Australia: Ending on High Note

I fled 1770, days late and angry, a little after 1 in the morning. The moonless sky rich with stars as if beckoning for better things beyond. It would be almost 20 hours before I’d stop. Twenty hours, 1,300 kilometers, 800 miles, and one seat.

I arrived in Cairns somewhat smelly, but otherwise none the worse for wear. The funny thing was, I was so glad to be out of 1770, and headed towards my friends, the ride wasn’t bad at all. The only real issue was a practical one: the lack of USB outlets meant by the time I got to Cairns all my batteries were on lithium ion fumes.

Cairns itself is a great town. Pretty much the same temp year round: 80-90f, with a pretty solid 60% humidity. April is akin to October in the northern hemisphere, so it wasn’t “summer.” Maybe it’s worse in the summer. As it was, shorts, flip-flops (“thongs” in local parlance), and a t-shirt gets you by 24 hours a day.

What I liked about Cairns is that everything you need is pretty centrally located, and since it’s a tourist destination, there are lots of restaurants. Decent sushi, decent Mexican (now that’s a rarity), decent Thai… and that’s just what I had time to sample.

You can’t swim in the water (too many jellies), but “The Lagoon” is a massive public pool that draws locals and tourists alike.

Image courtesy of Zoe and significant amounts of booze.I stayed at Gilligan’s, which is best thought of as a nightclub with a hostel attached. The quintessential “party hostel.” It was also one of the biggest hostels I’ve ever stayed at. Sort of a hybrid of a hostel, a hotel, and a resort. The pool had a waterfall. The kitchen had stainless steel ranges and refrigerators. All quite lovely. Mercifully, the rooms all had air conditioning.

Most importantly, Gilligan’s had my friends from Fraser. The onslaught of hugs at my arrival told me everything I needed about my decision to skip Whitsundays and head directly to Cairns. Drinking and merriment ensued. Such amazing people.

Can’t wait to see them again (in less than a week from this writing, incidentally, but that story is for another time…).

Diving the Reef

As content as I’d have been chilling all day and partying all night, I’d come to Cairns for a reason. It was actually the main reason I’d come back to Australia: scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. I’d been fascinated by the Reef my whole life, and I intended to get my scuba diving license and dive the reef as much as I could.

So I did just that.

Geoff and Nemo

I signed up for a 5 day course at Deep Sea Divers Den, which involved two days of classroom and pool instruction, then two nights and three days on a massive catamaran out on the Reef.

It was one of the coolest, most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Not only did I learn a new skill, but it turns out I’m actually good at it. I took hundreds of pictures. Swam with a massive sea turtle, several sharks, dove at night, down to 24 meters (80 feet), and so much more. Here’s a small sampling of the awesomeness, starting with the shark. You can even see the moment I notice him, by how much the camera jerks.

Nemo's cousin.

Next and Gone

Geoff HatLooking back, I think I just spent too much time in Australia. Knowing I had 3 months, knowing I’d use all of it, and having a limited number of things I wanted to do, meant I lacked urgency. There was never any need to do anything. So I ended up staying too long in places I didn’t really like largely out of laziness. I pride myself on just being able to be anywhere, but in this case it almost backfired. Once I realized how unhappy I was in Western Australia I should have just gotten out. Thaynara certainly told me to do that (though far more… colorfully, as is her style). I guess I just kept expecting it to work out, or that the next step would be better.

And, in reality, there was no way it could have lived up to what happened last year. Melbourne, Byron, these were tremendously important and amazing moments in my life. I knew it wouldn’t be like that again, but I guess I still sort of expected it to be like that.

Of course, this is all in hindsight. Sure in a perfect world this year I’d have gone from Melbourne to Brisbane and spent far more time working my way up the east coast…

Except… I would have missed seeing friends in Margaret River, and more importantly, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I did.

Will I go back to Aus? Probably. I want to dive the Reef again. Road trip in the outback, and finally see Uluru. But I won’t do 3 months again.

So, in the end, it is as it was. And as it was, Australia ended on a high note.

What happened next, though, was even better…

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The Bald Nomad

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