It was time to say goodbye to the Tablelands as we set off for Cairns and the coast via the Gillies Highway, taking a short detour off to see the magnificent Cathedral Tree strangler fig, which is even more impressive than the Atherton Tree at Yungaburra.Halfway along the highway the road starts to snake and weave through the mountains as it descends to the plains below.It gets a bit hairy at times with tight hairpin bends and precipitous drops, but it's worth it for the fantastic views.
About ten years ago we'd flown into Cairns on our way to Port Douglas but hadn't actually gone into the town itself.We didn't therefore know what to expect and were pleasantly surprised by its lovely setting by the sea with the wet tropical forested mountains soaring behind. We stayed at the Cairns Holiday Park, where the new owners have carried out improvements and are continuing to do more, and which is the nearest to the town centre.Although on the face of it, it was good to be back in a place with more youngsters (lots of backpackers on this coast) and fewer grey nomads, in fact the youngsters weren't very friendly and didn't speak.We've already mentioned that we put an advert in a camping mag and on its website putting Annie up for sale. While we were in Cairns we were surprised to get two enquiries about her so quickly.We also had two different couples come up to us in the street and ask to look around as they were interested in buying a motorhome.So we spent a fair bit of time discussing possible offers and how to handle them, and E spent a fair bit of time on the phone to possible buyers.A couple of them look promising - but watch this space.
While we were in Alice E had been on the look out for a new lens (which is new on the market) for the SLR camera.This would replace the two separate lenses for wide angle and telephoto and would lighten our onward load.However, it wasn't available in Alice and was clearly quite hard to come by, but a phone call to a camera shop in Cairns revealed they had only one in stock.E therefore paid a deposit and first stop in Cairns was the camera shop to collect it. First impressions are excellent.
While on the subject of forward/onward planning, M bought a new rucksack.A bit of background: we set off from the UK with the two excellent rucksacks we'd bought for our India trip two years ago; it soon became clear that the total capacity wasn't enough for our world journey; E bought a new larger rucksack in Helsinki, M inherited his existing one and M's was 'sent packing' from St Petersburg; M coped well with the additional load but the was too long and causing problems for her back.Hence the new figure hugging rucksack before we set off on our travels to Malaysia/Indonesia/Philippines and then on to New Zealand and South America.
We ate out in Cairns every night, some good food and wines to enjoy, so that E had a break from cooking.One of the big attractions at Cairns is the Skyrail, a 7.5 km cablecar ride which goes up the mountains and over the top of the rainforest to Karunda in the Cairns Highlands.It was a fantastic experience to float at treetop level looking out for birds, butterflies and tree snakes (unfortunately didn't see any of those).We had about three hours in Karunda, which is a really pretty little town, although a bit too twee and touristy for our liking, before returning to Cairns on the old mountain railway.
Cairns is also the main centre for trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.As we had snorkeled on the GBR about ten years ago we fancied doing something different so decided to see it from the air.A one hour flight took us over a number of reefs, the largest one being the Michaelmas, and at times we flew as low as 500 feet above the water. (See Cairns photo album.) The colours were absolutely magnificent, just incredible - shades of blue, turquoise, green, white and sand too numerous to mention - and a sighting of a shoal of huge black Manta Rays 'flying' over the pale coral was tremendous.
To top off our stay in Cairns, we had a very enjoyable last night when we went to see Clive James at the Civic Theatre.He was very witty and entertaining, even when shamelessly promoting his latest book.He took questions at the end and E was pleased to get one of his in eventually.Mind you, he had to repeat himself when Clive declared "There are three ways I don't understand that question!"Next day we headed up the coast for what was to be a one night stop at Ellis Beach, a lovely spot where the mountains come right down to the long sandy beach only about 30 kms north of Cairns.But we hadn't seen the sea or beaches for such a long time that we stayed a couple of nights just to chill out and relax - especially after our hectic time in Cairns.Mind you we only managed to spend a short time on the beach as the weather was really overcast and lo and behold it rained!We hadn't seen rain since Exmouth in Western Australia and, although this seems a really daft thing to say, it was such a refreshing change from constant sunshine. Now we're looking forward to Port Douglas, especially to see how it has changed since we were there ten years ago.
E M xxxx