The Great Barrier Reef is . . . Really Great!

Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
Trip End Sep 15, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, October 3, 2013

In case you missed the back story, we learned in late July that Chris's job with Peabody in Australia wouldn't last much longer because his project was cancelled. Chris took a quick look around and found another job, but it meant leaving Australia. That has been really hard. More about that in another blog entry.
We knew that before we left there were two places we wanted to go that we hadn't been yet: The Great Ocean Road and the Great Barrier Reef. We packed up our life Down Under in record time, sold the appliances and my cute "fresh lime" Honda Jazz, put the cats in boarding, and with no keys jingling in our pockets, made for the south. It was lovely! I wrote a super-quick blog about our visit to the Great Ocean Road while we were traveling, but I didn't do it justice. I could live in south Victoria easily. It's hot in summer, but you have cooler winters than in the Hunter and actual springs and autumns. And in spring, it is so green that you could imagine yourself in Ireland or New Zealand instead of in Australia with its gray-yellow-greens.
But this blog entry is about Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!
I always joked that we lived in the tropics in New South Wales, but in all honesty it is really sub-tropical. We stepped off the plane onto the tarmac in Cairns, and we knew we were in the tropics. Luckily we visited in the very early spring, when temperatures hovered around 30 (86F). My conversation with the young woman whose family owns the hotel we stayed at:
Me: What are winters like here?
Young woman: Normally they are nice, but this winter it got so cold I had to put a jumper on.
Me: How cold was that?
Young woman: It was in the low 20s.
Me: Bwahaha! Good one!
Young woman: Silence . . .
I really hadn't had time to research Cairns, and I was astonished to see the mountains coming right to the sea. Tropical paradise! People come here for a while and suddenly realize they forgot to leave--years later. We spoke with so many people who had migrated to Cairns from somewhere else in Australia after visiting for a holiday. I don't know how they take the tropical summers, but I could see living there for the winters. Think of this timing: October through April in the Northern Hemisphere--winter, skiing, sweaters, cold, crisp air. Then off the the southern tropics for the winter, which is really like summer should be. Highs in the 20s. Hmmm. I just need to write those blockbuster novels and we're there.
The trouble with visiting a place like Cairns is trying to figure out what to fit in the time available. Because it's such a destination, there are a million activities, and all of them are worthwhile. We finally settled on visiting a crocodile farm in the Daintree rainforest, hiking in the rainforest and swimming in a crystal clear river (for some reason there are no crocodiles there, though there should have been), riding a narrow-gauge train to the top of the rainforest to visit Kuranda and returning to sea level on a quick aerial tram, swimming in azure warm water on tropical beaches every day, and, of course, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.
I have no photos of the Great Barrier Reef day, and I'm glad. We got in the water and enjoyed the snorkeling experience. I thought I would be terrified of sharks every moment we were in the water, but we instead tried to coax one from its under-coral cave with no luck. Reef sharks aren't harmful, but I wouldn't want to be scuba diving and see any large sharks. The various corals, fishes, sea turtles, and even the color of the water were soothing and beautiful.
Enjoy the photos!

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Lynda Hedl on

I'm not a Queenslander, but I bet the bird is a type of night heron.

melindam on

Lynda, it looks like you are right. Thanks! Did you know that, or did you have a way of identifying it?

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