Townsville and Cairns (The Parting of the Fellowship)

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Our intrepid journey north was coming to a close but two more stops awaited us; Townsville and Cairns. The journey up to Townsville began traumatically. The ferry crossing from Hamilton Island to Airlie was exceptionally rough and, due to the weather, meant we were all cooped up inside the boat instead of enjoying the open sea air. As someone who hasn’t ever been struck with seasickness I experienced a rather uncomfortable and nauseating 40 minute journey. Much relieved to be back on dry land and almost joyous to be inside a car again we had a long drive north. Luckily at the end of it we had an exciting event to look forward to, especially for Russell and Sam. Although our Air BnB for the evening was awful we didn’t end up spending much time there as we headed straight out of the door to watch the rugby.

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After a very well organised bus trip out to the stadium we managed to grab some delightfully disgusting stadium grub and sat down for an enjoyable evening of rugby, or footy as the locals would say. The North Queensland Cowboys smashed the Brisbane Broncos and (of course) we were supporting the winners. Dad and Sam throughly entertained and myself and Mum surprisingly enthusiastic towards the displays of sporting prowess, may have had something to do with Australians running around in shorts.

Back to our rubbish rooms and we decided not to hang around in the morning as we had another day of driving planned and thought our morning would be better spent devouring some lovely breakfast in Townsville centre, another excellent breakfast if I do say so myself.

Another gloomy day followed in the car but we made it to Cairns eventually and, with a fair amount of stress on my part, made it to our final Air BnB accommodation. A lovely little flat looking out onto the sea, a view slightly marred by the gods of weather deciding it was time for the heavens to open. After an afternoon of relaxing and movie watching we went for a wander along the esplanade  in search for food (surprise surprise). We picked out a lovely Italian and got down to the ordering. Unfortunately for me our waitress decided that I didn’t look older than 18. The irony being whilst in Brisbane I had cautioned Sam that the Australians were a little stricter with IDing and he should take his passport with him if he wants to drink, as drivers licenses aren’t technically allowed as proof of age unless its Australian. So OF COURSE Sam isn’t questioned (being 3 years younger than me) and I am left a dithering mess with out a glass of wine. Wanting to prove that I can in fact have alcohol I went back to the apartment to retrieve my passport and obviously for the rest of the evening I wasn’t asked for proof of age. Luckily the rest of my family thought this was hilarious so entertainment was provided for the remainder of the meal. After an Italian feast I introduced my family to the delights of frozen yoghurt. Although not quite as fabulous as the froyo down my street in Melbourne the Cairns variety wasn’t half bad (and may have created an unhealthy addiction for my parents). Early to bed for all as the following day was an early start.

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Possibly the BEST DAY EVER. After the success of Chalkies beach in Hamilton Island we decided it would be great to get to the outer reef for some more snorkelling. Although the 7:30am wake up was tough the prospect of three snorkelling locations was worth it. We hopped on board, early because, well, we are British. As we had half an hour to kill before we set off we got ourselves some coffee and proceeded to people watch whilst having to endure a constant stream of warning from the captain telling us that it was going to be really rough and everyone should take some of the sea sickness tablets provided. After learning the tablets were $2 a pop we agreed that it was ploy to get everyone to hand over some more cash, the repetitiveness of the tannoy warnings convinced us that they were psychologically trying to make everyone feel sicker and it felt rather gentle in the dock. I eventually caved and bought some of the tablets after feeling so ill the last time we were on water and of course Mum had enough pills for everyone on the ship to handle her vertigo. Unfortunately there was no con and the water was exceptionally rough. The journey out would have been entertaining if it wasn’t for the passengers falling like flies. Me and Dad fared well, Sam help it together but looked a rather dubious shade of green. Mum was out the back of the boat rather soon after take off and was immersed in a sick bag for the rest of the journey,this didn’t bode well for her for the rest of the day. We made it to our first location, with more than half the passengers having spewed their guts up, and sat down for a little safety instruction before wriggling into the, rather unflattering, stinger suits. And we were off! I was very very excited to get in and explore the wonders of the reef. Unfortunately the rough conditions meant the first site was hellish. I am not a bad swimmer and have in the past been a very strong swimmer however this was a bit much for me. After swallowing an ungodly amount of the Pacific I managed to doggy paddle back to the boat and sought floatation devises as reassurance. I should probably mention that I have a rather uncontrollable fear of open water which didn’t help as dropping off the back of the boat was into rather deep water with a worrying amount of sea surrounding me. My second attempt was more successful and I managed to find a sea turtle which was thrilling. I’m sure I saw some other wondrous sea creatures however the battering of the sea may have rendered me with a case of memory loss.

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Luckily the second snorkelling site was far calmer and after a brief talk about some of the fish we could expect to see plus a rather hurried lunch me and Sam were back in the water. Unbelievable is probably the closest I can get to describing it as my vocabulary is not that great. We toured around the reef taking in the giant clams, parrot fish, Nemo and Dory (clown fish and blue tang fish) along with a host of other creatures whose names escape me. The sea turtles were a definite highlight though. Sam turned into a snorkelling professional and dived down to the bottom to hang out with them a bit. As it so happens the turtles are very chilled and don’t seen bothered by people. I was assured this was the case by our boat crew who informed us that the type of red coral they eat in this part of the reef basically makes them high…So disney was actually being factual in Finding Nemo portraying them as absolute stoners. We managed to a lap of the reef with Russell in tow and Michelle had another crack at it but unfortunately her sea sickness had knocked her for a loop and was much happier inside chatting to french people and eating her own body weight in prawns.

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The third dive site was less marine life based and featured tonnes of different coral. Two of the crew took the group of snorkelers on a ‘tour’ of the reef explaining some of the different types of coral and diving down to retrieve a sea slug… I still don’t really know what it is. Back on board the boat and it was already time to head back to shore and to real life, myself and Sam being of the opinion that the Great Barrier Reef was far super and we wouldn’t really mind staying. Although the journey back was much smoother than the previous trip Mum, once again, found herself with her ‘sick friends’ at the back of the boat. Possibly the most incredible day of my life and probably one of the worst in Michelle’s life, although she was a trooper and told us it was worth it to see her children so happy. We disembarked and quickly took Mum for frozen yoghurt in an attempt to boost her spirits. The evening was spent in Grill’d, a fantastic healthy burger chain that needs to be moved to the UK immediately for the sake of my sanity. And we may have snuck another cheeky froyo in there for good measure.

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Last full day in Cairns…Our separation was looming and we set off with good intentions of making the most of our time left together. Of course the weather decided that it wouldn’t comply with our grand plans but we soldiered on! Our idea was to take a drive another hour north of Cairns to Port Douglas however with the rain pouring we made a little detour to a shopping centre as Sam was desperate to buy a Aussie Rules Football as a souvenir, and me and Mum are never adverse to a little retail therapy. After whiling away some time shopping we got back in the car and hit the highway. Unlike many of the roads traveling along the east coast Cairns to Port Douglas is beautiful and has some fantastic costal views. The time flew by and we had a little stop for photo taking and to witness some paragliding (which didn’t happen while we were there due to the wind). We made it to the centre of Port Douglas just in time for lunch and devoured some pies from a highly reputed cafe. Dad sampled some Kangaroo and Sam had a bit of Crocodile, myself and Mum sticking to vegetarian varieties. We wandered round the town which was lovely, similar charm to Holmfirth with plenty of little gift shops and eateries. The main difference of course being the coastline on the doorstep. We went fro a stroll down four mile beach, staying well away from the water due to the prevalence of crocs. Sam and Dad managed to set up some sort of ball game (of course) and Mum and I channelled our inner Bear Grylls and set about cracking open a coconut. The weather was being highly fickle so we meandered back to our car (still with the coconut…we wouldn’t be defeated!) and headed back south for a quick picture at Yorkys Knob, yes it is a real place.

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Another casual evening spent watching terrible Australian television and getting ready for a snazzy dinner at Thafish. As a last hurrah we devoured some delicious seafood and, in my case, drank a lot of wine. Feeling very contented we stopped for froyo for pudding (last time, I swear) and collapsed into bed. The following morning a slightly dour mood settled over camp as our separation  was to become a reality. Our morning was spent packing and having a lovely stroll along the esplanade for some last minute sight seeing and photo taking and then an early lunch in an Aussie pub. As usual we got in a few last card games and attempted to keep conversation light. As you can expect leaving me at the hostel in Cairns was heart wrenching. As much as I love being in Australia and being independent and free I hadn’t realised how much more relaxed I was with my parents around… because obviously nothing can go wrong if your parents are with you. After a lots of hugs and quite a few tears we had to part ways as the three of them had a plane to catch for their flight to Dubai (lucky beggers).

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I won’t go into too much detail of my afternoon after they had left, mainly because its highly depressing and really puts a downer on the whole thing (lots of crying and wanting to go home). In spite of this I will end on a high note of what an amazing trip. I was so lucky to be able to share so many wonderful experience with three of my favourite people in the world. And I’ll end with one of our fantastic selfies because really we are too good at them now. Briggs family OUT.

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