Queensland Quintessence: The Great Barrier and Bare Feet

Kerns? ‘nah mate it’s more like Cans’. Quick look at the flight roster and behold I’m chucked in a city with a name I cannot pronounce to save my life. Square one problem was getting there in the first place. Like most of the passengers on Isle A of Hong Kong International, we live on standby staff-ID tickets, inevitably recreating the 75th Hunger Games hid in a facade of smiles, eyebags, and the stereotypical starbucks cup of coffee; all for the vacant seat left inflight.

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Seat 11K on CX103

For reasons I cannot seem to explain, what’s presumably a spacious Airbus A330 was rid of emptiness, with 1 regular business class seat left to cater on 9 standby passengers. Intent on not missing out on the symbiotic relationship between Nemo and the anemone, high-priority tickets were used, and I come out victor with a decent seat for the next 7 hours to Northern Australia. The service throughout J-class was no less than exceptional, Cathay evidently intent on keeping its throne as best in Business.

The arrival in Cairns, although brief, was quite rushed, considering the idea of missing the only ride I’ve got to the Rydges Esplanade Hotel and was less than ideal. A 10 minute walk from the city centre, we hit the jackpot with the room facing the sea, a panoramic view reminscent of those 5 dollar ‘bucketlist postcards”. Facing the east, we are greeted with the rising sun at 6 AM, its corona peeking right through the mountain range as the autumn-orange flare is reflected along the ocean. Absolutely magical evident through this timelapse  recorded through mounted GoPro upon the cringeworthy-risk balcony railing.

Hence, Day 1 was yet to commence, and although a stroll through the relaxing Esplanade blocks was ideal, the post-flight exhaustion hit like a truck in form of irrevocable laziness, disorientation, and craving for saturated fats. A nap for a couple hours, maybe days, was in order.

Upon rejuvenation, I took out the snapback ready for some local immersion. To describe the vibe through the Sunday streets as “relaxing” is a humungous understatement. The raw and untouched sea breeze from the from the east was nothing less than refreshing.

Treading the bicycle path from our side of the Esplanade we witness people from all walks of life, from triathletes sweating a bucket, the barefoot australian family on a stroll, and those who’d much rather take a siesta by the field overlooking this spectacular sight.

Viewing platforms by the bay make it convenient for selfie enthusiasts, keenly scenic marriage proposals, and bird watchers to execute their daily endeavors as the sun’s journey up from the east down to the west shuffles the skies through the myriad of colours in the spectrum.

Routine states the casual raid to the grocery store to fill and replace the hotel pantry, rid of those hotel goodies overpriced enough to make any grown man cry. Trip to Woolworths was vital to take advantage of the Tim Tam sales and the signature scrumptious Anzac Cookies. The city was no different from the seaside in terms of the atmosphere. An abundance of greenery, fish n’ chips joints, and people walking in a chill pace far slower than the average human fill the blocks of Cairns city proper.

Wielding bags of midnight snacks, goodies, and a roast chicken, more self-investment for the soul was much needed through local culture immersion, and so we make our way to the edge of the esplanade next to the pier, and the public pool. An abundance of people occupy the fields for the afternoon picnic, and the stereotypical european man in speedos was doing laps at the public pool. It was here I was ready to bust the following myth: is it always a good time for an Australian Barbie (BBQ)? Evidently, Yes, especially when it comes with a view like this:

Such a spectacular panorama was complemented with a couple mint chocolate cookies and the music played by the local live bound at the park a block away. To our surprise a whole community of people lay chill by the park on the way home, man, woman, and child, no one was a stranger to the enjoyment of throwback 2000 tracks. Who knew Closing Time by Semisonic was still enjoyed by today’s youth?

Hence Day 1 falls behind the red curtain.

The morning of the following day involved consulting the very efficient Mr. Aki, the wholeheartedly kind japanese tour manager with the trademarked australian accent by the hotel reception. Quicksilver Cruisesproudly Australia’s most awarded Great Barrier Reef operator, was the very generous tour company to familiarise us with Northern Queensland’s breathtaking sights on the way to Port Douglas. The bus ride (hotel pickup included) was redolent to that of an Animal Planet special, full of information masked in a script of witty banter, and stunning sights.

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Port Douglas, a cozy small town 45 minutes out of Cairns, was unmistakeable and easy to recognise by the abundance of tourists from the East, buses, and boats of all sorts. A quick check-in and ID verification at the desk and we were sent off to board the Quicksilver V to the outer barrier.

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Port Douglas Pier; Marina Mirage [GoPro Hero 4; Photo is property of VoyagerZulu]
Able to accomodate almost 300 passengers, the wavepiercing catamaran is fully equipped with a well-placed bar, strategically located buffet table, and well kept detol-scented toilets to make sure the tiny-bladdered and seasick get acquainted fairly easily. Touching on that fact the crew are absolutely delightful, provisioned with a happy smile, an enthusiastic personality, and unconditional concern for your wellbeing, hence the distribution of free seasick-proof pills before departure.

45 minutes out of Mirage Marina we dock at the Quicksilver Pontoon, equipped with the knowledge of the undersea experience the tour had to offer in their snorkel and dive seminar (an absolute must for any undersea-lover, whether new or not). The inhospitable sun was at its peak at this point, marking noon, evident from the SPF150 sunscreen tribal marks we tourists had all over our grinning cheeks. Sun’s out, GoPro’s out. Here’s some outer barrier goodness:

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Outer Barrier Reef, The Great Barrier [GoPro Hero 4; photo is property of VoyagerZulu.com]
The pontoon was a manmade docking station, strategically placed at the heart of Agincourt Reef, not only for tourism, but for bioconservationists to make sure every seacritter from the the lowly phytoplankton to the moray eel was kept in tip-top shape all year-round.

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Quicksilver Cruises Pontoon at the Outer Barrier

Oddly enough the water events start simultaneously with the seafood buffet, in retrospect, a rebellion against the ‘no food 45 minutes before getting in the water’ rule. Having nil intent of cramping in waters almost 50 feet deep, I make the common sensical decision to hit the waters first. Recorded with a GoPro Hero 4, edited with iMovie, and patched with Mt. Eden’s remix of the song Drive by Glades, here is a brief insight of the undersea experience.

Yes, I was persuaded to buy the undeniably overpriced underwater shot the company photographers had with the Maori Wrasse. The Agincourt Reef was a kaleidoscope of colours and species, and although large, it was barriered to some extend in the ocean to keep tourists from wandering away, making new protagonists for Lost or Castaway. The events lasted 3 hours until the departure for Port Douglas was initiated, unmistakeably a wellworth Day 2 in Northern Queensland.

Day 3: Green Island. Surely enough we’ve received an abundance of adamant warnings regarding the place’s overpopulation of tour groups, but a package so indulgently generous was hard to deny, and hence we sign up for Great Adventure’s tour on this so called exquisite coral cay to occupy our last day in Cairns. Pickup point? Esplanade Marina, a good 15 minute walk from the hotel.

Boat Ride? Packed like sardines in a can. Honestly put, other than the kind crew who provided free seasick-proof pills, the rough ocean conditions, noise, and stressful atmosphere made the ride absolutely draining. Must’ve been an unlucky day to choose Green Island we thought. Half an hour out and we dock, filled wth gratitude that the island had alluring views of its own. What a sight for sore eyes.

The island was filled was indeed overpopulated with guests from all walks of life. Keen on exploring the island without the interference of other groups, we take the opposite path, and embrace the greenery the island had to offer.

The centre of the island was a resort, barriered as it was deemed private property, hence a path around it was built was an alternative form of rainforest immersion. The path showed a massive amplitude of bird life that followed any thing that smelt of snack.

In addition to the lush canopy, the island held its culture with pride, having been settled upon by Australia’s native aboriginals, who brought not only their culture, but also founded new enthralling traditions with them as well, discernible through their ‘nose piercing’ practices.

Past the forest, one can take a leisurely walk by the bay if one preferred the rather grimy sand-in-slippers approach. An alternative, although proceed with caution, is to walk through the dead coral that serves almost like a convenient walkway to sink oneself into the complementing forest-coast relationship. The bay includes the aforementioned coral, ornament-worthy tree structures, and the typical odd tourist wearing a suit.

Past 12 noon and the much needed decadent scoop of cookies and vanilla ice cream, we were summoned by the pier, to engage in the glass-bottom boat coral observation event. The island entrance ticket gave the option of this, or snorkelling, however seeing as I’ve already made an intimate relationship with Agincourt’s Maori Wrasse, I’ve chosen to observe the coral, sheltered and distanced.

Complemented by the witty commentary of the comic boat driver, the ample congregation of coral viewers were pleased with the sight marine fish, clams, coral, and anemome. This activity lasted 15 minutes, after which we docked right back into the Green Island Pier, to board our ship back to Cairns proper, marking the end of my two day short-term relationship with the Great Barrier Reef.

Feet acheing, eyes struggling, and heart longing for more escapades, we compensate with something we can fix. Our stomach’s, and what’s better than to end a whole holiday’s feat than to get cheeky. With some Nandos that is, an easy-going 10 minute walk from Rydges.

That night, we packed the clothes immersed in an atmosphere of australian adventure, tucked our physically taxed body’s to bed, and put our wellworking, busy, and yearning minds to rest for the close of yet another voyage. It was absolutely awe-inspiring, the thing’s we’ve witnessed, sights we’ve seen, and absolutely fantastic people we’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with; one’s gotta wonder how much work the Big Man upstairs put on all that natural wonder man’s feeble eyes can see. Til the next campaign VoyagerZulu, out.

references:

  • All photos and videos are shot by me, and is property of VoyagerZulu
  • Cameras used: Canon EOS 750D; GoPro Hero 4, iPhone 6
  • My family
  • Much gratitude with Cathay Pacific, for hotel accomodations and flight arrangements, and staff discounts.
  • Quicksilver Cruises, Australia
  • Great Adventures, Cairns
  • Mr. Aki of Rydges Esplanade Reception for tour management
  • Big Man Upstairs for having such a place exist
  • Email: zacharykeithsantos@hotmail.com
  • Instagram / Twitter: voyagerzulu
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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post – Green island look particularly lovely!

    Like

    1. Cheers! Much appreciation with the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries – I just love this area. Such a beautiful part of Australia 🙂

        Like

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