HHH: Happy Hot & Humid
3/24/11 - 3/27/11
First, some pics that were meant to make it into the last post:
Nikki getting mauled by hungry vegetarian kangaroos:
Tasmanian rain getup:
We were ecstatic to fly from the very bottom of Australia (Tassie) to the almost very top (Cairns), mainly because the sun came down hot and bright on us as soon as we landed. Mental sanity was restored (temporarily – rain-induced insanity will resume on next blog posting).
We were psyched to begin our road trip down the East Coast of Australia in our hot Astra (made by GM, incidentally, though not available for sale at home). It was quite a shift from the Britz camper – the Astra is sleek (you know, for a rental hatchback), small and low to the ground. We jumped in our new ride and headed into Cairns, a hot and humid “city” known for its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and its wet ‘n’ wild backpacker crowd. Big surprise – we indulged in the former, and not so much the latter. Nikki and Marin = Old and Older.
Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by the lovely staff at the #1 rated Traveller’s Oasis, which continues to rank as our #1 accommodation on our Migration.
We were immediately swept up in the Aussie warmth – for starters, they learn your name at first introduction (I mean really, who is even listening to anything then?) and use it each and every time they see you. Good Morning, Marin! How was your day, Nikki? So nice. The ice cold Toohey’s New cans we were served in complimentary beer coosis also helped our impression…as did John, our dimpled and joyful Welch crush/host/travel agent/tour booker, who was affectionately referred to as “your boyfriend” by both Nikki and me for the duration of our stay. The three of us got so close that by the time we left 3 days later, we’d talked about popping zits and pooping in the woods (err, in the context of a conversation about a camping trip, but still…).
With his travel agent hat on, John booked us immediately on one of the most spectacular Great Barrier Reef trips available: the Triple Reef Adventure (Marin requires the gold star package at all times) – an all-day boat tour serving breakfast and lunch, stopping at not 1, not 2, but 3 separate locations on the Great Barrier Reef.
We reported to the docks promptly at 7:30 AM. Though the initial cloud cover was discouraging, our swift jetboat motored us through the storm to the sunny reef. We donned our Stinger Suits – head to toe black lycra/spandex bodysuits, including hoods, stirrups and mitts so you’re protected from deadly jellyfish. Luckily, everyone on board is wearing them, so you’re also protected from embarrassment. Well, some.
Over the course of the 3 snorkeling sites we visited, we saw, up close and personal, huge parrotfish, giant clams bigger than Nikki, the most amazing and vibrant coral you can imagine, reef sharks, blue-spotted sting rays, lots more little fish and big human-sized fish right up next to us in just 4 feet of water, and, our favorite, the giant lumbering sea turtles. We got to snorkel alongside these guys to our delight. When they swim around it almost looks like they are flying in slow motion through the water, and then every once in awhile they pop up for water which is very cute in the way that E.T. is cute. Ugly-cute. Sadly, no pictures of any of this, being underwater and all. The reef was everything everyone says it is, and we wish we could visit a million more times. Here we are on the boat, and a view of the reef from above:
We spent our next two days in Cairns floating in our pool (swimming, drinking a beer and reading her Kindle all at the same time = Marin Heaven), Skyping with our families, shopping at Rusty’s fruit & vegetable market, where the stalls went on and on for blocks and blocks, and finding a great local fishmonger where we got some delicious trout and barramundi and grilled it up on our very own bbq:
And also finding backpacker meal specials -- $10 rump steak, including baked potato, salad and a beer – at the infamous backpacker bar The Woolshed. Apparently we were there on “Uniform Night” – amongst the waitstaff was a pleather-clad sexy nun and several strapping faux firemen. Once again, we were leaving as the real crowd was just coming in. But luckily we didn’t miss the International Goldfish Race. You may be wondering, “How do two goldfish race? And how does one goldfish win such a presitigious title?” Picture several drunk backpackers blowing bubbles through a straw behind the goldfish (basically, directly in his rear) in order to make him swim down a narrow canal, with a bar full of fellow drunk backpackers cheering them on. There was a goldfish for just about every nationality, and at the conclusion of the 15 minute nail-biting bracket tournament, a proud Swede emerged victorious and won herself her own Triple Reef Adventure.
Other highlights of Cairns were the casino and the lovely runs we took along the Esplanade (minus the human-sized bats flying around us):
In many of these towns in north Queensland, you can’t swim in the water because of the aforementioned Stingers. So they all have these lovely “Lagoons” which are basically really well maintained and landscaped public saltwater pools that look out over the real ocean. Pretty neat!
Pictures in Cairns along the waterfront:
John, our adored Welch crush, was instrumental in setting us up on our next set of adventures as we travelled south down the coast. Up next: the one place that was wetter than Tasmania, the largest sand island in the world and the dingo that ate our chips! Xoxo Nikki and Marin