Atherton Tablelands, The Great Barrier Reef, and a whole load of GOON!
26.08.2014 - 31.08.2014 28 °C
After a very long journey from Bali via Melbourne (due to our last minute decision to travel the east coast) we were exhausted as we touched down in Cairns! The view of the reef soon woke us up as our plane made a turn over the ocean to land. Upon leaving the plane, the heat hit us. Now this was more like the Australia we had in mind! We took a taxi to our hostel in the city centre and gawped out the windows the whole way. There were lots of small neighbourhoods where every house was different. Some were raised from the ground due to Cairns tropical climate. There were brightly coloured birds and butterflies everywhere and the streets looked so clean and quiet. After checking in we went for a walk around town and to the beach. The contrast to Melbourne was unbelievable. Hot weather. Quiet streets. Not a high rise building in sight. The beachfront had a huge lagoon, where it seemed like the whole population of Cairns congregated to relax in the sun, have a barbecue for lunch and cool off in the water. Our hostel was great value for money, with a free evening meal every night, and it wasn't too much of a party hostel, which was a bonus after the long journey. Nevertheless, we still decided to take part in the quiz night and had a great laugh with another couple from Manchester (little did we know it that Mills and Jonny would follow us everywhere for the next few weeks!)
A night of goon, beer pong, and karate chops to the neck (don't ask!) sealed our friendship and also made us way too hungover to do our day trip planned for the next day. All worked out well as we managed to join their group the following day and we all visited the Atherton Tablelands together. The Atherton Tablelands is a a tropical rainforest area which ranges from 500m to 1200m above sea level. We travelled in a small group in our mini van, driven by tour guide Josh, to our first stop of the day - Babinda Creek. The tablelands experience much cooler temperatures than at ground level due to the difference in altitude. It was still the start of a sunny day and after our hour long journey we were all up for a refreshing dip in the lake. Amiee went running in first, only to realise that the water was ice cold! And so the day began. We had morning tea and a short walk to warm us up and dry us off before the next stop - Josephine Falls. At each stop throughout the day, the water seemed to get colder and colder (although it didn't seem possible!). Nevertheless, we had so much fun at this stop, sliding down the natural rock water slide into the crystal clear water. The rest of the day was spent getting freezing cold wet and stopping at the next swimming place just as we had dried off, but we had a blast and the views were breathtaking! We also had the chance to stop off at Milla Milla falls, famous for Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl video and the Herbal Essences advert (the boys impersonations beat the girls' hands down!) We loved the tour, our guide was brill, and we learnt a lot about Queensland and Aussie culture.
As if our trip to the Atherton Tablelands wasn't enough fun, the very next day was Great Barrier Reef day! We were up bright and early to hop on our boat at the Reef Fleet Terminal. Unfortunately we were about the only passengers on board who weren't part of a huge group of American exchange students, and my God were they annoying! Nevertheless, and despite a touch of sea sickness, we still had a truly amazing day. It took around an hour from shore to reach the reef and each boat had their own sites allocated, which was great as there was plenty of space to explore. Our first stop was next to a small sand island called Michaelmas Cay. We took the small glass bottom boat to the island, kitted out with our wet suits, flippers, snorkel equipment and underwater camera, and decided to snorkel from shallow to deep making our way back to the boat. We couldn't believe our eyes. Every time we would see a weird fish or coral we would both try and point it out to each other and stupidly shout like the snorkel in our mouth wasn’t there. There were loads of brightly coloured parrot fish munching away at the coral. We could actually hear the sound of them eating and then a puff of sand would appear from the other end. After around two hours of snorkelling, which flew by, we had a buffet lunch on the way to the next stop - Paradise Reef. This time there was no nearby islands and so we jumped in straight from the back of the boat. The water was a lot deeper and quite choppy, making snorkelling tiring work but this place was worth it. There were huge funny looking fish which we later learned are called Maori Wrasse, and we even spotted some clownfish and their anenome! We were a little disappointed when the day was over and we hadn’t spotted any turtles or reef sharks but we were still amazed at the huge range of fish we had seen and their bright colours. It was a day we will never forget.
That evening was our last night in Cairns and we were sad to be leaving the great bunch of friends we had made already. So it was time for a big night out to say our goodbyes. We got together with friends from our hostel and those we had met on the Atherton Tablelands tour and played drinking games at the hostel. When it was noise curfew time we took the rest of our goon to the lagoon area and got rowdy like in our younger teenage years. The nightlife in Cairns wasn’t the best but we made the most of it drunkenly dancing until it was time to get a few hours kip in until our 6am bus journey to Townsville.
We could have easily spent more time in Cairns but we only have so much time to travel the east coast before we should really be looking for jobs to save money for a short stint in South East Asia en route home. TIME IS FLYING WAY TOO QUICKLY!