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One Week in Cairns

Author: Pati O.
Date of Trip: April 2011

When we arrived at the take off sight I was awestruck as I saw the massive balloons being inflated, lit up against the dark sky they were an unbelievable sight. Of course I had to get out into the wet dewy farmer's field to take tons of pictures. Just as they were taking off my camera started to act up and froze. I knew from past experience that the only way I would be able to restore it would be to reformat it and in doing so it would delete everything I had on it. Hoping I would be able to recover at least a couple of them later I decided that I didn't want to miss the chance of documenting my ride so I went ahead. Thankfully I was able to recover all the photos from that morning using a recovery system I had previously purchased.

Shortly after the camera incident I noticed that one of my sister's rings was missing from my finger. I desperately hoped that it had fallen off in the bus and immediately went to search my seat area, but it was nowhere to be found. I was determined to not let this turn ruin my day so I reminded myself how much Betty loved Australia to, and now a part of her would always be there. Half jokingly I commented that maybe I would be lucky and it fell out in my backpack as I looked unsuccessfully through it. Amazingly later that night when I emptied my pack out I was ecstatic when I came across the diamond ring sitting among some trash on the bottom. I think my angel was definitely with me!

After the balloons took off we boarded the bus to chase them. As balloons have no navigations systems and rely completely on the prevailing winds they are never sure exactly where they are headed, thus the chase. About 30 minutes later we caught up with ours and I excitedly watched it land knowing that it wouldn't be long before I was "up up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon", and yes I was singing the song!

The basket was very spacious with four separate compartments big enough for three passengers each but we only had two in each so there was plenty of room to maneuver around. Everything about the ride was peaceful and heavenly. Just floating so smoothly through the air is something that I think everyone should have an opportunity to experience; I certainly didn't want to come down.

The views were absolutely magnificent and so varied, from the mist topped rainforest to the numerous crops to the brush land filled with wild life to the distant coast line and ocean, we pretty well saw it all. Our pilot was also very knowledgeable about the area and wild life and had a keen eye for spotting things. It was awesome seeing a kangaroo move though the brush from a bird's eye view, a very unique perspective indeed.

Our landing was also incredibly smooth, but then came the real fun as we got to tip over sideways and crawl out of the basket. Once the balloon was partially deflated we all helped in rolling it up, stuffing it into a massive duffel bag and loading everything back onto the trailer. My next stop of the morning was a trail ride through a rainforest property about 50km from where we had landed. When I was dropped of at the ranch I found out I was the only one booked on the ride, so it was just me and my lovely little guide, Kat, a young Japanese woman. There were a couple of horses in the paddock saddled and ready to go and when Kat told me I could choose which one I wanted I was instantly drawn to a white mare and chose her. I soon learned her name was "Cheeky" which I thought was rather fitting, as I am often attracted to and usually get along rather well with cheeky people?

During our nearly three hours riding again I learned lots about the local area, of course asking an abundance of questions. During our conversation I also discovered another small world coincidence as Kat told me she had done an exchange to Canada when she was in high school. At first she had trouble remembering the name of the small town in Alberta she had stayed but eventually we figured out it was Sundre!!! (For those of you who don't know that is in my school division.)

After a barbeque lunch at the ranch with all the people who went out on quads for the morning, it was back to Cairns. Getting back earlier for a change gave me a chance to wander about the city a bit more and do a little shopping.

It was another great day but there was still more to come...



Cairns Part 5

Saturday was the day I had planned to spend with Cindy and the kids and I was up too early, surprise surprise! This gave me time to finalize my last couple of days' activities as well as wonder through some local markets before they picked me up.

We had a couple of specific destinations in mind but other than that we were going to let destiny play a role in our day as well. Our first unplanned stop for a toilet break proved to be very informative as we ended up at a roadside coffee plantation. Not only did we learn about how coffee is grown, harvested and planted I was able to provide the kids with their first coffee ingestion experience. As it turned out all three of them really like chocolate covered coffee beans and readily downed the entire bag, only sharing a few with Cindy and myself. Amazingly there were not any adverse side affects such as three kids bouncing off the car roof!

Our next stop at the Crystal Caves was also unplanned and again it was definitely meant to be. Although I had expected real caves I was not in the least bit disappointed by the man made caves in the back room and basement of this crystal shop designed to display an amazing array of crystal samples from around the world. I was in awe at the beauty that nature creates underground often hidden within caves and rocks. It was absolutely fascinating.

Once we emerged from our time in the cave we also spent a considerable amount of time browsing through the shop upstairs. In addition to a collection of crystals and gemstones I also purchased a so-called Mexican Coconut. Darby and Haley also got one of these geodes that were formed by gas bubbles in volcanic lava about 44 million years ago. The coolest thing about our geodes was that we got to crack them open to discover what was inside them and then the shop expert analyzed them for us. This was such a unique and memorable experience and it was so awesome to have done it with Cindy and the kids.

After a short lunch break we were off again, this time to find a waterfall to swim under and also to visit an amazing fig tree. I honestly can't remember which one came first but it didn't really matter they were both wonderful in their own way. Although the waterfall was nothing like the one had swum under in Litchfield it was still a fabulous experience. This waterfall was only about 3-4 meters high but it was about 20 meters across and was extremely powerful. Swimming towards it was extremely difficult, as the current grew stronger the closer I got, so much so that I eventually had to enter from the side instead. Then once under the falling water I had to fight against the current attempting to pull me under. It was a really bizarre feeling although it is perfectly logical.

Although they had been to the Curtain Fig Tree before the kids all thought this was definitely worth another visit and something I would love to see. They were spot on. Fig trees are very unique in that the can plant their seeds into an existing tree and they grow down as if their roots are above ground. I am not quite sure how to explain this particular tree; I think it would be best if you were to have a look at my photos of it instead.

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