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Terra Australis Incognita

Cairns, Australia - it begins

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 25 September 2008 | Views [923] | Comments [5]

Well, I made it to Oz. I couldn't help but be surprised as Australia came in to view that it actually exists, and I'm actually there. I've been thinking about this time, and place, for long enough that I didn't think it would actually happen.

I gave myself three days to "recover" but I didn't need it. Jet lag just made the day I got here (monday for some, tuesday for me) an extra long day. I got fed a lot of food on the flights, by the way - four meals total, all of them great, including two breakfasts. I guess Air NZ isn't in any trouble.

Cairns is great. The weather is incredibly nice, which I didn't expect at all. It's very breezy, and it can get a bit hot (not anything compared to Gainesville in August) but the breeze is cool and blows that away. The town itself is a big-time tourist zone, but not horribly cheesy. It'd be a fun place to live. The area is very unique geographically - it's tropical, but with mountains that go straight into the sea, as if someone pushed the appalachian moutains about a thousand miles south and raised the sea level enough to make some of them islands.

The first thing I did was walk down to the Esplanade, where I expected some kind of beach but got a miles-long mud flat. There are no beaches in Cairns. There is one like 30 minutes north, which a wild Serbian bus driver gave me a discounted fare to because of a misunderstanding. That beach was no great shakes though either.

The coolest thing I saw in Cairns in my first two days there was an enormous fruit bat colony right next to the library, in downtown! The wild screeching coming from the the two trees they live in sounded at first like birds, but then something flew - and then I saw them hanging by their feet, by the hundreds, all flapping slightly to stay cool, or fighting each other (still upside down). At night you can hear them screeching all over town.

Today I went to Fitroy Island, a mountain rising from the sea, covered in rainforest and surrounded, just off the beach, by reef. The contrast between neon blue water, huge granite boulders, and lush green forest was simply beautiful. The coral is more beautiful and diverse than any I've ever seen. There were blue corals, yellow, wavy anemone things, spongy corals, horned corals - tons, and not too many fishes but the ones there were bright blue little things, parrotfish of course, and some kind of multicolored triggerfish. Unfortunately it was very windy most of the day and visibility was poor.

But plenty else to do on the island. My plan was to kayak a quarter way around the island to a smaller one just offshore. It was tough going after a while, and I finally got within a couple hundred yards of little Fitzroy. The strait between the islands was dangerously wavy and stormy, and even where I was, the wind became so strong I could not even keep from being turned around. Just as well, because a tour boat came by and they were very angry - apparently I had gone way, WAY farther than allowed. I interepreted "don't leave the bay" as "don't go to far away".

After a grueling paddle back against the wind, it was now time to hike! There is so much to do on this island, and everything is in close proximity. You can hike up a forest and boulder-clad mountain and five minutes later be snorkelling with sea turtles. I half-ran up to the summit of the island, where the wind was gale force and the views were incredible. Then it was a shorter hike into a thicker rainforested valley, and another short snorkel before heading home.



BLAAAKE! Fantastic! I'm soo happy to hear from you and my God Cairns is beautiful, I had no idea it had such beautiful mountains, jungle and coral reefs right there. Boy, you've already done so much. I hope you'll still want to come to NZ!
Thank you so much for your blog. Your writing has an effortless quality you write so well, and your descriptions are exquisite, plus your photos are superb. We will all really enjoy this.

  David Harvey Sep 26, 2008 2:36 AM


Blake this sounds incredible beyond my wildest dreams!! It sounds like your living in an epic adventure! Your descriptions are great, please keep it coming, we miss you!!

  Jenna Harvey Sep 26, 2008 2:37 AM


I forwarded your blog to the whole family--I just got off the phone with Grandma, who wants me to tell you that your writing is flawless and so are the photos. She has lots of questions and is making a list. I am so impressed with all you've done so far. Have a great time! Love, Mom

  Mom Sep 26, 2008 8:38 AM


It's great to be able to follow your trip, Blake. I'm so proud of you for planning this trip and making it happen. Hope you have a wonderful time and continue to tell us what you're doing and seeing. Great pix!


Aunt Lee Ann

  Lee Ann Draud Sep 30, 2008 5:31 AM


Yo Blake! I'm typing this on a crunchy keyboard because I spilled beer on my computer the other day. I hope you enjoy your time in Auzzie land. When you've had your fill, come live with me in Japan for a while! You can meet my friend who traveled most of the world in 1 year and hear his crazy stories. I'm looking forward to hearing about all your own crazy stories. Let me know when you want to come to Japan and we will plan to go to some cool places here.

  Cory Hardaker Sep 30, 2008 12:02 PM



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