I'm still recovering from the trip, and from getting home and finding crises scattered through the house like little offerings.
For those who want to know, Nathan is now out of his funk and working on his PhD again, and Cheshire spent yesterday morning getting her leg to puff up double the size of the other one, limping and holding her left front leg up at me but to no avail - the vet appt was at 3:30. I was very brave at the vet when he burst the abscess - I got a tissue and wiped away the muck. It looked like runny mud. I had to carry her to the vet in the travel box cos I had locked myself out of home. D'oh! My keys were in my jacket. D'oh! It is only 300m but with a 5 kilo cat in the box and a gamy arm... Convenient that the vet at the end of the road at the dog track does cats and other animals too, eh? So she is on antibiotics and we have to keep the wound clean. She is walking and running well now, but bungs on an act once in a while.
Back to the subject at hand. The trip to Cairns was uneventful, after I almost missed the plane cos it
a) took longer to drive to the airport than I expected, and
b) took too long to find a car park in the long term car park - golly it was full and I had to drive about 2km from the airport to get a spot, which then meant I had to wait for the bus to show up cos I was not lugging a 13 kilo pack 2km when I was running 10 minutes late....
It didn't help me when the girl at the check in said I was awfully late. Like HELLO! Tell me something I don't know!
Anyway, I got on the plane, first trip with Virgin Blue, and saw three people I knew from old work! Plus the guy next to me seemed pretty geeky - he had a copy of National Geographic that he was reading. He offered it to me after he finished and I devoured it. (Not literally.) Then he got out some slide notes and I realised that he was giving a talk at the conference I was going to. Turns out he is an occupational physician. We had a good couple of chats. He's a nice bloke and geeky even if he is a doctor. It was at this point I realised I had left all my talk notes at home. D'OH!
The flight takes about 3.5 hours. Cairns is a long way away - it takes 2 long days (unless you are a maniac who likes speeding and driving for 20 hours in one hit) to drive to Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland from here, and Cairns is as far from Brisbane as Brisbane is from Melbourne. Again, just like on the trip to WA, you really get an impression of how vast Australia is, and how empty. Along the way you can see the damage done by loonies who think that clearing the brigalow (acacia woodlands) before govt sanctions come in is going to help them make more money from their extremely marginal cattle land.
As it turns out, we were lucky. One flight landed after us and then the airport was closed for 3.5 hours whilst a brand new hole in the runway was detected and fixed up. We were lucky cos a flight with a heap of conference people on it sat on the runway at Townsville for 3.5 hours! In the plane! Not able to do anything! ARGH! At least one plane was allowed to "dock" and one person hired a car and drove up to Cairns.
So, Cairns. Hmm, what can I say about Cairns?
If you want a great jumping off point for various trips to the Great Barrier Reef or places like Kuranda (famous for its markets and trip back to Cairns on the train that this page doesn't show) or Port Douglas, or the world heritage rainforests in the area such as the Daintree, Cairns is great.
If you want a nice seaside holiday in far north Queensland, don't bother. Cairns does not have any beaches. Instead, there's a mudflat that stretches all along the umm "junction" between the "land" and the umm "water."
Do you like the spoonbills in the mudflat? This bit is so dry that grass can grow in it, and some little mangroves are pushing up as well. Cairns was a mangrove swamp apparently.
If you want to swim in Cairns but your accomodation's pool doesn't hit the spot, there is always the lagoon - an artificial "beach."
I really liked the lagoon - it was pretty quaint. Plus it had these fish at one end of it - very distinctive!
The waterside areas of Cairns are absolutely chock-a-block full of tat - tourist rubbish. Lots of it in Japanese - this must be a big tourist destination for Japanese. I admit to being tempted by some of it but then I realised I could get many of the cheap tshirts in Melbourne! OK, they would not have Cairns printed on them but they were the same as here. Tourist tat, restaurants/cafes, accomodation and about 500 places all trying to sell you a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Blah. I eventually found the "real" Cairns where "real" people do their shopping. Plus there are plenty of suburban shopping centres too. I guess they go shopping to avoid the wet, when it is hot and humid. I admittedly had a lovely chat with a guy called Carl who works part time at Jungara Aboriginal Art (google it if you like aboriginal art)
I stayed at the H*lton. I wasn't really impressed - yes it has the swanky granite on the bathroom vanity area and the carpet was new enough to smell, the beds were like rocks to lie upon (?Japanese tastes?), the wood was some form of sheoak veneer (red and very figured) but the best bit was going out onto the balcony. The views were quite nice - you can see pics scattered above.
Cairns is tropical - the following three photos make that obvious:
frangipanis - these flowers came off frangipani trees. We can only get them about a metre high here if they don't get a touch of cold weather.
palms in the rainforest. Yes we can grow palms but not like these out in the wild.
Evidence of cyclones - Cyclone Larry (a category 5 cyclone/hurricane/typhoon, equal to Katrina at her worst) hit the area six months ago and ruined our banana crop, and knocked over this big rainforest tree. Bananas are still $13 a kilo....
I did find it quaint to see native orchids (Dockrillia sp) hanging in enormous figs. We can grow both species here in Melbourne, but they don't tend to be found hanging on street trees as this one was.
I guess you want to know about the conference? Well you will have to wait cos I'm all done here for the moment. My energy reserves are pathetic after three nights of dancing until what is now late for me - midnight or so, plus I've been sawing up some plasterboard so we can fix up the shelves in the hallway and I am whacked! Additionally it is time for a very late shower - I am all white (OK, even whiter than normal) with plaster powder. (Does this mean I have ingested today's calcium ration too?)