September 30th, 2014
Since Adelaide is quite metropolitan, I sometimes feel like in I’m in another American city instead of Australia. I think that’s one reason why I was slightly disappointed when I arrived, since it wasn’t how I pictured Australia to be. In my mind, when I thought of Australia, especially the coastal areas, I imagined laid-back surfers hanging out at beautiful beaches in the hot sun, greeting everyone with a carefree “G’day mate!” That being said, I’ve adjusted to the hustle and bustle of city life, and I’ve had a blast exploring the city and surrounding areas with all the friends I’ve made. Deep down, I dismissed my picturesque beach image as a fantasy setting promised by Hollywood and tourism ads and focused on enjoying my adventures around the city. However landing in Cairns for my first holiday in Australia was like a dream come true!
My roommate Andrea and I came on this trip together, and since we had no tours the first day we simply explored the area. The town was tourist-y but beautiful, and it was how I had imagined Australia to be. The sea-side views were breath-taking, and much of the town looked like it was taken directly out of a holiday resort brochure. Here’s an example:
During that first day, Andrea and I visited the harbor shops, walked along the coastline, bought fruit in a local market, and stopped by a cultural festival. However, the craziest part of the night came when we booked spots on a party bus, which was basically a pub crawl to five different venues where food was provided and one free shot was given out at each club. I don’t normally go to parties, but since Andrea was set on going and dinner was included, I agreed to come along. I didn’t order any drinks, pawned many of the free shots off on my roommate, and guzzled tons of water. As a result, I was sober and able to enjoy the ridiculous antics of those who got wasted and made fools of themselves. The games the party bus staff had for us were overwhelming and crazy, so neither Andrea nor I participated. Since it was my first pub crawl type event, I didn’t know what was “normal”. Andrea, who’s 25, has been to plenty of bars and clubs and was also surprised at how insane the games were. According to her, Australians were crazy and she normally didn’t see such over-the-top partying, especially as early as 7:00pm when the pub crawl started. While the experience was exciting and entertaining I definitely know that this type of crazy partying is not for me. I’ll just stick to parkour and rock climbing for the majority of my fun.
The next day, Andrea and I left early for the pier for our first tour. We were going scuba diving and snorkeling! The weather was beautiful, and we couldn’t stop grinning during the boat ride out to the reef with the rest of our tour group. As one of the first sets of people to go diving, we had to forgo snorkeling for a moment and suit up for the dive. Here’s a picture of us and the other two first-timers:
After giving us an introductory briefing, we dropped into the water with our instructor, demonstrated a few mandatory safety skills, and started to submerge. It was initially very unnerving, and I had to force myself to breathe normally and relax. My parkour and rock climbing experience definitely helped me recognize my fear, overcome the mental obstacle, and calm myself quickly.
As a result, during the dive I was able to relax and marvel at the beauty of the reef and ocean life. It also allowed my instructor to focus more on helping my roommate relax and clear water from her regulator as we started to sink deeper. During the dive we were able to get really close to the coral, and we even saw a shark, a stingray, and a clownfish! There was also a batfish that followed us around featuring a thin, disc-shaped body. While the dive was mesmerizing, it was over sooner than I wanted.
Stripping off our tanks and other scuba gear, Andrea and I quickly donned snorkel equipment and got right back in the water, eager to see more of the reef. We swam for over an hour, then headed back to the boat to eat lunch as our captain steered our tour group to the next spot. In the new area, Andrea and I followed one of the staff as he led us to some caves where sharks liked to hang out. While the first cave was a bust, the guide found a reef shark hanging out in second one, and many of us dived down for a closer look.
After ogling the shark for a good twenty minutes, Andrea and I continued to explore the reef until we were called back to prepare for departure. At the end of the day, the trip was amazing and we crashed at our hostel to get some sleep for the rainforest tour the next day.
We were picked up early in the morning in colorful buses, and introduced to the rest of the group and the guide, Cousin Brad. He was a very eccentric person, and kept up a constant stream of humorous narration while bringing us around to various lagoons and waterfalls in the rainforest. The trip was clearly geared toward tourists, but it was a lot of fun to see the rainforest and cool off in the water. The tour was a great way to relieve the stress of school and spend the whole day relaxing. Cousin Brad made it easy to kick back and have a blast due to his laidback personality and carefree attitude. Here’s one of the beautiful lagoons we stopped at:
The entire Cairns trip was a lot of fun, and it was also a huge learning experience. I had assumed that various parts of Australia would be different from each other, just like how it is in the United States. Cairns hosted people with a much more pronounced Australian accent compared to Adelaide, where locals tend to sound more like the English. The attitude of the locals was also varied. The tourist-y city of Cairns was very laid back and actually matched the Hollywood perception of Australia quite accurately. On the other hand, the metropolitan city of Adelaide was a lot busier and fast-paced due to the large business district. The carefree people in Cairns were also much crazier and more promiscuous than those in Adelaide, based on the experience with the party bus on the first night. All in all, seeing the stark contrast between the two places in Australia really hit home to me how the landscape and environment of a town can have a great impact on the attitude and lifestyle of the people.
Along with the Cairns trip, I also just returned from a tour to the outback, and I leave tomorrow for Melbourne for a national parkour jam. Keep an eye on this blog to hear about the trips, I’ll try to update it soon.
Live life to the fullest!