Arrival in Australia!! My god it took a loooong time to check in- but I still had a couple of hours free before my flight from Sydney to Cairns so instead of wasting time in the airport I took the express train into Circular Quay in the centre of Sydney and I am so glad I did! I immediately fell in love with the place; it was sunny and warm and the views were incredible. I had a whirlwind wander around Circular Qua ywith views of the famous Syndey harbour bridge (including seeing some nutters walking up it!), around the Sydney Opera house. An iconic building but I have no idea what the architect thought he was doing...Then through the neighbouring gardens which were calm and beautiful and well worth the visit.
In the afternoon I arrived in Cairns and checked into the hostel - nice and clean and safe so parents no need to worry! Bins, Hannah, Tania and Twiggy were staying in the massive hostel Gilligans so we spent the evening together and then went out for a free meal at the Rhino bar, where we met some proud Queenslanders who thought they were pretty hard core. Not impressed really though!
An early morning start to go to the dive centre to start my PADI Advanced course. We ba\egan with tow pleasure dives with my new dive buddy Graham on the Norman reef of the Great Barrier Reef. Viz was ok, but I really enjoyed seeing all the new species of coral and colourful fishies! After transferring to the Ocean Quest liveaboard boat it was straight into instruction with Ollie, from England in fact! My first dive was the Peak Perfomrance Dive- great fun stnading on my head and swimming through hoops forwards and backwards - like gymnastics underwater!!
And my first night dive! Such an adrenaline rush before I got in; they feed the fish and sharks and create an ecosystem at the front of the boat so TONS to see! Had to do a little underwater navigation but then fre to enjoy looking at all the coral and fish in bright lights and witness the large fish hunting in our beams. The highlights were definately seeing a sleeping turtle though and then doing our safety stop amidst the feeding reef sharks!!
We were up v early for the first of five dives today (before 6) but one of the best ways to wake up! It was the Deep Water dive and we got down to 30m before doing a simple task, and I was surprised at how long it took to complete compared to on land. Two dives later (the navigation dive and the boat dive) and I was qualified as PADI advanced!!! Also fitted in another night dive, without an instructor so an amazing rush again!! My buddy Graham had a really powerful torch so lots of fish and sharks were attracted to that whilst we were doing the safety dtop at 5m; all I can say is it is a moment I will never forget!
Sadly, this was my las tday diving on the reef from Cairns. My first stroke of bad luck too; my room mate snored like a wart hog all night! So I was pretty tired but the last two dives were really enjoyable - more beautiful coral, some anenome fish and a blue spotted stingray. I've now seen all the creatures from the tank in Finding Nemo in the wild!
After setting back on land (a wierd feeling after swaying around for a few days) I went for a wander around Cairns proper, to see some parts I had missed previously. Ended up in the night markets, which is THE place to visit if you want an endless supply of australian tack from didgeridoos and boomerangs to grains of rice and mini koala keyrings! I had dinner by the lagoon which is really pretty and a popular place with the locals; evidenced by the free BBqs that were being put to good use!