BACK TO WINTER // Kuranda, Australia

At last, my Cairns photos are coming to an end!

Our second night in our beloved little campervan (two nights in it and we basically decided to buy one) was spend in Port Douglas, where we awoke to cloudy weather and threatening rain. The views of the beach were less than stellar!

We took the long route back to Cairns, driving through more winding rainforests, the dry tablelands, and finally down into Kuranda. The sun had started to emerge slightly by time we arrived at Barron Falls. As per usual, terrible views!

Another kilometre or so along the road we found another lookout, this time offering views back down into Cairns.

We had a quick walk around Kuranda and the famous local markets, before jumping back in our campervan for the final drive down into Cairns. Our last night in Cairns was spent soaking up the last of our warm weather, and walking along the esplanade.

All in all, a perfect little trip! We had a pretty busy schedule, but it was also relaxing to disconnect from work, university and computers in general for awhile. Thank you, sunny Queensland!

– Reanna

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THE OTHER SIDE IS GREENER // Mossman & Cape Tribulation, Australia

Despite being a reasonably big city (the fourteenth biggest in Australia, according to a googling session Chris and I had whilst debating how large the city really was), the CBD of Cairns itself doesn’t have a lot to offer. The main streets are full of your usual clothing shops, backpacker travel agencies and souvenir retailers, but the main attraction in town is the Esplanade and the reef. However, there is an abundance of sights to see in the surrounding area. Despite having less than a week in Cairns, Chris and I decided to capitalise on this by trying our luck with a campervan!

After collecting our little van we were straight on the road due north out of the city. It is a beautiful, picturesque drive, winding along the coastline. There seemed to a beach literally every 100m, the most notable of which is Ellis beach. We intended to stop there, but due to a failure of navigation we stopped one beach to early. It was nevertheless spectacular, and we walk along to the end and were able to view Ellis beach around the corner.

Eventually the road headed inland after the turn off the Port Douglas, and we found ourselves in the green hills that were always in the distance around Cairns. It is worth hiring a car just to drive around this area!

Our next stop was Mossman Gorge, another tourist hotspot. We weren’t really sure what to expect (i.e. we had not done a lot of research for this road trip!), but there was a great information centre with super helpful staff. The gorge itself is a 2km walk up the road, but the sun was beating down so we opted for the park shuttle bus. This set us back about $10 each for a return trip, but the bus was frequent and was certainly a lot nicer than walking along a hot bitumen road!

You can swim at the gorge, but the information centre staff advise against it due to fast currents. We were happy to spend our time hiking instead.

From the swimming hole there is a loop taking you into the Daintree Rainforest. It was only a few kilometres long, but Chris and I spend ages taking in the scenery and the insanity that is this rainforest. It was like nothing we had ever seen, with giant fig trees (of the strangler variety I believe?), ferns growing on top of other trees, and vines that had us considering trying out our best Tarzan impressions.

How is this natural?!

The walk itself was relatively flat, and we didn’t encounter many other hikers – it seemed most people stopped at the swimming hole.

My little old camera (and my mediocre photography skills) could not do justice to the magnificence of the forest!

After driving through more lush green hills and sugar cane plantations, we hit the Daintree River, which can only be crossed by ferry. We luckily didn’t have to wait long, and it was around $25 for a return ticket with a car.

The drive from the river crossing to Cape Tribulation took a lot longer than we anticipated, despite the short distance, due to the speed limit not getting higher than 60km an hour! Not that we were complaining, as the road took us even deeper into the Daintree Rainforest.

We arrived at Cape Tribulation with no idea whether we could just park our van anywhere, but we were sent along to Cape Trib Camping by a local shop owner. It turned out to be the most perfect little camping area, a stones throw away from the beach. There was also a little cafe/bar, which served cheap drinks and woodfired pizza. We opted for cheese and dip on the beach, though headed to the bar after for a couple of drinks. It is also worth noting there is no phone reception in the area, but the campsites had paid wifi.

The real test of our campervan was how we would go sleeping! Our fold out bed was comfortable, but the rain during the night meant we had to close up the van. It was hot, to say the least! But comfort isn’t the main point of the campervan, right?

– Reanna

SUNNIER DAYS // Cairns, Australia

Chris and I have been dreaming, scheming and discussing a holiday for months, and last week it finally came into fruition! Holidays used to be far easier to coordinate, but since Chris has started working full time and I am doing my honours year as well as working in a part-time job (on a contract), aligning our schedules is now a lot harder. We had initial dreams of a week or so away in Bali, but once my exam timetable was released that was thrown out the window. After a week or so of checking out flights and Chris applying for holidays, we settled on Cairns. All in all it work our perfectly, not too mention I have been wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef for years. Plus its future is looking dire thanks to climate change and crappy governments, so it was high time to travel north!

Cairns was a lot further north than I realised, being a three and a half hour flight from Melbourne. No complaints here though, as we were treated to 28 degrees and sun on our first day. With no plans for our first day, we entertained ourselves by walking along the Esplanade and taking in the views.

In the afternoon we opted for a swim at the Lagoon, which looks over the beach. Far North Queensland has so many beautiful beaches, but only a few are viable swimming locations thanks to local fauna, including crocodiles and jelly fish.

To make up for not going to Bali, we headed to a Balinese restaurant for dinner. Our banquet was absolutely delicious, and the dessert platter was so epic I had to take a photo.

The next day we had booked a tour out on the Great Barrier Reef. There were so many options and tour companies to choose from that it was beginning to stress me out, but in the end we choose Seastar Cruises, and they were definitely a good choice. Tour groups are limited to 36 people, so you don’t have to worry about crowded boats!

Our first stop was Michelmas Cay, a small sand island populated by thousands of birds. After a few safety briefings we were taken to the shore to begin our first reef session. All our equipment, including wetsuits, were provided, and staff members gave optional tours of the reef, highlighting various aquatic features.

Staff were also equiped with underwater cameras, so we were free to enjoy our day without trying to capture every moment on camera. They were pretty snap-happy though, capturing this dashing image above.

Underwater photos are not our strong point.

We saw so much amazing sea life at Michelmas Cay, and at our second location of Hastings Reef. The highlight for me was the turtle you can see a few images above, as well as the numerous giant clams. It was such an amazing experience, and I am so grateful that we were able to enjoy it with perfect weather. I was worried about freaking out whilst in the water (I am terrified of sting rays, and most ocean related things in general), but thankfully I was so engaged by the experience that I was able to enjoy the day, as long as someone was always nearby.

We arrived back in Cairns happy, sunburnt, and damp, but it was worth every moment!

– Reanna