I shared the same sentiments as the passenger who exclaimed, “I made it!”. It felt a little strange hopping off the Greyhound coach when I arrived in Cairns. Cairns is my final destination on this 3-week east coast journey and I cannot believe this is it!
Unfortunately, I only have 2.5 days in Cairns. I was booking my flight from Cairns to Melbourne when I was in Airlie Beach and for some reason the cheapest and fastest flight was on the evening of the 2nd. I had originally intended to stay in Cairns until the 3rd or the 4th, but I figured that extra time in Melbourne wouldn’t hurt. Backpackers typically either start out in Cairns or end their east coast expedition here. Cairns is a small city which serves as a springboard for travelers to book tours outside of Cairns such as to the Daintree Rainforest or the Great Barrier Reef. Coming here I had skydiving and a day trip to Cape Tribulation (in Daintree) booked. After discussing possible half day reef tours with people at the hostel, I decided not to go on one. Half day tours are only available to the inner reef and I was told that was nowhere as spectacular as the outer reef. Since I had already visited the Ningaloo reef in the west coast, a hostel staff suggested that there wasn’t a need to see the inner reef.
The day for skydiving has finally arrived! I had my 14,000ft tandem skydive at Innisfails, which is roughly an hour south of Cairns. After going through so much in Australia, I didn’t feel nervous about skydiving. I was excited as the aircraft took off in the sky. My instructor attached his gears onto mine as the plane reached closer to 14,000 feet above ground. The moment I was dragged out to the edge of the plane, I let out a quick scream. Arms crossed and head tilt back, my instructor pushed us outside the plane. The first 2 seconds of the freefall was scary and I had my jaws tightened for the plunge. The 60 second freefall was the best part of the experience. Once the parachute was up, we drifted for roughly 2-3 minutes in midair. To be honest, it was not as scenic as I had hoped. It was also a cloudy day so we did spend a couple of seconds in the clouds; I suppose that’s how heaven feels like. A few minutes after landing, I felt a little nauseous probably because I jumped on an empty stomach. I would describe this overall experience as ‘good’. I certainly believe that this is not the best jump and is interested in skydiving again. Maybe I’ll finally feel the adrenalin rush (that everyone talks about after skydiving) the second time!
I went on a day trip to Cape Tribulation the following day. There is so much to see in the rainforest, I wish I had more time to book a 2 or 3 day tour. Our first stop was Port Douglas which is approximately 40 minutes north of Cairns. It was another peaceful town along the coast. After the quick stop, we headed to the Mossman Gorge. Our tour guide led us through a 40 minute hike around the gorge. I really enjoyed the walk in the rainforest since it was a different experience than the beach landscape I’ve been seeing so far in Australia. I was really excited to look at all the greenery and waterfall encompassing the gorge. I wish I had more time to fully explore the gorge. We proceeded to Cape Tribulation there afterwards for lunch and the lookout. We went on an hour long ferry tour down the river feeling like Crocodile Dundee and we spotted two crocodiles up close.
Cairns itself has an esplanade and lagoon encompassing the shopping and restaurant streets. It was nice bumping into other backpackers that I had met earlier on my journey to Cairns. I wished I could stay a little longer to meet up with other backpackers that were also in Cairns at the time. It is a bit of a bummer that I didn’t get to see the outer reef, but I was not sure what type of reef tour I would want to go on anyway (with my limited swimming abilities).
This is it — Solo adventure up the east coast complete ✓
I’m glad I made it here alive and met so many different people along the way. It is a challenge I am proud to have taken and endured by overcoming the struggles, insecurities, and self dependencies of being a solo backpacker.