Kicking Back in Cairns

Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
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Trip End Mar 24, 2011


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Where I stayed
Ann's Place

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Friday, March 18, 2011

After spending a few days in Central Australia, my next stop was the tropical setting of Cairns (pronounced 'caaanes' by Australians).  I left Alice Springs and flew 3 hours northeast to Cairns, departing and arriving in heavy rain.  I was thrilled to see my friend Ann from my tour in New Zealand who picked me up at the airport when I arrived and extended such warm and gracious hospitality to me during my 5 days in this warm and lovely area of Australia.

Cairns is an interesting city that is a popular destination for tourists and Australians as it is warm and tropical as well as being close to both the rainforest (the Daintree region) and the reef (the one and only Great Barrier Reef).  It is a combination of a resort type of town being on the coast with a lovely esplanade and boardwalk as well as a city lagoon (large swimming pool on the waterfront) and a cultural destination with art galleries, museums and interesting older buildings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairns,_Queensland

My first day in Cairns was spent walking around the city to get my bearings.  I enjoyed walking along the boardwalk when the tide was out and looking out for the many varieties of birds that can be found along the shoreline.  The city has done a good job of developing the waterfront with memorial parks, a children's playground and then near the city centre, there is a lagoon which is a large pristine swimming pool enjoyed by locals and tourists as there is no natural beach in the city.  If you walk further along the waterfront, you come to the Reef Terminal, a marina with many tour boats and private sailboats and it is here where you can catch a tour of the Great Barrier Reef so it is a busy spot.

The downtown area has many souvenir shops, coffee shops and internet cafes as well as authentic Aboriginal art shops and galleries.  I spent some time at the local tourist information centre booking tours of the rainforest and the reef and then did some souvenir shopping and stopped by the local art gallery to check out the exhibits.  The Cairns Regional Gallery was small but I was very impressed with the two main exhibitions that were featured when I was there - one was called 'Birds of a Feather' which focused on a theme of the bird market in Hong Kong.  There were very creative offerings to be found in this show from sculptures to paintings.  The other main exhibit featured various types of award winning glassworks - from glass birds in elaborate cages to vases and etched glass.  These pieces were really beautiful. 

http://www.cairnsregionalgallery.com.au/exhibitions.html

On my way home from the gallery, I stopped in the Cairns public library which is a beautiful older civic building with lovely grounds.  After getting a little library fix, I moved on, walking past a nice Catholic church, St. Monica's Cathedral, which has an incredible set of stained glass windows telling the creation story with a decidedly Australian theme incorporating kangaroos and Aboriginal people into the colorful history.  The stained glass windows run the entire length of both walls of the cathedral so it is worth sitting in this church and taking your time to look at the artists' rendering of the creation story.

http://www.cairns.catholic.org.au/Places/StMonicasCathedral/CreationWindows/CreationWindows.html

The most fun part of visiting Cairns was spending time with the energetic and amazing Ann!  I want to be Ann when I grow up - this little lady never stops and has such a zest for life and enjoying every minute!  She hosted a dinner party one night, inviting some of her lady friends for food and laughter - it was a great evening.  On another day, we took off on a road trip together which was such fun.  Ann, being a birdwatcher, typically drives a big older Toyota campervan, but on this occasion, she opted for renting a small car for this road trip and we had a lot of laughs along the way as she adapted to a much smaller vehicle with gears in a totally different position.  I was basically her 'seeing eye dog', helping to guide her hand to the gear shift between the seats when she was going around the many roundabouts!  I love Ann's adventurous spirit - nothing fazed her despite all these new experiences. 

There are many beach communities along the Captain Cook Highway as you drive north from Cairns to Port Douglas and because there is no beach in the city of Cairns, many locals spend time at these beaches.  We drove through some of them and stopped at some too to walk along the sand and the piers.  We made our way to Port Douglas and went first to an amazing lookout at the top of the town and then dropped by a beautiful tiny little church on the waterfront which is very popular with wedding couples due to its idyllic location. 

Ann and I had a luncheon date with two other ladies who were on our tour of New Zealand - a bit of a reunion - so on we went to Mareeba, a farming community near Port Douglas to pick up Ida, one of our fellow tourists.  When we arrived at Ida's house, there was a stray cockatoo sitting on the gate in her yard, and the rescue mission that ensued was worthy of a Three Stooges movie!  Ida coaxed the runaway cockatoo onto her arm while wearing garden gloves, but it was feeling a little angry and was biting on her hands and arms so Ann jumped in and offered the cockatoo her keys to bite instead of Ida.  As they walked along to the back yard to find a cage to put the bird in, Ida's little dog was barking and trying to get the cockatoo and I was helping to find the cage.  Between all of us, we eventually half coaxed/half wrestled the cockatoo off Ida's arm and onto the top of the cage, where it dug in it's claws and would not be pried off to go in the cage. Between Ida, Ann, the dog and me, we managed to cage the bird but not without a lot of lost feathers! 

We certainly worked up an appetite with our cockatoo caper so on we went to meet our other lady-who-lunches, Nella at the local mall coffee shop.  We so enjoyed our visit, catching up with our fellow NZ travellers and reminiscing about our recent trip (and comparing cockatoo wounds).

Leaving Mareeba, Ann took me to Kuranda, a beautiful little town with a lovely walk into the rainforest to see the impressive Barron Falls.  The drive itself was really amazing, with winding mountain roads and flooded low lying areas.  We enjoyed our walk thorugh the rainforest and stopped to watch the falls which were very full and high on this day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuranda,_Queensland

It was a great week in warm and wet Cairns and Ann was an easygoing and energetic hostess.  We packed a lot into five days from city touring to coastal and inland drives but also had time to kick back and chat and watch the news, while enjoying our toast and tea.  I look forward to a return visit someday but hope that Ann will also find her way to Eastern Canada sometime soon.
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