Aug 09

10 unforgettable days in the warm climate of Cairns

We arrived in Cairns after nearly 24 hours on the tilt train. The journey actually went pretty quickly, with the MacBook entertaining us with the Walking Dead series (cheers Adam in Sydney). When we arrived at the Cairns railway station, we were greeted by stuffiness and humidity. We took a deep breath and smiled, pleased to be in the warmth. Jemma and Luke kindly picked us up and gave us an amazing place to stay for ten days. Jemma is Tony and Glynnis’ daughter, who in short are old friends of Fi’s folks. They are all such lovely, lovely people and as you’ll hear throughout this blog post, their kindness was just incredibly touching.

On our first night we were pretty weary. After such a long trip, we needed rest desperately but not before a big feed over at Tony and Glynnis’, who live just two doors down from Jemma and Luke. It’s a bit of a blur as to what we ate, but I know I immensely enjoyed it at the time. We were soon tucked up, comfy and content in our fantastic little room.

We slept in a little the next day and leisurely had brekkie and then a catch up with T&G. They gave us directions to all the places of interest and suggested taking us out the following day – we were really happy to have someone to show us around. Honestly, we did just laze around on the first day, we took a walk down to the beach, which was only a short stroll away. In the Cairns heat, people think you’re mad to even walk the shortest of distances. It’s generally around 26°c – 30°c with very high humidity – the sun is piercing and takes a lot of energy from you. The beach was relaxing, although we had to resist the urge to swim. Cairns is home to not just sharks, but saltwater crocs. A week or so before we arrived, there had been a sighting and signs were up advising no one to swim in the ocean. We heeded the warnings. That night, we all went and did a local Aussie quiz. Jemma and Glyniss partake every now and again, normally winning each time and the night we went along was no different. The boys team plus Fi didn’t perform quite as well as we’d hoped, scooping the half-time losers cake but finished a near respectable 4th.

T&G were round early the next day to whisk us off into Cairns. We started by taking a stroll around the marina, soaking up the ocean views and the bustling restaurant atmosphere. We walked on further eventually ending up at the Lagoon, a man made paddling pool area, but for both kids and adults. It’s huge and is a little like a mirage when you’re in the sweltering heat. Fi and I waded through to cool down! There are so many sunbathers, all suspiciously pale – we guessed they were probably backpackers. We lunched at Grill’d, an affordable burger joint (yes, for a change) and then continued to stroll along the seafront, I got a great shot of a pelican landing. Jemma and Luke cooked us up a proper Aussie BBQ that night, despite there only being 3 steaks rather than the 4 Luke had promised (jokes Luke).

In between a few admin bits, booking up Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Despite what we’d heard, it really isn’t as easy as just turning up to a new place and hoping to find accommodation. We’ve had to pre-book nearly everything, which does take a lot of time, especially when you’re in a new place, desperate to explore – hale the MacBook.

Our next trip of note, was the unforgettable Great Barrier Reef. This is exactly why we’d come to Australia, to experience things like this, so for a day we just chose to forget how much it was costing. We started over on Green Island, the closest island to Cairns where there is a bit of reef to snorkel. We chose to wait until we went further out to the pontoon to a larger chunk of the reef. We did do a lap of the island and made the most of a gap in the clouds. We then jumped on the catamaran, which travelled a further hour or so right out into the reef. In this time, we saw a couple of humpback whales in the distance, breaching right out of the water – a truly amazing sight and one we long to see up close. Once we arrived at the pontoon, a frenzy of kids all scrambled for the equipment, we casually selected our gear and prepared to head in. We were a little concerned that we were one of only about 5 people not wearing stinger suits, but we jumped on in anyway hoping that it wasn’t stinger season as Jemma and Luke had told us.

To describe what we experienced next is difficult and something everyone should experience for themselves. If you’ve never snorkelled, then it’s a real treat. A complete underwater city of coral and fish of all sizes. Some of the coral wobbles, other parts look like razor blades, there’s such a variation in colours and textures, you almost want to reach out and touch it. We had a few near misses with underwater divers whilst snorkelling, these guys were all in what looked like an underwater mopehead dragging along two inflatable buoys in their tow. We enjoyed a buffet lunch on the pontoon and then set off back to Cairns, enduring a ridiculously windy journey, at which point I made a vow to get my ridiculous hair, cut!

Post haircut (Fi is skilled with a pair of scissors – see the before and after…comedy!), we spent the next day resting up after the reef. We took a little drive to the local shopping centre where we discovered some tasty falafel wraps for a decent price and then went into Cairns with Jemma and Luke in the evening, where we had another burger, pigged out on killer milkshakes and ice cream filled crepes. A few pounds heavier, we waddled into a Didgeridoo shop (as you do) and had an introductory lesson and were left contemplating how to travel Asia with one, which would only be adding to the collection of musical instruments we can’t play properly.

On the Sunday Jemma and Luke kindly gave up their time and drove us to some amazing places of interest around the Cairns area. First up were crocs, after a lovely scenic drive up the coast line high into the mountains, we arrived at Daintree Creek. We immediately signed up for the next boat ride and a complimentary pie on our return. The boat was conducted by a Rolf Harris look-a-like and he took us to various spots to see the crocs in their natural habitat. Starting with babies and progressing to the big guys. One of which was resting on the side, his name was Scarface and had a reputation for once attacking the side of one of the boats. He went easy on us. After Daintree and our tasty (but boiling hot) pie, we continued on to Barron gorge, which is owned by local Aboriginals. We crossed the canopy’s in the rainforest and reached the gorge, which was littered with tourist jumping all over the rocks, enjoying a dip in the rather nippy, fresh water. We messed about and took some pictures and then made our way back.

Port Douglas was up next. Here it was scorching hot and we were all starving so we grabbed a few beers and a bite in one of the funky local restaurants. Fi and I sampled some Oysters and feasted on Barramundi and chips – I guess, Australia’s cod. After having a great day on the road, we just chilled that evening with a movie. It was great to stay with local people and just having relaxing evenings that resemble normal life.

On the Monday, after a day of admin and bits, we all went out to the local marina restaurant called Yorkey’s Knob boating club and had some more great food. At this point, we were spoilt by having done and treated to so many amazing things, by even more amazing people. We were just astounded by everyone’s kindness and generosity. Rather humbled, we returned home after a few schooners!

We could of happily topped Cairns off with that meal, but it didn’t end there! Tony and Glynnis offered take us on another mega road trip to see some sights further afield of Cairns. There really is so much to do, you could spend a month and probably not even scratch the surface. So we headed off fairly early and stopped first at a lake (sorry, the name of it I just can’t remember) with wonderful views, we continued past one of Cairns’ dams to the ‘Curtain Fig Tree’ where this tree has been engulfed by roots from another tree, causing a fascinating effect. We tried to photograph it, but it’s hard to do it justice.

We then headed to Lake (sorry, the name of it I just can’t remember either) where we attempted to spot turtles, we managed to see one or too swim past and we then enjoyed some afternoon tea and scones, just minus the English clotted cream, which they don’t seem to have in Australia. We continued to look around after this and stopped at a little place that grows and sells strawberries. We bought a little punet for the BBQ later on and had some tasty ice cream – I’ll let you guys work out the flavour! We had a fantastic day and were so thankful for driving us around all day, showing us things we would never have been able to see without a car.

That evening, everyone got together to enjoy a proper Aussie BBQ, which we loved! There was Salmon and even some Kangaroo. Funny that only the English ate it. The Aussies preferred not to eat their national symbol! Lastly, but not least, Tony & Glynnis’ took us out on their little speed boat. The houses around this area are stunning. We saw more crocs and then spend a good couple of hours in the scorching heat, fishing away. We caught sting rays, crabs, blowfish and all sorts of cod. It was so much fun and a lot more fast paced than we’d anticipated. Each time we cast, with a prawn as bait, it would take all of 2 or 3 minutes to catch something. This was the perfect end to an unforgettable ten days in Cairns.

We’d just like to thank all of you guys in Cairns again, for taking us in, feeding us and showing us around and giving us just a glimpse into the fantastic lives you all have. Thank you and in the words of Luke, it was ‘Classic McGruber’!

So on we go to Brisbane to stay with Fi’s family friends John and Delia, before the last leg of our trip, the almighty Asia. First stop, Singapore. We’re praying for some cheap food and drink!

Tom & Fi xxx

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