Land, Sea, Sky
Trip Start Nov 21, 2008
65Trip End Mar 31, 2010
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Where I stayed
Couchsurfed for 5 days in Cairns North
Cairns (pronounced it 'Cans' to sound like you know what you're talking about) has always been the northern destination point in my Australian journey. I initially wasn't planning on making it over to Perth, but in the end it was cheaper to fly from Cairns to Perth to Bali, than from Cairns to Bali. Okay so the winds would blow me out west to Perth before my Aussie adventure was over but that's the next entry....
Cairns, like many places on the East Coast is somewhere I've been hearing about the whole year in Australia, so I was eager to finally see tha place for myself. It is a medium sized town and even though it doesn't have a beach still retains it's beach feel by playing host to many backpackers and travellers. Like other East coast towns that lacked a beach, there was a man-made lagoon
I was picked up from the bus stop by my Couchsurfing host, Steve, an older guy who lived in Cairns North. There was another American girl staying there and I enjoyed her company for a couple of days while I marvelled at the fact that there was an American louder than me. Steve's house reminded me of my Dad's place and he had several guitars which I wasted no time in picking up and jamming out on. For a moment I felt like I was at home, which of course, is a great feeling.
The next day I took the bus into town, but over the next couple of days I would make the nearly one-hour walk into town more often than take the bus that only came once every hour. If I walked I got exercise, didn't have to wait for or pay for the bus, and if I really felt like it there was a Liquorland on the way and I could drink a beer while I walked. Besides the beer part I contribute the insane amount of walking I've been doing to the 6 lb's I have inadvertantly lost, and not to the backpacker's diet.
The first day in Cairns was for walking around the city, laying by the lagoon, until it started raining (it is a tropical climate after all), and making plans for the rest of my time in Cairns. With the help of an employee at one of the many travel center's around town I had my options laid out for me. The things I wanted to do were Scuba diving, Skydiving, and see the rainforest
My CS host was nice enough to let me stay for 5 nights, and even though I felt a bit like the guest that would never leave, I was out of the house for most of the day and he hosted constantly so he didn't mind at all. After figuring out a plan I headed up to the Botanic Gardens and enjoyed a stroll through the rainforest boardwalk, albiet the thick swarm of mosquitoes. That day was filled with so much walking I must have traversed a dozen or more kilometers and was absolutely drained when I got back to the house. Steve cooked a great curry dinner for us American girls and we drank the wine I brought.
The next day was to be the land portion of the adventure. Rebecca (the other Yankee) and I headed into town to have breakfast and pick up some food that we would cook for dinner that night. With much difficulty we tried to figure out a way to get to the trali head of our walk, but when all of the plans seemed to be falling through Steve gave us a lift. The walk up the mountian to Glacier Rock was not easy and we were sweating profusley under the scorching sun. There was red earth that reinforced the fact we were in Oz and rainforest canopy that offered tropical shade
The next day was to be my Sea day as I was embarking on my 2nd Great Barrier Reef adventure. This day I would be scuba diving for the first time on the well-renowned Outer Reef. Many of the people on the boat were experienced divers who went down solo but me and a small group of others were given beginner's instructions and sent down slowly and with a guide to help us along and ease our nerves. I feel very comfortable with the water but even so my breathing quickened and my heart raced as I descended underwater for the first time. No matter how cool or relaxed I tried to be the body has reactions that are in place to ensure survival and overcoming those is part of the fun. Moving downward I had to squeeze my nose (which hurt because I didn't have the forsight to remove my nose ring) to pop my ears and relieve the pressure in my ears. I had to do this almost constantly and I was a bit worried at the difficulty that was involved with successfully relieving the pressure. I took it slow and listened to my body and soon I was swimming around looking at corals a couple of meters below the surface arm in arm with my instructor
That night the crew from the CDC diving boat was meeting at a bar. They invited the passengers on board and made promises of free beer and pizza. Well it was Thursday night and I hadn't been out in Cairns yet, and I couldn't pass up free beer and pizza so after recoupping back at the house I made the hour walk back into town and partied the night away.
Que Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" because on this, my 4th day in Cairns I was going to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet and freefall for 60 seconds towards the earth at a rate of 120 MPH
I had booked the same jump as Sabrina, the Swiss girl who was part of my Fraser Island trip. Her and I sat on the beach drinking beers on my birthday and bullshitting when we saw two parachuters land on the beach. We had just been discussing how we should skydive in Cairns since we would both be there at the same time and the jumpers landing on the beach right in front of us was a sign, we had to do it. Thankfully my budget agreed.
Before getting on the bus that picked me up I saw a guy who was in my hostel 7 months prior in Sydney, I guess everyone does the same sort of path. Then when the bus doors opened I saw Natalie and Chris, a brother and sister who were also in my Fraser Island Pinky group.
Did I mind being strapped to an instructor who was younger than me and had just started instructing? No, that's fine, except for making me feel old by pointing out that he was younger than me. Even though he had just started instructing this was around his 800th jump, with 100 instructing jumps behind him. Most of the instructors had hundreds of thousands of jumps behind them, and from what I could tell no one's ever died. Despite the constant jokes that they "may have forgotten something" or "if we come back" and signing my name at the bottom of a waiver that states in bold letters Skydiving is Dangerous, I never felt scared for my safety
I was glad to be part of the first group with the three other Fraser Island crew in my plane. With our guides and a crazy sounding Russian pilot who claimed to be drunk we loaded into a small and rickety plane. As we climbed higher and higher in the sky I tried to think of the plane ride as part of the fun and not think about why we were ascending higher and higher- only to come back down. The views were of farm land sectioned off into plots, mountians, and ocean where if I squinted I could see the pastel of the Great Barrier Reef. We were all nervous and scared as hell but trying to contain ourselves until the plane door opened and the sound and feel of 14,000 feet was suddenly in our faces. That's when I shit my pants.....metaphorically speaking. The first to go was Natalie, a brave young English girl who was starting at the London police academy once back home. Good thing she was so brave as she would need it in her profession. Seeing her exit the plane sparked terror inside and after that there were no thoughts in my head. Just like during the bungy my brain went into auto mode and although everything in my body was saying no, I had prepared my brain to just follow instruction and cease to think for itself
After our jump we were all on such a high, but I was surprised with how unscary it was. I had been prepared in my mind for the absolute fear and rush that I associated with the bungy jump, but it was neither. There was fear and rush but different kinds; again an example of why not to have too many expectations. Our group had to sit in the field and watch 3 more plane loads of people make the climb and jump.
The next morning my CS host Steve once again displayed his unending generosity and drove me to the airport at 5:30am to catch my plane to Perth and the last week of my year (minus 1 month in NZ) in Australia. Crikey it's been quite the year!