We got to Cairns relatively late in the day, but found ourselves wrapped in the warm blanket climate that is such a feature of tropical climates. Our accommodation was sadly lacking in aircon, so we had fairly rubbish sleep across the three nights here. Spending only two full days in Cairns, we were determined to try and make the most of our time.
The first day we headed down to the jetties in the city and onto a boat heading for a pontoon above the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve taken some trips snorkeling before and generally felt myself underwhelmed. Not this time. The vast technicolour array of fish is truly something to behold, aided by the craggy canyons of coral. The drop-off at the edge is incredibly disorientating, the transition from colourful teeming at a few metres depth to vast, seemingly bottomless, unknown causes you to catch your breath. Which isn’t the greatest aid to snorkelling, to be honest. The trip also offered (free) excursions on glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersible vehicles (which we took advantage of) as well as 10-15 min (expensive) helicopter flights, which we did not. The noise was slightly off-putting, a disruption from the pleasant calm of floating face-down in the water.
After our long day on the reef, we headed back for dinner in down-town Cairns. Certainly the smallest of the cities we’d visited in Australia, the centre focussed on a small downtown grid, and certainly the public transport (one bus every 90 minutes) made it clear we were out in the comparative sticks.
The next day, Amy headed off early for a rainforest tour, including waterfall swimming and crocodile spotting. This seemed all a little like over-exertion to me, so I took a short ride to the airport, watched a quick video, strapped on a harness, walked over to a plane, which then ascended to 14,000ft. At this point, my ‘tandem buddy’ hooked me onto him and we promptly rolled straight out of the plane.
It’s slightly obvious to say that freefall is ‘a bit of a rush’. Unlike a bungee jump, you don’t get the same immediate terror of hurtling towards the ground. Instead you just an insane speed high as the air ripples your cheeks back. The only thing I’ve experienced even close to it is going really, really fast on skis. And that’s just a shadow of the experience you get when skydiving. After what seemed like ages (but in reality was only about 30-40 seconds) my tandem buddy popped the chute. A sharp jerk from the sudden slow down was a shock to the system, and then you get 6 minutes of gliding down over the glorious North Queensland scenery. It’s really an incredible view, seeing a huge river valley laid out in front of you. We glided in over rows and rows of sugar cane, before sliding to a comfortable stop in a field south of Cairns.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, in response to the buzz of the morning, I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown Cairns, chilling near the coast with an ice cream, people-watching and relaxing with a beer in the Bavarian Brewhaus. I headed back to our place with fajitas at the ready for a tired Amy after her excursion as we finished our last full day in Australia. Tomorrow we would head to New Zealand.