I wanted to make this post earlier, but the internet and phone service where I was was very patchy. It was hard to upload pictures from my trip since I couldn’t get service very frequently! However, I am back on the grid and ready to share the details of the latter half of my week in Cairns.
On Wednesday I did a lot of relaxing after my sky dive (pictures are up on facebook, but I’ll leave a few below too). In the evening, I actually met up with two other American students who were in Cairns for break: Wyatt (from my internship) and Tom (he’s from Pennsylvania and also goes to ACU). We got dinner together at Grill’d and swapped stories from the first half of the week. It was nice to have some friends in the area, even if we were all going on separate tours and trips during the day.
On Thursday, I took a day trip north to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. A very friendly guide and a group of about 25 of us bussed up the coast to explore the Daintree Rainforest a bit. Our first stop was the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas; its essentially a zoo, but the difference is that you get to walk through the enclosures and interact with a lot of the animals. I got to hold a baby crocodile and a wallaby climbed right into my lap; birds were flying around everywhere and the place was very colourful. All the animals there were native to Australia, so it was the usual crew of roos, koalas, and rainforest birds. It was a really cool place!
Next, we continued up to Cape Tribulation, famously known as the only place where the rainforest meets the reef, for lunch and some activites. Both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest are considered World Heritage Sites, and this is the only place you can find two at once. While there, I went zip lining through the jungle, which was really fun! Since there was an odd number in my group, and I was the only one travelling alone, I rode between all 7 platforms without a partner. It wasn’t scary, even the parts that were very fast or very high (the highest point was about 23.5 metres up, or about 70 feet); I even hung upside down at one point! I got to talk to the guys running it a lot too, since I was at the end of the group, and they told me a lot about the area and the wildlife there. All the pictures I have from that portion of the trip have still yet to make it only my computer, but they’ll be up soon for your viewing pleasure!
After a few hours in the thick of it, we headed back down towards the river for an afternoon cruise. On the way, we stopped at Alexandria Range, a small platform with a gorgeous view; you could see the rainforest and the mountains all the way down to the water. I have better pictures from my big camera, but below is still a pretty good representation. We continued on to the river and got on a small boat that would take us around to look for crocodiles (the main reason that no one up here swims in salt water). We were only fortunate to see one; a big guy at 4 metres (about 12 feet) long! We got pretty close to where he was sunbathing too – it was awesome!
The drive back to Cairns was pleasant and lovely with the sun setting over the mountains. I met up with Wyatt and Tom again for dinner (pizza this time) and some exploration of the city. I also got a churro sundae with vanilla ice cream and nutella and it was AMAZING. Overall, an absolutely fabulous day!
On Friday, I planned a trip for myself to Kuranda, called the Original Village in the Rainforest. A little north of Cairns, it was a quick 30 minute bus ride there. The town itself is pretty small, so I got to explore pretty much all of it. I went to the Heritage Markets and the Rainforest Markets (cause what girl can resist shopping?) and talked to the locals while picking up some souveniers. Outside the first market was a plane wreck with a cool history (it was pretty much placed there for tourists, but you can read the description yourself). I also checked out this “museum” that had fossils and impressive rock and gem specimens found in the area.
The main focus of this trip was the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, where 1500-2000 butterflies of several different species can freely fly about. Most impressive (and hardest to see not in flight) were the brilliant green Australian Birdwing and bright blue Ulysses Butterfly. The latter of the two absolutely never sit still and when they do they hide their colouring so they don’t get spotted by predators. They also fly very eratically, and its nearly impossible to photgraph them. All of the butterflies were gorgeous though and it was awesome to see so many in action. I also got to see the area where they raise the caterpillars before releasing them into the main sanctuary, which was neat. Upon exiting the sanctuary, you walk through an area with heaps of preserved butterflies from around the world; it was both sad an beautiful to see.
The boys were also in Kuranda today, but doing some tours on their own. However, I did run into Tom on two different occassions during the day (the place is REALLY small). Before I wandered back to Cairns, I did a quick walk through part of the jungle, recommended to me by one of the shop keepers at the market. Called the Jumrum trail, it was about 1.4k to a little creek, which was very pretty. When I got back to my hostel in the late afternoon, I treated myself to a nap on what was probably the most relaxed day of my week so far. I met up with Wyatt and Tom for dinner again; we went to a place called Outback Jack’s where I tried a crocodile burger. It looked like chicken and had the texture of fish with a salty kind of taste to it; strange, but good. The boys contemplated attempting a food challenge at the restaurant, but after finding that it involved eating 2 kilos (over 4.5 pounds) of food in 30 minutes the were quick to back down. Now THAT would have been a crazy story!
On Saturday, I went to Green Island to get one more look at the Reef before leaving Carins the next day. The weather in the morning was cloudy, windy, and rainy, and the boat ride out was rocky enough to nearly make me sick (it was like riding a merry-go-round through a car wash). However, it cleared up by 11 o’clock and the day became gorgeous. Sadly, the reef at this location was not very impressive; a lot of it was bleached and colourless and there were not even very many fish. I resigned to making the trip a beach day and spent the afternoon swimming, sunbathing, and looking for natural treasures. Overall, I really enjoyed the day!
At this point, I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get to see a turtle at all during my time on the reef. However, while we were waiting to get on the boat, I got to see not only over a dozen turtles swimming around, but a shark as well! It was the perfect way to end to my trip! I spent my Saturday night packing my bags for Brisbane and nursing the sunburn I’d earned during the day.
On Sunday, I got up early to see the sunrise over the lagoon. While it was raining at first, the clouds parted and I got to see the sun come up over the mountains – it was breath taking! I checked out of my hostel early and spent most of the day reading in the park. I also went to church at Saint Monica’s again and got some better pictures of the windows. By 2:30, I was waiting in the airport for my return plane and by 8pm I was back at urbanest. I got caught up with my friends (who had spent the week in New Zealand) and did some redecorating with the new things I’d picked up during the week. At the end of the day, I was very ready for bed and a lazy day on Monday.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading about my week in Cairns; it was the most amazing part of my semester abroad so far! Thanks for reading and have a great week, America!