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.