Friday, May 3, 2013

cairns: the wet tropics & great barrier reef

it's been may for four days now and i still keep automatically writing down april when i go to take notes in class. its hard to wrap my head around the fact i've been in australia for almost three months, but its even harder knowing that i only have a month and a half left. the two opposing facts just aren't registering in my brain. yesterday was the last day of classes back at occidental not only is it crazy that some of my best friends are about to graduate, but that there's only a year left before i'll be in the same position. i haven't really felt homesick at all since i've gotten to australia, but times like these i really just wish i could go back for a little bit . 

last thursday my friends and i took advantage of not having class due to anzac day (a day of remembrance similar to our veteran's day) and took an early bus north to cairns. as predicted, i slept the entire 6 hours and we arrived a little after 1pm. we navigated our way through the city and found the asylum (the name of our hostel, not a mental institution). the hostel had a really chilled out and open vibe- big outdoor area in the front with couches, chairs and tables where there were always some people socializing or just quietly reading a book. after dropping our stuff we made a fairly tedious journey across cairns to the botanical gardens.

the top of the greenhouses were covered in spiderwebs

overall the gardens were beautiful, but honestly not that incredible compared to others i've been to back in new york and california. we spent a lot of our time sitting on the grass gathering strength to walk back to town. eventually we made our way back into the main bit of cairns and wandered down the esplanade along the shore. the beach here is the first i've seen in australia that wasn't absolutely gorgeous- it was really muddy and there were hardly any waves. a girl at our hostel warned us to "never go in the sea!" the city of cairns is super touristy, the streets were filled with restaurants/bars, gift shops, and dive/adventure sort of shops. we were kind of overwhelmed by how many restaurants there were to choose from to eat dinner; we settled on delicious burgers. the next day we were up bright and early to go do what draws so many to cairns: diving and snorkeling on the great barrier reef! cairns is seriously one of the best places in australia to access some of the most beautiful parts of the reef. while the visibility wasn't that great, this was some of the most enjoyable diving i've ever done. 

aboard to sea quest and ready to head out!

first dive site

maori wrasse! these guys are the best. we literally ran into three of them immediately after jumping the water. they were super friendly and it was kind of hilarious watching the dive company's photographer shoving the fish in front of people of get a good picture

loved this green giant clam

a moorish idol, aka gill from finding nemo

cutie bird nose wrasse

sea turtle! hawksbill we thought?

cool surgeon fish with four orange spines- super sharp

so awesome!

this bat fish followed up around for our entire second dive

petting a young maori wrasse. when they get older they change color from brownish to blue/green

playing with a sea cucumber

the bat fish also kept photobombing all my pictures

the best dive buddies

lots of these little guys

it was pretty epic when a huge school of unicorn fish swam by

me and my new best friend. did i mention how amazing it was to dive without a full wetsuit, gloves, and a hood?!?

nudibranch! too bad the picture came out blurry

lots of fish were hanging out under the boat

one of these wrasses actually bit victoria! 

we found a ray hiding in the sand

second turtle siting! trying to feed it some dead coral

triggerfish! they can be really aggressive and go after divers during their mating season, good thing we weren't there for that!

pair of fox face rabbit fish


this microscopic crab is mostly almost transparent and it took me like five minutes to see what everyone was looking at

another nudibranch

more anemone fish

A CUTTLEFISH. they are so cool i can't handle it. we watched it change colors as it swam from the sand to over the corals

such a perfect day

our lovely hostel room. there was some really creative artwork on the walls..

the next day we were again up early for another day of adventuring. our plan: rent a car and drive around the tablelands outside of cairns. at first things didn't seem to promising- the weather sucked! 

we only had this map to guide us the entire day but it actually was all we needed- the road signs were easy to follow and we didn't even get lost once. we mainly followed the big loop

but the sun soon came out as we made our way up some super winding roads

first stop was to see the cathedral fig, it was super tall and so beautiful! it looked like it would be really fun to climb

next we stopped by the crater lakes- these photos are from lake eacham

driving was really fun and i got used to driving on the other side of the road really fast. however, nine times out of ten i would really annoyingly turn on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal because they are also reverse.. and my parking has some room for improvement.

onto the curtain fig! another amazing tree

we stopped by this gigantic crater

then we began the waterfall section of our trip- first up was millaa millaa falls. 

actually the most perfect waterfall ever

we swam over to get underneath the fall

looked so cool from below!

zillie falls- we couldn't go swimming but it was really pretty as well

it was interesting to me how we would be driving through these rolling hills of farmland and suddenly there would just be waterfalls hidden away two minutes from the main road

ellinjaa falls may have been my favorite

our last stop for the day was josephine falls. although the water was ice cold, it was worth it to go down the natural rock slides and jump off some ledges. great end to another awesome day!

we spent our last morning at the farmer's market in town where there was an incredible selection of delicious fruits and veggies. ate so many samples..

got all this for around $6! 

before it was time to head to the bus, we went down to lagoon which was pretty crowded. since no one swims in the ocean in cairns, the lagoon is the place to go. 

four days well spent! luckily the only casualty we suffered was my left flip flop. still really confused how the happened.

 in other news, fluro fantasy, my ultimate frisbee team, is still undefeated (8-0), i've been spending a lot more time swimming than studying, my fish skull is slowly coming together, and the banana smoothies they sell on campus are life-changing. today is going to be a beach day, and then sunday is this music festival right in townsville called "groovin the moo." (don't even ask because i can't explain why that's what its called) but the lineup looks really good and people from all over queensland come for it every year! i'll fit studying in sometime.. 

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