Cairns – It’s Not Pronounced the Way It Looks

After leaving Daintree we decided to give Port Douglas a try. We had heard good things about it and it seemed like a good place to chill out for a couple of days before heading to Cairns. We also heard from one of the immigration officers that Port Douglas was a much better place to go out to the reef from. We had the impression that Port Douglas would be a sort of laid back beach-bar kind of place. That impression would be wrong. There isn’t anything bad about it, but it is much more beach resort than laid back beach town, and budget and resort do not go together. We stayed for just the night and spent most of the day reading on the beach which is still free. For now. I finished McTeague and was so depressed that I wanted to throw myself into the sea. Frank Norris will do that to a person.

We drove back to Cairns and stayed in a park outside of the city that claimed to be mosquito-free. That sold me. We soaked our poor itchy feet in the pool and did nothing of consequence except for book a snorkeling excursion for the next day. That snorkeling trip is something that I will never forget.

We headed out to the Great Barrier Reef on a good sized boat. Even though I had taken some motion sickness medication, it doesn’t always work if it’s bumpy enough. The trip to the reef was about 90 minutes and about an hour in I started to feel pretty queasy. Now the only thing holding me back was my aversion to puking in front of people. On this trip already I saw a couple of people starting to get sick. There was a woman on the boat who we’ll call “the barf nazi” whose job seemed to be harassing the people who were about to throw up. You were not allowed in the bathrooms if you were going to be sick. You had to take a paper bag and go onto the back deck where people with scuba gear were preparing for their dives. If anyone who looked a bit sick headed for the bathroom, the woman would scream at them and pound on the door and tell them that they had to come out immediately and get sick on the deck. So I was trying really hard not to be one of those poor people. Mercifully, we arrived at the spot on the reef and I felt better as we prepared to get into the water.

I can’t really explain what it looks like when you plunge your head under the water except that it doesn’t seem like it could be natural. Miles and miles of reef are stretched out all around you. Every color of the rainbow is represented in the coral and the creatures that grow from it and live in it. Remember the Disneyland submarine ride? It’s like that only real and much more vibrant. The water is clear and the visibility is fantastic. Huge schools of fish swim right by your head. Giant purple clams sit on the reef waiting for a meal. Fish as big as dogs go swimming calmly by. Reef sharks cruise the surface. It’s unreal. Everywhere you turn your head there is life; there is something going on. The best part of the snorkeling adventure was when we spotted a solitary sea turtle. There is something about the sea turtle that inspires awe. They are so ancient, so peaceful. This one paddled slowly towards and then under us. We followed him for a bit and he showed no sign of alarm. Just this one turtle made the whole boat trip worth it.

Unfortunately, time flies when you’re in the water. What seemed like 10 minutes was really over an hour. We went to two different sites and both were unbelievably gorgeous. How can I ever go snorkeling anywhere else now? I’m ruined.

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