Australia: Eclipse & Diving in Cairns


Fish at the Great Barrier ReefThose two weeks in Australia are almost over already and I will fly on Friday to the next big destination: New Zealand. I’m already looking forward to this cycling adventure since a while. And also the volcanoes there seem to get more active just in time :-). Nevertheless, it will also get at least 10˚C colder. However, also those two weeks in Queensland in Australia were very nice, if also a bit different than thought. But that is part of the game.

Journey Japan – Australien

After the cultural wrap up in Kyoto and Nara, I took the train to the airport in Osaka, where my luggage and bicycle were already waiting. After spending my last Yen, I checked-in and went through security and on board of my Jetstar flight. I flew the first time in my life business class because it was the cheapest possibility at time of booking. I guess everybody wanted to see the eclipse… However, it was business class at a low cost carrier, which is more like economy plus at a standard airline. Nevertheless the food was good and the wine as well. We left Osaka around 8pm and arrived in Cairns around 4am, which meant for me almost no sleep.

After arriving at the airport, I had first to go through immigration. The lady there wasn’t especially friendly but it was also early in the morning. After waiting at least 30 minutes for my normal luggage (my boxed bicycle was much faster), I could continue to the bio hazard inspection. The Australians are very sensitive about visitors bringing illnesses to the country. Bicycles and camping equipment are getting a special inspection therefor. The lady there was super friendly and even was sorry for opening my bike box. However, everything was clean and I could finally enter the country. I took a shuttle to my hostel and got some sleep there in the hammock. What a start into the tropical paradise :-).

Solar Eclipse
The main reason why I stopped in Australia was the upcoming solar eclipse. I had no idea, where it would the best place to see it and I therefor booked a car for a week in advance. And it was a good idea to book it in advance because they were all sold out in the mean time. I picked up my car and drove towards north. From Japan, I was already used to drive on the left side of the street but it was still something different with a car… I visited the beach of Palm Cove and continued to Port Douglas. Both places where in the line of totality for the eclipse and a lot of people traveled there just for that. They got up early in the morning (the eclipse would happen soon after sunrise and the sun would be only slightly above the horizon therefor) to check, if the sun would be visible at the time of the eclipse. Because I had already a bed reserved in Cairns for the night before the eclipse, I didn’t check that myself in Port Douglas but I got told, that it was always cloudy…
After visiting the rain forest and a crocodile farm, I traveled back to Cairns. And the weather forecast for the eclipse morning was bad: A lot of clouds and some rain. It rained frequently during the night but I got up at 3am nevertheless and walked to the esplanade, the beach of Cairns. I was one of the first ones there and set up my camera. It was very cloudy and rained occasionally. Shortly after sunrise, the clouds moved a bit away and the partly covered sun got visible. I was very happy at that time. Unfortunately, shortly before the big moment, the totality, I big cloud moved again in front of the sun and didn’t move away till it was over. I was very frustrated. Especially about myself because I should have known that there would be a high risk for a cloud forming above the hill next to Cairns. But because of the bad weather forecast, I didn’t think about it. At least it got still dark and we saw the glowing horizon. Pictures can be seen in the Gallery and also a short video of the time of totality is available. I went back to the hostel afterwards and got some more sleep…

Tablelands and diving at the Great Barrier Reef
Because I still had the car for a few more days, I drove to the Atherton Tablelands in the afternoon and visited there during the next few days multiple fig trees, waterfalls and saw also some platypus (a big thank you to Brigitte and Urs for their advices!). Afterwards I drove back to Cairns and returned the car. And I was glad that I made it safely there without any incident during the last few days…
One of the famous things in Cairns is the Great Barrier Reef. This one is a must see, the question was only if should go snorkeling or also diving. I decided for snorkeling only but Laura from the hostel talked me into doing the introduction dive (and I was finally very happy that she did that), which was only 30 AUD more. Everything was already fully booked at my birthday and I took it therefor as a delayed birthday present for the next day.
We drove with the hostel shuttle at 7.30am to the harbor and from there out to sea. For the introductory divers, there was a introduction to diving on the way out. Afterwards, we got organized in groups of four and then out into the sea. First we had to train, how to get the air regulator back into your mouth in case we would loose it. That was already too much for two Taiwanese girls in my group and they left. We continued with the dive master along the reef. And it was gorgeous. Those 20 minutes diving passed bye way too fast!
After a good lunch, we moved to a second spot, where I tried out snorkeling. Also this was great but diving was better. I guess, I have to do it again somewhere :-). Pictures can be found in the Gallery.

And now I have to wash my clothes and put everything together again before flying to Auckland in New Zealand on Friday. Hear you there!

All the best from Cairns,

Stefan


About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my girlfriend Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website www.biketravel.net. Stefan, Switzerland

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