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One Week in Cairns

Author: Pati O.
Date of Trip: April 2011

Our final stop of the day, which was actually our main destination, was Lake Eachem, an insanely beautiful crater lake. This lake proved to be the clearest, cleanest, most beautiful deep hole surrounded almost entirely by lush green vegetation. As there was virtually no shoreline and thus no natural way to enter the lake there was a concrete platform with steps that descended into the depths. This was definitely another awe-inspiring location and swimming and floating around in the warm clear water with plenty of fish below couldn't have been more enjoyable.

Eventually we had to head back to Cairns and after a nice dinner it was time to bid adieu to my Canadian mates. Hopefully they will have a chance to come to Sydney while I am still here and I can show them some of my favorite spots!


Cairns the Final Chapter...Finally

I was determined to pack in as much as possible during my last two days in Cairns so I booked two full day tours to conclude my trip.

On Sunday I set out to do some whitewater rafting. Although I have been a couple of times back home I have since then often said I would love to do it in a warm climate where I would not have to wear a dry suit and could be comfortable floating down the river. So how could I pass up the opportunity to spend a day on the Tully River's grade four rapids?

By the time I was finally geared up in my life jacket and helmet and in my boat my anticipation was at an all time high and although I was rather anxious I couldn't wait to get out on the river. When our guide asked us how we wanted to go the English bloke in front with me and I responded without hesitation, "hard". I am pretty sure this elicited an immediate sense of fear and concern to the three lovely young Asian girls behind us, but they would thank us later.

We were actually in the medical boat and as it turned out we had the craziest daredevil guide of them all. Nori definitely gave us the ride of our lives. We only lost one girl on the first rapid but things got significantly more extreme as we continued on. As you can see from the photos we got very wet and spent a fair bit of time under water. We became a real team with tons of laughter at our blunders and elation at our triumphs. This was very apparent as we huddled at the front of the boat with our backs towards the approaching falls that we were intentionally going to flip over. Once we all surfaced we also worked together to make sure everyone was safe and back together in the boat for our next challenge.

Near the end of the day after a briefing about the potential dangers of the next rapids we made our way towards the aptly named Double D rapids. Although everything happened rather quickly I am sure I experienced this spill in slow motion. With the boat descending at a ninety-degree angle it was inevitable that the back end would flip over the front and we would be going for a swim. The first time I surfaced I found myself under the boat so I had to push away and under I went again. The next time I came up I managed to take a quick breath before another current pulled me under and spun me around. Thanks to my lifejacket, I emerged, but only for a second as I was sucked under yet again. The next time I came up I had had enough and yelled out in a panic "HELP ME!" I really didn't want to get sucked under again! Thankfully, another boat obliged me, extending a paddle to me and pulling me to calmer waters.

I was a little shaken, but by the time I climbed back into my boat I was okay and ready to go again. Although I have to admit a few minutes later when I realized that Nori was scheming to flip us on purpose in a fairly fast moving current I reacted by yelling at everyone to do the opposite of what he had told us. I really do like to be in control, but it all was cool and we all had a good laugh about it later.

I had a great day and I felt even better when one of the girls later told me she had the best time because I was laughing so much! I couldn't think of a better compliment!

My final day in Cairns and I was scheduled to do the most obvious activity, a cruise out to snorkel on The Great Barrier Reef. Although I was quite content to be snorkeling when they offered the opportunity to do an introductory dive for a small extra fee I hummed and hahhed for a few moments and then thought why not. Unfortunately it was not meant to be as they rejected me because of my asthma. I wasn't terribly disappointed because I knew that I would be taking my dive course in Sydney soon. So it was back to the original plan of snorkeling.

Once again donned in a not so flattering stinger suit I soon found myself in the water swimming towards the most amazing underwater oasis. It was so incredibly beautiful and surreal. The whole atmosphere of effortlessly moving through this environment with its overabundance of incredible fish and coral everywhere is one of those things ones needs to experience to truly appreciate. I cannot believe how blessed I am to have had this opportunity again.

I did have a bit of an anxious moment during our morning swim when I noticed that I was surrounded by at least thirty small clear jellyfish. I was most concerned about my bare hands and tucked them under my body until all was clear again. Although I was safe from any big stings I am convinced that a couple of times I did get some through my suit but they were obviously muted and much more like a poke with a sharp pin.

The highlight of my morning swim had to be spotting a huge fish, at least a meter long, following it and actually ending up on the outskirts of a school of about twenty of these massive gropers. They had huge mouths with lips that reminded me of a set of ill-fitting false teeth protruding from their mouths. They were so funny, yet beautiful and graceful at the same time.

During our lunch break we headed off to another part of the reef. I was out on the front of the boat where everyone was sharing stories of their morning experiences. When one woman said she had seen a turtle I felt the slightest tinge of jealousy, because although I had seen many turtles when I was in the Whitsundays, I had never to be in the water with one. A little while later, I abruptly declared that I was going to see one this afternoon, and left it at that.

We soon spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance, which I later learned is a very rare occurrence in the area we were in. It was so wonderful because so many people on the boat had never seen dolphins in the wild before.

The water on reef we were in for our second swim was very shallow with some of the coral actually above the surface. As a result I chose to stay on the edge instead, which was fine as it was very different from what I had seen in the morning. At one point I stopped swimming and decided that I would just float for a while and let the current take me where it would. Amazingly within a minute or two of drifting I was brought to a gorgeous sea turtle. I attempted to follow it for a while but quickly realized that he was diving and I was more than content watching him descend in a spiral beneath me. What a great way to end my swim, day and trip! I really am truly so blessed and I am so appreciative of everything I am experiencing.

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