Category Archives: Cairns

Cans

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The Cairns lagoon.

Cairns is an interesting place. It’s a major Australian city, but when you arrive it feels like some sort of odd tropical oasis. It’s small, but large enough to have a few decent restaurants and bars, and more importantly, a big mall. I spent 3 hours there my second day and wanted to buy everything in Sportsgirl, a shop kind of like H&M, but a bit more expensive. Oh yes, have I mentioned I’m burning every piece of clothing I’ve got when I home? I swear if I have to look at any of this stuff after I get back I’m going to hurl.

First things first, I booked my dive trip, and let me tell you, it was one of the best days I’ve had in Australia, hands down. I spent the day out on the Great Barrier Reef scuba diving. I went down 60 feet! I saw tons of fishies, including a baby Nemo omg, a shark and heaps of gorgeous coral. My German dive buddy Andreas was a laugh — I do think he got a kick out of it when I pushed him towards the shark underwater.

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Dive buddy Andreas.

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The reef from above. 

Hey, I’m not getting eaten down there! I attempted to make it out that night, but pretty much collapsed around midnight. I definitely spoke to a few people online (Kris, Melissa) freaking out that I had decompression sickness because I felt dizzy. Mmm, yeah, it’s called exhaustion. My last day and night in Cairns was uneventful, but uneventful in the way it was supposed to be. It was a fitting end to my time traveling the East Coast. Touristy, backpacker-y, friend-ly. I woke up at about 10:30 a.m., then spent the rest of the morning doing laundry. It was the last I’d see of my Tropical Sunrise or Tropical Fresh or Tropical Whatever It Was laundry powder, as I’d have to bin it at the airport less than 24 hours later. Fittingly, I ate a $3 sausage roll for breakfast — pretty much the cheapest and easiest thing to eat, considering eggs are $10 — then met my friend from Cape Trib, Matt, for lunch at a nearby veggie café. We spent the rest of the day lounging around the Cairns lagoon (shaped like Queensland!), and I couldn’t stop talking about how I wished New York had a lagoon just like it. Granted, I’ve never actually been to a public pool in New York, but if I could give you a picture of what the Aussie ones would be like in NYC, it would be down in Battery Park, in the shape of Manhattan, overlooking the Statue of Liberty, at least 80 degrees, and frequented by families, young tourists and sunbathers. Put one there and one over in Brooklyn and I think I’d go every weekend. After bidding farewell to Matt, I met up with what became my Far North Queensland crew: Emma, Amy, Lorna, Louie, Chris, Will and Sean. Wait, no, not Sean because he was sleeping somewhere. Typical. We all had our yellow Peter Pans wristbands, which in backpacker-land is pretty much currency. If you book a tour with Peter Pans, a travel booking company, they give you a yellow band and you get discounts and free stuff around town. I snagged mine off a guy named Rich in Cape Tribulation. Lucky for all the people willing to walk down there (believe me, there were many many too lazy to go), there was free spaghetti Bolognese at Rhino Bar, the bar I’d been to pretty much every other night in Cairns. We ate, then stopped to look at the night markets. They sold all sorts of Australian tourist crap — kangaroos in a pouch, boomerangs, bush hats — but I did enjoy the tropical fruit wines. I highly recommend Passionfruit dessert wine. I splurged, got a Cookies and Cream ice cream cone, then we made our way back to play on the Internet, watch some Jerry Springer (yes, really) and say our goodbyes. Lorna, Amy and Chris are off to Darwin and Ayer’s Rock, Will’s going home for Christmas, then meeting up with the others in Thailand, and Emma’s off to Asia. After saying my goodbyes to Adam the night before, it was starting to set in that this leg of my journey was over.

As I sat on the plane watching Queensland and the reef disappear under the clouds, I felt a bit sad it was over, but when I emerged into open air on the train back from the Sydney airport, with the Harbour Bridge in full view, it all disappeared. I was “home.” I went grocery shopping in “my” Woolworths, walked around Darling Harbor and poked around a discount shop. Then Karen came over to Base to grab a package and catch up. Friends! I spent last night reading the papers circling gigs I want to go to with money I don’t have, fantasizing about writing all the music interviews I read, eating a grilled cheese and watching two episodes of Law and Order. For now it’s good to be back — I couldn’t be happier. But next week…New Zealand!!!!

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Back to Sydney tomorrow!

Can’t believe my trip up the coast is over.

Didn’t do much today except lounge around Cairns, do laundry and have a nice (free) dinner with my crew up here.

Will get more up once I get on the laptop again…in Sydney!

Turkey Day Down Under!

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Our Thanksgiving table.

I think I’m still full.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Seeing as though all my other family holidays involve going to temple, not eating bread and spending an hour before dinner saying prayers, this is a good one. Turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. No prayers. Curb after dinner (not football, we’re nerdy Jews). Yum.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was in 2002 — my flatmates in London went shopping and made a huge dinner. We invited over a few English friends and ate chicken because the turkey took too long to make. It was a good one — I was full.

My second Thanksgiving away from home was last night. A few girlfriends and I went shopping around 6 p.m., hoping to make an 8 o’clock dinner. Our biggest fear was whether or not we’d be able to kick out whomever was there already making dinner. This is because most hostels have one kitchen situated in the nether regions of a gross basement. It’s usually not pretty. Gilligans, the hostel I’m staying at in Cairns, however, has a gorgeous, modern kitchen on each floor. It’s like Top Chef in there. When we emerged from the elevator on to the third floor, we gawked in amazement at the pristine, empty kitchen in front of us. Counter space, two stoves, and all the cutlery, pots and pans we could imagine. It was as if the Thanksgiving Gods were smiling down on us. Or you know, Squanto…or something.

Again I celebrated with the Brits (some Scots and Welsh thrown in this time), five Americans and a lot of food. It was a good one. I was full.

We managed 8:30, which, I think, is pretty respectable. The girls and I, Emma, Lorna Amy, bought chickens (turkeys take too long! And no ovens in the hostel kitchen!) and made sweet potatoes, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, cauliflower and cheese sauce and carrots, with ice cream and warm apple pie for dessert. We had 14 people, I think more than my family had at home.

I wish I could say more about the last week, but in all honesty, it was just relaxing. I’d even go so far as to say it was slightly boring. Not boring in the sense of having nothing to do, just boring in the sense that for once I didn’t have a tight schedule, planned activities and a wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. It was nice.

In short, after Magnetic Island, we headed up to Mission Beach. It’s so-named because there used to be a mission there, but in actuality it’s four small beach towns, not one. We stayed at a low-key hostel in Wongaling Beach and I spent my first day plopped in front of the TV watching The Pursuit of Happyness and Shallow Hal. I did spend the next day whitewater rafting on the Tully river, which was fun and exciting and all the things whitewater rafting is supposed to be, but the best part by far was the surroundings. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. It was serious rainforest on both sides, and absolutely gorgeous. The Australian rainforest, which I did not know, is the oldest rainforest in the world at 250 million years old. Once all of Australia was rainforest, now there’s only .3 percent left. Our raft guide, Dave (a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey), actually told us parts of the movie were filmed there. Not sure if anyone remembers the scene were the pterodactyl flies over a cliff with a waterfall, but that was one of the scenes. And I was there. I half-expected a T-Rex to come flying out of the bushes. I wish I could have taken pictures, but we were rafting and I didn’t have an underwater camera. If you want to know what it looked like, go watch the movie again!

We spent that night exhausted watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.

At 2 p.m. I hopped on my last Oz bus for the trip up to Cairns. It was only about 2 hours, but we stopped at a commercial croc farm on the way. Not a zoo. These crocs are bred for all that lovely stuff we see in Vogue: handbags, shoes, purses, wallets, etc. Only the bred crocs are used for the skin though; the crocs they catch from the wild are all “pests” (as in, they’ve killed dogs, attacked cows and sheep, and would have been killed anyway), and are used for breeding. They are big. And they are scary.

Another scary animal at the croc farm was the cassowary. This bird is the 3rd largest flightless bird after the ostrich and the emu, and there are only 1500 left in the world. They all live in this little pocket of Australia in the rainforest, and if they die off 25 percent of the rainforest will die — along with tons of species and medicinal plants we have yet to discover. They are the only animal large enough to disperse some seeds, and only they can digest certain plants and fruits. Their feet and poop alone keep 25 percent of the rainforest alive. Nice for the rainforest? Yes. For us? No. One swipe of its claw could disembowel us in two seconds. The one idiot Englishman who tried to hug the bird at the croc farm for a photo got sliced in the thigh and required 38 stitches. I can imagine it wasn’t pretty. I was happy to be behind the fence.

We arrived in Cairns at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and I haven’t done much else besides Thanksgiving. A bit of wandering, a bit of window shopping and a bit of laying around by the pool. Hard life, I know. Tomorrow I head up to Cape Tribulation for more serious rainforest, a croc spotting boat ride and a tropical fruit tour. I’m seriously excited for this tour, because you get to try fruit that’s too fragile to be shipped anywhere else. You basically have to get it off the tree and eat it. I love food, so this should be fun. I get back Monday night, do a full day dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef Tuesday, then head back to Sydney Thursday morning. And that’s it. Seven weeks up from Melbourne. Done!
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Chris, Dave and Louie at the table. Look at all our food!

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Scary croc. 

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Teeny croc! 

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Rafter Dave
Matthew M., no? Dave’s a Kiwi and made fun of us the entire time for not paddling together. “Moppets!” was the common refrain.