Sunday, February 3, 2008
Australia Story (p4) - Cairns
My week-long spring break trip was spent in the Cairns area, which is almost as far as you can get along the northwest coast of Australia. Since I was money-starved, I took the train which was a 7 hour ride from Townsville. Cheaper, yes, but it killed two days of my week. It was at least enjoyable to watch the scenery change from the dry Townsville area to true green rainforest. If I had the money (and time), I would've gone further up into Daintree and live in the middle of the rainforest for a while.
Cairns is far different from Townsville! It's a very unique place, and is highly recommended if you plan a trip to Austraila. However, it's very much tourist-oriented. I hate package deals, and found it a challenge to do the things I wanted to do. Getting information is tough, because all they have is package deals and are looking for commissions. This was clear when booking for Fitzroy Island.
First though, a little more about Cairns. The downtown area is at the coastline and offers a lot of hostels and night-life, which is why a lot of backpackers head to Cairns to party. It seems that about half of the restaurants are Chinese, and there are plenty of Chinese people in the area. The place is liberal, and a store to prove that is "Condom Kingdom" right downtown. There is also a large night market with all sorts of stores inside that are open almost all night. For some reason, there are a lot of massage places inside with Chinese women in skimpy clothing trying to bring in business. No thanks, it's not my thing.
The coastline has a futuristic look to it, despite the fact that there is no ocean beach. What exists between the ocean and the land? Mud. It's all mud flats that are home to some unique species of birds, so the town doesn't want to turn it into a beach. Instead, they built a gigantic swimming pool.
Even though it's not legal, there are women who go topless at the pool and along the other Cairns area beaches. No nudity though, but I already had a place picked out where nudity was essentially legal. The only problem was getting there...
I stopped at one of the information places just before closing time, and asked what information they had about Fitzroy Island. They gave me info on package deals for snorkeling, and told me that I don't want to go there. This was not long after the hotels and other stuff on the island were destroyed by a tropical storm, so they were diverting tourists to other islands. They also told me that if I wanted to go, I had to book now before they closed, otherwise I wouldn't be able to get a ticket. BS, I thought -- I said that I didn't believe them, and that I don't want a booking and left.
The next morning, I went to the ferry terminal and got my ticket -- no problem! I traveled over with about 20 other people who were on the snorkeling package deal. I hiked the trails and observed the wildlife. (Note that the island is dominated by lizards, which is really neat to see!) My last stop was Nudey Beach, a beach declared as a nude beach by the private owner of the island (and therefore making it legal). It was a disappointment -- nobody was nude or even top-free. I wondered to the quiet end of the beach, but didn't want to brave some nude sunbathing due to families with kids around. I was a bit frustrated -- the only legal nude beach in Queensland wasn't even being used -- so I went back to the main area.
I talked with one of the employees for a while. She told me that after the last ferry leaves (5pm), nobody is allowed on the island except her, about 8 other employees, and the owners. They have all kinds of fun during the off-hours, because they have the entire island to themselves! To me, it sounded like a dream backpacker job -- I'd be enjoying Nudey Beach before the last ferry even got to Cairns. She was willing to talk to the owner about my employment, but I said that I couldn't -- I had this thing called "school" to get back to. Bummer! Since then, the resort has opened some luxury hotels, so this dream job has been spoiled.
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