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.
Dive buddy Andreas.
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!!!!