When I sit down to write a post about a place I have been to, I usually struggle to keep it short. Excitement and enthusiasm are flowing and words come flying out. But today, I am struggling…
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? When we planned this leg of our trip, I wasn’t very enthusiastic (understatement of the year!). It almost felt like a bad affair. You know it is not good for you but you do it anyway because… well just because. Many travelers told me that the Great barrier Reef wasn’t to be missed. Google told me so too and so did Instagram. So I agreed even though I was worried because I obviously have good (not to say excellent) reasons to worry:
- My shark phobia is pretty intense… Yes, shark phobia is a real thing – yes, I know sharks don’t like human meat. Yes I know I’m more likely to be hit by a car than to be attacked by a shark (unless Sharknado happens. Then we. are. all. screwed! Just saying….)
- I barely know how to swim. I’m afraid that doggy paddling doesn’t qualify as swimming, neither does starfishing your way back to shores
- My snorkeling skills are limited (non existing, borderline catastrophic, almost imaginary, you name it) and my panic is real when my snorkel once again decides I need to drink sea water
Needless to say that the challenge for my friends was great as they knew I was skeptical about our time in Queensland. How on earth were they going to keep me happily busy for three days when my relationship with the ocean was a love / hate one?! Well let me tell you this, they did a great job. Here is my guide for water challenged people like me to have a good time in Cairns:
- Snorkel with a patient friend whom you trust. Your fears will somehow be tamed or temporarily silenced. Not sure how long, probably until you see a shark but hey remember your chances of getting struck by the lightening are far greater. You are welcome!
- Go parasailing. I was reluctant at first. What if I fall in the water? I could be attacked by a shark and if missed by a shark, a saltwater crocodile or a deadly jellyfish could take their chances on me…
- Chill by the giant free public pool / lagoon. No shark. No croco. No jellyfish. No sand. Winner!
- Visit the arborigenal art galleries. Beautiful boomerangs, didgeridoos and paintings!
- Discover the night markets. AUD 15 for a massage! Apparently they are good!!
- Eat tons of sushi. Delicious and affordable!
- Witness the friendly noise battle between kakadoos and the bats at dusk while strolling on Abbott street. The bats in cairns, known as flying foxes or fruit bats, roost in trees during the day and hunt at night
Even though, I wasn’t impressed with the Reef itself, we had a lovely day on a catamaran, sunbathing, reading and I feel somewhat almost (almost) comfortable snorkeling. Who would have thought?! So all in, it was definitely a successful day out! Big shout to my Aussie boys for this!
While in Queensland we also had a stopover along the Gold Coast. It was very close to Byron Bay so why not? After touring Austalia’s national parks and staying in tiny towns I was happy to overnight in a big city (the 6th most populous city!). What can I say? You can take a girl out of Lyon but you can’t take Lyon out of this girl…
We went to Currumbin wildlife sanctuary as my sister was dying to cuddle a koala as you do in Australia (… not). She had somehow a very idealized view what koala cuddling would be. My feelings for this place couldn’t have been more ambivalent.
On one hand I was grateful to see some koalas, gosh they absolutely adorable. On the other hand, I felt guilty. Guilty to see so many animals behind bars. Guilty to see so many tourists overfeed the poor red kangaroos with pellets. Guilty to have deprived those beautiful animals from their freedom for the sake of our entertainment.
When my friends mentioned a sanctuary, I was expecting (hoping?!) to find only a handful of animals raised to increase our awareness on the urgency to save endangered species or waiting to be released back into the wild (in my perfect scenario, this sanctuary would have been a shelter for sick and wounded animals). My expectations were crushed when I realized that I was walking into a zoo. It was a tough day and it didn’t help when a koala desperately tried to escape from his cage, furiously scratching at a cage door.
I hope that future generations will understand that wildlife needs to be protected as much as our forests and oceans and (re)act accordingly before it is too late. Visiting rare / endangered animals in a zoo should not be a solution but a means to improving our behavior towards the wildlife we are sharing our planet with. Rant over.
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!