We left a cool, wet spring in New Zealand to fly to a hot summer day in Cairns, a city of about 150,000 on the northeast coast of Australia. I hadn’t realized just how tropical Cairns (pronounced something like Caehnz; the “r” is silent) was going to be. At about 17 degrees south of the equator it’s the equatorial equivalent of say Oaxaca in southern Mexico. So yeah, surprisingly hot, up around 90 degrees for much of the day, and a bit of a shock after our two weeks in New Zealand.First, though, we had to get through our flight from Auckland and a real rookie mistake we made. As we got to the check-in counter at Virgin Australia the woman asked for our Australian visas. “Visas? Australia doesn’t require a visa for Americans.” Ah, yeah they do. Now, they didn’t 12 years ago, the last time we were down under, but sometimes governments change requirements. We’d just never checked. Fortunately Air New Zealand is authorized to sell Australian electronic visas so we headed down to their desk and were set to go. Message to self, though: check on entry requirements in countries you haven’t been to in a while.
And then, the flight. Oh my God. Our seats were directly behind a Chinese couple and their 12- or 15-month old child. Who screamed. More than any child I’ve ever experienced in my 61 years. As in, Spawn of the Devil screaming. It got creepy after a while, when you realized that something, something was badly wrong. Was he being abducted? Was he horribly sick? Did he have a diaper pin sticking in him? You really felt terrible for him and his parents, or whoever those adults traveling with him were. And it went on and on and on, for probably 90 minutes of the two-hour flight. Crazy. And disturbing.
Finally, though, we got to Cairns and I really liked it, a perfect three-day stop. Not for the reasons everyone else likes it – it’s a magnet for people off to see the Great Barrier Reef and other adventure-type travels. We just wanted to settle into Australia for a few days, warm up, and dry out. We’re going to do a day trip out to the Barrier Reef from a later stop so we didn’t have any need to do anything in Cairns in particular.So why did I like it? It’s just got a nice healthy-small-city-on-the-ocean vibe to it. The Esplanade is their coastal walking/running/biking/hanging out area and just an easy place to while away parts of the day. You can tell that the locals are pretty seriously into exercise, as there are all sorts of people doing all sorts of things throughout the day. There are even official signs posted showing the free exercise classes offered along the Esplanade throughout the day. And the Esplanade includes a man-made swimming lagoon that may be the biggest urban pool I’ve ever seen, with lots of fit, healthy Aussies hanging out all day.
Beyond that Mark & I took a long (and hot) walk one day up to a great Botanical Garden, and I made the mistake of going out of my way to go to a modern art museum that was supposed to be hip and happening, what BuzzFeed called “definitely worth a visit.” It wasn’t; in reality it was tiny and boring. Lunches were harbor-side, while we found a tasty Greek taverna for dinners.
And I was reminded of the value of advance planning while in Cairns. When we left Cambridge back in 2013 we had a couple prescriptions of Cipro, a miracle drug for, um, stomach problems. We haven’t needed it much, but when you do, you just thank God you still have the pills at hand. ‘Nuff said!