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Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef


Has anyone else noticed that Travel Jenna has a lot of "new favourite things"? As a writer, I feel bad about being repetitive, but it is such a simple, accurate, and effective description. I feel like I try a lot more new stuff when I am away than I do at home. And considering how many new favourite things I have, I should probably try more things in real life as well.

I'm getting sidetracked. I am now in Cairns, where it is 28 degrees and yet somehow "winter". I was correct in my last post - my flight didn't land until after 2:00am, and after getting my bag and waiting for a taxi, I didn't end up falling into my hotel room until just before 3:00am. Being out that late when you're dressed up and dancing is one thing, but being awake at 2:30am because your flight was delayed and the high ratio of Asian tourists on your flight can't figure out how a taxi lineup works is entirely different. I was grumpy. But thankfully my hotel room had air conditioning and excellent water pressure, and I got an extended checkout time, so all was well in the morning. I did, however, make the mistake of wearing pants that morning, so by the time I had walked the 3km to my hostel I was a sweaty mess. The rest of the day was spent applying sunscreen, wandering around the Cairns Esplanade, splashing my legs in the lagoon, and reading an entire book. I was asleep by 9:00pm.

Yesterday was a grand adventure! I woke up at 6:30, and was picked up from my hostel at 7:15am by a bus that said "Airport Shuttle", despite the fact it was picking up people for a reef tour. We arrived at the marina at about 8:30am, and boarded the Reef Experience catamaran. One thing that happens a lot as a solo traveller is that whenever a certain amount of people will fit somewhere, you kind of just get thrown in to fill it up. I was placed at a table with three other people, none of whom spoke any English. After the initial safety talks and such, the boat left the marina and I ate a lot of the free watermelon that was available. Since I couldn't talk to anyone at my table, I spent the duration of the 90 minute ride out to the reef standing on the open top deck. Other than the crew, every single other person up there was being sick. It was quite windy, and therefore extremely rocky since we were going fairly quickly. Thankfully, I was not remotely seasick, and so was enjoying it immensely.

Remember when I was talking about walking along Manly Beach and how people probably thought I was nuts? Yeah, I am positive the crew thought that as well. I was standing in such a place where I continually got sprayed, but since it was hot out I didn't mind. I was enjoying going fast and being on the water. Whenever there was a big wave and corresponding splash, the crew and all the seasick people yelled. I mostly just laughed. And then, randomly, it started absolutely pouring. I'm talking sheets of water on par with the water pressure from my earlier hotel. The upper deck had a little bit of covered space, which is where all the crew were hanging out, and now where every single seasick person was trying to squish into. I was already a bit wet from laughing at the waves, so I decided to go big or go home, and I definitely didn't want to go home. I went and stood in the back corner of the deck where I could hold on to two railings, completely uncovered, and just got pummelled by water from all directions.

I'm not entirely sure how to describe that couple of minutes. I'm sure everyone else on board was very confused, but I was in my own little world for a while. Everyone knows I love the ocean, so I was already super happy just being on a boat. And this might sound kind of ridiculous, but going and standing out in the open, on a fast, very rocky boat, in the middle of a monsoon was extremely freeing. I was holding onto the railings and was going with the motion of the boat quite easily, so I felt completely in control, despite being drowned from multiple directions. My clothes were already wet, and I was wearing a bathing suit underneath anyway, so I really didn't care. It wasn't cold at all. So I just stood there, laughing. The rain stopped as suddenly as it began, and when I turned around everyone was staring at me. Yes, hello, I'm the crazy girl that loves the ocean, nice to meet you. One of the crew members came up to me afterwards, asked if I was okay, and then said "I've never seen that before". It was quite amusing.

Anyway, that was just the ride out there. Then we were at the Great Barrier Reef! We went to two locations, one before lunch, and one after. I snorkelled for half an hour or so at the first stop, and then did my first scuba dive! It was so cool. It was a little bit sad - the reef did seem like a fair amount of colour had been washed out of it. But there were little bits of coral in each formation that were so beautifully vibrant, that they basically glowed in comparison. Seeing the reef when the whole thing was that colourful would have been spectacular. I have been thinking for a while that I want a GoPro, and this first dive absolutely confirmed that. The emotional photographer in me was devastated that I couldn't document it. So if four or twelve of you want to team up and get me a GoPro for Christmas..... I'd be thrilled. Food was included in this tour, so we had steak sandwiches and multiple types of salad for lunch. It was delicious, and I probably could have had a nap afterwards.

Despite having chosen a slightly more expensive reef tour to being with, I loved my introductory dive so much that I signed up for a full-length dive at the second location. It was so worth it. At the beginning of the intro dive, we had to demonstrate that we could breathe and clear our masks etc, which took a really long time. One guy in my group just could not grasp the fact that you can't breathe through your nose while scuba diving. We did not have to go through that again for the second dive, thankfully, so we spent the full 45 minutes mermaid-ing around. (This is what I was referring to at the beginning with the "new favourite thing" comment.) I love scuba diving. So if anyone is keeping track, I am now going to move to Brighton, Australia, join an AFL team, and go scuba diving every weekend. And get a pet kangaroo.

I've started just writing these posts in a stream-of-consciousness style, so they are getting a bit all over the place. Hope you don't mind.

During the second dive, I SAW A SHARK. It was a little reef shark, relax Mom. But still, it was very exciting, and I utilized my new scuba skills and followed it for a while. I also saw a turtle (one of my many other favourite things), and many cool and colourful fish. It was so much more interesting than snorkelling, as I could actually go down and look closely. I even saw two clownfish going in and out of an anemone, which is when I really really wanted to be able to take pictures. The colours and the clarity of the water were fantastic.

The boat ride back to Cairns did not involve any soul-energizing monsoon moments, and I was very tired, so I just sat on the top deck and watched the waves. Despite the fact that the tour bus took 40 minutes to get from my hostel to the marina, since it stopped at every other accommodation in town as well, it was actually only a ten minute walk back. When I got back to the hostel, I was sitting on my bed checking my phone when I realized I had a literal layer of salt all over me. It felt like I was covered in sand, but I couldn't see any of it. I had a shower, and washed my hair twice, but when I woke up this morning it still felt like my hair was crunchy.

I was going to talk about today in this post as well, but so far I have been writing this for an hour, and I'm tired. I will do another post while I'm at the airport tomorrow, waiting to go to Brisbane.

Ponder this - when was the last time you had a rocky-boat-ocean-monsoon moment (or whatever your version might be, if my description of it made any sense)? I would highly recommend going and finding one. It feels really good.

Talk to you tomorrow.


Posted by jennamiller 03:47 Archived in Australia

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