophie got used to swimming around with them after a while.
Then things started to turn.. bear in mind we were promised 6 hours of diving and we were called out 12 noon for lunch having enjoyed just
2 hours of fun. We had our lunch which was excellent but then spent an hour afterwards transferring the overnight people off the boat and onto the overnight boat and vice versa while we all just sat around. We could not understand why the overnight people couldn't have been transferred while the day trip people were eating.. surely this would make more sense??
Anyway, after an hour of looking at the water we set off again to our second dive site, quite excited that this is where the turtles live and we might get to see them. We even managed to spot one as we were getting our briefing so all rushed to get into the water minus our wetsuits this time because we'd been a bit hot on the first dive. BIG MISTAKE, within a minute of being in the water we all felt uncomfortable stinging sensations all over our bodies, both of us thought that perhaps the salt was reacting with the suntan lotion until we noticed that there were yet again swarms of jellyfish around us, many more than the last site and these ones had stingers too! Out we jumped and put on our wetsuits
determined to see the turtles. The wetsuits did provide some protection but not on our hands, legs and faces all of which got stung whilst being in the water and we had red rashes all over us when we got out. We also didn't manage to see the turtles because they were supposedly outside the 80m swim zone and we were called back. We did see many gorgous fish again though and even saw little Nemo's which are so cute to see in their natural habitat rather than on tv!
After another couple of hours we were called back to the boat annoyed that we had only got to enjoy 4 hours of snorkelling at most and it soon became obvious that there was no way we would ever have got 6 hours even without the delays which really annoyed us. What made it even worse was that we didn't get the boomnetting on the way back either so, although we really did enjoy the snorkelling we were quite sad that once again what should have been a memorable once in a lifetime experience was tainted by another tour company making promises they just couldn't keep.. thanks Reef Experience
So all Cairn'sd out and having spent a good deal longer there than we had planned (we just couldn't be bothered to move on!) we upped and left to travel 2 hours down the road to Mission Beach. We'd hugely changed our Australia plans whilst being here and downsized what we'd planned to do and purchased bus tickets to Melbourne instead of a car and needed a stop between Cairns & Bundaberg that would be relaxing and not cost the earth... Mission Beach fitted the bill perfectly.
This place is amazing and to make it even better the hostel we'd picked.. Mission Beach Retreat Backpackers was just as good to match. It virtually backed straight onto the palm fringed beach, was run by a lovely family and was the perfect place to do nothing but sit on the beach, walk in the rainforest and enjoy marshmellows on the beach fire each night.
We did spend most of our days collecting coconuts to eat and sitting watching the skydivers land on the beach but one day we decided to go for a short walk in the rainforest along the beach to the next cove. It really was only
a short walk but it was so hot here you only have to take 2 steps before you are dripping in sweat (nice!) so we had to keep it simple. The walk started off ok, that was until Sophie began to spot the HUGE spiders that were lining the path.... These spiders were hand sized and were not found high up in the trees as we had been told they would be, they were all face height sitting in the centre of their HUGE webs waiting for unsuspecting people to walk right into them.. which is exactly what Dale did!! All at once Sophie saw him jumping around swiping madly at his hat, now if Dale panics then that means that Sophie has hysterics as something must be really wrong for him to be panicking so once he'd flicked away the huge spider dangling from the peak of his cap, he then had to calm down Sophie who was now crying and refusing to go forward or back for fear of more spiders getting her.
In the end we decided that it was probably less distance to carry on so that's just what we did.. taking each step very
very slowly and checking all around to make sure we weren't in any danger of getting got! There were literally huge golden orb spiders at each step and it was quite scary. At one point a really nice local man passed us on his power walk and stopped to chat, when Sophie asked how he managed to avoid these terrible things he just said he never noticed them!... NEVER NOTICED THEM?!!
We really loved Mission Beach, it really is somewhere you can stay for weeks on end doing absoloutely nothing but with Christmas coming up we had been invited to stay with Sophie's friend Debbie and her family and we were looking forward to our first hot Christmas and New Year and our first away from home....
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