A few days in Cairns

So I landed in Cairns on my birthday, did not really get the chance to do much as I was tired when I landed so I had a little wander round the local area before buying myself a birthday Pizza and then heading to bed. Cairns itself is a nice enough place, just too bloody hot and humid for me, it’s the end of rainy season here and you can go from having a shower to being super sweaty within minutes and desperately wanting another shower knowing that have the rest of the day to do this, no I could not live here.

I had only booked one day in a hostel because I had been able to make a success out of the website CouchSurfing.com. My goal to using this was to try and not spend any money on hostels and also get to meet one of the locals. Let me first of all tell you why I think CouchSurfing.com is a website that I have failed to benefit from up until now. You see the goal is for you to put your profile up on the site, tell a bit about yourself and then ask people who live in the area who are advertising that they have a spare couch that you can sleep on to use it. Yes some people are quite happy to let total strangers into their homes and use it like a home without any cost and I could see myself doing the same thing (if I had a house) but my problems are simple.

I’m a new user to this website so therefore I have no reputation, no reputation probably means I am less likely to be accepted. I have not linked my account to Facebook so people who think Facebook is trustworthy may not take me because I am trying to hide that side, but of course I am not on Facebook. Thirdly I am a guy, yes in this situation I think being male is a distinct disadvantage to getting onto a couch. You see the thing (in theory) is that girls will generally happily host other girls and guys will also generally be happy to host girls but hosting a hairy person such as myself may not go down as well. I guess since the website got funding the need to generate revenue has become more necessary so now CouchSurfing.com offer you a chance to “confirm” your account by paying them to send you something to prove your real. Trouble is how to do so only works if your ‘at home’ and if you can find out how on the site (it’s not obvious in my opinion). Still after trying since I hit Australia 3 months ago to find a place I finally persuade someone to let me do this. I was happy to not spend more money on hostel fees and always up for a bit of a challenge. So I arrived at David’ house the day after I landed and tried to integrate myself as much as possible but this is where I come across a secondary issue.

You see David is a really nice guy, and this might paint him in a bad light but I don’t mean to do that and I am grateful for him putting me up. He lives what I would call as an alternate life style and has several people already staying there who help him look after his house and back garden styled farm to be sustainable. All this is all great, it’s cool to see people trying to be self sufficient and David himself was very kind and accommodating to me. Now I am not one to interfere with people’s drink/drug habits, that I shall leave to the various qualified counsellor’s out there but I will say that David does drink (quite heavily I think) and potentially smoke Cannabis recreationally, neither of which he tried to force onto me and neither of which put me at risk at any point during my stay with him. I will say that I found his habits slightly unnerving, I found myself treading very carefully with conversations with him which made me a little uncomfortable. There are two things I will take away from meeting him and this might sound weird reading it. The bed he offered me was tucked underneath the house and had no walls to speak of, in hindsight I should of chosen the tent but having spent the last ten or so days in a tent I thought I would sleep on a bed. Despite my best efforts to deter the mosquitos from eating me alive they still managed to make mincemeat of my legs as I tried to control my temperature in the humid air. This is of course not David’ fault, he lives like this all the time and of course the mosquito’s don’t touch him, me I have fresh new and no doubt interesting tasting blood for them. I tried to accept what was happening and just take it on board but after a third night fending off the mosquito’s I decided its not for me, so at least I can say I tried and didn’t run away at the first obstacle. The second thing I will take away is a strange conversation I had with him. I can’t remember the conversation in full but it involved boobs and me telling him that I have not had that much experience with girls. He then told me that it’s because I make mistakes, apparently he was watching or listening to me talk to a few of the girls who was staying there and I made three mistakes. I am curious about what he might think was the mistakes I took this comment about me very well and just smiled. I don’t really want to go on for ages as to why this is not a problem for me but I will say that I considered how much he knew about me as a profile on a website and how much he knew me as a person and considered just how much he does not know about me. Step back my brain thought, leave it alone, not something to worry about. This is truly new thinking for me and I wonder if I can keep it up. So that was my first CouchSurfing experience, not exactly terrible, and not exactly great, a weird situation for sure and a new life experience.

I also wanted to update you on what I have been up to over the last few days, trust me I have done some things which have truly amazed me, maybe these things are my belated b-day present so if you read my plan then you will know I was going out on a boat to go and have a look at the reef on the 14th May. I had no idea what to expect and was not even sure if I was going to get sick on the boat but I turned up at the pier at 7:30 and waited to get on the Passions Of Paradise boat. On the boat we were greeted by the crew and issued Tea/Coffee and muffins. Within a few minutes we were off on our way to the reef which would take almost two hours by catamaran to get there. During which there were some briefings about safety and lessons for those people ping on how to do so. I decided not to go ping, before I left the UK I forgot to check with the doctor on the state of my ear problems as a kid, I remember having several appointments to put grommets in but they kept falling out. According to what my mum told me I have two small holes drilled into my ears to relive the pressure, this explains the large amount of pain I sometimes get on decent in a plane. My doctor many years ago had told me if I pe deep into water I could go deaf, ever since then I have avoided this situation which means no ping. Arriving at the reef I was genuinely excited and a bit scared, here I am about to plunge into one of the oldest things on this planet and explore it but I have never used a snorkel and flippers before so there was some learning to be done for sure. I walked down to the end of the boat with the other occupants of the boat, put on my flippers and snorkel mask and threw myself into the sea. At first my instinct was to swim like I normally do but not with the snorkel attached to my mouth, I panicked a little just because I was totally not used to putting my face in water and breathing in. My brain was telling me that I was going to die if I did that which took a little while to calm down and try it out.

I was breathing hard at first, still panicking a little to get used to breathing underwater but sooner or later was able to control that as I adjusted. At the same time I was absolutely mesmerised by the coral and the fish darting in and out of the world below me. Now I don’t have an underwater camera and no matter what I think it would do it no justice at all its really something you have to experience for yourself. The fish are all sorts of magical colours and some of which are slightly scary in size but all of them harmless (as far as I know). Swimming around in the reef became natural and I relaxed into it a while trying out a few duck pes before I saw something out of the corner of my eye and I turned slowly and as silent as I could to get a better look. There, beginning to glide away from me was some sort of reef dhark, now as far as I know these are harmless to humans and very timid and rare creatures. My brain yelled “Shark” but I was so fascinated by it. I think it was a blacktip reef shark which thankfully is not responsible for attacks on swimmers. I glided in the salty water with little effort and watched it vanish into the deeper blue never to be seen again. I returned back to the boat after this for a short while just to have a bit of a silent moment to myself witnessing this great creature in the water. It was time to go after another little swim and snorkel and we all got back onto the boat to head to the second reef for the day. The second reef was just as amazing as the first, in fact mores, the coral was a lot closer and you had to be really careful to not touch it with your flippers. As I cruised over it I saw something I sort of recognised but my brain did not believe what I was seeing. I got closer to the large shell thinking it was some large joke put there by the Aussies to make fun of the tourists but no, there they were, living, breathing and pulsating several giant clams. I did not believe they were real until I saw one of them pulsate a little with it’s beautiful purple blue flesh and close it’s vast shell voluntarily. I tell you, nothing describes this moment of realisation quite enough, this thing was alive and I was swimming above it. The boat at the end of the day took us back to the harbour and I spent a fairly quiet evening contemplating what I had seen and what might be coming next.

I stuck to the plan and headed out on the 15th with the On The Wallaby tour up to a place call Yungaburra in the Atherton Tablelands of Queensland a place 150 years ago was surrounded by reinforces, however due to the greed of humans the logging industry ripped this to pieces leaving just two major spots left which made me a bit sad. However our guide for the first day was Sid (or Syd?) a local Cairns born guy with typical Aussie sense of humour who drove us up there pointing out interesting things along the way. We stopped and gazed at the Cathedral Fig Tree which is actually a Strangling Fig Tree which towered fifty or so meters above us a really interesting bit of nature this and I’ll let wikipedia do the work here. We followed this up with a bit of a swim in Lake Eacham, and then one of the most amazing waterfalls I have ever witnessed and had the pleasure of standing under Millstream Falls, finally followed up with a trip to Mount Hypipamee Crater and another swim in the famous Dinner Falls, we finished the day at a spot local to a hostel in Yungaburra we were staying at where I managed to see a Platypus.

Day two started fairly early with breakfast at 08:00 then headed out to see another Strangling Fig Tree and followedby a bike ride through the local area down looking for things like snakes that up with a dip in yet another waterfall where some rather silly photos were taken. We headed back to town to get lunch then to the hostel and collect gear to go for a paddle in a canoe on Lake Tinaroo for Tree Kangaroos and yes we did find one! You might be able to see it hiding in the tree here.

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Once we had a little cruise on the lake we went back to the hostel and I stayed the night in central Cairns while I play the waiting game for my midnight bus down the coast. So yeah I have had a lovely birthday treat by swimming in some awesome places, seeing some funky creatures and generally chilling. I’m a little sad that Australia is due to end but also excited about the next stage of the trip. Apologies for the long post but there was a lot to tell and I still have some stuff to write up from places. Who knew keeping this blog would demand so much of my time, if only I got paid for it!

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