EPISODE SEVEN: CAIRNS - LIKE THERE’S NO “R”
November 22, 2022 Sydney to Cairns
Apparently Australians have no use for “R.” It’s Melbun, not Melbourne. It’s Cains, not Cairns.
Author’s Note: I can’t imagine what they do on “Talk like a Pirate Day?” ARRRRR…
We’ve got packing for air travel down to a science.
Author’s note: God help us if the batteries in our luggage scale die. We already killed one set.
We land, grab our rental car and head straight to Cairns Colonial Club Resort. The focus now is preparing Tom’s gear for Mike Ball’s Spoilsport Scuba Liveaboard. Tom unpacks and inventories everything. We go shopping.
Author’s Note: Tom needs a few items, some intentional like sunscreen and some unintentional like a quick dry towel and a Covid test he didn’t plan on needing. Since I’m staying for a week on my own, I needed basic food items, milk for tea - most of the milk here is "shelf-stable" whole milk or “full cream” as the Australians call it - water, yogurt and some fruit.
At this point our room is not cooling down, but we hope it’s just slow and head out to shop.
When we return the room is still not cool. We put away our purchases, then discover the safe is not working either. Tom must still assemble his equipment, but we need to eat. We stop on our way to dinner to let management know our room is not cool.
Tom found Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant. It was amazing. We had a tasting menu, including mixed satays with sauces, green papaya salads, Balinese chicken curry, pork in sweet soy sauce and a variety of fresh fruit with coconut milk dipping sauce for dessert.
Returning to Colonial Club, they inform us that the aircon is now working and the safe has a new battery, so it’s working as well. Unfortunately, the moment we walked in the room it’s obvious the air conditioning was NOT working. It was just as hot as when we left.
Author’s Note: We discussed it. Everything was unpacked. Could we deal with it for one night? Maybe? We were exhausted from the day's travel and our bellies were full and we felt just plain lazy. But the verdict was: we need the air conditioning that was promised to us. So Tom called. They were very sorry and they would upgrade us to a better room with very good air conditioning. So we packed up and moved. The new room was MUCH nicer and proved quite pleasant for me while Tom was away.
Next day during equipment assembly, Tom realizes he has no flashlights.
Author’s Note: Tom knows the flashlights are sitting at home, somewhere, ready to go, but obviously missed. He considers briefly going without, but the scuba mantra is: “one flashlight is no flashlight; two flashlights equal one flashlight.”
We go flashlight hunting and find them at BCF, a HUGE camping, trekking, fishing, everything-sports-store, near us. He got two flashlights for the price of one in the dive shop. High-five!
We dine that evening at Piato Restaurant at the Pier. We had a fresh seafood tower that was delicious. In lieu of dessert at Piato, we searched out the Cairns Night Market.
Author’s Note: Cairns Night Market is a smorgasbord of delights: edible, visual and buyable. They are open every night from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. It is the perfect place to go if you need souvenirs. I have no room for souvenirs, but I needed a massage. They are cheap in the Night Market: 40 minutes for $40. I chose foot and leg. Tom chose back and shoulders. We were happier and very relaxed.
As we saunter toward the car Tom ordered a mango ice cream which came full of mango bits and I picked a mango milkshake.
Author’s Note: I wanted another massage and another milkshake, but later.
Tom did his final inventory and packed for the liveaboard. We ate lunch at Bayleaf again, but only the chicken curry this time (and the satays).
Author’s Note: It’s just as good the second time!
Finally it’s time to drop off Tom’s gear to the dive shop and Tom to the beach restaurant rendezvous point. I take the driver’s seat and return to the hotel (stay left, stay left, stay left, stay left….)
Author’s Note: I have a mission: catch up with the blog!
Tom left on Thursday November 24th - Thanksgiving in America. After days of writing (seemingly nonstop) bright and early on Sunday, I made my way to the Smithfield Terminal. A bus delivered me to the Kuranda Scenic Railway Station.
Author’s Note: I treated myself to the “Gold Car” ticket that gave me refreshments on the train. The menu described the offering as “Morning Tea.” The train trip is a series of breathtaking views.
Author’s Note: I was really looking forward to the last item: a “Traditional ANZAC Biscuit” of the type created during WWI by the partners and mothers of the Australian soldiers. Concerned about the nutritional value of army food, they created a “Soldier’s Biscuit” made of rolled oats, flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup and sugar. I imagined a scone-like concoction. Of course, what I got was a cookie (and here I will remind you of the British usage of the word biscuit for cookie).
The digging of the track was another Australian story of man over mountain with a pick and shovel, literally. If you wanted a job building the railroad you had to bring your own tools: a pick and a shovel. It was dug out and moved away by hand. So here are the statistics: 1500 men built 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) of track that ascends 327 meters (1072 feet) above sea level and includes 106 cuttings, 15 tunnels, 55 bridges and 98 curves, one of which is a horseshoe.
Once we arrived at Kuranda a visit to the village was in order. A quick walkabout revealed that it was not unlike other villages at a stop in a journey: a place plastered with souvenirs.
There were children playing didgeridoos while mothers waited for the change the tourists threw in the tip cup.
Author’s Note: It was steamy hot in Kuranda. Since my hair was beginning to drip sweat, I decided to catch my Gondola on the Skyrail and return to Smithfield Terminal early. My return would be on the “Diamond View” cable car with the clear glass floor to view the rainforest better.
Although the sun was shining in Kuranda, thunder and lightning storms broke out somewhere down the line. Using caution as their guide, the Skyrail service was halted. Eventually all reservations were canceled, a refund promised and a bus back to the Smithfield Terminal provided.
Author’s Note: This only took about four and a half hours of waiting on a hard wooden bench.
Back at Smithfield, I booked another try for Tuesday. I went back to Bayleaf Restaurant to drown my disappointment in Balinese lamb stew with mango tapioca for dessert. Author's Note: I would love to eat that mango tapioca pudding again right now! There was mango sorbet hidden in the middle under the tapioca. Some of the tapioca was frozen. Those would give your mouth an amazing surprise smooth/cold sensation.
Monday I visited the Cairns Aquarium. It’s packed full of information about the different parts of Australia from how Australia divided from the original continent, Pangaea; to how to identify and report invasive species that are threatening endemic species.
Author’s Note: I spent four hours wandering and reading. I saw so many creatures I’d never seen before. I also thought about Tom on his liveaboard, hoping he was seeing even more amazing creatures.
Tuesday morning I tried the Skyrail again. Sitting on the bench outside Smithfield station I met a green ant.
Author’s Note: Actually I met a LOT of them. When I Googled green ants I got this information: The green-head ant is known for its painful and venomous sting that can cause anaphylactic shock in sensitive humans. Green Ants are squirters. They don't sting. Instead, a green ant grabs onto your skin with its six legs and bits a hole with its jaws. Then it pulls its tail underneath itself and squirts formic acid into the wound. Everyone said no they won’t bother you unless you bother them. What? Like maybe, sitting on them?
This time Skyrail was in tiptop shape. My Diamond car with the clear deck took me over the
treetops and then down to the forest floor at Red Peak Station. A park ranger walked with us a bit, pointing out the 400 year old Queensland Kauri Tree that has scaly bark that sheds the tree fern vines that would strangle it to death and the spider webs above our heads which the spider hangs each morning and takes in each night.
Author’s Note: The tree ferns have sticky tendrils that reach out and up so they can pull
themselves to the top of the canopy for more rain and light.
The next stop was Barron Falls. I saw the falls from the train, but this time I was able to get much closer.
At Kuranda, since I had already visited the village I changed to the solid deck car (you can only do Diamond one way on Skyrail) and headed back down. The audio app accompanying the ride said the tree above inspired the tree in the movie Avatar.
I thought about trying to go to the night market again, but decided to stop in Cairns for (my favorite) dumplings. I didn’t have dessert but then stopped at Brother Jenkins Restaurant for a snack: a cup of coffee and a friand.
Author’s Note: A friand looks like a muffin but is tender and very moist rather like a pound cake, but lighter. This one was almond and orange. And delicious!
The next day I settled for the pizza restaurant at the resort.
Author’s Note: It was terrible pizza. I ate half and dutifully boxed the other half for later. Two days later I looked at it in my refrigerator and tossed it in the trash. Yes, it was that bad.
I booked an appointment to have my nails done with J LA Nails. The manicure from the ship was deteriorating fast. I arrive downtown early, do a little shopping (a dress) and stop for lunch at Candy Café.
Author’s Note: I opt for Breakfast Brochette at Candy Café: smashed avocado, charred cherry tomatoes, drizzled EVOO, and dukkah on Turkish toast. The toast was thin and crisp. Although the dukkah was unlike any I’ve seen before, it was mixed spices with black salt flakes. It was amazing! When I get home I need to find some of that salt!
After my nail appointment I tried to visit the Cairns Art Museum. To avoid dealing with parking meters, I parked in a garage. When I arrived downstairs, the skies broke out in torrential rain and I aborted my visit to the museum.
Next day Tom returned from his Mike Ball Spoilsport liveaboard. He was looking for me while I was looking for him. Eventually we found each other and I got the download. For those of you who are not familiar with the liveaboard experience, it’s all about diving. You may dive as many as five or six dives a day like this: get up; dive; eat breakfast; dive; have a snack; dive; have lunch; dive; have a snack; dive; have dinner; dive a night dive if one is scheduled - for six days.
Tom’s cabin was typical for liveaboards: small and cramped. The bathrooms were located inside the cabins, so it meant a trip downstairs to your room for the loo. There was a lounge inside for relaxing and a dining room where dive briefings took place. Evenings were mostly spent on the deck where crew members provided a bit of entertainment.
The food was not as good as he hoped. The food was better on every other liveaboard he’s been on. Tom buddied up with another photographer. They both had good eyes for critters and came back with stunning photos.
The biggest disappointment was unavoidable: the air conditioning died on the return, three days away from shore.
Author’s Note: This meant Tom slept badly the next three nights so the diving wore him down. However, the excellent photos he returned with made the trip worth it.
Looking back on this liveaboard experience, Tom says, “A liveaboard is like a buffet. Just because you paid for it doesn’t mean you have to eat the whole thing. Next time I won’t dive every dive. When it stops being fun, I’ll take a nap: hopefully in an air conditioned cabin.”
Okay! The laundry is done. The bags are all packed. Goodbye Cairns Colonial Resort. Hello Jakarta! Well…hello Jakarta via Sydney! Indonesia get ready: here we come!!