Back to writing about the good stuff then, plus seeing as I’ve also just spent £51 to renew my website domain and stuff I might as well put that money to good use writing blogs for the next year. Although apologies for taking so long to get going again, I’ve been busy enjoying life. Let’s get into it then, I stepped off the bus in Cairns (Friday 30th August) and was greeted by Fred and Lisa at the lagoon (an open-air park and swimming pool) with an ice-cold beer! It was good to be out of Ayr and back in the real world. After enjoying the beer and checking into my hostel for the night, I headed out to join Fred and Lisa for a bite to eat and a drink. Although we said we would save the big celebrations for the following night. On Saturday then Fred and Lisa joined me at the hostel having stayed in a spa hotel the previous night and we just took it easy, doing some life admin, Fred and I also made it to the free gym that was attached to the hostel. That evening though we hit the town for a celebratory night out after farm work. This felt a little strange if I’m honest as for the last 10 months, nights out have consisted of backpackers only, yet while in Cairns obviously, it was a mix of normal Australians on a regular Saturday night. It reminded me a lot of being out back in England and I’m not sure I was 100% happy with that vibe, but I guess I shall have to get used to it again. We started off with a few drinks in a place called Pier Bar, before ending the night in Woolshed (init). Overall it was nice to let off some steam but checking bank balances the following morning was pretty horrible! We shall be back to cheap goon shortly I imagine. Sunday consisted of a late wake up followed by another lazy day. Lisa and I, however, received a text from the hostel saying we had won their prize draw and to go speak to the travel desk. It transpired that basically, we could get a free Whitsunday trip and a free Fraser Island tour for a person. We, therefore, booked two tours which we were going to do anyway and saved between the 4 of us, as we also booked for Ollie a total of about $150 each which was nice.
After spending a few days in Cairns adjusting back to real life in Australia on Monday the 2nd of September we picked up our hire car for the week. This would be used to explore the area north of Cairns. The car only cost A$200 for the week between the 3 of us and was really really nice. I’ve never driven such a modern car before if I’m honest. Although it seemed Lisa had never even driven a car. Both Lisa and Fred went to pick up the car while I waited at the hostel. When they arrived, Fred immediately stated that Lisa couldn’t drive and that when she first broke, he nearly went through the windscreen haha! (all shall be revealed later) After loading up the car and Fred took over driving duties, we made the drive up to Port Douglas. It was a very scenic drive along the coast with some really nice lookout points (rex lookout).
We also took a bit of time to stop in Palm Cove for an hour or so to explore along the beach here. After arriving in Port Douglas and checking into our hostel we brought a box of Goon (cheap boxed wine) and headed to Rex Smeal Park to catch the sunset. The park lookout point offers a really nice view of the sea and in the background a look at the rolling hills of the Daintree rainforest. Watching the sunset, whilst boats sailed past with a cup of cold goon in one hand it finally felt like I was experiencing what Australia had to offer after all this time. And I knew the rest of my time here was going to be worth the 4 months on the farm.
On Tuesday we drove from Port Douglas up to Cape Tribulation so named as it was were captain Cook experienced tribulation on his discovery voyage of Australia. The drive from Port Douglas to the cape involves a ferry river crossing followed by winding roads through the Daintree all the way to the Cape. There is also a good lookout point once across the ferry called Alexandra lookout which is worth a stop for 5 minutes to enjoy the view.
After about an hour and a half drive, we arrived at Cape Tribulation which was stunning. The white sandy beach, crystal clear waters and rainforest backdrop made for an awesome sight and we sat eating lunch on the beach. The only downside was the danger posed from crocodiles and jellyfish in the water which meant you couldn’t really go for a dip, so simply had to soak up the view, which wasn’t a bad thing.
After exploring the beach and lookout point, we headed to Duduji boardwalk, which is a man-made path through the forest offering a close-up view of the wildlife. If I’m honest we didn’t really see any wildlife save for a turtle in one of the rivers which was cool. After the boardwalk and a quick look on the nearby beach, we headed back to the ferry via Thornton beach, which was deserted and equally as stunning as were all the beaches we visited. Someone had also decorated a coconut and named it Wilson which gave us all a laugh. After catching the ferry back over the river crossing, we stopped off for homemade ice cream at the farm next to the road, which was delicious and then made our way back to Port Douglas. That night we decided to try and sample some of the nightlife, but there didn’t seem to be too much of it. Maybe a Tuesday night in Port Douglas isn’t supposed to be wild. Or maybe we just left too early, either way, it probably saved another hit on the bank balance.
On Wednesday we headed back up to Daintree but this time to explore the area before the river crossing to Cape Tribulations. We ended up doing two river cruises on the Daintree River in search of crocodiles. The cruises were actually very good and for only A$30 total well worth the money. I learnt a lot about the area and crocodiles themselves from the very clued up tour guides and saw about 5 crocodiles in total, from babies to big 4m long adults. We also saw lots of different birds. Overall, I would highly recommend the cruise to people visiting the area.
After the river cruises at two different locations along the river, we then made the journey to Mossman Gorge, where there are several waterfalls and places for people to swim if they wish. We all elected not to go swimming as the water was bloody freezing. Even though it did look very inviting. There was also a suspension bridge which looked a lot like the bridge out of “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” Fred and I joked around re-enacting a scene as someone leaving the jungle.
Thursday, I had booked a day’s scuba diving on the great barrier reef and I was very excited to finally go diving again after so long out the water. Especially after my scuba dives in Ayr got cancelled and I never managed to get around to doing them! Unfortunately, scuba diving in Australia is far more expensive than diving in south-east Asia. I went with a company called Poseidon and paid roughly A$340 for 3 dives on the reef (all companies are the same price). It was definitely money well spent though. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions with the staff saying it was one of the best days for diving all year. The water was so calm, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the visibility was around 30 to 40m. It was amazing. The first dive site we visited called Barra, was probably my favourite and had a big rock pinnacle which we circled a couple of times. Here I saw some groups of barracuda which were cool and a massive Queensland grouper. Plus, loads of other fish in amongst the coral. I got back into diving like a fish in water and had no troubles even though I was maybe a little apprehensive the night before. But as soon as we started descending, I was reminded how much I loved doing this and how great a feeling it was to be back underwater drifting weightlessly through that magical world. Dives 2 and 3 were similar to one another as they were drift dives, where we jumped off the boat at the unprotected side of the reef, before drifting around the reef to the sheltered side to meet the boat again, which had stopped to let those wanting to snorkel into the water. On the second dive, I caught a quick glimpse at a marble ray swimming off in the distance and on the 3rd dive saw a reef shark plus was joined pretty much the whole dive by a fish that swam alongside me.
The only downside to dive 3 was that I broke my GoPro. The case seemed to have been breached and leaked water into the housing flooding the camera and rendering it useless. Thankfully I already had all my photos and videos plus the SD card survived. But I am now without my trusted GoPro which has visited pretty much just as many countries and places as I have. It certainly served me well over the past 4 and a half years, so it doesn’t owe me anything and I was contemplating an upgrade anyway. I guess everything happens for a reason and it’s clearly a sign I’m due a new one. Overall though the days diving was great. It was amazing to be back underwater and to dive the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef. I can’t say it’s the best diving I’ve ever done, but then I think I’ve been blessed with some of the best diving in the world in Asia. It was still certainly very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also recommend the boat I went with as the team was so professional and the standard of service first class.
After exploring the area surrounding Port Douglas, we made the drive back to Cairns seeing as we had to drop the car off that evening. We choose to head back via the inland route to see a little more of the country as opposed to driving the same road we came up on. The drive took us towards Malanda, where we stopped at Emerald Creek Falls to explore for a little while. The falls were a short walk from the car park, and you could hike to a viewpoint providing a great vantage point of the falls and surrounding area. We also ventured down into one of the pools that were encompassed within the waterfall system. As inviting as the water was it was once again freezing, so we decided against a dip.
At this point, I should finally explain what was happening with Lisa’s dodgy driving. After her initial sharp braking, she did get a bit better driving the car and we weren’t as concerned, but she still wasn’t great. We finally got to the bottom of it a few days later when we discovered she had been using her left foot to brake and her right on the accelerator, as it was an automatic car. It wasn’t until we explained to her that you simply just don’t use your left foot at all that she then started braking properly and the issue of Lisa’s driving had been resolved, thank god! So, after visiting Emerald creek falls, we then went onto Barron Gorge in the Kuranda, which was an absolute giant of a waterfall and I can’t imagine what the water volume must be like in the height of the rainy season. After filling up with petrol just outside Cairns we returned the car after having a very successful first week exploring Aus.
We now had the weekend in Cairns before picking up our camper van on the 10th of September. Therefore, on Saturday we ended up getting pretty much conned into going on a bar crawl which was shocking. The rep sold us the A$30 ticket explaining how good the bar crawl was going to be and what deals we would be getting, which in fairness weren’t too bad and probably saved us a bit of money, but when we arrived the crowd going on said bar crawl certainly wasn’t what we expected. The average age was around 40 I reckon and a big group of Aussies out for their mate’s birthday. The night didn’t get any better wherein one of the first bars the 40 year old guy running the bar crawl started playing a game which started off innocent enough, making people get into stupid positions with their partner, before it transpired into positions of a slightly less stupid and more sexual nature, before finally people started taking their clothes off to stop themselves getting eliminated. Safe to say it wasn’t very pleasing on the eyes and Fred, Lisa and I all looked at each other wondering if we had suddenly been transported to some sleazy bar in Magaluf as opposed to a Cairns nightclub. Really not what we signed up for. In the end, the 3 of us just got drunk and tried to make the most of it.
Come the following morning, we were all a little worse for wear, but I still managed to beat Fred 5-1 at FIFA on the PlayStation at the hostel. Sunday also saw a big reunion with the Manchester girls, who any avid reader of my blogs around Asia knows they featured heavily as we crossed paths with them multiple times. We actually hadn’t all seen each other in just over 5 months, and one of the Jades who went home and didn’t see us in the Philippine it had been about 7 months. So, it was great to see them all and catch up. It didn’t take long before the beers were flowing, which normally doesn’t take long when we all get together, and we were having a right laugh catching up on everyone’s lives and how farm work had been. The plan was to head out for a night on the town but in the end, we didn’t get that far and just ended up having a bite to eat before heading to bed. Monday morning heads were once again sore so realistically there isn’t much worth reporting other than Fred, Lisa and I prepared for picking up the camper van the next day. While Zoe, Jade and Jade (The Manchester girls) enjoyed there last day as a 3 seeing as one of the Jades was heading home to England the next day for a month.
That basically brings you all up to speed with what I got up to once I finally left Ayr and let me tell you it felt amazing to be out exploring again. On Tuesday the 10th of September we picked up our camper van in Cairns ready to start our 5-and-a-half-week road trip down south to Sydney. I shall obviously keep you all updated about the road trip on the blog and aim to break it down into weekly segments. As I’m sure you can work out, we have actually been in the van a week so I’m a little behind. But don’t worry I shall do my best to get you all up to speed soon. Until then you can follow my journey in real-time on my Polarsteps maps linked here:
Or on my Instagram account as well. I shall check back in again soon!