Arrived in beautiful, sunny Cairns!

Trip Start May 23, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Woke up super early, left on our airport shuttle for Cairns at 5:00am.  What is with us and early departures?  It was raining a little but our moods were upbeat.  The airport shuttle is fairly cheap and inexpensive way to get to the airport, unfortunately we were the first ones to be picked up and we spent the next hour driving around downtown Sydney picking up other hotel guests before making our way to the airport.

(oh btw, Sydney is EXPENSIVE! To us, it seemed more expensive than Paris, and almost as much as London if not more.  Buying a 500ml bottle of water costs $5-6 bux, and a 1 litre bottle cost me $10.50aud!!) grrrr….
Anyhoo, after a few hours, we finally arrived in beautiful, SUNNY, WARM, Cairns!! YEAH!!!
We’re luvvin it!  It’s time to bust out the shorts and tank-tops again.

Cairns is a small city, and it’s just a short 15 min ride from the airport to downtown.  It’s totally a resort town, the feel of it on first impression felt like we were in Cancun again, but with Australian accents everywhere.
Once again, our wicked Accor Hotel special came through for us again.  We were able to stay at the 5 star Pullman Reef Hotel & Casino which for us was really posh.  A bit too luxurious for our usual tastes, but no one’s complaining!

We unpacked quickly, sprayed on sunblock, and we’re out the door!  There’s lots of beautiful shops everywhere, but Jeff and I had to go to a nearby Dive Shop to pickup our rental underwater camera’s for tomorrow’s GBR trip.  The cost was about $45AUD, and you get a 12mp Canon A5 Camera with the waterproof housing, and a quick lesson on how to use it.  It comes in a ultra durable Pelican hardshell carrying case that is filled with foam.  When you bring the camera back, they will dump the pictures for you and burn a custom DVD while-you-wait.  Not a bad deal.

Then we were off to do some more shopping.  Felicia and I bought a bunch of paua shell necklaces for family and friends back home, and the owner of the shop, this nice lady, Rebecca, recommended her favourite restaurant nearby for lunch.  She even gave us a coupon out of her wallet for the restaurant, which discounted each sushi dish from $3 to $2.50 a dish.

So we ate at Zipang sushi, and it was amazing.  It was one of those Japanese restaurants where the food is prepared fresh in the centre of the restaurant, and then the chef’s put the dishes on a conveyor belt that goes around the restaurant.  Customers sit around the conveyor belt and take whatever fancies them as it goes by.  The bill is determined by how many empty plates are left on your table.

Boy, did we pig out!  Especially the Unagi (eel) sushi!  By the end, we ate 33 dishes for lunch! Oh….. yeah… that was good.  That coupon actually saved us quite a bit.

With our bellies full, we had to get back to the hotel to get picked up for our afternoon/night tour that will take us to the Australian rainforest and wildlife tour.  It began at 2pm and finished at approximately midnight. 

The tour according to their website includes: “Visit the scenic Atherton Tablelands, an area that features a range of habitats including lush tropical rainforest and volcanic crater lakes. By day we may see the Musky Rat Kangaroo, Boyd's Forest Dragon, and a selection of rainforest birds. At dusk we venture to the river to search for Platypus, one of the most unique mammals on earth.

After dinner at a country restaurant, the night of spotting begins. As we walk along mountain tracks, we may be lucky enough to spot Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo, Lemuroid, Green and Herbert River Ringtail Possums, gliders, frogs, owls and more. Every night is full of discoveries. Later over supper, we reflect on what we have seen, and return home with an increased appreciation of rainforest life

We met Wayne, our tourguide for the day, promptly at 2pm.  He gave us all binoculars and special portable floodlights for nightspotting during the tour.  As we drove towards the rainforest, Wayne asked us if anyone smoked, and we all said no, thinking he meant that we weren’t allowed to if we did, but instead he says “we have ashtrays in the car if you want to smoke”, cuz he was gonna.  And he did, throughout the tour! Again and again!  So much for fresh-air.

The rainforest was very nice, and some of the views driving through the super winding roads up the Atherton tablelands were breathtaking.

Our experience with this type of tour is greatly affected by what animals we can encounter. Unfortunately for us, that night, we didn’t encounter very many animals!  Boo-urns.

We were very successful at spotting exotic insects and bugs, but not so successful at finding mammals and such.  We did spot the elusive duck-billed platypus, though taking a good photo of it was difficult.  And we saw several possums and small monkey like animals in the tree, but nothing that was …. WOW!

The dinner at the lodge though, was quite good, and I think Wayne did feel a little bad that we hadn’t spotted more things, so late into the night he took us to another spot to try some more. Surprisingly the spot seemed like someone’s backyard!  We could see houses with lights on in the back, while we were trekking through a park path looking for night animals. Again, not too much luck except for scary spiders with huge webs.  All in all it was a good experience, but we definitely won’t be doing it again anytime soon.

We all slept on the ride back to our hotel, poor Wayne had a long day too, especially since the roads were so winding and treacherous at night.  I barely remember stumbling out of the van and getting back to our rooms that night.  

Tomorrow is great barrier reef day! Can’t wait.
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