I winged my way back to Oz via Melbourne but, with only a 4 hour lay over, I only saw the airport. Once in Cairns, I found my couchsurfing host at the Pier Bar (thanks to a fantastic, just off-duty, lady bartender who took pity on this phone-less chick!…ie. she called my host for me, no answer, she left, he called her, she drove back to me, we called him, he came out to where I was waiting!) before dumping all of my bags into his dingy to ride out to his sailboat. That’s right! What a unique experience I had while in Cairns! I had never been on a sailboat and here, I lived on one!!
My host was very interesting so we had many nights of great conversation. He drove me to the Crystal Cascades for photos and to cool off in the waters then up, way up to Copperlode Dam. This is where Cairns’ fresh, clear, drinking water comes from. Driving back down at dusk, we stopped many times to take pictures of the lights coming on in Cairns.
My days in Cairns were spent riding the dingy into port, walking the city, taking a bus to the Skyrail, up the mountain to wander Kuranga, taking the Kuranga Train back down to Cairns, a full day’s trip out on a boat to snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef and meeting my host daily at the Pier Bar to go grab groceries or have a couple of drinks before going back to the sailboat in Cairns Harbor.
One night we left the Pier Bar with friends of his to go hear some live blues. What a treat!! The Montgomery Brothers were amazing!! I was honored to hear them as well as meet the incredible singer/guitarist, Ryo! Such talented young (24, 18, & 15 year olds) men!! Definitely a highlight of my visit!
My reef tour was NOT a highlight of my visit, unfortunately! I chose the tour I did as it included snorkeling, glass bottom boat, and introductory dive. As I was in the last group to go out on the dive, it turned out to simply be a photo shoot. I won’t go into detail on how horrible my experience was but I will never recommend Reef Experience to ANYONE looking to dive for the first time. It appeared from the photos that the earlier divers had better experiences but how are you going to guarantee not being last? It shouldn’t matter whether you are first or last, this company needs to manage their quantity & quality better!
One of my hosts’ friends, Phil, offered to take me around one day so I accepted. He drove me quite a ways north, just shy of Port Douglas, giving me ample photo opportunities! He also took me to the Botanical Gardens which were not only free but included Pacific plant varieties I’d never seen before! Afterwards, it was a nice afternoon of grilling and hanging out by the pool then off to meet my host again at the Pier Bar and dancing to a wonderful live band!
Phil had offered up his couch for my last 2 nights in Cairns so that I could make my plans and bookings online (no wifi on the sailboat). I accepted so I managed to catch up with emails, make my bookings, and relax.
What I will always carry with me from my Cairns visit is snorkeling the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, the unique experience of life lived on a sailboat, and the wonderful, amazing people that I met!