Monday, August 1, 2016


Next morning we were going to say goodbye to Gold Coast. We checked out of our Mantra Legends Hotel, at 6 with packed breakfast boxes and drove to Brisbane to catch our flight to Cairns. We reached the airport in less than 1 1/2 hours. We ate the breakfast - cereal, milk, muesli bar, cookies and OJ before security check. The cereal-milk was a bit cumbersome to consume - we would have preferred croissants or sandwiches.

Our flight took off from Brisbane at 10 and landed at Cairns at 12.30. The airport is a small one; we boarded the coach .... 
and reached the Indian restaurant Tandoori Oven at 1 pm.

After lunch we drove to Kuranda Rain Forest for The Sky rail experience, a must-do Cairns attraction. One of Australia’s major tourist attractions, the multi-award winning Sky rail is recognized as a unique and premier tourist experience spanning 7.5 kms over pristine rain-forest, allowing us to explore the wonders of an ancient tropical rain-forest in a 3-level cable car ride. We were informed that this was the longest cable car, taken together. Also no machinery was used in the construction of the Sky rail, just manual labor and more important, not a single tree was cut down.

We undertook the cable car ride to have a good view of the rain forest. 
Each couple was seated comfortably in six-seater gondola cabins and we went gliding just meters above the rain forest, 
enjoying the breath-taking panoramic views. 
We could alight at two mid-stations - Kuranda  (with its dense forest; the spot where sunlight comes streaming through is highlighted as a hole in the canopy) .....

and Barron Hills (with its waterfalls) and 

explore the stunning environment and scenic points walking on boardwalks and trails. 

We got down at the third level, at Red Peak. 

We left the place after an enjoyable experience.

Our return journey to Cairns was by coach - we could not but admire the breathtakingly impressive scenic drive. We did not take a slight detour to visit the quaint little Kuranda village and its markets as it was not in our itinerary.

We checked in at The Cairns Hotel - a modest four-storeyed hotel in the simple town of Cairns. 
What struck our eyes as we entered our room was that there was no carpet! But we liked our sprawling room - with an extra bed. And our sit-out - only we were looking at the vehicles parked / moving on the road almost at eye level. What a change in comparison to glitzy Gold Coast! And of course we were happy to have free WiFi in our hotel room.

After refreshing ourselves with a cup of coffee and snacks, we set off on a stroll along nearby Esplanade - equivalent to Madras (now Chennai) Marina beach - parked cars, statues et al - 

See what I mean? 

Unfortunately the beach was not attractive in the evening due to the low tide. 

It was only 4.30 and it was almost dusk. We had been informed about the famous 'Night Market' nearby where we could pick up souvenirs / gifts at affordable prices; only we should choose our pick as the market is also flooded with Chinese goods.

Both of us could locate only one souvenir shop - the rest of the shops were eateries with outdoor seating arrangements - crowded with youths and families seated for dinner outdoors. Being vegetarians, we walked past them all briskly holding our breath. 

On our way back to our hotel, we met some of companions who too had failed to get to the Night Market. 
All of us decided to undertake the mission. As usual, the ladies dragged on their 'not-so-enthusiastic-in-shopping' counterparts and found the interesting shops in the Night Market.
We admired all the Australian pearls and Opals but were not sure about their genuineness. After a lot of deliberation I did buy an opal pendant for a modest price. Even if it turned out fake I wouldn't regret much. And if I didn't get to shop later for these during the rest of the tour, I wouldn't repent!

We returned to our hotel and went to its restaurant for Indian buffet dinner. We went to bed full of thoughts about the next day's visit to the Great Barrier Reef.

The next dawned early for us. Our group went to the breakfast room which had a good ambiance, enjoyed our breakfast, checked out of our rooms, and put our bags in the hotel's cloak-room. Then we left at 7 for the jetty and reached there after a 40 minute drive. 

Our group was booked for the Big Cat Cruise leaving for Green Island at 10 am. 
It was a  big cruise with awesome seats and tables. It had a restaurant; on huge TV screens we enjoyed a great documentary on The Great Barrier Reef and the activities one can avail there . The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world; the best view is from a distance. We were told that it is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. It is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometers. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Some enthusiastic friends in the group enrolled themselves for para sailing (140 AUD) and Helicopter ride (200 AUD). There was also Snorkeling facilities. 

We were moving at good speed. Some of us went to the upper deck to enjoy the breeze and the sun and of course click pics.

We reached Green Island at 11.10. 
We walked to the sea shore and explored the small island - 
the helipad, crocodile feed, the scenic beauty and ....
relaxed in the company of birds under the green canopy of trees. 
Enthusiasts undertook snorkeling and scuba diving - they must have enjoyed colorful and fantastic views of the Coral reef and fishes. Some others opted for para sailing, and jet skiing.

We walked back to our cruise at noon in time for lunch. There was Chinese and European lunch; we Indians had special Indian dishes too. As we picked up our plates and lined up, we were stamped on our wrist. We helped ourselves to bread / salad / sweet corn / pasta / fruits and of course Chole, dal and yogurt placed on a separate table exclusively for the Indian guests.

We were ready for the Semi-submarine ride at 12.45. As we rode underwater, we were excited to see the colorful and shapely corals 

and the shoals of fishes. But there was this predominant bluish tinge because of the view through the glass. Surely they'd appear in all their colorful glory to the snorkeling enthusiasts and scuba divers!

After the exciting 25 minute ride, we came out to the cruise and then got into the Glass-bottom Boat ride at 1.15 for  a 25 minute ride. 
This took us in a different direction and we enjoyed the sight of multitude of corals and fishes under the boat. 

The climax was at the end when our captain sprayed fish-feed and a shoal of fish came up to the surface for the food.

After returning to our cruise we enjoyed hot coffee and simply relaxed / gazed lazily through our windows at the activities going on outside.

An hour later we were treated to ice cream. It was then that a young couple took the seats opposite to us. They were honeymooners. They were friendly and chatty and we enjoyed the small talk with them. As our cruise started moving at 4 pm on the return ride, the couple realized that they were in the wrong cruise - they had come in a different cruise. They quickly contacted the officials about it but they got a cool and 'no issues' response which wiped out their worry. We continued chatting. They had come with a travel company but the food arrangements were their own. They said they had come armed with tons of Maggie / theplas / snacks etc. They'd buy fruits / bread whenever necessary. That seemed to be exciting too. They said they'd be going to Sydney after three days and we told them we'd be there around the same time. They had their Showboat Dinner Cruise on Monday; our itinerary indicated our cruise was on Sunday. You are not going to believe this - but we were pleasantly surprised to bump into them at the dinner cruise in Sydney (our cruise was also shifted to Monday). A sweet coincidence!

Our tour manager had instructed us that we had a very tight schedule with a flight to catch - which could prove to be a touch-n-go situation. Our cruise would land at 5 pm and we had a flight scheduled for Melbourne at 6.45 - in between we had to make a trip to our hotel to grab our luggage from the cloak-room, hop into the coach and drive to the airport. All of us realized the importance of the need to be sprightly and alert. So as per advice, we lined up at the beginning of the queue at the exit as we approached land. We made a beeline for our coach and took our seats. We reached our hotel within ten minutes. Most of us jumped out and lined up. A couple of them headed to the cloak-room, picked up the bags and passed them on to the ones lined up and the loading was completed in five minutes. Phew! Next the drive to the airport. Unexpectedly the traffic was not bad, so we reached the airport in fifteen minutes - just over an hour before the departure of our flight. It was a mad rush to collect boarding passes, checking in baggage, queuing up for security check and running to the gate - we made it - rather comfortably too. As our group settled in our seats we gave one another a smile and thumbs-up sign!

It was a three hour flight - but we were not served any complimentary beverages / snacks - not even water! Of course we had our own snacks handy but then we had to ask for water! We landed in Melbourne after 10 pm.

No comments:

Post a Comment