Published: January 31st 2007January 28th 2007
Me and the Esplanade
I kept pronouncing Esplanade like the Spanish word; I was quickly informed that I am an idiot.
I hope you all are doing well! I am unsure if you received an email (or received multiple emails) regarding my last update—“Penguin Parade”; TravelBlog was experiencing difficulties sending the update to subscribers—sorry.
This past weekend I traveled to Cairns, Queensland (Northeast Australia). The trip was unbelievable—arguably the best weekend of my life. The trip was very smooth……well except for the flights……I left Melbourne Wednesday morning at 7am on Jetstar (roughly Australia’s equivalent to Southwest Airlines). Once I was boarded, I immediately fell asleep; however, at 8:30am I was awoken by a flight attendant asking over the intercom if “there were any doctors on the plane.” An elderly woman near the back of the plane was apparently having a heart attack. The pilot diverted the flight to Mickelea (about an hour south of Cairns) so that an ambulance crew could take the woman off the plane. The landing strip at Mickelea was for small private planes, not airliners……so, the landing and take-off were interesting (i.e. much praying and sweating). Luckily we landed safely in Cairns and according to the pilot, the woman was alive and well at the hospital.
Cairns (pronounced—cans) is absolutely beautiful; the most beautiful
place I have ever been! The city is located right on the ocean shoreline—just miles/kilometers from the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns has a small city center that is not overly-commercialized, nor is it heavily populated.
Upon arrival, I checked into my hostel (Bohemia Beach Resort) and then checked out the town. After visiting the Crown Hotel bar located in the middle of town, I soon found myself recruited by Bargle, a 50+ year-old aborigine, to play a game of pool. He refused to take a picture with me because, and I quote, “Piss off, I won’t take a picture with you, George Bush is looking for me.” Ha!
Thursday was my trip to the Reef. I wanted to see the Outer Reef—where the big fish and beautiful waters are—so I bought a ticket on the “Reef Cruiser” boat. The boat is one of the few that is motorized with a huge engine that can get out to the Outer Reef in less than an hour—most take several hours to make the journey, which obviously cuts into snorkel/diving time. Also, the Reef Cruiser allows un-certified divers take an introductory scuba dive at the reef. The boat anchored at Hastings
Reef for snorkelers and divers to get their first experience at the Great Barrier Reef.
The snorkeling was absolutely awesome! I saw: sea turtles, “Finding Nemo” fish, tons of jellyfish (I decided not to purchase a “stinger” suit on the advice of the dive instructors—initially, I thought stingers were stingrays, but instead, Aussies call jellyfish, stingers—so I had to be very careful when a school of them floated through the water, Barracudas (huge scary teeth), and white-tipped Reef Sharks! I was snorkeling a long way from the boat when I saw the shark. The crew had warned us that we may see sharks, but also said that Reef Sharks would be much more scared of humans than we were of them. Regardless of the crew’s advice, when I saw the 8-footer swimming about ten feet below me, I freaked out. Stupidly, I pulled my head out of the water, instead of keeping my eyes on him, but I needed a breath of air ASAP. I regained my composure and quickly found the shark again. I followed him from above for about five minutes, until the shark swam upwards, saw me and swam away immediately. Swimming with the shark was
Cairns City Lagoon
Due to the threat of Crocodiles and Jellyfish, Cairns opened a city lagoon about 100 meters from the beach.
the highlight of my snorkeling.
My introductory dive was really cool too. I went to a depth of ten meters and was submerged for about 25 minutes. I saw some really big fish and got to hug “Wally the Giant Wrasse.” Diving was kind of terrifying…blowing your nose on the way down so that your ears don’t explode is a scary proposition. In addition, the dive instructor told me not to touch any conch shells, although they look really cool, unless I want to die 20 seconds later due to the stinging abilities of the creature inside the shell. Back on the boat, I stuffed my face with the fantastic seafood buffet and adult beverages. I was feeling on top of the world by the time we returned to port. All-in-all, an amazing experience.
On Friday, I celebrated Australia Day (Jan. 26th). I started the day by venturing into town to enjoy the town’s festivities—music, food, beverages in the streets. I returned to the hostel and participated in a Lemington eating contest. Lemingtons are chocolate breakfast cakes with coconut shavings (roughly the size of a brownie). My team of Americans was soundly beaten by the two competing Australian
This picture is for Jesse--he loves the sound of Diggeridoos. They are really expensive, but also really cool.
teams—I later found out that both the Australian teams cheated by tossing some of their Lemingtons in nearby potted plants. They told me to never trust someone from a country that was initially settled as a colony of convicts—the first white colonies in Australia were British colonies consisting of military police and British criminals that had been exiled from Britain. I thought this was a fun fact for Australia Day…
On Saturday, we rented a white minivan (sweet) to head to north Queensland. Our goal was to visit Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge. Port Douglas is the home of the 4-mile beach—four continuous miles of white, pristine sand and extremely calm waters. This is also the beach in which Steve Irwin filmed his last underwater scene. Port Douglas (and the surrounding beaches) is the answer to the trivia question: where is the only place in the world where two “World Heritage Preservation” locations can be seen from the same place? The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree National Rainforest meet each other at Port Douglas. Pretty cool. Mossman Gorge is a waterfall and rapids-laden oasis located deep within the Daintree Rainforest. It took a few miles of hiking up
a mountain before I arrived at the Gorge, but once there, I threw on my swim trunks and jumped in the cold mountain water to body surf down the rapids.
The flight on the way home was as terrifying as the one on the way there. I have only been on one other plane in my life where the turbulence was as bad. I recited every prayer I could remember from church while I gripped my armrests so tight that my knuckles turned blinding white. Perfect flight to have on a hangover and three hours of sleep……
I am off to Sydney on Thursday and will send out an update as soon as I return. Please feel free to email me anytime.
Lots of love,
There are more photos below