North from Sydney: Cairns & Darwin
Hello, from somewhere in Asia! We’ve been traveling on the lovely Crystal Symphony the past few weeks, as I’m teaching the Digital Filmmaking class to guests on board. In my last post, I left you in Sydney, which is the port where we embarked on this two-month journey. After spending four days exploring Sydney, we boarded the ship and set sail for the ports in Cairns and then Darwin.
Cairns (pronounced “cans”) is located on the north east coast of Australia, and we sailed there just inside of the Great Barrier Reef. We had about a day and a half to explore there, and on the first day, I admit that we went ashore in search of wifi. Karen had some ongoing projects she had to send files for and I needed to do some work-related email. We did, however, have time to walk around town and get a feel for the place. The highlight of the downtown area is the long esplanade that lines the water and ends with a giant man-made lagoon that locals and visitors can wade or swim in any time they like. Considering how hot it gets there (it was in the 90’s and insanely humid during our visit), that lagoon is much appreciated!
On our second day in Cairns, we took a tour up to Kuranda, a small village up the hill from the city. To get there, we took the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which was scenic indeed! It wound its way up the hillside and featured beautiful landscape views. They even poured champagne to enjoy during the ride. After making one stop at a waterfall, we arrived in Kuranda and visited a wildlife park. Karen is an animal nut and her biggest goal for her Australia visit was to cuddle a koala. I suspect that’s why she chose this tour because she did, in fact, get to hold a koala there. Now she “wants one.” Fantastic. Anyway, the wildlife park was interesting in that it was mainly Australian animals there. There were even loads of kangaroos hopping around the park freely. You could go up to them and scratch their heads if you want. (Of course Karen loved this as well.)
After visiting the animals, we went on a ride in an WWII Army duck vehicle through the Australian rainforest. Our guide informed us it was the oldest rainforest in the world. It started on land and then ended up in the water. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any crocodiles on this trip because there are croc warning signs all over. They say the safest place to swim in the Cairns area is in a swimming pool or in that manmade lagoon!
Back in town, we visited a pretty huge bat colony on one of the main streets. Now not only was the colony huge, but the bats themselves were gigantic too. They’re nicknamed “flying foxes!” The bats made a home out of certain trees there (to many of the locals’ despair) and we went to try to photograph them. After visiting some shops, we returned to our temporary home on water and set sail for Darwin.
Darwin is the northernmost town in Australia and is the area in which Crocodile Dundee was set. We decided to explore on our own here instead of doing a tour so we set out on foot. In hindsight, it is a difficult place to see on foot because everything is so spread out. Needless to say, we got a lot of exercise that day! We started by walking to the marina area to see if we could get on some kind of harbor cruise. That didn’t really work out, so we stopped at a little coffee shop to cool off and then set off for the botanical gardens. The gardens were huge and we didn’t have time to see everything, but we definitely enjoyed what we did see. After that we walked on a trail along the water to the Art and History Museum of the Northern Territories, which contained info about Darwin and other pioneers in the theories of evolution, local animals and the cyclone that completely leveled the town on Christmas day, 1974.
Karen next to a ginormous crocodile (named Sweetheart) at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territories in Darwin.
In the end, we didn’t do a lot of shooting in Darwin, but enjoyed exploring anyway. This would be our last stop in Australia before heading into Indonesian waters. Next stop: Komodo Island! More to come…