Travel Journal: Far North Queensland

Cairns

Cairns, Queensland.

Until now, I hadn’t been okay with just ‘being’. I had to be doing. Everything was part of a schedule, a routine. Life was a constantly flowing series of commitments. I never stopped after I finished doing, I just looked ahead and prepared for whatever came next.

I realized during the time in Cairns that it was okay to stop and enjoy the moment.

This trip was specifically to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. There would be no sponsored experiences, or opportunities. It would be a time to go with the flow and enjoy our surroundings. To appreciate the time we’ve had together and to appreciate the time we have ahead of us. Especially after the last two tumultuous years.

Our entire time in Queensland was that. We did work, but it was wasn’t for more than a few hours, outside of the time I spent posting to social media. The rest of the time we decided the day or, sometimes the day before, what we wanted to do. That’s the advantage of travelling during the off season. We didn’t need to book anything in advance.

When we first arrived in Cairns, we were hit hard by the heat. It was humid and stifling hot. Growing up in a dry heat, I’m not used to dealing with 30 degree temperatures that actually read on my handy-dandy weather app that it felt like 40.

We would find out later, from the Tourist Information Centre, that it all has to do with the air direction. If the air flow was coming from the north – the equator side – it would be intensely hot. If it was from the south, in the direction of Antarctica, then it would be ‘cooler’. Meaning it would still be 30+ degrees, but that’s the temperature it would actually feel.

Of course, the first part of our days in Cairns, the air direction was coming from the Equator. It was kicking our asses, and hard. Humidity and I do not mix.

I look like I’ve just run a full marathon with the amount of moisture dripping off me, rather than walking from the air conditioned car into the air conditioned shopping centre. It was not a good look.

Rich on the other hand, having grown up in humid Houston looked like a ripe peach every single day. I think there was only one day he looked hot and that was the day we went on a short hike through the Daintree which, being a rainforest, right before a rain storm, you’d expect to be drippingly moist.

The first thing we did was find the nearest KMart store and buy some cheap towels to use for beach towels. We had not brought any with us, because we had assumed since we were staying in a resort, they would be provided.

After checking in, we discovered they charged extra for the use of beach towels. They also charged extra for coffee – and toilet paper. While I would expect this in a hostel, we had splurged on our budget to stay in a beachfront Resort in Trinity Beach, just north of Cairns.

Did I mention it was our ten year anniversary trip?

The place was a shock to the system – and our pocket book. Despite booking a room with a beach view – an upgrade on their website – we were given a garden view on the ground floor.

You couldn’t see any water except for the pool.

We went back to the reception and asked to change rooms. We were not received with warmth by this request, but as I explained, we had paid extra. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was a beachfront hotel and wasn’t that enough? Not when I paid extra for a beach view it wasn’t.

We were given a room in the same area, but on the top floor, so it meant that rather than be placed in a room at the back of the hotel that overlooked the beach, we were asked to walk 5 flights of stairs each time for a glimpse of the ocean. I was so perplexed by the attitude but decided that it was better to just go with what we had, because by that point I was tired, hot and beyond it all.

And since we were in the Top 2% of Tripadvisor contributors, I would be sure to write a review later about the experience. The title would be “Stay somewhere else if you want a resort experience”.

After we found the beach towels at KMart, we went ventured to Woolies for supplies. Our room offered a full kitchen so we could save some money at least that way. We bought enough to get us through a day or two, and that was good enough for now.

When we were picked up our rental car from the airport earlier, we were advised of some swimming holes to try. They would be crocodile free and told they were really beautiful. When we were purchasing our towels at KMart, the cashier told us of a nearby swimming hole that the locals favored. It too was croc-free and was closer than the other recommendations. And, it was only 10 minutes away.

Obviously we were tourists, melting in the heat. We appreciated their recommendations immensely.

Our first official experience, given how hot we were, was the discover that watering hole first.

We found it easily and sure enough, the locals were out to enjoy it too.

It was a place north of Cairns called Crystal Cascades. From the parking lot, the first swimming hole was about 250m up a sealed path. Further up, about another kilometer, were the waterfalls, with more swimming holes along the way.

Each one had people frolicking in the water. Mostly people sat in the water, cooling their bodies as the rapid water rushed over them. We ventured up to the end, as we were eager to see the waterfall. It’s rare that I’m speechless, but a beautiful waterfall stops me in my tracks almost every single time. This one was no exception.

Despite the warnings to not swim further on, past a sign heeding many warnings, including the area at the base of the falls, the swimming holes were full. No one was doing anything illegal. There was no law being broken. People simple recognized that the water was calm enough to dip into, or as the locals arrived in droves, clear enough to jump into from the rocks, where they already knew where the deep pools of water lay.

We joined them. We stripped off our outer layers, stumbled over the rocks like the inexperienced mid-lifers we were, and sunk our overheated bodies into the water. The water was clear and indeed cool. Not only was the place nirvana, but the water immediately cooled us, giving us an immediate sense of relief.

We stayed until the rains began, a typical occurance in Far North Queensland, or anywhere tropical we have been.

After an hour or so, we ventured on to explore the area, driving through the city of Cairns before parking to look around the Esplanade.

It’s a cool area. Very touristy of course, but the city has planned it well. The pool they’ve built is incredible. Best of all it’s completely free. It’s also safe, shallow for all to enjoy (and many were), particularly since the jelly fish (stingers) had closed all of the beaches in the area.

Yep. Not only do you have to contend with crocodiles, but in certain seasons, stingers as well.

In fact, in various locations, we found councils provided bottles of vinegar near the beaches, so that if you were stung, you could get immediate relief from the sting. Brilliant strategy I think.

Our first day set up how the rest of the week would go. We would get an idea in our head the day before and that’s what we’d plan.

We had a list of things we wanted to experience of course, including [snorkelling The Barrier Reef], taking a look at Port Douglas, walking through the Daintree Forest, [experiencing the Kuranda Railway]… and then having a nice dinner for our Anniversary.

We did all of that – and so much more. We got the local experiences at the local swimming holes as well.

For this trip we were total tourists, which is weird because it’s completely the opposite way we travel. It was a change, for sure, but I was looking forward to returning to our car and commencing our road trip again.

zen

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