Back in Cairns again for 2 nights before we head to the Red Centre for a whirlwind tour of Kings's Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Uluru.
I've really enjoyed Cairns. It's been a pleasant surprise and very relaxing. I kinda feel at home here: swimming at the Lagoon early in the morning, going for long walks along the Esplanade at sunset and enjoying being outdoors and people-spotting.
We went on an excursion today to the Botanical Gardens (transport provided FOC by the great-value Northern Greenhouse Backpackers). Lunch was an amazing mushroom and spinach quiche at the Botanical Gardens Cafe, after which we walked through the gardens and jungle boardwalks admiring all the tropical flora. They range from traditional plants used by Aboriginal people to exotic orchids and carnivorous specimens.
The garden was started by a botanist, called Flecker, who later donated the land and his collection to the public. It is free to walk through the gardens and there is also an amazing arts centre called Tanks which consists of renovated water tanks for the use of gallery and theatres. I checked out their line-up - pretty impressive for such a small town! Jazz, flamenco, acoustic folk etc. Henry Rollins was performing his "Spoken Word" session that evening but, unfortunately, tickets were already all sold out!
After a late afternoon nap we headed for a long sunset walk along the full length of the Esplanade. Found an Italian restaurant which makes divine pizzas for a bargain $10! The same pizzas cost $22 if you sit down and eat them inside the restaurant, so we got take-aways and ate them at the picnic spots by the lagoon. After dinner we headed to the Marina Point - a swanky bar at the marina - for a farewell drink and then back to the hostel to pack up and finalise our travel arrangements for New Zealand.
We have had to change our flights as we can't afford to stay in the Red Centre for as long as originally planned. We've booked a 2-night tour with a company called Rock Tours (setting us back $370 each), then we're heading back to Sydney on Saturday for 1 night - staying at an airport hotel to save on transport costs - before heading off to Queenstown, New Zealand on Sunday morning. Car rental in NZ is a bargain $18.50/day and accommodation is half the price of Australia which has seriously been eating a huge chunk of our travel budget. Looking forward to our new adventures ahead!