Liveaboard Trip #1--survived, but just barely
Oct 11, 2007
|Oct 4th - On the road again
We picked up an Aussie phone. Thought it might be handy once we get back to town and seeing old friends, and the rates back to the US weren't too bad. A quick trip to the map store ("One of each, please...") and it was time to jet. Due more to luck than skill we nailed all of the travel arrangements and sailed through the airport hurdles right on the money. Virgin Blue is kind of like America's Southwest Airlines, where you're there for the price. Even so, it was nice enough for the 2-hour or so flight up to Cairns.
The air in Cairns was noticeably thicker and more humid. I wondered a bit if this was the tropics yet (thinking so) but didn't look it up until later. Cairns is the beach vacation spot for the entire east coast of Oz, the dive center attraction for half of the diving world, and the "place to be" for about a zillion school kids out on spring break from Sydney. Lovely.
Speaking of getting along, now's a good time to comment on the Aussie culture. These people are great! Even in a city of five million, in the crowded downtown area, there's a laid-back air of relaxed hustle and bustle. Nobody's stressing, no-one's snarling and snapping, even when things don't go perfectly. One example: we took a ride on the inner-city monorail. There was a huge fiesta going on, and the cars were filled to capacity and packed full. As we got into a car, a group of traveling older people tried to get in behind us. Several local youths in the car literally jumped up and offered their seats, first to Pam and then to all the older folks. This wasn't something staged or the result of pressure from a parental figure, it was just how things are done here. Beautiful.
Here's another example: We took a shuttle bus to the airport. It was just a little Toyota van. With each stop, the next couple of additions brought on a little bit more luggage, causing the driver to have to unload all of the existing luggage to re-stack it for stability. Though each new passenger apologized and tried to help, the driver (a burly Fijian bloke) gave a cheery "No worries!" and quickly and efficiently had it all sorted out. Even though we overheard him confiding to a mate that this was one of the worst jobs he ever had, he still saw to us with a smile and a sharp, snappy manner that had us on our way in perfect time.
Cairns, from what we saw of it the first night, was kind of like how I imagine Miami Beach was in the 1950's. It's popular, but the biggest condo/hotel building I saw was only three stories. The streets are wide and suited for walking along, the low temp for the night was around 70 degrees F, and the little Thai restaurant topped us up perfectly after a day of travel. A few minutes of TV, watching a show about how Papua New Guinea has changed since its separation from Australia only two generations ago, and off to another too-short night of sleeping like the dead.
Ok, now that we've been here for a few days we have a little bit more realistic picture. The tallest building is 10 stories or so, and there sure are a lot of tourists here. Pushy, Asian tourists who don't seem to have any personal "bubble" at all. Even so, it's gorgeous and we're thrilled.
Our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef on the liveaboard dive boat was a whirlwind. We got in four dives every day but the last one, we did two on that day. It was exhausting!
Tomorrow, we're leaving bright and early for another seven days on a different liveaboard. Wish us luck!
We would have written more here, but we are sharing a single computer. Hard to work on pics and write text at the same time. With any luck, each of these is worth enough words to make up for it.
Pam and Clem