Back In The Land Of Oz

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rather then return to Brisbane we opted to re-enter Oz through Cairns and it took just a couple of small plane adventures to deliver us back into the hands of Australian officials. In a moment of Deb B shopping madness, I had picked up a huge carving during our Sepik River travels, largely because it seemed to be such a good bargain. It's much too big to be easily carried through the rest of our travels, we don't even have a house to display it in, and to top it off, we now had to run the gauntlet of the same Australian Customs that took a dim view of my unopened potato chip bag the first time we crossed swords (they have a legendary reputation in PNG for confiscating wood products). After completely unwrapping my prized possession, trying to explain what was was, and suffering through a number of furrowed brows, we were, somewhat surprising, given clearance as long as I promised to take it with me when I left the country. Even the clay pot DH had purchased was deemed to be non-threatening.

One of the big natural wows in the world is the Great Barrier Reef, and Cairns is something of a marine gateway to the reef - DH was chomping at the bit to get back in the water. After re-introducing our stomachs to the joys of fast food and gelato, we mapped out our plans for Cairns. We booked our GBR scuba adventure (apparently you can only use the GBR acronym after you have actually been on the reef) and the staff at the Happy Oasis hostel talked us into a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest and Kuranda itself. Kuranda was less a town and more of an enthusiastic souvenir stand in the middle of lush forest with a nice cable car ride up and train ride back to Cairns. DH even got her picture taken with a sleepy Koala- she's still not sure it was the right thing to do but is there anything more heart warming than a cuddle with a Koala bear??

Downtown Cairns itself is one of those great chill spots: laid back, pedestrian friendly, beaches, ice cream, concerts in the park. Unfortunately, like the rest of Australia, it's just too expensive to chill for any extended period of time ($5 for a thimble sized glass of beer with half the alcohol content of any beer back home- certainly keeps the parties under control), so we wanted to get our diving in and then move on. The boat we had booked our dives on, the Silverswift, also took snorkelers and uncertified divers out so there was 30-40 people on board. There was only a handful of certified divers going out so once we got away from the boat we pretty much had a section of reef to ourselves. The boat itself was fabulous and the scuba was so organized that it had to be one of the easiest, most enjoyable diving trips we have ever done. DH was so relaxed that she virtually ignored the dive guide and she buddied up with me for the 3 dives we did. I've heard that serious divers dismiss the GBR as overcrowded and damaged but given the great conditions we dove in, it has to rank as the best diving I have ever done- the colours, the coral, the fish varieties, and visibility all contributed to a great experience.

With the diving done, we wanted to visit some other sites in Queensland and somehow wind up back in Brisbane for the start of our quick trip home to wrap up our house sale. Renting a vehicle seemed to be the best way of doing this and the good news was that there was a camper van rental sub culture alive and well in Australia. The bad news was that someone had put the steering wheel on the wrong side of all Aussie vehicles and everyone happily drove on the wrong side of the road navigating through a series of interconnected roundabouts. This could get interesting. There's a dizzying array of rental agencies catering to backpackers wanting to see the country by road: Jucy, Wicked (with vans that looked to have been graffitied), Hippie all tried to out-cool each other. We went with Spaceships because they looked a little newer and DH has always wanted to travel by spaceship (and I'll leave it at that). The vans were an ingenious design of hidden compartments, folding chairs, a fridge, and snap-on tent extension- a little snug perhaps but a perfectly acceptable way to see the rest of Queensland. Our van even had it's own name: Decepticon. Warp speed.
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Tracy B. on

So now that you're flying a "spaceship" we can call you trekkies! Boldly go, my friends!

Doe on

The biggest problem with driving on the wrong side of the road is not the
doing of it; it is the trouble you have when you get home and try to go back
to what we consider as "Normal".

Carol Cooke on

Trust me you do get used to the other side of the road!! Just remember 'driver in the center of the road!' Can't go wrong then! Hope you made it safely to Brissie!!

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