Waking up after less than 5 hours sleep and trying to organise some sort of day out is pretty tough. We managed it, barely, thanks to a shower and the fact that the sofa in the hostel was really comfortable which meant those few hours of nap-time were uninterrupted.
Cairns doesn't have much going on. I'm not quite sure how it managed to acquire city status, as I've seen bigger towns in Australia. On top of which, no-one really smiles. The hostel is a bit odd, with residents bleakly wandering around not interacting, and looking like their favourite pet had just died. We dumped our stuff once the 4-bed room was available (Paul and Fi were going to be joining us in the evening) and we took a stroll into the city. We stopped off at the art gallery which had a modest number of exhibitions. One was a selection of art done for children's books, and a place for us to try and draw animals ourselves. Here's my attempt at a frog:
Gilly's emu was much better:
There was also an exhibition by Robert Baines, a prolific and incredibly detailed metalworker who created a number of intricate pieces such as this, simply by bending gold and silver wire:
There is a public outdoor pool area on the esplanade in Cairns, which is both huge and excellent. We didn't go for a dip ourselves, but there were hundreds of people enjoying the sun. It's almost like a holiday villa, except it's in the centre of town and it's free to use.
Gilly also made some friends on our walk around the centre, and managed to come away without eating them. Impressive.
There appears to be one "main" backpacker location in Cairns for a night out: Gilligan's. Sadly, we arrived on the day that the female jelly wrestling competition was held, and after Paul and Fi arrived, we were forced to stay to watch. It was an utter disgrace; a blatant show of sexism and misogyny, which no-one had any interest in. At all. In any way. A UK girl entered but didn't get far, and apparently it was won by a lass from Sydney. I wouldn't know, I was too busy not watching and being quietly outraged. Gilly took lots of pictures though, with my camera. Ahem.
We mooched around town the next day, whilst Paul and Fi caught up with blogging and other internet tasks. In the evening, Reef backpackers put on an event for all residents, free pizza and discounted drinks at the Wool Shed. This is clearly a bar aimed at drunken revellers, who have sod all else to do in the town. We helped ourselves to some cheap house wine - shocker, house wine in Australia doesn't taste like vinegar! - and settled down to watch the evening's thrilling entertainment: goldfish racing.
The premise of this sport is simple. Two fish are placed in a long trench filled with water. The contestants need to blow air through a straw into the water behind the fish, in order to make them swim to the finishing line. Each race lasts about 6 seconds.
The players are picked based on nationality and assigned a fish with an appropriate name. So, the Japanese girl was given a fish called Sushi, an American girl was given Jaws, and so on. After approximately 7 minutes of nail-biting excitement, the American won and the pizza finally arrived (about 2 hours after we arrived) and we managed to get 2 slices each.
At some point the atmosphere turned a bit crazy and people started dancing on the tables, including the Japanese girl who joined us. When in Rome...
Feeling a little hungover the next day, we took a look at an art gallery a few doors down from Reef whilst Paul went off to buy a guitar ahead of our road trip down the coast. After some thought, we'd decided to get a van each. This would give us the freedom to pursue our own agendas as needed (Paul and Fi needed to be in Sydney earlier than us), but would also allow us to travel together for a large portion of the trip in convoy. And I'm not sure a 4-berth would have given us enough space considering how much *stuff* we'd all accumulated:
After picking up our Hippie Camper van, we set off north in the direction of Port Douglas. Tom and Erin, who we'd met in Sanur, had kindly invited us up to stay with them and go diving. We got to their place in late afternoon, and they immediately took us out to a local park to see what Tom promised would be one of the best sunsets of our lives. He then apologised when it clouded over. Still, the thought was there and it was quite atmospheric!
We rounded off the day with a great BBQ courtesy of our hosts:
The van wasn't too bad to drive, but was fairly basic and got hot very quickly. We had to sleep with the van door open, along with all of the windows.
Exploration of Port Douglas and Mossman would continue the following day.