|I arrived in Cairns without any expectations - had no idea where I was going, what I was going to do or anything remotely like a plan. I decided on a hostel on the esplanade as they apparently had a "mature" clientele - I bravely decided to take to this to mean wise old travellers like myself and that it was not a hostel for the aged! Luckily it was that. Although I'm happy to stay in a backpacker "hostel" I still haven't got around to thinking that staying in a "dorm" with 3 strangers is a good idea; funnily enough I think that my hard slog the past 12yrs or so should at least allow me the privelege (as it's seen while travelling) of my own room!
My first impressions of Cairns were a bit mixed; it's was definitely not somewhere that I was going to stay for any amount of time though. After settling into my luxury pad (hehe) I thought the next best thing would be to book a trip out of there. The weather was awful - torrential rain and thick grey skies - it was a bit of a shock to my system after 6 weeks of sunshine.
I decided to go on a diving trip out to the Great Barrier Reef - but the problem of deciding on which one was enormous - there are literally hundreds of options; 2day/3 day/6 day - local, far north, further out, further in, - big boat, small boat, middle boat - expensive, cheap, middle of the road and on and on and on it went.
While i was going through all the options a dutch guy (niek) arrived back at the hostel from a dive trip. It was great timing as getting his feedback was a great help in getting my options down to one of 3 choices. Paul, the travel/hostel guy was checking weather reports for me as well - it didn't look promising anywhere and most places were suggesting that the winds would get up to 30knots over the next few days.
After much to-ing-and-fro-ing between the options I decided on a combination of a fly-boat trip: NIMROD. I'll go into more details on this later......
Once my decision was made I felt a little better even though I had no idea what I was letting myself in for: the weather, the group of people and also whether or not my diving was going to be up to the challenge - I'd only done 4 dives and all with an intructor. And here i was - putting myself on a boat for 4 days to go dive the great barrier reef............
I was leaving the next day so that evening I went out for a few drinks with Niek - it was such a funny night, almost like being taken back to university days but watching it all from the sidelines. We went to a bar called PJ's (i think) - the evening started off with a group who were heading out on a pub crawl being called together to get to know each other....initimately. Well sort of . It was all really funny to watch - and that is what the whole evening landed up being - a sort of voyeuristic expedition of Cairns. there was such entertainment value in watching the dynamics of young travellers with no inhibitions ......in what is pretty much a town there to provide the environment in which they can indulge in excesses of everything and anything!
It was a fairly early night for me and I left the rest of Cairns to carry on partying without me.
Saturday morning was just breakfast, a little pottering around and then heading off (in the torrential rain) to join my fellow Nimrod dive group.....