In the pre-dawn darkness of the very first day of school holidays we escaped our home and boarded a plane. We didn’t really care where it was going, we just needed to get away for a few days. This holiday was a last minute decision. We just felt the need to do something exciting, stop the mundane school and work routine and what better way to do that than to itch that travel bug and just relax somewhere other than home. We chose to travel to Cairns in Far North Queensland, it seemed to have the right balance of relaxation and exploration that we craved and the weather was just right. We could have raced around non stop seeing the sites but it wasn’t that sort of holiday. We didn’t see everything there was to see, there were no hidden secrets uncovered, it wasn’t transcendental or life changing in any way and it wasn’t all awesome, but neither was it a horrible disaster. Though it could have been. Far North Queensland is a great snapshot of stereotypical Australia, everywhere you turn you find something that might kill you.
6 Things that Might Kill You in FNQ
Top of the list is of course the infamous Aussie wildlife. Crocs, stingers, sharks, snakes, spiders – Cairns has it all in abundance and the threat is real. The signs are serious and not there as entertainment for the tourists to take photos of.
While walking through the Daintree Rainforest we had a close encounter with a snake climbing a tree beside us, spotted some amazing spiders in Mossman Gorge and kept an eye out for karate kicking Cassowaries at Cape Tribulation and vigilant crocodile spotting was happening all along the coastline when we got out of the car to explore. On top of this you need to be aware of plants that might try to kill you, well maybe not kill but seriously hurt if you brush up against them.
Driving Round the Bend
Long isolated drives are a real risk in Australia, and while we did do a fair bit of driving while exploring Far North Queensland, the only serious risk we faced on the road was boredom. The most at risk of this are children and apparently, at least according to the sufferers, it is life threatening. Most cases of boredom are identified by the most common symptom of repetitive blurting of ‘are we there yet’. Be aware that serious cases of ‘boredom’ are closely followed by a wave of insanity for the parents.
The roads in FNQ meander through some of the most picturesque scenery. On one side you have mountains shrouded in stormy clouds with green farmland stretching out in front of it; then all of a sudden you find yourself driving through towering rainforest that arches out across the road, the thick roots pulling up the sides of the bitumen; and without warning you will find yourself driving along the winding edge of the coastline with the crystal clear ocean splashing at the sand outside your car window.
If the scenery isn’t distracting enough you need to watch out for kangaroos and cassowaries that are likely to dart out across the road in front of you; be wary of rockfalls on the windy bends; carefully pass oncoming traffic that aren’t paying attention on the narrow roads; and navigate speed bumps that have rocks cemented into the top of them to make extra sure that you slow down. You even need to watch the skies – at one point we came around a bend in the road to have a hang glider swoop across above us (he was safely further away than he appeared but close enough at times to feel his breeze in your hair!).
Feeling Hot Hot Hot
Heat stroke is a real and common threat in Australia, especially for the uninitiated. Mostly people know to stick to the shade when you can, slather on the sun-cream (slip slop slap and wrap people), stay hydrated and cool off given the chance. For the most part we survived this, the risk funnily enough came from swimming in the freezing cold pools.
Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous beach photos, you cannot swim in them (see killer animal point above) and Cairns doesn’t actually have a beach, just a big muddy flat that doesn’t even look pretty. Thankfully the Esplanade is wide and green with plenty of shade and a large public lagoon to swim in.
Between the lagoon down on the Esplanade and the pools at our accommodation we actually struggled to find somewhere to cool off without freezing. The kids tried to brave the cold but even they found it difficult, until we found Muddies at the other end of the Esplanade where they could happily splash in the water and stay warm. Oh, and the Lagoon is closed on Wednesday mornings so don’t go a big long hot walk with promises of a swim at the end of it unless you know it is open.
A Big Promise & No Cash
The price of natural beauty and isolation is that electricity to the Daintree area does not come easily, so many businesses tend to operate on a cash only basis. Some of the bigger sites will have EFTPOS within certain hours of the day but do not travel to the Daintree without at least some cash. More importantly do not promise ice cream to the kids as bribery for visiting one more site unless you are sure you have the cash to pay for it!
Thankfully I scrounged up the last of our change to buy everyone the promised ice cream and I am so glad I did because the flavours were incredible. You can avoid this killer scenario by keeping some extra cash in the bottom of your purse and stopping at the Daintree Ice Cream Company. They make homemade ice cream from the fruit in their orchard so the flavours vary based on the season and you simply purchase a cup of ice cream which will have the 4 flavours of the day. So don’t promise the kids whatever flavour they want once you get there, there isn’t really a choice. My personal favourite was the wattle seed, but raspberry, macadamia and the black sapote were all hits.
There are some people who are afflicted by the need for regular caffeine intake, even worse are those who suffer from the need for said caffeine to be of some reasonable standard of quality. When you are in your hometown you usually know where to find a great coffee at any time of the day but when on holidays it’s a different story. Add to that 2 highly energetic children. A late night and an early start and things could get dangerous.
Things were made slightly worse when we realised that it seems that Cairns likes to sleep in and have a slow start to the day. After some serious hunting and a dogged devotion to starting the day right, we ended up finding two favourites in amongst the streets of Cairns that delivered sweet espresso gold. They aren’t secrets and in the interest of saving lives I will happily let you know to bookmark Caffiend and Blackbird.
Danger on the Reef
No trip to Far North Queensland should be without a visit to The Great Barrier Reef for obvious reasons. Some people might think that stingers and sharks would be the biggest threat out here but you’d be wrong.
The only sharks you will see are friendly little reef sharks that aren’t interested in you. As for stingers, it wasn’t the right season but when it is they usually stick to the coast not the reef and the danger is pretty low. There is a real risk of looking like a ‘drongo’ if you want to wear a stinger suit but if you feel safer go ahead.
The threat actually comes before you even get to the reef. If you are likely to get motion sickness or if you don’t know if you will or not, take some medication BEFORE you get on the boat! We weren’t afflicted but we had to endure the horrific smell and watch the wavering unprepared souls that turned green on the back deck of the boat. Needless to say they didn’t have a great day and surprisingly didn’t learn their lesson and repeated it on the way back. If you look at some of the tourists and add their heat exhaustion to the constant throwing up and their inability to swim and you have a death defying situation.
More prevalent to me, when snorkelling at the reef be aware of the loss of periphery vision when wearing masks. You will not see that fluro flipper on the other swimmers flailing feet coming at you, be prepared with ninja like wacking movements to ward them off. You might also be startled by brightly coloured fish that will sneak up on you and pop out in front of your face when you least expect it. You will jump. But don’t be alarmed they wont actually hurt you. Oh, and if you stick your finger out at a big fish like I saw some people doing, it will try to bite you.
Despite all of the things that might accidentally kill you in Far North Queensland, we had a fabulous trip to Cairns and loved exploring the Rainforest and Reef. I’m really glad we got to show our girls two of the most magnificent natural wonders that our world has to offer and watch them spark that adventurous excitement in themselves.
Have you explored this part of Australia?
Have you had any of these close encounters?
Oh, and did I mention I love Link Parties