Cairns, crocs and companions five abroad

Three days into their visit I stupidly glanced at my phone whilst walking down a flight of stairs. I landed on my right ankle tearing a couple of ligaments and bruising bones. My ankle was the size of a tennis ball and the doctor prescribed a boot and no driving for several weeks. Oh shit! What kind of host would I possibly be to our dear friends? No driving, no hiking and we were set to leave for Cairns in two days. The timing was awful to say the least. I was determined to put my chin up and make the best of it.

The first couple of days, there I sat with my leg elevated and someone caring for me and my household. Icing my ankle, making meals and sorting the kids out. I put in those first 48 hours of rest, ice, compression and elevation and then packed my suitcase with ibuprofen and empty plastic bags, to fill with ice in the hotel room, and off we went to Cairns.

Let me just back track to security at SYD domestic. I told the security man that my water bottles were empty in advance and he laughed, “You could have filled them.” I ask “Do you want me to take the iPads out of the carry on?” “No” he says, “leave those in the bag.” “Excuse me sir, I have a small bag of liquids. Shall I put them in the tray?” “No, don’t bother.” “Shall I remove my boot before going through the screening?” Again “No” is what I heard. Wow! No one checked our tickets, no one checked our identification. From the moment we entered the airport until we were through with security it was literally under 10 minutes. Americans have a shit deal back home when it comes to the ordeal that is air travel.

We stayed at the Novotel Oasisdowntown, an 8-minute drive from the airport. It had the perks of a lovely pool and a central location–great for those of us with kids in tow. On first inspection my initial thoughts were that it smelled a bit musty and that there were way too many pubes identified on our bathroom floor for comfort. There was a remodel going on during our stay and the works were currently just off the lobby area. The only place within the hotel that I found it bothersome was by the pool where the noise continued throughout the day.

We left the dock around 9:30am and the staff were immediately busy handing out little white barf bags to everybody–oh shit! Luckily, we had the foresight to take motion sickness tablets before setting off. We were in a catamaran of descent size and I have always thought of them as being a much more stable and smooth ride, however, today this was not the case. Up and down and side to side, dramatically at times, made for an interesting excursion. The vomiting started quickly and encircled us. The staff were brilliant rushing to each expulsion and whisking away the breakfast remains and handing those poor souls a new clean and tidy white vomit sack. They never grimaced, professional at all times. I thought to myself, I would never want this job nor could I even do it. What good people they are for taking it on. The noise and smell that came with it almost took us with them as we were trying desperately to focus on the horizon out of the few windows clear of people spewing. We made it to the pontoon two long hours later completely ready to get off into the fresh air and sunshine. Hallelujah!

In addition to snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, there were other activities on offer such as a semi-submersible boat to cruise around offering a glimpse of the outer portion of Moore Reef, a glass bottom boat, helicopter tours, diving lessons, fish feeding, and underwater walking to name a few. We were given four hours to enjoy any and all of it, including lunch, before making our way back.

Even I was able to enjoy it with my gimpy leg. I managed to snorkel, minus fins, and the water was divine. For a time, the swelling was gone and I was free of the entrapment of my moon boot. Having the other activities on the pontoon enables people to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef in some form without necessarily entering the water. This is great accessibility, something I wouldn’t have even considered in the past but now with an injury, I am grateful for options. What a gift to see and experience this place.

Our ride back to Cairns was bumpy about half the way back (Fitzroy Island) which was also where the vomiting stopped for this portion of our cruise. We were grateful to nab outside seats this time with plenty of fresh air. I think both of our families thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Reef and snorkelling. How could you not? You literally take away all the noise that is life and embrace the wonderful silence of the sea while surrounded by colourful, almost dreamy, creatures all while floating effortlessly. We were very grateful to have enjoyed this masterpiece of nature.

A little further down the windy road we emerged at Cape Tribulation Beach which welcomed us with much information about the beach and environment. Warning signs instructed us to care for marine stings by pouring the supplied vinegar from bottles onto our stinger swellings. Another placard encouraged us to stay out of the ocean water where the salt water crocs like to linger. Yikes! Not your typical beach experience to be sure. I actually saw a woman sun bathing with head phones on a secluded part of the beach and thought she must be crazy. Either I’m a really paranoid tourist or she’s very naïve (or suicidal, or crazy, etc.).

Solar Whisper Daintree River Croc Cruise was money well spent. We paid the family price of $66 for four and the tour lasted about an hour. Our guide, John, was happy to answer all of our questions especially the ones from our kids. We learnt so much in our short time about the river, the crocodiles, native birds, lizards and snakes. We were able to get up close and personal with many crocodiles as he shared knowledge of their interaction and history. Many of the crocs had been living in this area for 25 years so the naturalists along the river could confidently share stories about them.

The kids go for the always satisfying avo toast, this time decorated with edamame and black sesame seeds, served with chilli flakes and lime wedges. We also devoured banana, almond milk, cacao and date smoothies with amazing coffee served properly with double shots in a small cup with little milk. The staff were eager to help and set us up a family table outside and split a large smoothie into a couple of glasses for the kids. Would highly recommend seeking this place out if in Cairns.

Little Loco – A wonderful outdoor eatery serving up healthy breakfast fare, smoothies, juices, great coffee and coco whip ice cream (vegan). We also really enjoyed this place as everything we ordered we loved. We ended up visiting a couple of times over the four days while we were in town. A safe bet for families that are health conscious.

Hogs Australia Steakhouse– Not so notable while in Cairns and memorable only because it was so subpar. We decided on a steak house but a casual, family friendly one because we were too lazy to shower up first. As soon as we entered the Hogs we knew this was really not the quality of place we were hoping for. It looked and tasted more like a TGIFriday’s. We were grateful to eat something but couldn’t help but feel disappointment of what it could’ve been.