Australia 2011: Cairns

We came to Cairns and to an enormous, well-appointed, established site on the edge of town. All was good, other than that a small bird, which I believed to be an Australian robin took a dislike to my sunhat and descended from its tree by the gate to attack it whenever I went that way.

The town is unremarkable and pleasant enough, with a variety of bars and restaurants. The seafront promenade is glorious, though, sparkling ocean combined with clusters of pelicans and other wildlife.

We were outside a bar having a beer when an uncomfortable incident occurred. There had been a group of indiginous Australians in the shade of the trees opposite the bar who’d been drinking. A woman approached the nearest table inside the barrier of the bar and accosted another woman sitting at the table, demanding to know what she was staring at. While it was unpleasant for the woman who was the target of this verbal attack,this was our first experience of the anger that native Australians clearly feel and I still reflect on it today, although I have no idea of the answer. Inequality exists in every country in the world, with some countries dealing better with it than others.

The main purpose of visiting Cairns was to visit the Great Barrier Reef and we soon got ourselves booked on a trip there, lunch included. I had no idea how I would cope with a sightseeing tour of an underwater wonder of the world, since I am barely a swimmer and have an innate horror of being underwater. The times when I’ve been submerged I’ve found to be unpleasant, painful [to the sinuses] and terrifying. I’ve written about my experiences with swimming in a previous post https://gracelessageing.com/2013/09/05/when-you-know-you-are-out-of-your-depth/. But now I knew that the only way I would see the Great Barrier Reef properly would be to overcome my horrors and get under the water.

Once underway on the boat we were given a comprehensive talk by an enthusiastic guide which came some way to allaying my fears. They were not only used to those of us who are not water-babies but evangelistic about everyone seeing the reef and its inhabitants, determining that nobody would return having not experienced the marvels of this phenomenon. We’d be coached, cajoled and cared for. I relaxed…a bit.

On arrival to the spot wwhere we were to explore we got changed and kitted out with snorkels, life vests and flippers. Husband, though not himself a water refusenik, is no more a fan of water leisure than I. Nevertheless he was perfectly confident to get down under, having been a regular body-boarder at home. We nerve-wracked, weedy ones went to get our tutorial on snorkelling and a short practice and I was heartened to not be alone in my paranoia.

In the event we got to cling on to a rubber ring and dip our heads in enough for a proper underwater experience. I’d like to say that from that point on I never looked back- that I became a virtual mermaid and devotee of wild swimming- but I’d be lying. I’m still not a fan of swimming and unless I’m too hot I’ll do nothing more than paddle. But I was thrilled to be able to see the colourful fish and corals at the reef and especially the enormous, tame, blue fish that joined us for some of the time, fed and groomed by the boat crews to be fearless among the spluttering tourists.

I didn’t stay in for hours. Twenty minutes or so was about my limit. I wasn’t so good at snorkelling and had ingested more salty seawater than was comfortable. Husband stayed in longer. We enjoyed a buffet lunch- much appreciated, and returned to Cairns, but while I’d only spent a very short period looking at the wondrous reef I felt a sense of triumph that I’d managed it!

Then it was time to move on to the next Australian adventure…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia 2011: Towards Cairns

Fraser Island seemed to be a ‘must’, so we made a stop at a site nearby and made reservations to go over there the following day. We got up early ready for the bus to take us to the boat, waiting by the site gate…and waiting…and waiting. An hour later, as we were about to give up, the bus came. Our mistake- we hadn’t accounted for a change of time zone. But the island of sand was worth the wait- if only for the wacky traffic on the sandy beach- several vehicles including a small plane.

We had a stopover before reaching Cairns at Townsville, where a large site faced the ocean and was semi occupied by permanent residents. We are used to staying in all kinds of sites, some purely for tourers and others where people have their permanent homes, either being perfectly acceptable to us.

It was while we were at Townsville that something happened to us which had never happened before…and has not happened since. We were robbed.

It was in the morning. We packed up ready to go and had decided to go and visit the town’s aquarium before we moved on. The last couple of morning jobs included taking the recycling across to the bins, which I did, whilst simultanaeously Husband had nipped out to empty something, meaning that the van was unlocked and open…for all of one minute, our bags left on the front seats. Thus far we’d noticed nothing amiss. We drove from the site and to the aquarium, where we entered and prepared to buy tickets. Husband drew out his wallet- which was empty of all cash. I drew out mine- also empty of cash. I don’t recall how much cash we’d had, but it was a substantial sum, however we still had our bank cards. Phew!

I’ll never know how someone was able to get into the van, access both wallets from our bags and lift all that money in such a short time! It was a salutary lesson on van security though and I think we have to see it in the context of all the years we’ve travelled safely and without incident.

Before going to Cairns we went to the Eungas National Park, a site in a great position up in the hills where we hoped to see some wondrous wildlife…and we were not disappointed. It was a peaceful and beautiful place, views over the valley below punctuated with impossibly tall palm trees. There were walkways through the forest giving access to waterfalls and pools, delicious, in the tropical heat, to bathe in. We were thrilled to see all the wonderful bird and plant species, but far and away the best thrill, after waiting patiently by a quiet pool in the early evening, was spotting a duck-billed platypus paddling around, oblivious to us.

As we’d still not spotted any koalas roaming wild we resorted to visiting a wildlife sanctuary where the cuddly creatures were in abundance, mostly slumbering, as is their nature. Wandering around, we were followed so closely by unfenced wallabies that I stepped back and trod on the toes of one, leading me to apologise profusely…and foolishly. Among the other animals there were cassuaries, dingoes and the most enormous, ferocious crocodile I have ever seen.

Then it was on to Cairns itself…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook