Sunny Side Opinion
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Australia Series

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.” - Saber Ben Hassen

Take Cairns

Cairns: that guy at the party who is a full blown adrenaline junkie. He downs shots and beers while recounting his captivating experiences, like when he jumped out of an airplane or when he wrestled a crocodile.

Like some guy said once, "All good things must come to an end." The end of my East Coast trip and the last place I stayed was Cairns, in North Queensland.  I spent four epically eventful days in this city, fitting in an impressive amount of last minute adventures before I left this oz-some country.

There are sooo many things to do in Cairns, but here's a quick list of what I did:

•Daintree National Park: I took a tour of Cape Tribulation with BareFoot Tours, which if you're going to do anything in Cairns, DO THIS! It's a day trip where you hike through the Rainforest and swim in the best waterfalls. We saw the Cathedral Fig Tree, Lake Eacham, Dinner Falls and The Crater, Millaa Millaa Falls (where the famous Herbal Essences commercial was shot), and Josephine Falls. All were tremendous.

•Snorkel The Great Barrier Reef: I had such a wonderful time snorkeling in the Whitsundays that I booked another Great Barrier Reef trip!

Although Cairns is considered the "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef," and statistically where most tours depart from, my advice is: If you're going to visit the Great Barrier Reef, aim south, like the Whitsundays. I say that because when I snorkeled in the Whitsundays, the ecosystem was dazzling and animated and I saw every shade of every color in its brightest form.

Sadly, and I'm not trying to be a Debbie-Downer here, but the tour I took out of Cairns around the Northern part of the reef left me a little disheartened. The colors I saw ranged from light brown to dark brown, sometimes reddish brown if I looked hard enough. I didn't see any turtles or Nemo, either. I was awakened in a new way, with the harsh realization that the largest living thing on the planet is at risk of dying within twenty years.

•Go on a bar crawl: On a more upbeat note, the weekend that I was in Cairns happened to be Halloween weekend! I wasn't thinking I was going to get to celebrate it, since rumor had it that Australians don't make a big deal out of this holiday like Americans do. I was so happy when I saw that my hostel was putting on a huge pub crawl event, and decided to buy a ticket since the footie guys (which you will meet below) were all about it as well. It was a lot like my Cape Tribulation tour, an expedition from watering hole to watering hole.

It was a blast!  We had a buffet dinner, played games, and rode a double-decker bus around Cairns, getting to see all the night life scenes there. There was even a dance competition, and when the emcee asked for volunteers, one of my footie mates raised my hand for me. Before I could realize what was happening, I was pulled up on stage. (This is what my nightmares look like.) Each participant got a genre of dance and I ended up with 90's hip hop. It could have been so much worse, as some of the other genres my competitors got were "twerking" and "Magic Mike," so I thanked my lucky stars and seized my moment!

"It's Tricky," by RUN DMC came on and I did my thing. I pulled out the classics, the Running Man, the Carlton, that thing MC Hammer does, the Cabbage Patch, and I brought it home with the Robot, pictured below.

I wish I could say I came out with a win, but I lost. I left it all on the dance floor though, that's for sure!

Hostel Info:

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In most cities up the coast, you've got your hostels that are designated party hostels, and your hostels that are more laid back.  Up to this point, I always picked latter option, but I figured for my last stop, what the hey! I'll stay at the infamous Gilligan's (5 out of 5 suns), a hostel known more for it's nightclub than for its' actual accommodations.

Anyways, I'm really glad I chose to stay here! It's surprisingly clean and roomy, the pool is spectacularly massive, everyone is really friendly, and you get free dinner. If you're doing your East Coast trip from South-North, it's a great place to have a last "hoorah," and if you're going North-South it'll get you off to a great start, and you'll probably make a bunch of friends to travel with!

Favorite person(s) I met along the way: Speaking of new friends, my experience in Cairns would not have been half as special had I not made friends with the guys of the Meadows Footie Club.

I made about 20 new friends my first night at the hostel. I went down to get my free meal at the bar/restaurant with a very nice girl from my room named Jadine. I noticed that we were basically the only two non-male-jersey-wearing people there. Apparently the weekend that I was at Gilligan's was also the weekend that footie clubs took there annual end-of-season celebration trips, so about 90% of the hostel's occupants were footie players. We took a seat to eat our free pasta at the end of a table, and shortly after a flock of guys approached us and I thought, "Oh boy here we go."

To my happy surprise these guys were extremely courteous but also hilarious and really fun to be around! I spent the majority of the weekend with them, learning Australian slang and enjoying their endless banter.  I can't thank this group of gentlemen from Adelaide enough, they made my time in Cairns unforgettable!

Fun fact: Cairns is home to the world's deadliest bird, the Cassowary. It looks like something out of Jurassic Park miniaturized, and it's known to be fatal to dogs and humans when they disturb it. I learned about it during a briefing on my Cape Tribulation tour. We asked our tour guide what to do if we saw one (i.e. play dead, run in zig-zags, puff out our chest like a cartoon character) and he replied, no joke, "Just hope for the best I guess mates. If ya run into one you're well screwed."

http://savethecassowray.org.au/the-cassowary

http://savethecassowray.org.au/the-cassowary

Luckily, I didn't have a run in with any of these evil turkey looking creatures and I made it back to the US in one piece! Thinking about it, it's pretty remarkable that I didn't get hurt by any of the dangerous Australian wildlife (there's a lot) during my time here.  The only animal affliction I endured was a big bite from the travel bug!

Elyse Snyder