Cairns: A perfect winter getaway
January 1, 1970
by Bhairavi Jaiswal
ho knew that walking out of the airport with the sun slyly hiding behind the clouds and the warm sweet rain pouring lightly onto us would have been the best spontaneous decision for a trip that one could have made? Well, that was the introduction of the Tropical North for us!
Some may call us crazy, and I wouldn’t disagree with them! But, who decides to walk down into the city from the airport anywhere in the world? Well, we did, and what’s the bet that we got a ride all the way to our hostel! It indeed was great to see people be so helpful, when ‘down under’ is the land where hospitality seems to be stored in abundance.
My friend, Mark and I didn’t plan on having a fancy over-the-top-touristy-trip and we are one of those who just went with the flow; with not so much planning or even an itinerary! But we somehow didn’t seem to need one. Cairns is a beautiful town which presented itself to us in the best way possible. Our two-day trip just kept getting extended, and on our fifth day did we manage to leave this delightful town to our next adventure.
Recollecting our time we spend there, I can still feel the warm air which was a much needed change from the Australian winter we were getting used to in Brisbane! Our first day passed with us just walking around the town and exploring Cairns, but everywhere we walked; there were these tours to the Reef and various adventure trips that were offered to us! Mind you, you won’t lack choices while deciding what you want to do there.
We walked across the seaside with numerous yachts in sight, with the sun shining upon us! Unlike Sydney or Melbourne you don’t have those highrise buildings with millions of tourists, instead you have this small town where everyone just seems to be so happy with no worry or crisis impeding them. The market area just across the Cairns Esplanade which has a public swimming lagoon, has everything from bars to restaurants that you need! With some people performing, kids playing, families having picnics or people just laying there on the grass sun bathing, what else would one want of a holiday?
To bring in the night, this small town doesn’t disappoint you. We stayed at Njoy! Travellers Resort, which is about a ten minutes walk from the main town area and the perfect backpackers hostel that one could ask for! Lucky for us, the most famous bar in Cairns, ‘The Woolshed‘ had brought VIP tickets for those coming in from our hostel to the bar that night! Well, ours was a good deal with $10 for any 5 drinks and some ravishing pizzas, not to forget the free champagne for all the ladies in the house! I mean, pretty damn good for ten bucks! Well, we had our share of fun meeting so many people of different nationalities! It was one fun filled night, which of course led to us having a late morning/early afternoon the next day!
Unlike Brisbane winters, at least the sun didn’t set by five. So, we had plenty of daylight even after lunchtime to get our hungover selves out and touring around the town again. Considering the touristy things to do in Cairns, there are ample options to choose from; the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Cableway, Port Douglas and the list goes on! It wouldn’t be surprising if one also sits to calculate the amount you spend on each attraction. So, we decided to do it differently, we drove through it all! I guess when you don’t have a plan is when you can do things the best! We rented a car right opposite our hostel and drove our way through sunset to see Kuranda, which was a splendid experience as we got a glimpse of the whole town from the viewpoint above and we didn’t really take the train or the cableway, and it was worth it. We drove through the forest and I would make a suggestion, try not to drive there after sundown, because you might get lost or you may come across some animals right from the forest and without street lights up there, it may not be such a good idea! Trust me, it is from experience!
Nonetheless, we didn’t let the sundown affect our trip; afterall, we had a car at our disposal and we could drive all across the North if we wished! We chose to pick up spots off Google Maps and drove all night, we did see some wonderful beaches and what a sight that was, the beach with calmness all around, just the moon and the millions of stars that we gazed at, it is worth it! It is so worth it, when all you have is that in front of you and with great company, there is nothing like it.
Mossman Gorge, Mount Molloy and Port Douglas
Well, this geared us up for the drive next day. We picked up a baguette, some ham and bacon, cheese dip and iced coffee from Coles and had a delightfully filling breakfast. There are just these small things that count up for great memories in the years to come. Once we were full, we chose to go up to the Mossman Gorge, which is a little ahead of Port Douglas and was a suggestion, actually. Everyone is recommended to go to Port Douglas, but I would say Mossman Gorge is also a place which needs to be included in your list. Also, a point to keep in mind is if you don’t want to book the bus ride till the main gorge, you can also walk because it is maybe 2 km from the entrance. Also, we got a look at the aboriginals way of living through our walk. Mossman Gorge, which is a part of Daintree Rainforest gives you a closer option of walking through the rainforest and having a look at the hundred year old trees which are sensational and some were so massive that not even three people encircling it could be able to hug it completely.
There’s the gorge where you can dip, but we chose to continue on our journey because chose to complete a walk around the rainforest instead. Continuing our journey, we had to initially drive to Port Douglas, but Mark suggested we should maybe see if there is something else around which got us driving up Mount Molloy which is known to have amazing burgers at Lobo Loco Cafe and food got us aroused instantly! It’s something unexpected what you get there, there’s maybe two shops and another cafe on top and it seems pretty deserted, but eating delectable burgers with a beer and a view of the adjacent mountains while sitting right beside the road that stretches out endlessly is something which you didn’t get every day.
We continued on our journey in hunt of the Lighthouse Mountains only failing to find it, which didn’t completely disappoint us, rather got us to a diversion that seemed like a crossroad and so calm which got us out of the car and sitting on the road in the middle of nowhere, the expanse does excite you sometimes and right when you just want to soak it all in, you realise you have to make it back! Which was when we head back to Port Douglas and managed to make it to the lookout which outlined the city with a great view and saw the splendid sunset on our drive back. If you don’t want to go see Port Douglas, I would strongly ask you to take the drive, it is splendid. There is no one word to describe it, you are driving with the mountain on one side and the ocean on the other and it is breathtaking.
Since we had rented our car for a day, we managed to get it back a little later than our due time in, but we were fine. It was a fun day where we managed to see so much and well, Cairns is incomplete without a trip to the reef, which was our next thought. There are some really expensive tours which you can choose from that get you right into the heart of the reef, which are further off from the coast. Us, being students and on a budget, we chose the tour to The Green Island tour and take my word, it will not disappoint you.
Green Island Tour: Great Barrier Reef
Another early start as we chose the morning tour and by the end of the day, there was no remorse about it. A whole day on an island, laying down on the beach, a perfect sunny day and the best part of the tour, snorkeling the reef, amongst the corals and the fishes. I have snorkeled in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India and it was wonderful, but there is no comparison to the snorkeling here. I have to admit, I was a bit paranoid anyway, but Mark held my hand all throughout and we snorkeled together, it was so great. The best part of snorkeling here is if you limit other sounds, you can actually hear the fishes nibbling on the corals. The day was just great and we swam in so deep that we saw some really big fishes only to realise we had left the beach far behind to head back.
On our way back, Cairns had satiated us extremely, with a complete package of everything, the only thing left undone was the lagoon. So, we got right to it. We stripped down to our swimmers and jumped it, and it was the only end that could have completed our day so well. We swam in the lagoon and watched the sun go down.
For a person who wasn’t keen on going to Cairns even the slightest, I am so glad Mark made me do this and it was one of the best places where I went. We didn’t party each night, but the whole balance was just on point. Cairns indeed is a place which needs to be visited if you are in Australia, it is one of my personal favourite on the East Coast!