Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Travel Journal: Cairns

Dec. 29:  Sydney > Cairns
After a final swim and breakfast at Starbucks, we walked to the train station to head back to the airport for our afternoon flight to Cairns (pronounced “Cans”) in the northern part of the country, which is also in a different time zone from Sydney (who knew?!).  When we arrived, we opted for the economical shuttle bus to the central hotels, and since our hotel ended up being the last stop, we got an unexpected but useful tour of the area.  Our hotel was the Mantra Esplanade, at the southern end of the central area, just a block from the Reef Fleet Terminal and The Reef Casino.  We could see the ocean from our balcony!  The Esplanade is not only a street name but also refers to a public area long the waterfront that includes a pedestrian promenade, exercise stations, volleyball courts, a skate-park, and the Lagoon, a large public swimming area with varied water depths and lifeguards on duty.  All of this is free and open to the public, so it’s no surprise that Cairns is such a popular tourist destination for families, with all of these great activities available.

The Lagoon at Cairns Promenade 

I went exploring while Mr. E rested, and in the evening he joined me to stroll a bit more, so we got to see the Esplanade lit up, including coloured lights shining up into the trees, not to mention lots of fruit bats whirling about the area.  We stocked up on breakfast items at the Woolworth’s grocery store since we hadn’t found a nearby Starbucks or other economical breakfast spot.  Our room included a mini-fridge, which was quite convenient and seemed to be a consistent amenity for all of our lodging in both countries.

Cairns is very tropical and reminded me of several other places I’ve visited:  Miami Beach in terms of the temperature and humidity; Honolulu in terms of the flora and fauna; and Panama City and Colon in terms of the people and mix of architecture.  Even though the city is a resort town and major tourist destination as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, it didn’t feel overtly luxe or chi-chi, which was really nice.

Dec. 30:  Cairns
Experiencing a community health center wasn’t really part of our original vacation plans, but given Mr. E’s ongoing illness, we decided to take advantage of the 24-hour clinic about 7 blocks from our hotel.  The entire interaction took about 1 hour from walking in the door to seeing a doctor to filling a prescription for antibiotics at the pharmacy next door.  And all for about $80 – not bad for an unexpected medical issue.  While we were waiting, we saw a mom come in with her young son who had a bubbles wand stuck on his finger.  Rather amusing for us, and he didn’t seem to be in much pain, but it did appear that a big bottle of olive oil was put to good use by the medical staff!

We procured some coffee at Gloria Jean’s and learned about the rarity of brewed coffee in any Aussie coffee shops.  In Sydney, we had noticed that Starbucks only had 1 brew-pot ready at any given time, which seemed unusual to us and quite contrary to the procedures I had followed when I worked at Starbucks back in Las Vegas.   Coffee shops in Australia and New Zealand focus on espresso-based drinks, and one thing I really loved was that Starbucks’ espresso is all Fair Trade in these countries – and why can’t that be the case here in the US as well??!!  *sigh*  *grrrrr* 

After our daily dose of caffeine, we walked along the waterfront promenade to read some of the interpretive signs and information about the region and the history of the people and the area.  Just around the corner from our hotel was a small Art Gallery/Museum, so we took advantage of the proximity to visit the exhibitions and enjoy the air conditioning.  We were both interested in the exposition that was based on Alice in Wonderland and had lots of hands-on activities for children (and adults!) and in the display of various types of artworks by regional artists inspired by the local weather and climate.

Turtle Sculpture Near Cairns Cruise Ship Terminal 

Mr. E rested for a bit while I relaxed by the hotel pool, and we then explored some of the western and southern blocks of the central area.  To cool off after our stroll, we headed across the street for a dip in the Lagoon and then wrapped up the evening with dinner in our room, thanks to another trip to Woolworth’s.

Dec. 31:  Cairns
Great Barrier Reef tour day!  Mr. E had decided yesterday that he wouldn’t be up for the adventure, so I headed off solo to the Reef Fleet terminal.  In the rain… Drat!  This was the only day that the weather really didn’t cooperate, and before I even managed to board the boat, I was already rather damp.  By the time we made our first stop at Green Island, the weather had cleared, so I strolled along the boardwalk in the rainforest and swam a bit in the pool.  Our pause at Green Island was only about 1 hour, and I didn’t really have any good way to secure my bag at that point, so I didn’t take advantage of the snorkeling opportunity and opted instead to wait for the next stop at the Great Barrier Reef pontoon site. 

Unfortunately, by the time we got to the pontoon anchored at Norman Reef, the weather was acting up again.  Choppy water, grey skies, light rain that turned into a downpour towards the end of our visit.  Rather disappointing not to see the Reef in all its glory with the striking and varied colours that are so often portrayed in photos, but I did enjoy the bright blue coral and small electric blue fish, and I’m certainly glad that I did the tour even if it didn’t match my hoped-for expectations. 

Mr. E stayed at the hotel and watched NFL playoffs all day, which was definitely the right decision for him so that he could begin recovering from his sinus infection and also avoid any potential seasickness with the rather rough seas.  So glad that he got the antibiotics early enough to be finished with them by the time we get to Picton next week, since we’re already booked for a day-long wine tour of the Marlborough region!

We both enjoyed the great fireworks over the harbor at 9pm, and our balcony provided a perfect viewing site.  I also woke up again for the midnight show and watched from the window.  Happy New Year!

Fireworks Float in Cairns Harbor


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