saturday, september 20 - sydney NSW to cairns QLD, australia
After breakfast at hotel, we will be transferred by private coach our hotel to Sydney Airport. Then we fly to Cairns. Upon arrival private coach will transfer the group from Domestic Airport in Cairns to Cairns City.
Lunch and Dinner are on your own. Rest of day free and at leisure or sign up for one of the option tours we can book.
Overnight in Cairns -Cairns Colonial Club
made it down to the lobby early & waited with Talkyface, Upclass, & Someone's Friend who asked me if i'm "a computer person" & then tried to get me to fix her fucking ipad; i noooope'd in her face. off to the airport!
Crap Leader started referring to Toothy as the actual leader, so now i really don't know what her role was supposed to be. Toothy badly got us through check-in by telling us we should've had paperwork we were never given, & only Elf Ear was stopped for the cavity search. the flight attendant that greeted us was, i think, the first person to ever pronounce my last name correctly without assistance; hey, maybe i'm australian! a delightfully turbulent three-hour flight to cairns (pronounced "cans" - very typical of the australian accent to drop two entire letters from the word) & we emerged in much warmer weather than we'd left.
on the drive to the hotel, we passed a church with a billboard proclaiming, "wolves never lose sleep over the opinions of sheep." i found that an odd thing for a church to declare...
we were supposed to do the jungle swing today, but it was closed. then everyone wanted to go to the aboriginal museum & dinner, but the museum was nearly closed & the dinner looked pretty touristy & bad to me - you know it's quality when they're touting "free beer & wine" as one of the top five selling points. the group pretty much scattered, & Talkyface & i opted to hit the "cairns zoom & wildlife dome". this was a ropes course in a giant dome atop a casino with tons of wild birds flying about everywhere & it was actually pretty fun. we did the mid-zoom, hi-zoom, & power jump (& got a free photo of the latter); we played with a sugar glider, snapped photos of papuan frogmouths (not owls - they're nightjars) & kookaburras (one with a mouse in its mouth), & i took a video of a gorgeous, glisteny black bird with crazy red eyes that Talkyface misstated as looking oily "like a used salesman" - an asian glossy starling; we saw two eclectus parrots totally making birdfuck; & before we left the bettongs (kangaroo rats) woke up & came out to play, too. the guy who outfitted us in our harnesses was the second person to kindly ask if i'm canadian, ahh. a good way to spend an afternoon.
with an hour before the bus back to the hotel, i asked the counter person for a dinner recommendation & she pointed us at dundee's, the best place in a string of nearby waterfront restaurants. the menu looked terrific, but on a saturday night they had no free tables... but they let us do takeaway! very surprising considering the quality of the restaurant. Talkyface & i split two $40AUD mains - the first, a platter of prawns & moreton bay bugs, & the second made for my fifth new animal since coming to australia: garlic roasted local tableland yabbies. SO HAPPY. the hostess at dundee's suggested where we could sit & eat, & indeed we found a picnicky area not too far down the waterfront. we ate with our fingers & proclaimed joy: the yabbies were served hot & were as delicious as the bugs i already loved.
we snagged some ice cream on the way to the bus stop (i had a salted caramel & macadamia nut connoisseur bar, made in australia of course) & turned in for a busy day tomorrow. i have figured out that australia doesn't use fitted bottom sheets; unlike ireland though, they do use top sheets.
sunday, september 21 - cairns, queensland, australia
We kick off the day with breakfast at hotel before heading out for an amazing adventure - Outer Reef Full Day Cruise
- 5 hours at "Marine World" Outer Barrier Reef Pontoon at Moore Reef.
- Semi-submersible and glass bottom boat tour.
- Underwater observatory.
- Great Barrier Reef presentation by the onboard Marine Biologist.
- Fish feeding demonstration.
- Upper sundeck with lounge.
- Snorkel equipment with instruction.
- Fuel levy.
- Marine Reef Tax (EMC).
- English, French and German speaking staff onboard.
- Return Cairns accommodation transfers.
What to Bring:
- Swimmers and towel.
- Sunblock, hat, sunglasses.
- Camera, money/credit card for on-board purchases.
- Morning tea.
- Hot and cold seafood and vegetarian buffet lunch.
- Afternoon tea.
This evening dinner on your own, it is likely that the group may make a decision to dine together. Overnight in Cairns - Cairns Colonial Club
last night we were awakened at 3am by the rasta patrol - some dude with a boombox going past everyone's windows & singing at the top of his lungs. drunk people on vacation are awesome. other than that we slept fine, though, & it was nice to have the windows open.
i got to try some soy & linseed bread at breakfast, which i've seen advertised on aussie tv shows for ages; it was okay. i far preferred the ubiquitous weetbix.
indeed we went to the great barrier reef this day, & it was... about the same as other reefs i've been at. the ride out was VERY turbulent - lots of "comfort bags" being passed out, but i was fine. Crap Leader told us lots of stories about how motion sick she gets, which was just delightful. she then pulled out a giant yellow cup (must've been 32oz) & a can of diet pepsi - she said it was the last of the sodas she brought with her. wait, what? who the hell is addicted to american soda to the point that she brings a case with her while traveling internationally? facepalm, headdesk, gunshot. i exchanged glances with Photogeek and Fuzzy; we smiled & shook our heads; poor Crap Leader.
at the reef, there were several included activities, like snorkeling & boat rides, & several pay activities or paid upgrades, like scuba & helicopter tours & guided snorkeling. i've snorkeled twice, both times in hawaii, & i didn't enjoy it, so i passed on that; scuba's interesting but the weight to be carried concerns me greatly. i thought about doing the helmet dive, but considering what you actually get to do while wearing the helmet (not much), plus the water temp & a question about whether my dreads would actually fit INTO the helmet, i bailed on that too. so i opted to stay warm & dry & just ride the semi-submersible & glass bottomed boats around all day. i got to see tons of surprisingly large fish, bright blue staghorn coral & large boulder coral (which grows at a rate of 1cm per year), & giant clams. after lunch i napped on the boat & kind of loved being rocked.
a much smoother return ride & the boat dropped us off at the same place Talkyface & i were at last night. so we went back to dundee's with Elf Ear & Auntlike. Talkyface split food with me again - another round of the garlic yabbies, & a kangaroo steak cooked at the table on a volcanic lava rock. (listed on the menu as "bush tucker", heh.) i handled the steak, & managed it just barely over mid-rare, *cheers*. the 'roo came with the tastiest sweet potato i've had - ridiculously flavorful. for dessert, i took the waitress's suggestion on the sticky date pudding, & it was much better than the version i'd had a few days back.
we four cabbed back, again passing a store called "OK gifts"... i made jokes that it's alright, it's not great, but it's okay. it's where you go to buy gifts for people you don't really like! i paid the hotel five bucks for an hour of internet - australia is very stingy with its wifi. when i went to bed, i was STILL rocking from all the time on the boat - it was a pleasant sensation, but somewhat disconcerting as my balance is terrible enough without also having my body constantly insist i'm still on the water.
back row: Elf Ear, Half Creeper, Frugal, Fuzzy, part of Upclass
front row: DullGreek, Auntlike, Crap Leader, back of my face, Photogeek, Talkyface, Chronic Bitchface
[not my pic]
bottom left to right: back of Toothy, DullGreek, Elf Ear, a bit of Half Creeper, Auntlike, Frugal, back of Someone's Friend, Fuzzy, back of my face, Photogeek, Talkyface, Upclass, Chronic Bitchface
[not my pic]
monday, september 22 - cairns, queensland, australia
Today, breakfast kicks off our second full day of action in Cairns. It will be a full day experience like yesterday. Full day Kuranda Tour to visit the rainforest train ride- Heritage Class: Freshwater Station to Kuranda - One-way
Kuranda Scenic Railway Heritage Class:
- Seating in the refurbished Heritage carriages, including water coolers at the end of each carriage and a souvenir trip guide. Included 2 course lunch at the Frogs Kuranda. Then take a tour on the Kuranda - Skyrail Rainforest Cableway One-way
- One-way ticket on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway (Kuranda - Caravonica).
- A 7.5km cableway journey through World Heritage Rainforest.
- Rainforest boardwalks, with interpretive signage.
- Guided Ranger tours at Red Peak Station.
- Entry to the Rainforest Interpretation Centre at Barron Falls Station.
- Lookouts and historical displays at Barron Falls Station.
- Trip Guides.
Dinner on your own. Overnight in Cairns - Cairns Colonial Club
we started on the kuranda scenic railway train this morning, which was pretty sweet. we passed waterfalls & good views of cairns, & stopped midway for a photo op. Crap Leader pulled out a bag of ice, filled her enormous yellow cup, & cracked a diet pepsi; apparently she'd found another supplier. we then wandered kuranda for a few hours. Auntlike, Photogeek, Talkyface, & i tried to get into bat reach, but it was closed mondays. Talkyface & i went on to the australian venom zoo, running into Half Creeper there as well. it was great - coastal & inland taipans ("if cornered or attacked, it will strike with unequalled ferocity" - just like me!), funnel-web spiders, various scorpions, lots of deathy australian things, plus giant cockroaches & spiny leaf insects - all very up my alley. i held a baby jungle carpet python (so soft!) & Talkyface held a large olive python which kept trying to slither over to me. i definitely need to get another snake.
now's a good time to talk about the preponderance of comic sans in australia. i found a plate in a souvenir shop with comic sans on it, & i photographed it, but i couldn't stand to keep shooting these terrible images. comic sans was used all over australia - on storefront signs, sale signs, descriptions of food in grocery stores & ice cream carts, on tags on stuffed animals, everywhere... paging through a tattoo magazine in melbourne, i even saw a comic sans tattoo. WHY. WHY.
i bought my first real souvenir: a full kangaroo pelt. i found the softest one - MUCH softer than the others - & paid only $79AUD, in contrast to the $140+ prices i'd found in sydney. (Frugal nearly shat himself - he doesn't seem to realize that i have three jobs.) after i photographed some crazy-faced bird (turned out to be a masked lapwing), the whole group met up for lunch at frogs restaurant, & it was terrific - pumpkin soup to start (probably butternut squash, which is called pumpkin here), then fresh wild barramundi with salad & chips. (i appreciated that the chips were served in a normal, human quantity - a dozen fries or so - instead of the typical american MORE.)
we rushed off to the cable car, where i had a golden gaytime (had to do it) before taking a surprisingly fun ride into the rainforest. we saw barron falls from multiple angles, & found bush turkeys! somehow we managed perfect weather without a spot of rain, & i really enjoyed the trip. i even supported the local economy in the skyrail gift shop - they had a rosella jam, "made from the succulent crimson fruit of a bush which thrives in coastal queensland". i'd never heard of that fruit, so of course i bought a jar. (it was really good - i found it kind of like a black grape & cranberry cross, though online resources said raspberry & rhubarb.)
upon returning to the hotel, i dropped off my pelt & took a maxi cab with five of our group to the esplanade, cairns's main drag. the idea was to visit the night markets, which sounded fun - little shops only open from 6-11pm or so... but it turned out to be a dirt mall, all the same terrible cheap touristy crap you can find ANYWHERE, in ANY CITY in the world. in contrast to OK gifts, i said this is where you come to buy presents for people you outright DON'T like. a gift from this place really makes a statement of "hey, i wish you weren't in my life." we bailed.
our group met up with a few more of ours who'd walked the 40 minutes to the markets, & we went for dinner together. they all wanted to go where they went the night before, which i don't understand since it was just some nothing bar & grill. the menu looked about on par with a TGIFriday's, so i skipped & had a very nice mango-on-mango smoothie from a local shop instead; lunch had been pretty heavy anyhow. cairns kindly gave me their community wifi, so i torrented to my limit. :D after eating, we wandered a bit more around the local pool & such (it was lagoon-like & actually had sand around it), some folks got gelati, & we had a quiet, relaxing last night in town before maxi-cabbing back as a group for just $2AUD each.
Talkyface had stayed at the hotel since she'd been rather badly sunburned at the reef the previous day; i caught her doused in aloe, eating hotel takeaway & watching "men in black 3". it was kind of fun listening to australian commercials, though oddly i found a lot of american accents represented, too. i wrote a bit, then packed for melbourne.
front row: Chronic Bitchface, Elf Ear, Frugal, Talkyface
middle row: Half Creeper, Upclass, Auntlike, Fuzzy
back row: DullGreek, Crap Leader, Toothy, Photogeek
[not my pic]
left side, near to far: a bit of Someone's Friend, Toothy, Elf Ear, Talkyface
right side, near to far: Upclass, Half Creeper, Chronic Bitchface, Auntlike, Fuzzy, Photogeek, hidden Frugal
[not my pic]