WEEK 9: CAIRNS
On Sunday morning it was time to say “Auf Wiedersehn” to Julia, Joerg, Linus and Willy from Frankfurt and our neighbours including a young guy, whom we had recently found out, came from Canningvale. We were soon packed up and back on the road, but only for a short 60 kms to our next stop. After driving through a few kilometres of sugar cane plantations and seeing some eagles sitting on their nests balanced on the top of electricity poles, we passed very close to some lovely beaches overlooked by high cliffs where the McAlister Range meets the sea. The beautiful outlook reminded us of the time we drove out of Locarno but we are grateful the road here is a lot wider as we are towing a caravan. We remember that in Switzerland on that road a large campervan had a fight with a cliff and lost its awning, ripped off by an overhanging cliff face. We stopped at a roadside beach to take in the view which looked so lovely with the sun shining on the sand and black rocks.
It could have been on the Riviera if it wasn’t for the coconuts lying amongst the rocks. From there the road zigzagged up the hillside and we stopped at a viewpoint which doubles as a take off point for hang gliding and parasailing tours. About half way between Port Douglas and Cairns is the very popular Ellis Beach. We didn’t stop because it looked a bit crowded and parking could have been a problem. Further on were another five beaches before we reached the built up area of the City of Cairns. We didn’t realise Cairns was so close to such a lovely mountainous area. It was just the prettiest drive from Port Douglas. So pleasant to see wide rivers and creeks flowing under the bridges around this area, in contrast to the dry river beds in the outback. Before we knew it, we were on the outskirts of Cairns, a sprawling city that survives mainly on the tourist industry. There are many adverts for campervan and car hire companies lining the road near the airport. This was the first time in eight weeks we had entered a city and needed the GPS to find the caravan park. Although the correct address had been entered into it’s memory, it just went to sleep or had the sulks for not having been used for so long and we ended up way out in the industrial area on the other side of town!
We reset the GPS which this time led us to our van park just 3kms from the city centre! It is a lovely caravan park full of different variegated leafy plants, trees and palms, large sites and plenty of ablutions. We just hoped there are no green ants like those in Port Douglas. We duly dispatched the ones who hitched a ride with us on our awning. As this is the closest caravan park to the city, many overseas tourists hire or buy their campervans and stop off at this park at both the beginning and end of their trips. So many campervans arrive in the afternoon, set up tables and chairs and by the next morning they are gone.
There are lots of young people noticeable around the park especially the very young ladies who gather in the ladies toilet block preening themselves in the mornings and evenings before going out. They filled the vanity around the basins with their big makeup bags, hair tongs and driers as they peered into the mirrors to apply their makeup and style their hair. In the laundry is the advert “Free bus to the Woolshed (a local Char grill and Saloon Bar). Pick up from Cairns Holiday Park Reception at 8.15pm and 9.40pm nightly. Dinner and beer $12. Ladies night Thursday. Mr and Mrs Backpacker Monday. Goldfish racing on Tuesdays. Dancing on the tables”. So now we knew why they were getting all dolled up! Many people fly in or out of Cairns to travel around the north and at the end of their holiday try to sell their campervans and 4WDs at the caravan park. In the laundry are signs: Campervan For Sale $2,700 and another more hopeful at $4,200. We could see one seller was getting anxious, his original price of $3,500 had been scratched out and replaced with $2,000! Being back in civilization we were able to get TV again and so we listened to Songs of Praise as we ate our Sunday Brunch outside our caravan. We also have free, although very slow internet access here. We haven’t had internet for quite a while resulting in the long delay in sending out our week 8 update. At the caravan park it was lovely to hear all the birds singing especially first thing in the morning. The morning we needed to wake up early to catch our train to Kuranda, we were woken by a chorus of birds including a laughing Kookaburra, with another bird replying with a loud voice that sounded like “Voetsak” (tr. Push off)! We certainly didn’t need an alarm clock! In WA we often see Kookaburras but here we haven’t seen any as they hide high up in the trees. On the other mornings we were treated to a beautiful symphony of singing birds without the two noisy ones. Besides our great day trip to Kuranda, this was a good place for us to clean and restock our caravan and catch up with our travel updates and travelpod. We didn’t get as much done as we had hoped to do, because in the afternoon we were invited by our neighbours Nola and Gavin who are from NSW for a chat, which was very nice. We were also approached by an ex Rhodie named Martin who had noticed the Rhodesian Flag displayed on the back window of our car. He had grown up on a tobacco farm in Centenary and had, like us, also immigrated to Australia thirty years ago. We had plenty of time for a Sunday afternoon stroll along the sea front and into the town CBD.
The temperature was around 27C but there was a lovely breeze, especially along the esplanade, though by the time we had walked through the town we really enjoyed our 50c McDonald’s soft serve ice cream. Mustn’t forget to mention that on the esplanade there is a cannon placed in 1889 to protect Australia against the Russians![ Didn’t say whether it had ever been used!
All along the Esplanade and Boardwalk there were people strolling, having picnics or barbecues, or just sunbathing on the wide expanse of grass giving the place a really holiday feel.
There is no beach in Cairns.
The foreshore is muddy mangroves with lots of mud crabs especially at low tide. To get to “The pristine, unspoilt beaches of Cairns, renowned for its palm-fringed golden sands and calm tropical water, stretching more than 26 kms along the Coral Sea” one has to drive at least 10 minutes north.
From there are the many beautiful beaches, all claimed by Cairns as their own, which we had passed on our way down from Port Douglas. Port Douglas is part of the Cairns council so Port Douglas’ 4 Mile Beach and all the beaches for the next 60kms south are Cairns beaches! As it was the school holidays we were entertained watching the many children playing in the skate park, water fun park and various children’s playgrounds alongside the boardwalk.
There must have been quite a few locals sunbathing on the Sunday afternoon as the next time we went into town for a walk we didn’t see anyone sunbathing on the lawn or having picnics or barbecues. There were however quite a few campervans parked along the road with their doors open and the occupants relaxing inside. We were definitely back in a tourist area hearing “Schweizer Deutsche”, Dutch, German, American English and other languages spoken over the few days. Cairns seems to be the platform to go elsewhere.
There are so many placards on the pavements advertising tours to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, Cooktown and York Peninsula, the quaint town of Kuranda up in the rainforest hills, snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Gulf and Outback country, and even the places further away such as Uluru. There are many tours out of town besides the popular Great Barrier reef snorkelling and scuba diving, such as white water rafting in the rainforest Barron and Tully gorges, hot air ballooning, ‘Catch-a-Crab tours’, Chillagoe Cave exploring tours, 4WD tours and the scenic rail/skyrail tour up to Kuranda. The list is in fact endless. On the Sunday afternoon, we walked the full length of the boardwalk to the Marina and then up into the city centre where we found ourselves in the stylish shopping area with Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer and every other top brand name represented.
On the opposite side of the road from the boardwalk are many high rise hotels, outdoor restaurants and the Casino. The second time we went into town we walked up towards the Railway station and commented how there were many small shops but no large shopping centres. We entered what we thought was the railway station and found ourselves in a huge shopping complex called Cairns Central. This centre is almost a replica of Carousel or Garden City with all the familiar shops there represented here.