Friday, May 20, 2011


It's been a while since the trip, but school picked up a bit so I'm just now getting to blog about our spring break in Cairns.

The break came at a perfect time because the true Melbourne winter weather was just beginning, and by that I mean lots and lots of rain. Between the cooling temperatures and the mounting work, we were all itching for some relaxed beach time in the sun. I went with a group of seven other people, two other girls and five boys, and we had booked to stay at a hostel called dream time travelers rest. The big trip that most of the Loyola kids do here in Australia is called One Fish Two Fish, and it's a nine day tour of Brisbane, the Whitsunday Islands, and Cairns, so we knew we would be meeting up with some people while we were there, but until then we enjoyed the prospect of a smaller and more relaxed group.

The first adventure came in the process of getting to the airport, using only public transportation of course. After a bus, a breathless sprint (with luggage) to catch a train, and then a second bus to the airport, we were already exhausted before the flight began and not looking forward to the process that we anticipated at the airport. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to learn that domestic flights through tiger airlines are pretty laid back, not only about restrictions (I didn't have to throw out liquids, take off my shoes, or subject myself to invasive pat downs), but apparently about their departure time as well. We delayed for an hour in the terminal before we were allowed to board, walking ourselves out to the tarmac, and climbing a rolling ladder right onto the plane.

By the time we arrived, three uncomfortable hours later, it was two a.m. and we were ready to fall into bed. I was tired, I was cranky, and I just wanted to get some sleep, so we didn't bother to check the rooms before we divided into two groups of four and dropped our luggage down. As we wandered through the hostel searching for our room, I peered through the dark, curious about the tropical palm fronds and brilliant flowers that climbed the warm orange walls. When we arrived at our room, we found a single bare bulb turned on with a pull cord, a bunk bed (much to my dismay as the unlucky top bunk victim), and warped wooden windows that didn't latch shut or lock out any critters at all. I will take this time to confess that I was not pleased, especially when I saw that the boys had a bright, neat, modern room complete with air conditioning and an adjoining bathroom. Just my luck.

When we woke up the next day, eager to explore the town, however, I was more civil and forced to grudgingly admit that our room was beautiful, and so was the rest of the hostel. It was like sleeping in a cabana, the breeze dancing through our bright pink room with turquoise framed stained glass windows and green striped comforters. The palm trees poked through and the warm morning sunlight flooded in with them. The rest of the hostel was just as fun and relaxing, with pops of color all over and fresh tropical greenery.

The town, which we learned well after a few days of exploration, was easy to navigate and chock full of tempting gelato stands, surf shops, cafes, and pub meal deals. Our favorite cafe was called Ever After, a quaint hole in the wall coffee shop lined with books and featuring great lunch meal deals (complete with a milkshake!) At the end of the main street is the esplanade with a huge public pool and synthetic beach (the real beaches were a thirty minute bus ride away), which opened up to a lagoon and the surrounding mountains, thrust in misty majesty against the fiercely blue sky.

When we made the venture to the beaches we chose palm cove and were met right away with a sign warning of the deadly animals that float around the water. A short walk onto the beach revealed a small section, netted off for visitors to swim in because it was the only safe place. The water was a brackish brown from the recent storms they had been having, but the entire curve of the beach was lined with dancing palms, and mountains and sweeping rock formations peppered the distance. The boys quickly found a coconut and cracked it open, all of us enjoying some fresh shavings of it as we sat on the breezy sand and soaked up some sun.

A few days in to the trip, the group decided to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and knowing my limitations with sea sickness, I declined to join. I had planned to skydive (although weather did not permit on our chosen day, and we were unable to re-schedule), and I didn't mind exploring the town by myself. I read by the pool, browsed the souvenir shops, and went back to the hostel to read. It was the most relaxed I have been since I came to Australia. I had been really disappointed about missing sky diving, especially since we had signed all the forms and done all the training before it was cancelled, but I couldn't bring myself to be upset about much of anything with the sun shining and the warm tropical breeze nudging the brilliant leafy plants into life.

For mealtimes we tried to take advantage of the meal vouchers that our hostel provided us with to the Woolshed, but on Wednesday we were treated with the Australian barbecue at Dreamtime. They grilled steak, sausages, kangaroo and crocodile amidst the more typical fare of picnic salads. We all gamely tried everything, and I have to say that I will never be much of a kangaroo girl myself. The real fun came at the end when they began drew names out of a bucket, and I became the oh so lucky participant in a didgeridoo competition. One of the boys from Loyola was picked too and we tried to play the Indigenous instrument without laughing too much. The owner of the hostel instructed us on the various methods, and I have to acknowledge that wind instruments are not my calling. Mark and I lost to a spectacular performance by a boy from England, but I was just glad to be free to return to our dinner table. Once my friends were done laughing at the spectacle, we all went out to meet up with the one fish two fish tour of other loyola kids for our last night in Cairns.

The trip was amazing and all too soon we were forced to pack up and brave our 2 a.m. flight back to Melbourne. Spring break trips aren't something I had ever considered at home, but that little burst of sunshine and sand was certainly helpful in getting through the next few weeks of final assignments and settling affairs to come home and get back to real life in the States.

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