All it took was a definitive return date for me to feel reset, re-motivated, and refocused. Suddenly every day left was precious Sydney time.
On Tuesday 7 November I got to experience my first Melbourne Cup. Horse racing is kind of a big deal here, as is gambling in general, and the Melbourne Cup is the biggest race of the season. In the city of Melbourne, it's an actual holiday off work. But in Sydney, it's an unofficial half day, where most offices have a lunch time celebration and then spend the rest of the day... partying. It's team building on a Tuesday. Such a great holiday! Our office hosted a really nice celebration and then our team ventured out to the pubs with a few other employees.
|I tried my first scone with clotted cream|
It's essentially Chinatown, and living here reminds me even more of my Thailand adventure. So despite the minor inconvenience of packing/unpacking, it's been a nice change of scenery to add to this whole experience.
And just as I checked into my new digs, I was off to the airport to catch a flight to Cairns and fulfill my Great Barrier Reef dreams.
To get to Cairns, I flew Virgin Australian, a very nice airline that does free drinks for every flight departing during the 5-7pm window. Unfortunately my departure time was about 7:10pm... so no free drinks for me. We did get a nice little snackpack with this amazingly delicious piece of half dark, half milk chocolate. I landed in Cairns around 9:30pm, grabbed my bag, and ordered an Uber to take me to my home for the weekend, Caravella Backpackers. For my first experience in a hostel, it was five stars. I paid about $70 for three nights in a females only shared room with a private bathroom. When iIarrived on Friday, I was greeted by a 31 year old girl from Poland who recently quit her job in IT to travel the world. She'd been going for about 3 months and was just at that point in her journey where she was starting to feel a bit lost and anxious about her future. Before Australia, she'd spent a month biking and camping around Portugal and could not stop raving about that amazing experience. In her opinion, the coastal walks of Sydney did not come close to the scenic beauty of Portugal.
And when I woke up on Saturday morning, we had another girl in our room! I later learned that this girl had arrived around 2am straight from Germany. She'd unpacked, showered, and gone to bed and I had not heard a peep. The answer? Wax earplugs.
To see the reef, I had booked a reef/rainforest tour combo through Sightseeing Tours Australia. Again, I spent a lot of hours researching the best deal that would take me to the places I wanted to go. Compass Cruises had the cheapest GBR tour at just over $100. The Polish girl and I had vented a lot about how commercial Australia seems to be, and charging people that much to see the reef really doesn't seem fair. Most of the tours to the reef cost even more, which was pretty apparent as I walked up to the boat I'd picked, definitely the dumpiest in the pier. But, the crew was awesome, lunch was delicious, and we got a free glass of wine in the afternoon. The weather was not ideal and the swell and waves were unbearable. Both the internet and everybody I spoke with advised me to take seasick medication. I bought some from the pharmacy at the airport and it definitely saved me from puking overboard. Lots of people were nauseous, it was pretty awful. But after 3-4 hours, we made it to the reef!
|leaving Cairns. Totally looks like Thailand.|
|At the reef!|
|Scuba Diving lessons on the deck|
|first time in a wet suit and feeling like a manatee|
|coral - photo courtesy of Compass Cruises Facebook|
|We made it back to Cairns alive!|
After the tour, a friend I'd made on the boat and I decided to meet up for dinner later in the night. We treated ourselves to a feast of local seafood at The Raw Prawn. I even tried some crocodile and kangaroo. Oh, and I got a free glass of wine!
|free Sauvignon Blanc|
|king prawns and barramundi|
On Sunday, the tour picked me up at 7:10am for a Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest adventure. It was so fun! And because we weren't under water, I was able to take a lot more photos.
|our first stop in Mossman|
|crossing the Daintree River|
|there is a crocodile swimming in the river! It looks like a log.|
|Mount Alexandra Lookout, in Daintree National Forest|
|The Strangler Fig Vine|
|When the strangler fig takes over the tree, the host tree can sometimes die. Leaving a hollow tree. SO COOL.|
|our tour guide, Doug, was amazing. He knew everything. Claims to have been friends with Steve Irwin.|
|then it started raining on our tour of the rainforest so we took cover under the umbrella trees|
|Doug told us that vines in Australia also grow counter clockwise but vines in the northern hemisphere grow clockwise|
|I learned a ton about mangrove trees on the tour. SO COOL.|
|The viewpoint of Cape Tribulation|
|"Where the Rainforest Meets the Reef"|
|after lunch we left the rainforest and went back to the Daintree river to hunt for crocs. It was near impossible for me to capture them in photos. But we saw 3!|
|Then we went to Mossman Gorge. In the rainforest, in the rain. A lot of rain!|
|Do you see a man's profile? Totes looks like a face.|
|On the bus we got some afternoon snacks. Fresh lychee fruit picked from a tree nearby and TimTams|
|Beautiful sunset on the drive back to Cairns|