First Time Qantas, Senna Doc, Sparkling Sydney From The Sky, Humid Cairns, Dreamtime Resting, Expensive Oz!
We were flying with Quantas from Christchurch to Sydney, and then had a scheduled stopover before flying with them again to Cairns. We were impressed with the Quantas plane and service- the entertainment and films on offer were good and the food was ok too. We both watched the documentary Senna (highly recommend it), and we also saw Sydney's harbours and the Opera House from the air- amazing!! Hello Aussie!! After I was swabbed for explosives (a first for me, although the apparently random selection process of who was being swabbed was interesting, dare I say racist?). We killed some time at the airport before boarding our flight to Cairns.
We arrived in the late evening to Cairns, and it was hot and very humid! We had booked a transfer to our hostel (called Dreamtime), and found the van. Getting to the hostel was fine, and we had been left a key and a short note. We sorted out our things, found our beds (back to dorms- boooooo) and tried to sleep.
The next day, after a fitful sleep we decided to stock up on food. I am obviulsy becoming a grungy traveller as I went to supermarket (the aptly titled Bi-Lo) in my pj's. After getting some basics (including pepper, salt, oil etc) and some decent-ish cheese, and resorting to buying battery eggs as free range were waaaaaaay to pricey we made a bg brekkie and began to plan what to do during our time in the Far North of Queensland. After a quick shower, we sat down with Chris at Dreamtime and he helpfully booked a load of things for us. First up- the delightful Greyhound Bus Pass from Cairns to Melbourne. We then booked a tour for the next day to Cape Tribulation and Daintree River, and also a tour to the Great Barrier Reef on our final day in Cairns. We also wanted to extend our time in Cairns by a day but Dreamtime was full, however Chris booked us into a room at Ryan's Rest, a hostel down the road. He also gave us some brochures to have a look at so we could bok a last minute sailing trip in the Whitsunday Islands- in short, Chris is a legend!
After booking all of these trips we decided to explore Cairns and walked into town. We went to the Esplande which has been really well done I thought- great park and pool area. We then wandered over to the Cairns Contemporay Art Gallery and saw works by local artists, including work addressing racism directed towards the Indigenous Australian popoluation in Aussie Rules football- really sad and thought provoking. We then did a bit of shopping in town- Ajay had no boardies so pciked up some nice Billabong shorts, and although I had swimwear, I also got a pair of girl swimwear shorts to wear over bikini bottoms. Just over the road from the shopping area was the North Queensland Art Gallery, and we popped in to have a look there too. We are both really interested in Art, but we also quickly discovered that art galleries have aircon- so provide some respite from the heat!
We headed back to Dreamtime, it was movie night at the hostel, so we watched a couple of flicks before making sandwiches for our lunch the next day, and packing (we had to move hostel after our Daintree/Cape Trib jaunt) before turning in.
The flight from Christchurch to Sydney symbolically marked the half way point of our year long RTW trip; the transition from the ''cold'' first half to the "hot" second half. The view on departure from New Zealand was of the stunning snow peaks and ice-laden mountains of the Southern Alps; the view when we neared the eastern coast of Australia was of Sydney harbour and its various bays surrounded by turquoise waters sparkling in the resplendent sunshine. We could see the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from our aeroplane - a magical scene!
It was my first time flying with Qantas and I was eager to see if they lived up to the hype. The flight was certainly smooth and comfortable and they did have a cool touch screen entertainment system and during the 3 hour flight we managed to watch 'Senna', the brilliant documentary about the late Brazilian F1 racing driver Ayrton Senna.
We touched down in Sydney and spent a couple of hours at Sydney airport before catching our onward flight to Cairns. It was after 2100 when we landed in Cairns and it was still hot and humid. There was a tropical feel and there were a lot of bugs everywhere. We caught a pre-arranged taxi to our hostel Dreamtime and went to sleep after a long and tiring day.
The next day was our first full day in Oz proper and man was it hot! We were sweating buckets and it was a godsend whenever we could stop by a place with air-conditioning. Due to the fact that we were only spending a month on the east coast and the amount of ground we needed to cover in that time, we got straight onto booking a few tours for the next couple of days. We booked a Greyhound bus pass from Cairns to Melbourne which worked out to be the cheapest and most convenient way for us to travel on this side of the country. We also booked a tour to visit the Daintree River/Cape Tribulation region, a snorkelling tour on the Great Barrier Reef, a sailing cruise around the Whitsunday Islands and arranged a hostel for next two nights (long gone were the days when we could just rock up in Boba and crash for the night!). Needless to say it was an EXPENSIVE first day in Australia!
We then spent the rest of the day adjusting to the heat and exploring a little of Cairns. Walking through the busy retail outlet-laden streets of the city centre and along the esplanade reminded me a lot of Florida - a similar environment and vibe. The esplanade is located near the coast and is where we saw most people congregate. Many people were swimming and chilling out near a large man-made lagoon here as there is no sizeable sandy beach in Cairns.
We were enticed by the air-conditioning in a couple of galleries so checked them out: the Centre of Contemporary Arts, which featured a series of works focussing on racism against Aboriginals in sport, and Cairns Regional Gallery, which featured works from local artists.
We also stopped by some shops and picked up some snazzy swimwear to rock on the beaches and in the water over the coming months. In the evening we chilled out at the hostel and watched a movie in their open air cinema.