22.04.2008 - 06.05.2008 28 °C
After staying another week with my relatives in Sydney, and being treated to an expensive buffet at the top of Centre Point Tower, I packed my bags again and headed north to Cairns in tropical Queensland.
Cairns is a mecca for backpackers, who visit due to the town's proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. For me, the desire to visit the reef was arguably the catalyst for my gap year travel. Having become a certified diver whilst I was in Honduras over Christmas, I spent my first 2 days on a 'liveaboard' boat which enabled me to sleep out on the reef and go diving every few hours - spending the time inbetween sunbathing on the deck!
The diving was fantastic with such a variety of colourful fish and corals. However, the most memorable dive was the night dive. Shortly before jumping into the dark water, the boat's underwater lights were turned on to reveal countless sharks, some 2m long, circling the boat - a scary proposition! The sharks were not the only highlight of that dive though as our underwater torches found sleeping turtles and a fish who protects himself at night by resting in a bubble of his own mucas.
Returning to the shore in the evening, I walked the length of Cairns esplanade and watched the setting sun turn the sky pink and yellow. The recently renovated esplanade has a beautifully refreshing man made lagoon and has several free BBQs - on which I have enjoyed a few steaks! The following day I enjoyed a day of rest in the sun, working hard to top up my tan after a few rainy days in Sydney.
Fully rested, I travelled north to Cape Tribulation the next day. My organised tour included several stops on the way, the highlight being the boat trip along the Daintree river to look for crocodiles. Unlike my previous, unsuccessful, experience in the Amazon, this time I saw several crocodiles - from the (almost) cute baby croc to the 4m long, 100 year old, 1 toothed grandfather!
Arriving in Cape Tribulation I spent the remaining part of the day, and the following morning, exploring the amazing scenery. The region is an undulating area of rainforest which gives way to white sand beaches and the coral reef just below the surface. Due to the infamous 'box jellyfish' I was unable to go swimming. However, I was more than happy to stay sunbathing on the beach!
The rainforest surpassed my expectations as I saw small turtles swimming in a creek and nearly stepped on a snake. I was also forced to surrender and find an alternative route to avoid a particularly stubborn lizard, about a metre in length, that was basking in the sun. Earlier, I had been told to lick the back of the green ants in the rainforest. Having found some I did - and wow I never knew an ant could be so flavoursome...and sour!
After being picked up the next day, I had several further detours on the way back to Cairns. These included seeing where Steve Irwin had his final wildlife encounter, spending time in Port Douglas (a nearby resort) and enjoying a refreshing swim in the river running through Mossman Gorge.
Back in Cairns, today has been a quieter day, recovering from the night before, when some French friends and I went to a bar's 'all you can drink' power hour. More usefully, I have also spent the day preparing for my flight to Ayers Rock tomorrow!