Leaving Darwin was a huge pain. I had bought a ridiculously cheap ticket for around 50 dollars leaving Darwin for Cairns at 5am. I would have to be at the airport at 3am which means I would have had to leave a hostel at 2am to get to the airport on time. I was clearly not going to pay to sleep at a hostel for 2 hours so set out on a rather painful adventure to the cities tiny un-equipped airport at 10pm. I arrived at the airport at 10:30pm with 6 hours to spare and immediately searched for a comfortable spot to sleep. I was amazed at the number of people camping out at the airport…the majority of the lobby was filled with tourists lying on their backpacks with hats over their faces. I so badly wished I could have found a dark corner but the entire airport was on full flourescent blast.
With barely any sleep I finally got into line for my flight at 3:30am looking ridiculously haggard (like the rest of the members in line). We jetted off the tarmac in the dark and flew in a south easterly direction towards one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Cairns is located at the northern tip of the state of Queensland Australia and is the hub of nature/adventure travel in the country. Hopping off the airplane I picked up a shuttle to my hostel and soon met with my friend Kat who I met months before in Tokyo. We would be spending the next month together and I was excited to see a semi-familiar face! Cairns is a true “backpackers paradise,” but at this point such descriptors were no longer my cup of tea. Traveling had now become a lifestyle and I was no longer keen on jumping on the drink all night and sleep all day bandwagon (especially in this ever so expensive country). The majority of the people at my hostel were living here and not just visiting for a few days. “The Asylum,” as the hostel is affectionately named is the cheapest in town, offering accommodation per day as well as per week and month. Many of the guests were from the UK and Canada on work holiday visas. Queensland is one of the countries biggest agricultural centers and many people living here would spend their days picking bananas and at night they would drink cheap boxed wine (referred to as goon) and complain about how horrible their jobs were.
Kat and I had three full days in Cairns. We spent our first day on a massive scuba yacht which sailed two hours into the open ocean. We then snorkeled and scuba dived throughout the afternoon along the Great Barrier Reef. This had always been one of my great dreams…but I quickly learned that “the biggest is not always the best.” The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the world but what it has in quantity it has lost in quality. The open ocean is a roller coaster of waves. I noticed a few American college students sitting for an hour or so trying not to vomit. The quality of reef life is disappointing compared to the plethora of aqua-wonderland that can be found in dive sites such as the secluded islands off the coast of Borneo.
The following day we enjoyed a White Water Rafting trip on Australia’s ever so famous Tully River. Our trip included lunch, a gang of hilarious Aussie and Japanese tourists and a loverly collection of riverside rain forest scenery. On our final day we puttered about Cairns and enjoyed the cities ocean side water park where we people watched, sun tanned and soaked.
I would also like to note my appreciation for the Australian ice cream treat Golden Gaytimes, the countries famous Chocolate Lamingtons, Cadbury Black Forest bar (milk chocolate, cherry jub jub pieces, oreo cookie) and my very first kangaroo steak! It should also be noted that my arrival in Australia marked the start of my battle with the bulge. I would continue to gain weight for the next 6 months of travel as I was once again acquainted with chocolate, pastries and other horribly delicious Western novelties.