Tuesday, November 21, 2006


After getting back from Cape Tribulation I had 6 days in Cairns. This was not something I wanted to do but I got back from Cape Tribulation on a Sunday and the bus I was booked on to Alice Springs only leaves on Saturdays so I was kind of stuck. That said at the time I booked the trip I though I was going to be stuck somewhere in North Queensland or the Northern Territories then Cairns was probably the best place.

Cairns is a nice enough big town. I know its a city but it has more of a country town feel than a big city. This is nothing like Sydney or Brisbane. Cairns seems to have been built up mostly based mostly on tourism with people coming up from the south or others flying in to the airport to start their journey in Australia. Cairns as a destination felt pretty special, not because it was someplace special or a world wide destination like Sydney or Uluru, but because for 5 weeks I had been travelling "to Cairns". It felt like a bit of an achievement to reach it, even though the journey was broken up with stays in lots of other places, as anyone who has read the rest of this blog for the last 6 weeks will know. Cairns has a mix of new and old buildings. There is a lot of new development but it has kept some of the old buildings for character. I really liked the old structures as they were generally 2 stories and very wide which gave them a low profile. I imagined that they were crouching down to get away from the sun and heat.

One of the main things for backpackers to do in Cairns is either take a trip up to Cape Tribulation or, for the real adventurers, go all the way up to Cape York. Cape Trib is a 3 day trip, which I did. Cape York, I found out from a girl on the bus to Alice who did that trip, is a 6 day trip by bus. Now I would have liked to do both but it would have meant spending another week around Cairns and really cut short my visits to other places on the way back to Sydney.

When not travelling or getting up at 5am to catch a bus, most backpackers could be found at night in Cairns' many pubs and clubs, most seem to pass through PJ O'Briens and The Woolshed at least once a night. For some reason pub hopping seemed to be a popular thing in Cairns so any night out meant visits to 2 or 3 pubs and probably started and finished in The Woolshed, so its actually pretty easy to meet up with people, just check the regular haunts and if they aren't there now, they will be later.

During the day there was only a few things to do in Cairns. There is the lagoon where many people spend the day sun baking. This is a man made, free, open air swimming pool beside the sea. You cant swim in the sea because the stingers will get you and the water is a funny brown colour anyway. There are lots of shops and malls as well so it was a good place to grab some souvenirs, which I sent home in a package. I also visited the museum which has a nice small town feel and is focused on very local issues. The old gent behind the counter seemed very surprised to have a visitor, and even more surprised that I was a backpacker, he was very helpful, pointing out things of interest and offering to rewind a video display so I could watch from the beginning. The museum also had an interesting display of very old photographs taken in traditional aborigine communities with spears, swords and shields on display. Warfare was not something I had really thought of when it came to aborigine history but it is clear the weapons were not meant for hunting. They may have been ceremonial but it was a new twist.

I also met my first group of aborigines on a pub crawl in Cairns. There was a hen party with us. While most were what I guess would be called half-caste there were some pure aborigines in the group as well. When word got around that there was an aborigine hen party coming the rest of the us were concerned. None of the backpackers seemed to know what to expect having only heard bits and pieces about aborigines from tour drivers and those organising the trip seemed concerned. I drew the conclusion that they were worried in the way a pub crawl operator in Ireland would be concerned if told 30 travellers had booked on. In the end there was nothing to worry about. As hen parties go it seemed very tame. Sure there was laughing and joking and general good spirited behaviour but there was no trouble, no fights and no arguments. In fact if you go to Temple Bar in Dublin on a Saturday night you will meet several hen parties that cause more concern than this group.

After 6 days I was glad to get out of Cairns. I'd pretty much run out of things to do, and had exhausted the backpacker menu options in PJ's. Still if, for some reason, I ever visit Australia again I'll have to see Darwin and Perth, which I will miss this trip, I would probably start in Cairns for a few days and then head across the North to Darwin.

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