Pictures here at picasa!
Australia day one: Cairns!
We got off to a rushed start, going to the airport straight from work. We flew to Cairns and arrived early in the morning, at 6:00. Taking the first bus from the airport, we arrived at our backpackers hostel, dumped our bags there, and walked to the pier, where the boat was ready to take us to the great barrier reef for one day of snorkeling!
After arriving on the boat we had to wait for a while, after which we got a warning that the sea might be 'a bit rough' today, and that some of us might get seasick. I figured that it wouldn't be that bad. I was very wrong. The sea was terrible, and we raced through it at high speed, smashing on the waves continuously on the way to our destination. It was fine for me, but NN had seen better days. She does get kind of car sick, and the rocking of the boat was way too much for her. She was sick all the way, and only felt better when getting off board for some snorkeling.
Which, in the morning, was quite disappointing. Having missed the scuba diving introductory course we did some snorkeling, but the tide was too high to get close to the reef. We ended up going back inside, NN being more sick and me enjoying a good lunch. In the meantime more and more faces were starting to look pale, and there were quite a lot of people sitting inside with their head slumped over a table...
In the afternoon we traveled to a different diving site, and when we arrived there things were a lot better. The sea had calmed down a bit, and we had a great opportunity to take a helicopter tour over the reefs! It was a great experience. The reefs really look magnificent from high up. Shortly thereafter we took our second snorkeling dive, and I finally managed to play around with my underwater camera a bit. The tide was low, and we managed to get really close to the corals. I started taking movies and didn't stop until my memory card was full and my body was tired. It was a wonderful first day.
After coming back we did a brief stop at the hotel, and went out for some dinner. We found a really nice place that served a seafood dinner for two for $66, which is about 6600 yen. As it turned out, that price was for one person only, and not for two as I thought originally... It was the first of many unexpected expenses (well, after the helicopter, anyway).
The second day started out a bit too relaxed, and only became worse as the day went on. Our plan was to take a scenic train ride to the jungle, which departed at 8:30. We fast-walked to the station but in the end we missed the train by one minute... We had to wait an hour, which was just perfect for breakfast. When we finally did take the train, I was quite amazed by the scenery. The train travels slowly up a hill, twisting around a lot to find the best path, and going past a great waterfall on the way before finally arriving at Kuranda, a small town in the middle of the rain forest.
Our second bad luck of the day presented itself: the river had been flooded a couple of days ago, so the boat ride we wanted to take was not available, and the walking path around the jungle that we started walking on just disappeared into the water after one kilometer. We went back to the village and had a quick look around, and some lunch. It wasn't that busy at all, even though it was very touristic according to some websites. It was quite a nice, calm day and the weather was great. I quite enjoyed being there.
On the way back we took a scenic cable car ride back to Cairns, which took us directly over the rain forest for several kilometers. Taking this way really showed me how huge and powerful nature is, with a huge rainforest stretching out in every direction, the tree coverage so thick that you can't look down and see the ground anywhere. Nature is amazing.
Coming back down we had to take a bus back to the city center. We looked around a bit at a local market, then called a taxi and missed our flight. Yes. I am not kidding. We missed our flight. It was partly our fault, because we stayed out a bit too long for comfort. But I blame the taxi company! Calling them to get a taxi to come to our place took over 20 minutes, and waiting for the taxi to arrive took another 20. By the time we got to the airport check-in was already closed and we couldn't board the plane any more. We had to book another plane to Brisbane, but most of the flights were already fully booked. The first flight we could take was in the afternoon, and would arrive almost in the evening.
That being our only option, we took it, and decided what else to do for the night. Since we did not have any plan of staying in Cairns for another day, we did not have accomodation. Instead of going back to the city center we decided to stay at the airport for that night, so we could save money and because we had to be there the next day anyway. We took a nice shower (airports with showers are great!), and managed to get security to let us through to the domestic departure area just in time. We had about 10 minutes before Hungry Jack's (Burger King everywhere else in the world), and in fact the entire departures area would close, and we managed to get out of there just in time with a cheap dinner :D We found a nice couch and slept there for the night. Nobody around, showers, toilets, quite a nice place actually o_0
The next morning we got up at 5AM. Not because we wanted to, but there was another flight leaving earlier, and we were hoping we could catch it if some people canceled or did not show up. Alas, that was not the case. Both of us being fully awake now, we took a taxi ride to the nearest beach and stayed there for sunrise. Great. After that we were sleepy again so we slept there until the sun had risen so high that it was burning our faces. Having the whole morning and half of the afternoon to look around and swim, we stayed at the beach for the morning, had some brunch, and walked around the area.
The streets in Cairns are huge. They have a huge amount of room. Coming from Japan, I am actually surprised to see more than 10cm space between the road and the house. Japanese could fit 20 houses in the place of 1 in Cairns. That is why I like Cairns better. More free. There was a swamp nearby, and although we didn't go in far I was sure I could hear the voice of monkeys from inside. Nature is close to the Australians, no matter where in Australia you go, but Cairns was definitely the best example of people living side by side with it.
That afternoon we left for Brisbane, to start the center part of our trip. More on that later!