Monday, February 17, 2014

Report # 50 Cairns, Australia February 17, 2014 Monday Chance of rain, muggy, 82 degrees

Arriving to Cairns
Have to be back at 7pm or else
Well, here we our final port in Australia.....Cairns, in the tropical north region of Queensland. This area has a lot going for it with world heritage rainforests, the Great Barrier Reef, mountain retreats, and the city of Cairns, the starting point for all of it. Sophisticated, yet relaxed and casual is the best way to describe the feel of this town. Although it is the capital with an international airport, Cairns is nothing like Brisbane or Sydney at all. There is no hustle and bustle of crowds on the city's streets, or huge highrises, or massive shopping malls. Everything here is on a much smaller scale, although there are many hotels to take care of the scores of tourists that arrive here daily by planes, trains, and ships.

First spotted by Captain James Cook in 1770, he named the inlet where we were docked today Trinity Bay, as he landed on Trinity Sunday. Gosh, this fellow really got around, didn't he? One hundred years later, gold was discovered in Palmer River, bringing miners to populate the region. Although it did not last long, the gold rush brought settlers to Cairns, where eventually, the real gold was to be found in the way of tourism.

Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal

Empty cruise terminal

Great place to dock
Since we have been here many times, snorkeling at the reef, or taking the Kuranda Scenic Railway, and visiting the rainforest, we opted to do the town on our own. There are some well done places to hike, as well as touring the city center.

Docked right in town
The ship is docked right in the heart of town, so by walking across the street, you are literally there. With a nifty city map given to us by the friendly ladies at the information desk, we made our way up Lake Street to the Cairns Museum. Our destination was not the museum, but to see the residents of the large trees that surround this square.

Fruit bats....lots of them

We are referring to the fruit bats or flying foxes as they are so aptly nicknamed. There had to be hundreds of them hanging upside down, fanning their over-size wings in an attempt to stay cool. Did we mention that the temperatures were soaring this morning, with the humidity as high as it could be? It was no wonder that the fruit bats were making such a loud noise among themselves. So loud, we could hear it a block away. Carefully, very carefully, we strolled under the trees, taking photos, trying not to disturb them too much. As we inspected the ground under the trees, we saw that this could be a dangerous thing to do. We did not linger very long. It was so darn hot, we decided to make our way towards the shoreline to walk along the beach.

Bat in flight

At least a 2 foot wingspan

"Flying foxes"

Trinity Wharf
One of the focal points for both locals and tourists, is the Cairns Esplanade. It goes from Trinity Wharf all the way to the airport, which is a heck of a long way. This development has been created along the shores of the Coral Sea, and includes recreational facilities from exercise stations, kiddie parks, a boardwalk, and barbeques shaded by park trees planted in grass. Picnic tables and benches line the walkway all the way, with some water stations also.

Part of the Esplanade and sandy beach

The best part of this stroll was the chance to watch the wading birds that frequent the beach and mudflats as the tide goes out. According to the info available along the way, there are 50 species of birds here, with as many as 3500 being spotted at one time.

Wading birds
The species of waders include plovers, spoonbills, sandpipers, godwits, and cranes. The further we walked, the more we saw. There was even a lone cormorant diving in the shallows.

A fisherman casting his net
In one grassy spot, there was a local fellow casting a net close to shore. It appeared that he was picking up three types of crabs and gobes, perhaps to be used as bait. Larger fish caught here are barramundi, mangrove jacks, and in deeper waters, the magnificent black marlin. In fact, this area is named the Marlin Coast, attracting anglers from around the world.
We were not wading
Another shore bird
Common greenshank

A greater white heron

The Esplanade continues

What you will not see on these beaches are swimmers or sunbathers. Why, you may ask? Box jellyfish is the answer. These creatures invade 
Nice stretch of deserted beach
the coast this time of year, and unless you go to beaches with good netting, you cannot swim here. They can be lethal if you are stung. They do advertise sting-resistant nets, but we have heard recently that a new strain of jellies has emerged that can fit through the netting. Another problem with swimming can be saltwater crocodiles, that come down from the rivers and mangroves. Yeah, that can be a big problem.

The Esplanade Lagoon
But not to worry. The folks of Cairns solved the swimming dilemma by building a huge saltwater pool right off of the Esplanade. They call it the "lagoon". It is free, and most inviting with fountains, with metal angelfish sculptures that spurt streams of water. There could be hundreds of swimmers here, and it would not be crowded. If we had more time, we may have joined the locals and tourists for a dip, but since we were on our way to lunch, we opted out.

Angelfish sculptures

The kiddie pond

The view from Marina Paradiso

The restaurant we have visited on past trips was Olano's on the waterfront and small boat harbor. But for some reason, we could not find the sign. The building was still there, but the name had changed to the Marina Paradiso. Same place, same food, different name. They featrued Italian cuisine, specializing in pizza. All and beer would work. It was not crowded, even though it was around 1:30pm. We suspect that the intense heat and humidity have kept most folks inside today.
Local beer from Cairns

Margherita pizza
So we were not rushed as we enjoyed yet another margherita pizza and local beers. It was almost as good as the ones in Sydney, but what was heavenly, was being able to sit under a fan and take in the cross breeze in this open-air cafe. As we watched the black skies over the Great Barrier Reef, we wondered how Keith was liking his diving tour today. Margaret had chosen to stay back, not feeling up to the 3 hour round trip boat ride. We shall see who made the better decision at dinner tonight.
The Night Markets
It was well after 4pm by the time we got back onboard. And it was a good time to drink gallons of ice water to cool down. We went back out around 5pm to walk to the Night Market, which was mostly opened by then. There was a lot of stuff in the way of souveniers, and much better priced than in the town's shops.

Trinkets galore
Since the Asians run this market, they tend to keep their prices down. A big draw to this market are the numerous stalls for massage, which were already filled with customers. One such place we passed on the way here was called Body Clinic with a flotation sauna and a fish spa. Fish spa? Was that something you eat? No, it was actually something that "dines on" you! A long fish tank sits on the floor where the customer puts their feet in, and watches as small fish nibble away all the dead, dry, and hard skin on their feet. Must feel odd, but some of our friends swear by the treatment. The cost was $15. for 20 minutes (10 minutes with the fish, and 10 minutes with a paraffin wax). The flotation therapy was a tank of water, enfused with epsom salts. It guarantees to free you of stress, anxiety, aches and pains, with super learning and self hypnosis. Hmmmm, perhaps we need to buy one of these for home? Anyway, a one hour float cost $50.
The Reef Hotel Casino

We found nothing of interest in the Night Market, so we went back to Woolworths and purchased room snacks such as dips, chips, and yes, Tim Tams. This would be our last chance to buy the sweet treats, although we seem to remember buying the special cookies in Singapore. The ship was due to leave around 7:30pm, and it sure looked and felt like rain was coming soon. You can tell when you see the locals carrying umbrellas. They know. Eventually, the rain did fall, but not until after sunset. Truthfully, we would have welcomed it today.

Keith did indeed survive his trip to the reef. Even though he did not swim or snorkel, he did take the glass bottom boat and submarine rides twice. The food offered on the pontoon was not to his liking, but we knew that. He did admit that finally seeing part of the reef was a great learning experience, and now he can mark it off of his list of must-see things to do. The bad thing was that he found out he had one picture left on his 4 gig card, and did not realize that Margaret's camera was at the bottom of his bag. Perhaps that may be a good excuse to repeat the excursion one day in the future. By the way, Margaret went shopping, which is always fun.

There was a big screen movie, All Is Lost, with Robert Redford in the Queens Lounge this evening. Wonder how many folks will go at 10pm to almost 12am after such a long day in Cairns? Probably only those who love the bags of popcorn that are provided at the entrance.

One day at sea, and we will be in a very different part of the world......Papua New Guinea.
Shoreline apartments

A shopping complex

More shopping
Outback Jack's Bar and Grill

Many cafes in town

A War Memorial

Airplane landing

Bill relaxing under the fig tree

Masked lapwing bird


Office building
Giant seashell sculpture

Bird working the surfline

An insect eater - magpie lark

Australian art

A diver

A reef yacht

Pathway to the boat harbor

These are inviting

Cairns Marlin Marina

Marina buildings

Marina dock

Nice wooden walkways

Needlenose fish

Amsterdam docked

An older establishment

The local library

The Casino dome

Going back home

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