(18-22 July 2010)
It’s been 20 years since I was last in Cairns and the place has changed a fair bit. There is now an artificial swimming lagoon as well as wonderful kids playground on the foreshore – Muddies Playground was a sure-fire hit for the tribe as they spent half-a-day climbing, swinging, sliding as well as splashing the hours away.
By coincidence, Sally, Karl and their boys Marcus and Liam are enjoying a short break in Palm Cove, just north of Cairns, so we arrange an afternoon get-together – celebrating Sally’s birthday, resplendid with cake, bubbly, party hats and tattoos for the kids! They have their own pool as part of the apartment which the extended tribe make great use.
Of course one of the main reasons for visiting Cairns is to do a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. However, as all outer reef trips entail a long boat trip and an even longer time on a pontoon to give you ample snorkelling/diving time, things the tribe would not fully appreciate at this stage, we opt for 40 minute ferry trip to Green Island. Plus we get a glass-bottom boat trip as well as ample time to snorkel. And what’s more, Green Island is not really an island but a coral cay, yet it is very green.
The tribe marvel at the many reef fish and coral we view from the glass-bottom boat – the smorgasbord of marine life is far superior to what we experienced on the three-island cruise from Airlie Beach. There was many a time when each of the tribe would be shouting over each other as each saw a fish or some coral or clams – pointing out the colours and size of their sightings.
On Green Island itself, the tribe also spends time in the pool as both M and I take turns going for a snorkel – where we both get even closer to what we saw from the glass-bottom boat. While I know it is even more spectacular on the outer reef, it is still mind-blowing seeing the range of colours of the fish and coral. If it wasn’t for the fact that I need to grip my snorkel with teeth and lips, I’m sure my jaw would hang loose in awe of the marine beauty.
Another reason for Cairns as a travel base is to take a day trip through the Daintree NP to Cape Tribulation. First, we do a fleeting drive through Port Douglas, which is near unrecognisable from two decades ago – then, a place with a few resorts and a real small village atmosphere; now, more resorts than you could count and a town with still some small village type shops as well as the branded shops from the city cashing in on Port’s popularity.
Onto Mossman and the Mossman Gorge for lunch – again I am struck as to the before and now. This time, we have to bide time in the approach road and car park to park the car and instead of a dirt track, now there are elevated walkways and stairs – plus what seems to be the population of Mossman visiting the gorge. Of course, the walkways and stairs are what make places like this sustainable through increased popularity. And the big plus, is that it’s as beautiful now as it was then.
The tribe revel in tramping up and down the stairs, as well as taking on the elevated walkways they call ‘bridges’. Further along the track there is a suspension bridge across the boulder-strewn creek which the tribe take fun in running, stomping and jumping on – “bouncy, bouncy, wobbly, wobbly!”.
The weather was turning as we depart the gorge for the Daintree, and in addition to the time, we make it as far as the car ferry on Daintree River before we turn back to Cairns. Cape Tribulation and the Daintree will have to be another trip, next time to include the Bloomfield Track to Cooktown and beyond.
On our final night in Cairns, I catch-up with old university buddies, Heather and Scott – where we chat, over cups of tea, on what we’ve all been up to, families, and friends. Pity we didn’t have more time so that the kids could have met.