My apologies: this blog is a little long (but mostly pictures). When we arrived in Cairns, we picked up our car from the rental company and began our drive about an hour north to Port Douglas. The gorgeous windy road provided glimpses of the ocean, and then long expanses of sugar cane, broken up with periodic roundabouts.
We got settled in our home for the trip, a little apartment that was a little rough around the edges but lovely just the same. After an early morning flight, we were pretty weary, but were quite excited to explore the lovely sunny weather. We went down to 4 mile beach (supposedly named after a family with the surname of Fourmile for all you confused metric system fans). It lies just off to the side of downtown Port Douglas, a beach that looks like it is out of a postcard. We staked out a spot and enjoyed the sun, then went swimming in a cordoned off area (no jellyfish or crocodiles for us!)
In general, I was blown away by the gorgeous tropical environment and gorgeous weather, the calm vibe so different from the hustle and bustle of the city. The water was so warm it felt like bathwater, and shallow. I picked up a coconut off the beach to try and hack into later, and we headed off to Coles for some groceries, because we knew they’d be closed for ANZAC day the next day (a celebration of Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). Back at home, I ended up spending far too much time breaking into the coconut while Aidan was making dinner. However, it worked out and I struck gold (or at least coconut water…)!
The next morning, since we knew some things would be closed, we headed off to the forest, one of the things we had both been quite excited to visit. It is the oldest rainforest in the world, full of endemic animals (not found anywhere else). As we drove further north up the coast, it felt a little bit like going back in time. We took a very simplistic ferry that worked on a pulley system, then got on a road that simply weaves through, with not many options, through dense forest. We had no real plan, a luxury not often afforded, and we stopped along our way to Cape Tribulation (the furthest point you can go in the Daintree forest).
We found a lovely beach where we were the only people around to eat lunch at, and had a chance to walk through the forest a few times. Most notably, once we reached Cape Tribulation, we did a walk in the forest that enveloped us in the best possible way. We didn’t know quite how long it was, so we entered the humid and dense environment, and walked along with no clear end in sight. The sound of the forest was deafening, so many creatures just out of sight, and the sunlight filtered through the trees. We were truly immersed. We saw a huge spider about as big as an outstretched hand, which I’m not including for those who might be sensitive, but let me know if you’re interested in a picture of it!
Leaving the miniature town of Cape Tribulation, we headed back home, and stopped at the isolated beach we had enjoyed so much before for the sunset. We were not disappointed, and watched the cotton candy clouds sink behind the forest as we walked along the edge of the water.
As we drove home in the dark, the forest became even more alive, the sounds even more deafening. We saw frogs jumping around the edge of the road, and we were one of only a couple cars on the ferry back. We even ran over a very large (at least five feet long) snake that had definitely already met its time before we got there. The next day, we woke up early to head to the great barrier reef. We got on a big catamaran, and drove out for about an hour. I had decided to do an introductory dive, so I started out with an talk on that.
We stopped at three sites for snorkeling, the second site being the one I had been chosen to dive at. We had to wear some really fashionable full body lycra suits to protect us from jellyfish and the sun, and then we hopped in! The reef was absolutely gorgeous, teeming with fish, bright colors, and giant clams.
The three sites differed in the animals there, and the structure of the cove we visited and the corals present. Aidan knows a bunch of fish species from his time spent in Hawaii, so he could point out things we passed. The first site was absolutely lovely, and as soon as we emerged from the water, I was told to stay in the back of the boat for the dive, which would leave as soon as we arrived at our next site. I was quite nervous, but I knew it was something I wanted to do and would go through with. We got all suited up with the big tanks and the regulators, and then hopped in the water, holding onto a rope for the first bit. We had to do a couple “tests” to prove we would be ok in the water, and then headed off.
It was amazing once we got into the water. The diving made me feel so free, because everything is essentially weightless. It’s just your body in this slippery suit, with flippers and fish surrounding you. We first swam above a coral shelf, right down near the bottom with a small shark below us and giant sea cucumbers. More huge clams also greeted us. We swam away from the shelf seemingly into nothingness, and then all of the sudden there was a huge column of coral, out of nowhere. Looking up was coral and fish, looking down was the same, truly immersed in the underwater world. I even had time after my dive to go snorkeling with Aidan. We had a third site, which was also amazing, and then we headed back home.
The next day, we decided to go to Mossman Gorge, a closer section of the Daintree forest. It is regulated largely by the original owners of the land, aboriginal people. We took a walk throughout the forest, and then cooled off with a swim in one of the rivers that run through it. We saw a brush turkey and some small fish, and swimming in the river cooled us down, a good finish to another day that was quite warm.
On the way home we stopped by a fruit stand and stocked up with more passionfruit than was reasonable for only having one more day. We then had dinner at a mexican restaurant that had come highly recommended. It was a treat to pretend we were fancy after spending all our time in the woods and in salty water, and I tried not to think too much about the fact that we were soon to be leaving.
The next day, we headed back to Cairns, just as the weather started to turn, with huge amounts of wind and rain. We dropped off our car, spent a little bit of time in town walking around and exploring a market, and then headed to the airport, where I started to catch up on work I had neglected. The next week was a whirlwind, as I had 4 papers due and a test. It wasn’t great timing, with Aidan getting ready to leave, and it was a little bit of a mess. I did have a couple wonderful bits intermixed with my stressed out life; going to the market with friends, having nice meals. Aidan left on Thursday morning, and I found myself quite sad, but almost too busy to recognize or deal with it.
My last assignment of the week was for street art, a good excuse to walk around downtown and explore my city, which always lifts my mood.
Last weekend, I thought that I would feel a sense of relief, but in actuality I was just exhausted. I had a brunch with my study abroad program and got a chance to see the First People’s Museum at the Melbourne Museum, and tried to stock back up on groceries and organize my life. Overall, it was quite a good weekend!
This week has been a blur, but I got a shirt I had ordered in the mail, took some nice walks, and had an in class essay this morning that I prepared for. I am trying to really buckle down with the end of my time here imminent; I’m starting to worry about not seeing or doing everything I’d like to. I love it so much here, and the concept that I will go home and no longer be here is hard to wrap my mind around.
Yesterday, I got up early to visit a coffee shop I had long been hoping to visit. I had a lovely chai and a croissant, and got more work done in a couple hours than I had in a while. I had my busy Wednesday of class, which finished with an excursion for Australian Wildlife Biology that entailed taking a census of swans. We walked around a lake on a chilly but gorgeous afternoon, and helped add to the population data on some tagged swans in the area. I finished off the evening by eating hot pot with my friend Jaimie, at a place where you pick out your ingredients much like a grocery store. I actually had a stir fry, which was spicy and delicious.
Today, after my in class essay I spent some time with my Australian friend from my psychology tutorial, Freya. She introduced me to some of her friends, and we discussed maybe doing some camping in the future, which is really exciting! Now that I have less going on, I can’t wait to make the most of my last couple months here, and even when there’s a lot going on, I am still having these amazing experiences that I will remember forever.
Australian vocabulary log #8: chook = chicken, revise = study content, easy = sounds good, no problem, stingers = jellyfish