konnichiwa, anata~ long time no update.
the flight to cairns was uneventful. plenty of space and awesome views out the viewport. we landed abt 15mins later than scheduled, since we were also late in taking off. cairns is a rather quaint city, tis very flat and full of old/original design buildings. we booked a 4.5-star secret hotel via lastminute.com.au, which turned out to be Rydges Esplanade. taxi fare from the airport was ok, t’was abt $10.
our hotel room on the 5th floor is pretty nice, with a pretty good view of the mountain ranges. neighbors are predominantly japanese schoolgirls, who fill the halls with constant chatter and ‘kyaaa-ing’.
1st day, we just walked from our hotel on the promenade to the city. thinking back, we should’ve found a hotel right in the city, cuz the sun was ablaze and it was a 10-15 min walk. the pier, where the reef terminal is located, is also right next to the city. since it was a pain to walk around, we walked back to the hotel and returned later via shuttle. it was much much better at night. don’t wanna take any chances in the ‘skin cancer capital of the world’ as they say.
2nd day, we took an intro dive tour via ReefQuest to the Norman Reef in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). the tour was complete with snorkelling/diving equipment and a small buffet lunch, and their crew was very helpful. on the way to the reef site, 1 1/2 hours away, we were given a briefing by our intro divemaster, Vili. it was a good recap since i haven’t gone down under for at least 2 years.
our dive was after lunch, so we went snorkelling in the morning. the corals were pretty alright, similar to the quality of our own reefs in Malaysia. Mom was already having trouble with her mask, so the ‘snorkel-master’ took her under his wing and towed her around on this buoy-like stick. my sis and i just went our own way. saw some interesting fishies whose names i do not know.
dive time came and off we went. the tank wasn’t as heavy as i remembered, but Mom and Sis were struggling with theirs. all of us still managed to get into the water though. on the surface, Vili made us practice equalising our mask/ears and clearing our regulators, and this we repeated again 1m below the surface. all of us managed to get to the 1m bar, but my mom had trouble with the regulator and refused to go further.
so the rest of us, my sis, myself, and this other guy Stan, followed Vili to the depths of Norman Reef. we were under for maybe 20-30mins, and managed to catch a glimpse of clownfish, and a few other interesting ones Vili pointed out (one i couldn’t make out hiding from under the reef, and another striped sand-dwelling one). i took quite a few pictures with our trusty $20 underwater camera which we picked up from the city earlier. hopefully the shots are good, with fixed focus lens and no flash. >_<
by the time we were done, it was already time to leave. we just hung out under the sun on the top deck all the way back, being sprayed with sea water the whole way.
3rd day, today, we signed up for a tour which took us inland to Kuranda, a lil touristy town. we were taken by bus to the cairns skyrail terminal, where we were taken by cable car 10km to Kuranda over rainforest/tropical canopy. the views with amazing, and you can see visible borders that denote different forest types as our elevation changes. there were 2 stops in between, where we hopped off for some quick boardwalk experience with some amazing views of the valleys below. we also have views of the Barron Falls from the 2nd station, which at the moment is a trickle compared to the old days.
the town of Kuranda itself is really small, with only one main street serving as its center. it is mainly filled with shops selling souvenirs, art, and other touristy things. at the end of the street are the wildlife attractions, but we were only interested in the Koala Gardens, where Ayin got to cuddle her koala for $15 extra. i had the chance to stroke some wallabies too, but i guess they were too hot from the weather to respond actively. there were bird and butterfly parks too, but we didn’t care much for them.
right by the wildlife places are the heritage markets. lots of the same stuff, especially opal products. so we spent the whole day pretty much looking at their wares. i picked up a beach towel to replace my aging travel-towel. Mom was complaining it looked more like a ‘kain buruk’ than anything else.
our journey home was a 1 1/2-hour train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. we were put on these age-old circa 1936 carriages back down via the railway used during that time. the views were just magnificent as we pass by steep gorges and a waterfall. plenty of computerised commentary too.
so that’s pretty much cairns for now. tomorrow we’ll be out on the reef again, but this time closer to the intercontinental shelf. hope we’ll be able to see more stuff underwater, and this time i’ll be making use of my NAUI license and taking 2 dives out there. hope i get a good diving buddy. ^_^