West coast to east coast then, just a short hop from Perth to Cairns. Are you kidding? It’s 500 miles further than London to Moscow and is the same as going from England to Egypt! Australia is a big place.
Leaving Perth was a bit of a wrench because we really liked the city and absolutely fell in love with Fremantle, we could easily have spent another week at least exploring and relaxing in West Australia. Our stay in the suburb of Wilson had been great and I have to say a massive thank you to Belinda and KQ for making us so comfortable and welcoming us into their home. It was lovely living with them and their daughter Marilyn and we hope they enjoyed having us to stay too.
All night on the red eye
Unfortunately the only flight from Perth to our next stop, Cairns, that was within our budget was an overnight one that left around 10.30pm. The flight was with Jetstar, who sound like either an early sixties guitar band or one of Darth Vaders evil spaceships in Star Wars. Actually, just a cheap no-frills airline like Easyjet (no offence Ryan and and Ella). Absolutely fine for two no-frills land sailors like us. We were expecting the worst with a four and a half hour flight plus a time difference of two hours, but actually quite enjoyed the trip. The rest of the passengers resembled extras from some Zombie Apocalypse film and appeared only just alive but Jo and I chatted, messed around, ate biscuits, and were generally ok. A couple of women in front of us drank themselves into near hysteria though, so much in fact that the cabin crew told them they’d only be allowed one more drink per hour for the rest of the flight! They didn’t like that very much and just asked for the remaining three hours worth of drinks in one go. No chance.
Cairns Airport is the quietest, sleepiest airport that we have ever visited. Lovely after the long flight but so laid back. We got a nice local taxi driver fella who unfortunately couldn’t recall the way to our new lodge, and proceeded to open a huge folder on his lap through which he searched for the right directions whilst doing 40 mph. Through traffic lights and roundabouts still reading! I think Jo had her eyes closed! He found it eventually but wasn’t happy leaving us outside a dark house where we had never been before.
It was a little strange. We had instructions to walk up the side alley, open the gate, turn down a covered entrance, and let ourselves into the sliding door at the back. No-one would meet us as it was 5am. We felt like crap burglars! It seemed ok and we were asleep in minutes.
Tranquility in Edge Hill
Next morning we rose to find ourselves in a tropical paradise. The house was incredible. We had our own private annex at the rear of the main house, newly decorated and big enough to dance a quickstep around, and our own private sitting area outside under the palm trees, and best of all access to a fabulous pool.
Our hostess here in Edge Hill in Cairns was the lovely Trisha. Just us and her and her little dog Teddy (more about him later). She warmly welcomed us and told us what was where before giving us the biggest pile of brochures ever. Now Jo loves a brochure but this was serious even by her standards.
Cairns: Where is it and What’s it all about?
Well, it’s in Queensland in the North East of Australia and it has a tropical climate so gets very very hot in the summer. We are here in their Spring so in theory it’s not hot but the last few days have been 26-28 degrees which is fine for us. Summer sees it regularly in the mid-forties. No thanks.
Cairns has only really been a busy city since 1984 when the international airport was built, previously it was just a sleepy regional town built on a history of the gold rush and old sugar plantations. Trinity Bay in Cairns was supposedly discovered by Captain Cook in 1770 when he sailed around the Great Barrier Reef in the HM Bark Endeavour before running aground and limping into shore, which became the site of the present day Cooktown. The crew were so cheesed off that they named other places Cape Tribulation, Hope Island and Weary Bay. You can now see all sorts of bars and restaurants named after him and his ship all over the city. Cairns itself wasn’t officially founded until 100 years later when it became a gold rush frontier town and was named after the governor Sir William Wellington Cairns. That’s the history lesson over…..
The town is a real mix as far as we are concerned. It has fabulous marinas and harbours with incredible mountains towering over it and of course the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean stretching away to the horizon. But it also has backpackers, fast-food joints, hostels, bars, nightclubs, and excursion shops galore. It is a real party town that seems to veer between tacky and unique. I guess that means that it has something for everyone but at least all of the ‘seaside stuff’ is in the same area so can be avoided if you choose (and we did choose to).
Saying that we did have a beer in a German beerhouse before booking a couple of excursions in the tourist information. We just didn’t think we could come here and not visit the Great Barrier Reef so that’s an adventure to come. One of our new neighbours, Katie, works in the information shop so gave us some quality advice and hopefully steered us in the right direction with our bookings. There are hundreds to choose from so it was potentially a minefield but we think we made some good choices.
Did I forget to say we have bikes?
Under Attack on the Marina
A long stroll around the marina was just beautiful after lunch so we thought we’d treat ourselves to a celebratory drink (hadn’t had one for probably three hours by then ….). We found a nice bar on the harbour called Mondo and relaxed under the trees with a couple of strong beverages. Just watching the world go by when Jo suddenly shouted ‘Jon, get down‘! Were we being attacked? She screamed louder ‘JON‘ so I ducked immediately aware of a noise above my head. As I looked up I could see flapping wings almost upon me and feel the feet trying to grab my head. A lot of arm waving and shouting ensured as I bravely ducked right down behind the chair and the vicious attacker had no option but to move on to the next table. It was an Australian Magpie and it looked very cross! Jo shoed it away as I pathetically slumped in my chair in a state of shock and a couple of bar staff came running across to see what the commotion had been. After a brief explanation they just nodded and walked away saying ‘Oh yeah, they often attack people here. Usually go for their eyes. He’ll probably come back for another go!‘. ………. Great. Thanks very much. So beer downed and off we went. I’m sure we were being watched as we left though.
Typically Tropical in the Rain Forest
Our most recent day out was a fantastic walk up Mount Whitfield which is behind the Cairns Botanical Gardens. Now I was expecting something small with a greenhouse but this was slightly different. In fact, it was a steep climb up the mountain through the tropical rain forest, the Eucalyptus forest and dense grasslands. Only a couple of kilometres and tough going but completely worth it when we reached the top and had views over Trinity Bay, the International airport, and all the way out to Green Island. Fabulous.
What made it so good was that the whole area is a World Heritage site so is untouched with so much wildlife all over the mountain. Lots of Australian Brush Turkeys and Orange-Footed Scrubfowls wandering about with bright blue beautiful Ulysses butterflies fluttering by and the trees filled with the crazy sounds of parrots and other indigenous birds. Almost magical and thank goodness we didn’t see any snakes, reptiles or dangerous spiders.
An amazingly interesting stroll around the Botanical Gardens before some lunch and then Jo having some sort of Strawberry puddle type of drink in a jam jar. She tried to make out that it was lovely but I’m sure that behind the smile there was a little disgust. Spent the afternoon on the Rainforest Boardwalk in the Centenary Lakes Reserve which again was fantastic. So much to see.
Who let the dog out? Who?
I did say earlier that I’d mention Teddy the dog again, well I don’t know much about dogs but he’s a lovely little white terrier mix who’s very friendly and pretty docile. This afternoon we were sitting reading by the pool (did I mention that we have a pool?) when Teddy appeared, ran around a bit then cleared off around the corner. Strange as he should have been locked inside the house. I went to check and saw him disappearing out the side gate and into the street. Panic-stricken I ran after him shouting and calling his name. He stopped a couple of times and came towards me but each time turned and ran off a bit faster. I obviously followed but then he lost me. After returning for reinforcements, Jo and I walked the whole length of the street shouting ‘Teddy‘ and getting more and more worried. He was gone. As we walked back I felt sick, Jo suggested calling Trisha, and we both feared the worst. Stopping at the front of her house I took one last look inside the mesh door and there sat Teddy looking at me wagging his tail. He hadn’t been anywhere, I’d got the wrong dog! Embarrassed? Trisha thought it was hilarious as most of her neighbours almost certainly did.
We’ve been extremely lucky so far to have found such great places to live in two wonderful cities. It’s still early days I suppose and we are trying to pace ourselves but there really is so much to see and so many places for us to explore. We’ve walked our socks off literally. All I can say right now is that both of us are very happy and loving every single day of our little trip .
Oh, and I just can’t stop going in the pool ………………… love swimming. I even love cleaning the pool !
20.9 – 23.9.2015