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Cairns: The Final Stop (for now)

So here we are, at the final point on our trip before we head back down to Melbourne. Cairns is quite a nice town, and we've been lucky enough to get some really good weather, although it's got a lot wetter and greyer over our last few days here. We've spent every sunny day hanging out at the Lagoon (yes, another articifical beach) which is much like the one in Airlie Beach but bigger and in my opinion, nicer. Unfortunately it's also quite busy a lot of the time as there isn't really anywhere else to go in Cairns!

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We've gone out for a few lovely dinners, and been out for a few party nights, because that's what you do in Cairns! We've been staying at a hostel called Gilligan's, which is the main place to go out here. The best thing about staying there is easy and free access to the on-site bar and club, and being within staggering distance from your room!

Most nights we've been down to Gilligan's bar, even if it's just for a couple of drinks. We've also checked out the two other main bars – the Woolshed, a backpacker haven but small and over-priced; and PJ O'Briens, the inevitable Irish bar which puts on cringe-worthy pole dancing competitions and other prize-based drunken silliness.

Luckily, there's some good opportunities to work off the booze and food – they run free exercise sessions around the lagoon, so I joined a Bootcamp session one afternoon. Turns out that everyone loves free stuff – there were about 50 of us there! But she split us into five groups and we did some mini-circuits. Really good fun, and the best workout I've had in ages!

My last three days in Cairns were pretty eventful. I'd booked a day of horse-riding and quad biking (half a day of each) for the Saturday before our Tuesday flight back to Melbourne. It was near a town called Kuranda, about 40 minutes out of Cairns. The morning horse-riding was really good – we were out for about two hours and had the opportunity to trot a few times. We were near the end of the tour and we went into a third trot... and my horse tripped up. The horse fell right, I fell off to the left, and landed very heavily on the left side of my lower back. It was incredibly painful, but I could still feel my legs so I knew it couldn't be that bad! I was helped back on the horse and rode (slowly and uncomfortably) back to the base.

Unfortunately, that threw quad-biking out of the window – I couldn't even put weight on my left leg without a lot of pain. I agreed with the owner that I'd see about re-arranging quad biking for Monday if I was up to it. After a pretty uncomfortable minibus ride back to Cairns, I made my way straight to the meical centre to get myself checked out. I was pretty unconvinved by the Doctor's assessment. He got me to stand up, prodded it a bit, then said “Well, you can sit, stand and walk so you haven't fractured anything – it's just a contusion”. Hmmm, ok... He prescribed me some anti-inflammatory tablets and suggested that I buy some Voltarol pain relief gel, but I wasn't entirely convinced based on the pain I was in.

The following day we'd booked a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. My back was still hurting a lot, and I hadn't been able to sleep very well, but I wasn't missing this for anything! We made our way (slowly, due to limping) down to the marina, and got onto our boat. It was a rough journey out to the reef, and there was a lot of seasickness going on. Lucky for me, I've never suffered from it, but there were lots of people who really weren't enjoying the ride out to sea.

Justine and I both completed two dives, which were incredible. I had a few problems equalising one of my ears again, but it wasn't half as bad as it had been in the Whitsundays and I was able to sort it out a lot quicker. The second dive I was also much better at conserving my air – resulting in a longer dive and a chance to see more of the reef :) We saw some amazing fish, but I didn't get many pics as my underwater camera only works to about 8 metres and then the pressure kills it! Highlights were the maori wrasse, a reef shark, jellyfish, blue spotted stingrays, sea cucumber, a giant clam, amazing coral formations and some noise reactive anemones! I've tried to adjust the colour in the pics below to make them closer to what I was actually seeing – the camera just makes everything various shades of blue and it doesn't really give a good impression of the reef awesomeness.

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My back, although painful (particularly when wearing the scuba gear out of the water!), felt a lot better after some swimming so I re-booked quad-biking for the following day. It was a bit sore and I couldn't always go as fast as I'd wanted to for fear of hurting myself more, but it was still good fun. Very wet, and very muddy, but I'm still glad I did it.

Apologies for the severe lack of pictures in this entry. There wasn't really much to take pictures of in Cairns itself (it's just a town) and I wasn't able to take my camera horse-riding or quad-biking.

And that pretty much sums up our time in Cairns, and our road-trip up the East Coast. I don't think either of us can quite believe how quickly it's gone, but we've packed in a lot of awesome experiences and I think we've definitely seen the highlights of every place we've stopped. There's plenty of places I want to visit again, to spend longer at and see more of what's on offer. But there's time for that. I'm so happy with what we've managed to fit into the 2 months we had, and I wouldn't change a single thing.

Thanks to Justine for making it the trip that it was – it wouldn't have been the same without you! xx

And thanks to all the awesome people we met along the way. If you're reading this, it means that we're Facebook friends at the very least, and I hope I'll have a chance to catch up with some of you again, whenever or wherever that may be!

So now it's back to Melbourne, and back to what's going to be my reality for the forseeable future! Can't wait for all the new experiences it's going to bring. It's a whole new adventure, and one I'm really looking forward to.

Posted by hgchapman 14:58 Archived in Australia

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Nice one Heather, the dives looked great. I am really envious ... makes our first dive with Rhian in Turkey many years ago, a bit 'mickey mouse'.
Hope the back has now fully recovered and there are no long term injuries ... (you cant beat the good old NHS doctors you know !)
Let us know how your entry into the world of 'rural work' goes. Good luck and take good care of yourself. xxxxxx

by Paul Chapman

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