Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cairns, Port Douglas & Cape Tribulations

View from Captin Cook Highway

I flew from Singapore to Darwin, and then to Cairns. When I arrived in Cairns, along with the immigration sheet, I had to fill in a declaration form where you declare any foreign goods or foods etc. As I'd done some trekking, my shoes were pretty muddy and that was actually one of the options! So after collecting my bag, I had to go to this other section of the airport where a guy took my shoes and washed them before allowing me to leave. Consequently I had soaking wet shoes for the following week as I forgot to dry them out....

By the time I arrived in Cairns I was feeling pretty much 100% better and the sun was blazing, happy days ! I got the free shuttle from the airport and headed to my hostel, Nomads Serpent which is about a 25 minute walk from the centre of Cairns. It was pretty cheap $15 per night including free breakfast (if you could make it out of bed in time!) They also had an offer where if you bought a drink – could literally be anything – for $3 + you could get a free evening meal, really basic food but so cheap it was hard to say no.

My first couple of days here I just relaxed and adjusted to western style living! Its mad how popular exercise is here: I walked down the esplanade into town on a few days and you see so many people running or cycling. They even have various exercise stations along the water front. One of the first things I did was buy a block of cheese and a bottle of milk – they tasted so good it was unreal! On Wednesday, Nomads had a pub crawl organised which I went on with a few of the people from my dorm. It was such a good laugh and a really cheap night out. We went to a few different bars in town – Gillagans being one of them. Gilligans is actually a backpackers hostel, but has a bar and club as part of it. I'd been recommended to stay there but its pretty crazy and there would be no chance at sleeping! We also went to Vibe, the Woolshed and Pjs where Stacey managed to win the coyote dancing competition! We all had such a laugh and I met some really cool people that night.

The amount of trips advertised in Cairns is pretty overwhelming and it would be so easy to spend thousands in a matter of minutes. I'd been looking into the various tours but there was so much choice that Inge and I decided to go to Peter Pan's (probably the most widely used travel agency along the east coast) Before we knew it we'd booked to go to Magnetic Island, the Whitsundays and Fraser Island. It cost quite a bit but we did actually get some good deals and we were both stupidly excited!

On Saturday I really pushed the boat out and booked a diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef carrying out 3 dives and hiring a camera. As with most things it was horribly expensive but it's something I had to do and it was so worth it! I went with Silver Swift: we travelled about 1 and a half hours out to Flynn Reef, the boat was really comfy and we got tea/coffee and cakes when we got on for breakfast. My first dive was really cool: I immediately noticed how brighter the coral was and how much better the visibility was than on Koh Tao. I saw a huge variety of fish and coral and enjoyed every second of it. The second dive was even better. We saw a green turtle, some sharks, several trigger fish, nemos, giant clams and more. I couldn't get enough. After the second dive we got lunch – help yourself buffet with rice, curry, a selection of salads, and fruit. It was all pretty awesome food. The third dive was really cool too; we moved to a slightly different location where there was a lot of boulder coral which made it slightly different and interesting. I was happy that I'd got the camera as I got some really cool shots – much better than Koh Tao. We got tea, cake and fruit on the return journey too. The dive masters and all the crew were really friendly and fun and I had an awesome day out, well worth the money!

The next day, 5 of us decided to take a road trip up north. Stacey, Inge, Amelie, Sabrina and I hired a car for 2 days and drove up on the Captin Cook Highway, first stop Port Douglas. We didn't intend on staying here very long, it was a scorching hot day so we parked by the beach and got ice cream. On the way to get food for lunch we noticed the local Sunday market so we had a quick look around. It had a really hippie vibe to it which was quite cool; all sorts of healthy remedies and massage techniques along with tarot card readings and craft stalls. From Port Douglas we drove a little further to the Mossoman Gorge. Here we walked around the jungle trail for a little while amusing ourselves with random photo opportunities but it was so hot and humid it was amazing to finish our walk and jump into the river. It was baltic! Really refreshing but so unbelievably cold! None the less we mucked around in the water for a while before decided we better set off. That night we stayed in PK's jungle village at Cape tribulations.

As we were in the Daintree Rainforest region, on the way back to Cairns the next day we went on a small river cruise to see if we could spot any crocodiles – naturally we didn't but the guy did show us around the mangroves and pointed out their nesting areas and other spots of wildlife which was actually quite interesting. As it was high tide and there was some extra flood water our chances of seeing crocodiles were largely diminished so it was no surprise really that we didn't see any. There are some nice beaches in between Port Douglas and Cairns so we stopped off at a couple before taking the car back. You can't really swim in the sea at the minute due to it being stinger season and the fact that there can be crocodiles and sharks in the waters, but we stopped at Palm Cove which has a swimming enclosure which is deemed safe enough so we went for a dip and did some sun bathing.

It's been quite odd to spend so much time with a group of girls but it was a nice change. When we returned to Cairns, despite the fact we had to get up at 6am for the Greyhound the following morning, we decided to go out as it was going to be our last night with Stacey. Inge Stacey and I went for one last night out using some of the vouchers we had left from the Pub Crawl and had a pretty good night.  

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