Cairns
Tuesday, 21st May 2002

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My Australian holiday started with a week in Far North Queensland (FNQ for short.) The flight from Singapore landed at Brisbane first, and then flew up the coast in the early dawn to Cairns. Unearthly views from the air of the green splashes of the Great Barrier Reef.

The day I arrived I did a half-day tour to Green Island. Green Island is an island on the Great Barrier Reef accessible by a half-day tour from Cairns. We went there by catamaran which had engine problems at one point. Crew-member Chelsea snapped away then wanted to sell the results. There's coconut trees on Green Island planted for the benefit of marooned sailors. A highlight of the trip was a 'cruise' on a semi-submersible to see the coral and fish.

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Cairns is like a small American city undecided whether it wants to be backpackerland or art gallery centre. It feels new and is laid out on a grid plan. Well patronised by Japanese tourist parties as well as by backpackers. After the crush of people and buildings in Singapore Cairns felt barely populated. And Cairns was the biggest city I visited in Australia. I felt I stood in the nomansland between 'civilisation' and 'wilderness'.

I dined in a restaurant along the esplanade on a dish combining barramundi, kangaroo, and crocodile. Crocodile is white and stringy if you were curious. I thought I had better establish between me and the crocodiles who was going to eat whom. But I didn't go swimming in any billabongs to give the salties a chance.

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I came to Cairns because of the rainforest habitat. Sadly most of the rainforest has been wasted into wastelands of sugar-cane. Ironically the sugar-cane farmers are going out of business.

Besides the rainforest you could take in the Tjapukai Aboriginal Centre (now closed) and learn about the aborigines of this area (different to say the Red Centre.) Weird sight when you see the Aboriginal dance group head off in costume to have a coke or a fag. There's a good cable-car ride from Cairns up to Kuranda over the rainforest, and then one can ride the train back. I sat the wrong side and mainly saw rock faces. Kuranda is a bit of a souvenir shopping area, does have a butterfly centre.