I wish I could say that my recent trip to Australia was spontaneous… although it was a fairly quick decision that I made. My dear childhood friend Maiko (author of blog Lights Camera Travel) and I recently reconnected after a 25-year friendship hiatus and we’ve been trying to find the next opportunity to see each other. Somehow, our conversation led to Maiko saying, “Hey – you should come visit me in Cairns!” “No – I can’t! I have a job and I can’t take time off”. But after thinking through some logistics, I thought, “why not?” I think it took me about 15mins to convince myself that I’m going to do this – and booked my flight 🙂
And I’m so glad that I have a mind that acts upon my decisions (which sometimes back fires…) I spent 9 amazing days in Australia; 5 days in Maiko’s hometown of Cairns, and 4 days in Sydney together. She crafted an awesome itinerary and I got to see all the highlights of what her quaint, sleepy beach town has to offer.
Day 1 – Arrival: After a 22 hour journey and missing my connecting flight in Melbourne, I finally arrived to Cairns which had decided to downpour with rain. Luckily, after clearing up a bit, we walked around the heart of Cairns (took about 30mins), the Esplanade, and spent the rest of the evening with drinks, food and chatting. I was a happy tourist!
Day 2 – Our planned skydiving day got cancelled due to rain 🙁 So I got the grand “History of Maiko-chan” tour where she showed me the house she grew up in, her school, and other areas she used to go to with her family while growing up. She took me to Palm Cove Beach – a quiet little beach town that reminded me a lot of Maui. Everything in this town is so… peaceful… People were laid back, no one was rushing, and time moved very slowly.
Maiko was mainly in charge of the GoPro during my entire trip.
Yes I was very excited to be here.
Then she showed me her primary school and the house she grew up in, basically her day-to-day life after we were separated 25 years ago. Having her walk me through her childhood was like learning about a child who went missing 25 years ago (okay, maybe a bit extreme). I feel like I’m being filled in on all the things I’ve missed out on.
Day 3 – Day trip to Barron Gorge Park rainforest and Kuranda Village. My first rainforest experience! Thanks to Skyrail Cairns, we rode on a glass-bottom cable car from Cairns up to a small village in the rainforest called Kuranda. I loved riding high above the lush greenery; it was like looking at a movie scene from Jurassic Park!
Once at the top, we went on a light hike through the incredible greenery, and spotted some interesting plants.
My must-do in Australia was to hold and pet a koala – “I can’t leave Australia without holding one!” I would constantly remind Maiko. And my dear friend made my dream come true 😀
And I met some more furry friends as well 🙂
And then came
the evil place Bird World… If you don’t like birds, this is NOT the place for you. At first, Maiko and I were excited to see the exotic birds and commented how pretty they were. After about 3.5mins, birds started sitting on our heads and shoulders, and one even ripped off my earring and sat on a tree while it played with it! Then another ripped off the top of Maiko’s hat and flew away. We dodged out of this tourist trap in less than 15mins, and Maiko even received a little souvenir on her shoulder from one of the birds when we left…
At the end of the day, we headed back to Cairns on the scenic railway, in style! We were given unlimited wine, cheese, and sweets during the 1.5hour ride, and saw some incredible sights and more lush greenery. I wished the ride was a little longer, I was quite enjoying the unlimited wine!
Day 4: Snorkeling and seeing The Great Barrier Reef… from above! A high item on my bucket list, and I finally got to cross this one off! From Port Douglas, a couple hours north of Cairns, we took a ferry to a pontoon that was located on the outer reefs. Once there, we were free to do any activity we wanted; diving, submarines, snorkeling, etc. We were stoked for the helicopter ride and snorkeling!
The water was as blue as you see it on the postcards. There were different shades of blue from the shallow to deep ends. There was a silhouette of a shark zipping through the corals. We saw everything from above – and I got to sit in front with the captain! 180 panorama view of the Reef!
It was an amazing experience to be able to first see the Reef from above, and then to spend 45mins snorkeling and exploring underwater life. Wish I could go back and do this all over again!
Day 5: Exploring Daintree rainforest & Mossman Gorge
What a beautiful hike through Daintree… the oldest rainforest in the world and known to be 180million years old! The greenery continued to impress me here in Australia… some of these plants looked like from the pre-historic days. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a dinosaur popped out of nowhere! (Okay, maybe a little)
My first contact with the Pacific from the other side:
We caught the sunset over a cliff, right along the water.
We spent my last evening in Cairns at the Night Zoo, where I got to hand-feed a wallaby!
And we also met some more furry (or, no furry) friends at the zoo…
I absolutely loved Cairns – I’m actually amazed just how much I fell in love with this cute, quaint, sleepy beach town. I loved how mellow everything seemed (well, maybe because I was also in vacation-mode). I couldn’t wait to explore Sydney, and get a completely different taste of Australia.
Check out Part 2 of my Australia vacation in Sydney!