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Friday, June 02, 2006

(*) Cairns Pt.2

Hiya. Here's another bit of my recent foray in the far north of Queensland.
Cairns itself impressed me... I mean, I knew it would be a fair-sized town, but I was wrong... it's a good sized small CITY! I'd have to check how large it is population-wise, but my guesstimate would be 100,000+... in the CBD it's 'really' touristy - all the old pubs and stuff have mostly been pulled down to make way for large concrete monstrosities [in my opinion], but there are a few of the old weatherboard and verandahed pubs around the place... gorgeous! On the waterfront there's this large series of wharfs where the tourist ferries come and go, but moored along the way are some of the largest most disgustingly opulent richmans' playtoys you could ever imagine! Millions of dollars just floating there - gagh! Just around further is a great facility for everyone to enjoy... as Cairns itself is basically built on a giant mudflat [seriously!!!], with NO beach! [they've 'imported' a small beach on the actual waterfront], they've built a man-made swimming lagoon with loads of open parkland, shady trees, kid's play areas etc etc. Brilliant - a great simple concept! And long esplanades all along the waterfront are a lovely evening walk too... even tho it's obvious there are a lot of tourists around [even at the tail-end of the less-populated wet season when I was there], there is still so much open SPACE! Great... there's never a feeling as though you are sitting in a park right on top of someone else... that nice relaxed atmosphere seems to typify Cairns.
One day I saw a navy ship come into port - I had *no* idea the harbour could accommodate ships that large, but - no problem! Later that week I kept bumping into Japanese sailors everywhere in little touristy huddles, resplendent in their sparkling-white uniforms...
On one of our combined forays into town, the three of us [my brother, his wife and I] decided on a whim to walk into the Casino to take a look... on the roof of this place is a large glass pyramid that houses its own rainforest - kitschy! Anyways... one smallish room wall-to-wall with poker machines and a few gaming tables.. I've seriously seen some of the larger clubs in Sydney with larger gaming rooms [not that I'm a gambler by any stretch of the imagination!] I thought they wouldn't let us in, wearing t-shirts, shorts, thongs [that's flip-flops!] and sunnies, but - seems like everyone was the same way! That's Cairns, I guess! We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and put $2 each into three machines... mind you it's been a few years since I've played a pokie... and I had to show my brother how it worked! I mean, the last time he played one you had to put a coin in and pull the handle! heh heh We only sat there for about 15 minutes... and - we won! We broke the bank! We walked out, heads swimming with our win of $13!!! hahahahaa... at least we got our money back! We jumped across to the nearest cafe and giggled over a cuppa!
Luckily there was a cheap, fast inet service in the Resort shop... even tho I only used it once for like 25 minutes, that gave me enough time to check my emails [and delete some ruddy spam mail!], send a few quick messages, and leave a few posts here and there. Right in front of me was a large fern-covered pond, complete with small fountain, containing about 10-or-so of *the* largest barramundi fish you would likely ever see - and they were the Resort 'pets' to boot! No fishing there! Gagh! heh heh
Another day when I had a small rental car of my own, I drove off southwards for a bit of a look-see in the misty splattering rain - hoping that it'd *have* to clear up eventually, right...? Right...?!? heh heh... About 50kms/30 miles south of Cairns you start to see evidence of a large Cyclone [hurricane] that'd gone thru about a month before... I was looking for a particular turnoff, but drove past it *twice* - simply because the signs had been blown away! Gagh! In Innisfail itself, large wooden buildings still unroofed covered in tarps littered the landscape... with all the rain, my heart went out to these people... I went towards the seaside stopping briefly at a pretty sugar-cane shipping terminal at Mourilyan Harbour, and everywhere the hillsides were about 75% stripped of trees! I mean... they'd literally been blown away! Bare hills was a stark reminder of nature's fury in such a lush region as this... driving back into the ranges inland, it amazed me to see a series of houses... one with no roof, the next untouched, the next condemned, the next fine... strange... it must be a living nightmare experiencing something like that.
Driving upland into the Atherton Tablelands towards Millaa Milla, the rainforest again surrounds steep but well-constructed roads... the occasional lookout vantage point offered me no views that day, as the misty-foggy rain obliterated within a mile! heh heh Yet everything was still so green... even inland there was obvious evidence of wind damage to farmlands, rows of trees uprooted, the occasional building construction repairs underway... and then - it's like flicking a switch and the scenery changes! From lush rainforest into rolling open farmland! It was lovely, but again it just reminded me of NSW's Southern Highlands around Moss Vale - just greener! I stopped briefly at Atherton - a small town in rich faming lands, and kept moving up towards Mareeba. I once knew some missionaries who'd spent some time around here, so I was mildly curious... again, the landscape of the town made me laugh - it so-much reminded me of Tamworth in NSW, like 2,000kms away! But - lots and lots of Australian towns are like that... you seriously could be *anywhere* in someplaces, they look and feel so similar... a nice feeling tho... makes you feel at home. Again, because of the endless foggy rain I actually couldn't see much - but I was loving the drive, singing my head off to The Beatles and a classic Cairns radio station that played all the 'oldies' I could sing along to - thank gawd I was alone! How embarrassing! heh heh... aww, I was on holidays!
The road back to Cairns via Kuranda moves thru some lush open farming land again, and if you are ever up this way you MUST take a look-see at the lovely [albeit touristy] village of Kuranda, right on he edge of the coastal range rainforest. There are markets everywhere, and it's the starting/ending point for both the Rainforest Skyway, and an amazingly scenic old-fashioned train ride thru the rainforest [which I didn't go on - this time...]. My sister-in-laws sister [did you get that?!? heh heh] lives there in an AMAZINGLY breathtaking house, surrounded by lush tropical bush.. I mean, they have a flowing creek splashing away in their backyard, wild bush turkeys strutting about in the garden, and a house that is just amazing! It's all open... tall pitched roof, all wood, all windows, lots of open air, decking... amazing! Like something you'd see in one of those 'Beautiful Homes' magazines - but this place was *liveable* and homey - gorgeous! I mean - they told me they haven't had to shut the kitchen windows in like 2 years - you spend a lot of your time living in the outdoors up here... amazing. A really nice group of people too - made me feel really relaxed and welcome.
The road back down to Cairns I'd experienced before, a few days before with my brother... it's another winding way down the side of a mountain [basically], but it's the best of the three up-and-down to the highlands, I'd say. It's a surreal experience driving *thru* the fogline and looking *up* at the rainclouds above you as you drive along, heading down down down... although it rained literally the whole day, I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to jump in my car and just *go* wherever the whim took me...
One evening the three of us went to a local Indian restaurant right on the beachfront at Palm Cove... while I'm not a fan of hyper-hot food [like they are], it was OK but nothing to write home about... maybe I should have had something outrageously spicy instead, hmm? lol. Walking back along the beachfront in the warm evening air was sooooooooo nice.... I think I did that most nights I was there, rain or no!
Mal :o)


Blog of Mallard the Malster - some of my Thoughts, Ideas, Comments, Observations, Editorials, Musings, Rantings, Ravings and Current Objective Critical Relative Subjectivism of Maljam the Loopey Mallard 

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