This is a snapshot of 6 days in Cairns and Melbourne of my 3 week vacation through Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. In this blog you can read about a great place to interact with wildlife outside of Melbourne, some highlights from the city of Melbourne, Great Barrier Reef “do’s and don’ts”, thoughts on hot air ballooning, and photos of some gorgeous waterfalls near Cairns.
Woke up on the struggle bus this morning.
Laura and I hit the road heading towards the Ballarat Wildlife Park, which is about an hour away from Geelong. We stopped at Pancake Kitchen for a delicious breakfast and then went to the park. We got there super early and there weren’t too many people around. It was cold but bearable and it was about $20 to get in.
First we looked at the crocodiles and alligators, the snakes and then the koala’s.
Then it’s like we turned a corner and we saw KANGAS. Tons and tons of KANGAS.
We got to feed them, sit by them, pet them, sort of cuddle them. It was awesome. I probably took 300 photos that day.
After getting “kanga’ed” out, Laura and I went to the little cafe and I got a chai tea and a meat pie to refuel. Afterwards we went to a reptile show where the trainers talked about snakes and how to interact with them (or how not to), what to do if you get bitten, and expelled some myths. I also yolo’ed and petted a python. Then we went to the koala show and I got to pet a koala!
Later we went to the “Mississippi Alligators” show and watched the snake trainers feed the alligators.
Then we chilled with a few more KANGAS, and headed out.
Laura drove us home and I passed out for about 30 minutes.
Then she showed me her work and we grabbed dinner on the way to her volleyball match. During the match I just chatted with her bf Brenton. Then we headed home, I packed, showered, and painted my toenails, getting ready for my last day in Melbourne.
Laura and I took an hour and a half train to Melbourne at 9:30 and happily chatted the whole way. We got off the train, put my luggage in a locker for $14 for the day, and started walking for Chinatown. On the way we saw an H&M. Since I hadn’t been in one in a year we ran in and we were both so overwhelmed it was hilarious.
I took photos and we bopped around until we ran into a Shanghai style Chinese place. I basically was like: this is where we are eating. I ordered us pork xiaolongbao and crab/pork xiaolongbao, in addition to 3 sesame red bean buns.
After demolishing that, we wondered around Chinatown, hit up a Uniqlo, a T2, which was heaven and then went to Victoria’s Market.
I was able to get a banana, an orange and a tomato for dinner for 70 cents. I also got an awesome indigenous piece of art for $10.Then the market was closing so we just meandered back through Melbourne. We stopped at a great book shop, and I checked out the Starbucks Australia mug.Then we caught a tram to the train station and I said goodbye to Laura, then jumped on the sky bus ($18) to the airport.
Flying to Cairns was pretty uneventful. I sat next to a really nice local who gave me some advice on things to do/places to see. I got into Cairns and caught the shuttle bus into town for $16, and ended up passing out before midnight.
I woke up at 9 to run. It was overcast and raining so that was kind of a bummer.
However, the weather kind of aligned perfectly with my plans because I had booked a Koala cuddling time at Wildlife Zoom, a huge dome on top of a casino that was like a mini zoo. I took a selfie with a wallaby and got a few good bird photos.
By the time I left Wildlife Zoom and planned to return to the hostel the sun was out and I noticed there was a big festival going on. It turned out to be for the indigenous people of Australia. I picked up a map of Australia and learned a little, wondering around and then decided I was starving. I grabbed a sandwich then went back to the hostel to nap and then I wondered around the esplanade’s lagoon and read.
I napped for a really long time and enjoyed my suit mates goofing around and then eventually went out to a grocery store to grab some fruits and veggies for dinner.
I went back to the hostel and hung out with some people in the hostel who were so kind and gave me some wine. Thennn I decided to go out so I grabbed my roommate Romaine and we headed to Woolshed. I had passes to get In for free, and a pass for 5 free drinks. So I had a jolly good time and paid for nothing.
Around 12:30 I headed back to my hostel and passed out!
Woke up at 6:45 am to go to the Great Barrier Reef! Walked to the pier and boarded the ship. I had initially intended to do a scuba dive, as it was included with the $$, but as I filled out the medical form and checked the box for asthma, I wondered if that would be a problem. It was.
No scuba for me! So I snorkeled instead.
The boat headed out and when we got to the reef it looked unimpressive from the boat. But then we got in the water and it was amazing.
We snorkeled for a few hours and then it was time for us to head to another location. I hadn’t even heard the call to come in for lunch I was so engrossed in the reef. But I hopped aboard and had some tasty chicken and a salad and went up on deck to look around while we waited for our next swim location. I enjoyed the second section particularly, and even shed my bodysuit for my swimsuit halfway through. It was funny going from a place where I was signing paperwork saying I wouldn’t sue them (because of breathing problems) to swimming alone on the Great Barrier Reef in nothing but my red bikini and some flippers.
Great Barrier Reef Do’s:
-Do research the company you are going with before hand
-Do check your medical status to see if you are eligible to dive (this could have saved me about $75 usd) and get medical clearance if you need it
-Do wear/reapply sunscreen
-Do know your limits- how long you can swim/how much energy you have. I felt fine while I snorkeled for 6 hours but could hardly move the next day.
-Do pay attention to where your boat is. When lunchtime came I didn’t even hear them call the group for lunch. If I didn’t notice that it seemed like everyone had gone in, I would have been in a precarious situation.
-Do bring the iphone bag protecter/invest in the underwater camera. I got a GoPro for this vacation specifically so I would have it for the Great Barrier Reef and I don’t regret spend that $129 dollars for a second.
Great Barrier Reef Don’ts:
-Don’t touch the freaking coral. You will 1) probably get an infection 2) damage the reef
-Don’t be afraid of sharks- the sharks that are there aren’t even remotely interested in you.
-Don’t have set expectations on what will make the day a success. For example, I love turtles but I told myself even if I didn’t see a turtle that would be okay.
Woke up at 3:45 AM to catch my 4:15 AM bus. Was not a real person.
We got to where the balloons were getting ready to take off and our driver told us we could get out to take photos if we wanted but we then we would load up and “chase our balloon”. …none of us really knew what that meant.
It was magical. Then we hopped in the van and chased our balloon for 30 minutes, until it was our time. In order to keep the balloon down, they had to keep the equivalent amount of weight inside of it. So one person that was in the basket would get out, then one from our group would get in. I was the first. 🙂
I was a little tense as the balloon took off but then it was a little like paragliding. It wasn’t scary and felt very chill. I used to say I was afraid of heights, but I realize I’m actually just afraid of falling and because the basket was so secure, I wasn’t really concerned. We even rose up to about 4000 feet above sea level and got up to 25 km/hour and I wasn’t scared!.
It was gorgeous.
Then we eventually landed the balloon and helped to roll up the balloon and pack it up.
Then we helped get the basket onto a truck, and went back to cairns. I got back to my hostel and slept until 12.
Then I dragged myself out of bed, got a salad with salmon at an Italian place, then some froyo and went to the lagoon to read. I finished a few books I had been reading and grabbed a chai tea with ice cream in it and enjoyed the afternoon at the lagoon.
At 5 I went for a run, then decided I would make some noms and took it easy at the hotel making it an earlyish night getting ready for the next day.
Got up at 7 and was out by 7:25 to meet my 7:30 bus for my Barefoot tour. This was probably my favorite tour of my entire 3 weeks of traveling. It focused on spending a good amount of time at each location, not just taking 5 photos and rushing to the next location. Throughout the day we went to a volcanic lake, walked through the rainforest, went to a crater lake and we went to some incredible waterfalls.
I jumped into the water in the photo just above and damn near thought I was going to die b/c it was so cold. There was a section on the left where you could dive underneath and go into a cave behind the waterfall. I tried like 3 times but just couldn’t make it through. I gave up and laid out a bit. Then we moved on to a beautiful spot for lunch. I literally ate my lunch in my bikini looking at the most beautiful view of Atherton.
Next we hopped in the van and headed to Milla Milla where we could swim behind the waterfall which was amazing.
We saw the place where colonists used to send lumber down to the cities, and then we headed to Jospehine Falls where you can literally slide down waterfalls.
Then we had tea and cookies to warm ourselves back up and went back to town.
Again, I really enjoyed this tour. The tour guide did a great job building rapport with us, and helping to make it feel like you were on a tour with 20 new friends, instead of maybe by yourself. After the tour ended he gave us a meal coupon for a place for dinner and told us about a cheap place to go to meet up later and told us to all go out. Facilitating that made us all want to do it, so later that night..
It was a great way to wrap up my time in Cairns and I don’t think I would have planned it any differently.
Next up in [Re]wind I will chat about the importance of slowing down for a couple days, and talk about all the shenanigans I got into in Cambodia. Stay tuned for great places to eat on Phnom Penh, advice for exploring Angkor Wat, and ridiculous stories about Sihanoukville.