Leaving Darwin for Cairns we once again arrived in an area of the country completely contrasting to the most recent one. Cairns is of a tropical nature, with warm humid days suddenly taken over by stormy clouds that bring masses of monsoon, leaving all sun seekers to abandon their hopes and rush for cover.
The city of Cairns seems to be of an urban sprawl, shop layouts imitating the American countryside, although the esplanade and the board walk along the seafront change this. It is easy to spend a day at the Lagoon dipping in and out of the water, lying on the grass and getting free food off the various BBQs that pop up around you. Although we spent a large amount of time in Cairns, there is little to do in the city of Cairns apart from sunbathe, eat and drink.
Away from Cairns City centre, we took a bus to Palm Cove to experience various other beaches Cairns had to offer. Unfortunately due to it being monsoon season it rained the whole day, although dampening our hopes of a tan, the beach was still beautiful and was filled with artsy cafes and expensive shops to browse. However, the main reason in which many tourists flock to Cairns every year is of course: the Great Barrier Reef. Taking a snorkel tour to the reef we were surprised at how many fellow tourists could not hack the journey and spent most of the time spewing over the side “feeding the fish”. The Great Barrier Reef is breath taking. Obviously. No wonder its one of the natural wonders of the world, it deserves that title with abundance. You are not prepared for the kaleidoscope of colour that lives below you, breathing, and going about their daily swimming lives. There are tropical fish of all shapes and sizes; reef sharks gliding in the gloom, schools of barracuda leading one way, small bright fish swimming in the other, thousands of varieties of coral that float in the current, all in different shapes and sizes, some looking like rock, others imitating jelly, all the colours of the rainbow in a variety of species laid out underneath you. It is another world. Our company gave us a snorkel tour with a guide pointing out parts of sea life and giving us facts about it, which is a definite highlight of visiting the reef. Below is a picture of me with a sea cucumber, do you know it breathes out its anus?
Although, the company was very cheeky and asked if any snorkellers wanted to “try” scuba diving? As I never have scuba dived I said yes, I’d love to give it a go. But be warned! This means the sum of a scuba diving lesson will be included as well as snorkelling- even if you have “tried” scuba diving for only 30 minutes! Although scuba diving allowed us to see deeper, there was little difference then snorkelling, and if you are a diver, there is no need to dive on the Great Barrier Reef as everything is incredibly close to you and is easy to spot.
Travelling to Cairns means many tourists flock even further north of Queensland to Cape Tribulation, where a beautiful partnership of white beach with aquamarine sea and dense rainforest is one of the most inspiring and breathtaking places to visit, an exemplar of how incredible nature is, and how sometimes it just… works.
Take a boat along Daintree River to experience the wet tropical rainforest coincide with the majestic stillness of the river watching currents smash past and around rocks. Then, head into the rainforest for a walk which highlights much of the plantation and dense foliage that cannot be found elsewhere in Australia, apart from the tropical rainforests of Queensland. Unfortunately, in our jam packed tour, when they said rainforest walk, they really should have said car park wander. We were expecting a hike of some nature through the forest with a guide showing us different types of plantation and forest life, although this was not the case. Instead we got dumped at a car park with a board walk and signs, saying we had 20 minutes to have a wander. So in hindsight, for venturing further afield, make sure you arrange your own transport and if you have time, organise a night stay so you are able to explore more and on your own accord.
A highlight of our stay in Australia was a white water rafting trip we did in Cairns. Signing forms on the way to the rapids claiming we understand it is dangerous and how we could lose our lives, should have been a sign of how daring this day was going to be. All I have to say is: do it. Book a trip and do it. Under the careful instruction of a boat guide we all tried to stay in the safety of our boat smashing into rocks, flying into rapids and tumbling over waterfalls, however the rapids were too strong and soon we were floating down the river trying to attach to something, anything to get back into the boat. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t for the faint hearted but any fellow adventurer or adrenaline seeker, this is right up your street.
What made our stay in Cairns memorable and what I couldn’t recommend more was our hostel, Gilligan’s. Booking our hostel in advance to our stay is a definite must as this hostel gets booked up by backpackers, locals and even football teams from various parts of Australia. Gilligan’s seems to be the Magaluf of Australia. Being a massive complex of floors, rooms and kitchens, means the hostel itself is a labyrinth. The hostel is everything you want a hostel to be, nice rooms, good bathrooms in your rooms, fair sized kitchen (although you share it per floor) and each room has a balcony creating a perfect opportunity to play drinking games with your room mates. Separate from the hostel section, Gilligan’s has a pool, an outside bar, an inside bar, a club, a kitchen with free meal vouchers, a casino room and a travel desk. Gilligan’s has it all. Staying in the hostel means you have free entry to the club, whilst outside people and even locals have to pay entry. Gilligan’s have a variety of different nights (similar to Darwin in this sense) with ladies night where men can even dress as Ladies to gain free drinks, wet t-shirt competitions- this was more of a dance competition then the naked one in Darwin might I add, and even jelly wrestling in a paddling pool.
Although Gilligan’s is the core night life in Cairns, we spent nights at PJ Brian’s, as well as The Woolshed– which had great free food and their weeks entertainment followed Darwin’s as well with wet shirt competitions, dildo racing, Babe Nation once again, Ladies night and a beach party. We spent each night here partying and receiving the worst hangovers we had ever come across- Goonovers. To keep a night cheap and simple, many backpackers will drink “Goon”, a sack of wine stored in a bag which normally is 10 dollars for 2 litres and tastes foul- fish eggs and milk wine anyone? Although doing the job, it makes you feel horrendous the next day, and here we were introduced to the good stuff. Thanks Cairns!