The Great Barrier Reef

Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13
    Friday morning we finally arrived in Cairns after a long night which included landing in Darwin at 2:15, going through customs & immigrations, sleeping for 30 minutes, checking our luggage, going through security and customs again. We rented a car, bought a tent and set out to find some coffee. We learned a lot about coffee in Australia very quickly. First, it's expensive and second it's espresso diluted with water (long black) or milk (long white). We shared a large long black for $5.50. Ready to set out on our three day exploration of Queensland. Our first stop was Kuranda, where we realized food was expensive too. Currently the Australian dollar is equal to $0.91 US dollars, so this has been our first place where our dollar isn't multiple times larger than the local currency. We had lunch, checked out some shops and enjoyed a leisurely few km hike down a jungle path to a waterfall and old train station. We drove west, stopping at Emerald Creek Creameries for some ice cream, to Mareeba. A few km out of town we set up camp at Granite Gorge, where we fended off wallabies who were trying to eat our dinner. Throughout the night I checked to make sure my toes were still there a few times. We were told later it dropped to 10 degrees Celsius, though we're not sure exactly what that is.

May 14
    Saturday we started our day hiking around the gorge and playing with the wallabies. Then we headed to Jacques Coffee Plantation. Our tour of the plantation started by enjoying coffee on the patio talking to one of the owners who was roughly our age. He explained, along with the great video his brother had made, how the plantation had been in the family for three generations, starting off in Arusha, Tanzania of all places. There were many hardships over the years, but today their plantation is growing, profitable and worth the trip to see! We stopped at the market in Mareeba and then on to Atherton for lunch. We ate at McDonald's because it was by far the cheapest deal $13 for two sandwiches, we didn't even get meals! We found out that minimum wage is Australia is $15/hr which has lead to inflation. We stopped at a few touristy places on our way south and stopped at Mount Hypipamee. We did some hiking and continued driving to a remote (free) camp site. The back country roads were beautiful, as was the lake we set up camp on

May 15
    Sunday morning was very frigdged, so we quickly packed up camp and headed to a coffee shop. We were hoping to hike on one of the many Misty Mountain hiking trails, but they were all closed. We stopped at all three of the waterfalls on the Milla Milla Falls Circuit. We eventually found a steep 5km trail to hike. Since we arrived in Australia we have been obsessed with finding a Cassowary, an endangered, dangerous, 6-foot tall, blue-headed bird. On our hike we actually saw one! It made our day (I know it sounds really lame, but it was so exciting!). We continued driving until we got to Mission Beach, two hours south of Cairns right on the coast. The small town looked like it would be the place to be in the Summer, but being fall it was quite dead. We enjoyed a couple drinks and played chess on a yard-sized board at Bernie's Beach Bar. 

May 16
    Monday we started the day with a run on the beach. All the hiking paths in the area were also closed because of a cyclone that hit the area in February. We made it back to Cairns by noon which gave us plenty of time to discover the city. The university town had a nice ped mall and boardwalk. We were a little leery to set up a scuba diving trip for the next day since the weather did not sound very promising, but it was our last day to be able to see the Great Barrier Reef. We managed to get a fall discount with Silver Swift for $450 for both of us to have a full day diving, but it still sounded like a lot of money! We stumbled across Bohemian Central Backpackers and booked a hostel for the next two nights. As we were registering I slowly realized that it was a gay hotel. Not that it mattered, our roommate was a sweet girl from Toronto. We found an Irish Pub for dinner and than went to Blue Sky Brewery to sample their beer flight. 

May 17
    Tuesday was our big day scuba diving! Four years ago on this day Ben & I met. Last year we celebrated going to Les Miserables in London, so it only seams fitting we should do something special like dive The Great Barrier Reef to celebrate. We boarded the ship at 8 and had some complementary breakfast while getting a brief orientation. There were over 50 passengers on the terribly rough boat ride and at least 10% of them ended up with sea sickness. I had never seen people so motion sick before. Lucky for us we kept all the great food they served us on the boat down. We did three dives throughout the day. The first one was miserable! The water was 25 degrees C and the water was very choppy. I was surprised how on our own we were in the water. We really had to depend on our "buddy" if we had any problems. Fortunately, other than freezing we had no issues. Wet suits save our second dive. The diving conditions and scenery were much better too. Our third dive was amazing! We saw a white tale shark and a sea turtle the size of a VW Beetle. The diving trip was better than we had anticipated and both enjoyed our memorable day.

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