Cairns Part 1

Upon arriving in Cairns, I didn't have an end date set, and in fact had only one night booked, as I figured I'd be getting on a boat shortly for an awesome dive trip. After chatting with the travel agent based in our hostel, I somehow decided against another 2-night/3-day trip with one of the super-fancy operators. Still not positive why I did that, but I wanted a smaller boat, and I think I was a bit traumatized by how rough the two nights on the boomerang were... In any case, the trip I chose didn't leave for a few days, so immediately I booked another two nights at the hostel, and booked a day trip up to Cape Tribulation, the only place on earth where rainforest meets reef. That next day, before my Cape Trib trip, was planned to be a lay-by-the-pool, do-nothing day, and it started off great with a nice long sleep-in. But finally, one of my roommates stirring around shamed me into getting out of bed (it was getting to be 11am, after all), and she turned out to be a hilarious & adorable Spanish gal named Marian. We both wanted to do the same things, but she went ahead & booked the 3-day reef trip, with her day trip to Cape Trib to follow. We would've been a ridiculous mess had we done it all together, so that was a bit of a shame, really. In any case, I spent my day hanging out on the fabulous deck in the hostel, watching it downpour & taking advantage of the free wifi.

The next morning, I met my mini-bus for the drive up the coast & into the rainforest. This group was nice enough, but not particularly friendly, apart from a trio of Canadian girls who were pretty funny. The trip was also good, but everything just seemed a bit rushed, possibly because we did so much! On the drive up, the roads were so windy. And it was just so early, that mostly we all napped. Then we stopped quickly at a cafe for some to get breakfast, and then we hopped over to do our croc-sighting cruises. Now, one of my favorite parts of Bill Bryson's book about Australia was his chapter on the infamous Queensland crocodiles, so I was pretty excited about this part, and our boat driver helped as he was pretty funny & informative. So, about 5 or so minutes after setting off down the wide, mangrove-rimmed river, he stopped for our first croc sighting. We could see about 5-inches of the tail of a young croc on the side of a branch. Woo. He wouldn't move o. Until everyone admitted they'd seen it, as he said it might be our only sighting. !?!? We putted about 2-3 minutes more, all craning our eyes into the shadows of the mangroves, and finally the guide & some passengers spotted another one. This one was set well back in a little cove, but you could at least see all of him. The guide said he was probably just a year or two old, so again, another little baby. After we all got our photos, we got an explanation about his favorite tree- a hybrid mango that can only be created by freak accidents (a fruit bat who flies from about 20k down river), and can't reproduce itself either, so, I guess that was cool too. Then we turned to the other side of the river & putted back down to our launching off point. We did see an egret, but that was about it. 20 mins and 2 baby crocs. Sigh. No giant crocs threatening to attack the boat. ;)

After jumping back in the bus, we headed into the rainforest proper. We got lots of info about the big bird resident to the area, and endangered of course as well, the carowary (sp??). Sadly, no spottings of this big bird, but l was super impressed with the lush rainforest. We stopped for a little trek on a raised walkway which was pretty cool. Every plant looked dangerous, as they were all spiky or covered in spines or similar. Plus, a lot of this forest remained unchanged for thousands of years, so the species of trees/ferns/palms/ect have been around since the dinosaurs were around. Very, very cool. Also, very hot & humid. You could clearly see the clouds building on the tops of the mountains heading straight for us. We made it to our lunch spot, the hostel there at the actual cape & were told we had a few minutes to go check out the beach before lunch would be served. Well, the walk through rainforest to actually reach the beach was at least 10 minutes, so we basically could just run around & take a few photos. Then again, the rain started hitting right about that time, so it's not like we would've been able to have too much more beach time, but still. My pics don't do it justice really, but it was just super cool to be able to see reefs jutting out of the shallow waters and lush jungle at the other end of the white sandy beach.

After a rather hot lunch on a patio, protected from the brief downpour (which didn't provide much temp or humidity relief), we checked out some of the resident spiders - apparently harmless, even though they look completely deadly & are HUGE. Then it was back on the bus to drive back through the rainforest up to a cool lookout point. Then we stopped at a local Daintree rainforest ice creamery (they grow all the fruits on-site for their fruity ice creams), and then it was off to a neighboring gorge to check out a swimming hole. First we got to hear a quick little talk from a local Aboriginal guy about some of their traditions & such. He seemed super cool, kept insisting that their mantra was "take what you need, think about tomorrow." Sadly, it appears that few of them live by this (or traditional means) anymore. I mean, this guy took leaves off a branch, crumpled them in water, and shortly had a nice soapy lather. From leaves! Too cool, but it seems that fewer & fewer are being taught the traditions & such, so all this amazing knowledge is likely eventually going to be lost. In any case, it was now time for swimming - some folks quickly changed for an actual dip. I was so hot & sticky I couldn't face getting into my suit... Mistake on my part. After a quick walk again on a raised walkway through the rainforest we arrived to an awesome spot. Crystal clear water which was nice & cold & would've been super refreshing. At least there were cool boulders you could sort of clamber around in in the shallows, so me & the Canadians had some fun doing that. All too soon, we were herded back to our mini-bus for the trip back down the coast.

After a bit more napping, we had a quick little tour of Port Douglas, which looks waaay cuter than Cairns, but is probable much more expensive - mostly resorts & that sort of thing. Then we headed back to our various accommodations. As we pulled into town, we were treated to the nightly bat migration which basically looks like millions of black birds swirling around the sky. but then you see them land in trees upside down. Creepy! I got home around 7:30, way later than expected, and after leaving around 7am, I was exhausted. I picked up a few provisions from the corner quick-mart for my first home-cooked meals in forever (not counting my 2 cooking classes). I am not proud to admit that it was easy-Mac & canned corn, but whatever. It was fabulous. Besides, I had to be up super early again for my dive trip, so after some re-packing, I called it an early night.

Some pics of the rainforest & Cape Tribulation attached, and a post of my dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef coming up next!