Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Disclaimer: All pictures on this post are taken by me except the underwater photos which are taken by the boat photographer. Photo credit: Down Under Dive @ Great Barrier Reef

I lost a day in Cairns when my flight to Australia is cancelled. Luckily I am able to reschedule my great barrier reef cruise to my last day. Visiting the great barrier reef is a bucket list item. The way we destroy our planet there probably isn’t much time to still see the reef in all its glory. During my sabbatical planning I almost passed up this opportunity because it is supposed to be stinger season and a bad time to go (jelly fish are supposed to be abundant). On top of the stinger the weather is questionable in December. Luckily the cruise, Down Under Cruise and Dive, has stinger suits to borrow to prevent stings by jellyfish and it happens to be a lovely day at the reef. I really couldn’t have picked a better day to go. Lucky me!

Growing up near water I never had a urge to scuba dive (like surfing) but for some reason during my travels it is something I really wanted to tackle. Due to health issues it is a questionable activity for me at this time and since I don’t really have time to clear it with my doctor I decide to play it safe and snorkel instead. Note: When I return the USA my doctor tells me that scuba diving would be ok for me – DARN. MAYBE NEXT TIME.

Don’t get me wrong, snorkling at the Great Barrier Reef is amazing, but there is so much more to see at the deeper lengths (Clownfish for one).

our boat

As the cruise starts we go in the dining area inside to get instructions and a safety spiel. We will stop at two reefs and have a lunch buffet in between.

Inside the boat

We get fitted for the equipment and I take the optional stinger suit just in case. We are assigned a cubbie hole to hold our borrowed equipment.

It is a little more complicated for the scuba divers. I unfortunately did not scuba dive this time.

We have a little time to enjoy the cruise before we get to our first stop.

Stop 1 Saxon Reef

We are almost at our first reef to explore. I put on my stinger suit and get my equipment ready. I am not sure what to expect down below.

The water looks amazingly clear. I jump in.

There is a roped area that we are supposed to stay inside. Also there is a flotation device in the middle if you need to rest. Once I stick my head in the water I find I don’t need the flotation device. I spend my time floating face down marveling at all I see. Saxon Reef is full of vivid and beautiful corals. I don’t spring for the underwater camera nor could I find the photographer to get a photo of me this time around. Below is a selection of some of the shots from the photographer that are included in the pictures I purchase on board.

Below is more examples of corals I see. I do notice some bleaching of the corals but I am amazed of how good the corals do look. I see very beautiful colors. I mostly keep my head face down in the water only bobbing up when the lifeguards give the whistle to do a safety check on us. I am notoriously bad at hearing the safety guards but only once I am whistled at for getting too close to the outer barrier.

We return to the boat to eat lunch and travel to our next location.

I get a little of everything on the buffet

I relax a bit on the top deck.

Stop 2 Hastings reef

Even though there don’t seem to be any jellyfish out I wear the stinger suit once more just to be safe.

I really notice the reef decline at Hastings reef. Parts of it are vivid in color and beautiful but a large part of it looks dead. I can see lots of coral bleaching. I also notice bright purple and bright yellow coral. I see white coral with blue eye tentacles, many striped fish, and polka dot fish. Bright blue and purple fish. The fish come right up to me.

Example below of bleached and dull reef.

These are neat. Also look at that rainbow fish!

I finally find the underwater photographer to get some photos taken.

When I return to the boat I order a celebratory beer for the trip back.

We arrive back at the pier.

The pier is not too far from my hostel so I decide to walk back. In my walk I see mud flats and do some birdwatching.

Outdoor water recreation area

I stop at an outdoor restaurant on the waterfront. It is here that I realize there could be a communication issue in this country even though I technically speak the language. I order fries (chips) and ask for ketchup with my fries. The server has no idea what I am asking for. I finally realize that ketchup is tomato sauce in Australia. Something to put in my memory banks for the next few weeks.

Dessert I order

Today has been a great day. I love my great barrier experience and would love to come back again and scuba dive so I can see the fish at deeper lengths.

My visit to Cairns is short and tomorrow I head to Melbourne to start my adventures down south. I am excited to see things in other parts of the country.

Kuranda and Rainforests

Skyrail

Today I am going to see a little bit of rainforest in Australia. I am visiting the hill town of Kuranda via a historic trail ride and returning to Cairns via a skyrail over the rainforest.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

I start by taking a two hour old-timey train ride to the rainforest town of Kuranda (Freshwater station to Kuranda station).

My first seat assigned has me awkwardly seated with a large family. Luckily the ride is not full and I can switch to empty seats in another car.

With the train windows open I get the crisp smell of nature and a cool breeze from water before we start ascending into the mountain range.

The train narrator tells us the story of how the tracks and tunnels were built. There are settlement towns that existed around the tunnels to support them being built, even a brewery/distillery at one time.

There are two bends and one stop (Barron Falls).

We make our stop at Barron Falls where we view the falls off into the distance and stretch our legs. It starts raining during this stop so we run back in to our seats after some quick photos.

Barron Falls from the train.

When the train history commentary is complete they play fun train songs such as “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum.

We finally arrive at the station in Kuranda but it is pouring. I hang back to see if the rain lightens and order myself a ham toastie (grilled cheese toasted sandwich).

The town of Kuranda isn’t really a exciting destination for a couple hour trip. Kuranda has a hotel or two and mostly shopping and some kitschy sightseeing. I am able to purchase some souvenirs and clothing items that are much needed. Prices are not cheap by any means but hopefully they are good quality additions to my travel wardrobe.

There is a colorful area with cafes where people can purchase lunch. Unfortunately I had that very filling toastie so am not hungry.

There is a little nature path through a mini-rainforest. I spend a few minutes walking through there.

I’ve seen just about everything I want to see in Kuranda but I am early for my skyrail trip. The lines are short so they let me start my skyrail return trip early.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

View down below of the colorful train

Since the Kuranda village at the top was kind of boring and uneventful I had little hope for the skyrail. The skyrail is basically a gondola that takes you over a rainforest. I am pleasantly surprised when I get a private car and start moving. I immediately start hearing the sounds of birds in nature and have the most magnificent views of the rainforest. It’s been raining on and off all day but the cable way goes so long that I am able to escape the rain. The route is 7.5km long.

There are stops on the way down and one gives a vantage point of a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall Barron Falls is the same one I saw during my trail stop, this time I get a better view.

I am back in my cablecar to finish my return journey. As I get closer to the station I am rewarded of great views of the coast.

Since I am back early I have a little while before my van arrives. I find a place to charge my phone inside the giftshop. With all the beautiful scenery I give my phone battery a large workout today.

After the van takes me back to my hostel I walk back toward town to get something to eat. I settle on this pizza from The Lush Pizza Co.

CHICK’N’PERI (chicken, onion, peppers with peri peri sauce)

I get a chance to wander around town after dark. Cairns is not a large and lively town but the peace and quiet suits me fine at this point in my travels.

Tomorrow I am off to my Great Barrier Reef cruise. Hopefully the weather is good.

Flight cancelled!

I am flying back to Bali from Yogyakarta. I will overnight in Bali to prepare for my trip to my next country.

This time I am heading to Australia.

I plan to start in Cairns, Australia and work my way down south.

My flight back to Bali is uneventful. In Bali am staying at the same hotel I previously stayed in by the airport. It seems to be much easier accessing the hotel when flying into the domestic terminal.

I use the evening to make sure I have all the documents ready I need for Australia, including making documents accessible offline – you never know when your phone data will just stop working!

My flight is supposed to be a direct flight at 11:15 am. I wake early to up to make sure I am at the terminal early like usual. I visit one of the lounges to get something to eat. In the lounge start noticing the flight is delayed. I decide this is a good time to try out another lounge at the airport to get some cocktails while I wait.

As time goes on the flight time keeps changing, getting nervous so I walk toward the gate to see what is happening.

I am flying Jetstar and their customer service is non-existent. No meaningful information is given to the travelers. Sometime in the afternoon they finally cancel the flight. Once before I’ve had a cancelled flight with Delta and they were pretty good at communicating to the travelers the plan for the next flight. Travelers on this flight are freaking out and trying to make phone calls to customer service while we await instructions. I patiently wait thinking things will be communicated to us in time. Ugh, not really. We finally figure out we need to go through reverse immigration, get our bags and someone would meet us at the airline check-in for more information.

Waiting to go through immigration the opposite way.

I seem to wait forever to claim my bag. At check-in they tell my new flight time for tomorrow (Note: the time they give is wrong). I finally get on a bus to take us to a hotel that will house us for the night. I could make my own arrangements but best to stay with the group since they should arrange all transportation and meals for us.

On the bus

We arrive at the hotel and I get my hotel room key, meal voucher and a vague instruction for tomorrow (Note: The flight time they tell us is wrong too). The hotel lobby isn’t bad but the rooms are pretty outdated. The hotel probably was pretty nice when it was first opened.

I settle in and decide to go out for a look of the ocean and order something to eat. The situation isn’t the best but we are right on the water!

I watch the sunset from a patio with drinks while listening to a duet band singing Islands in the Stream. I get to chat with some other flight passengers.

I head to bed early because I keep getting conflicting information on tomorrow’s flight time and I want to be prepared for anything: airport says 6:00 am, room notification says 10:00 am, and online says 7:00 am).

We get the morning call and make it in time for the flight so it all seems to work out. I get a well deserved coffee with my breakfast voucher.

Once arriving in Cairns, Australia I have a little bit of a wait for my van pickup. I am sad I am missing a day in the city due to my flight cancellation. I will need to pack all I really wanted to see in a shorter period of time I guess.

My hostel Mad Monkey Backpackers is great. I have a nice air conditioned private room with a private bathroom. I love the lounge area to catch up on social media back home.

Luckily I am able to move the Great Barrier tour I had scheduled for today for two days later. Tomorrow I am heading out to see the rainforest in Australia.