Landing in Cairns

Thursday, 25 June

I landed in Cairns this morning; the flight from Sydney took three hours. It felt good taking off from the cold dawn tarmac, to watch the city submerge into playbox houses beneath me as we zoomed far away and into the cloudy altitudes where no-one and almost nothing exists, barring the promise of heaven in the form of mystical cotton-balls in the sky.

And where mortgages and property values hang as utterly meaningless and frankly absurd concepts..

As we descended into Cairns I noticed how different the landscape underneath me appeared. There were swirly rivulets and rivers that no doubt carry crocodiles and other tropical delights. On the ground I realised how majestic the area around Cairns is, the city being surrounded by mountains and tree-covered peaks. Sometimes these peaks were covered with clouds, though in this latitude they resembled heat-packs in the sky moreso than mere clouds. Cairns in the dead of winter is about the same as an average Sydney summer’s day. It’s warm to hot and muggy, but with a coolish breeze near the coast that renders the temperature to be mild at times. The nearby Atherton tablelands rise to over 3,000ft and they do cool down during the winter, particularly at nights.

I settled into my digs and did some nearby grocery shopping. I was expecting a string of hip cafes but instead there were the supermarkets, bottle shop, a few non-descript clothes and CD shops, and a few food outlets including Subway, all enclosed within your standard Aussie suburban mall really, no different to say, the mall in Glenorchy, Tasmania, situated down on the cold end of the country.

Later I took a walk around the groves surrounding this property where I’m staying. I don’t know why but tropical fauna isn’t as invigorating as temperate or cool-climate fauna. Perhaps the heat and humidity sever the refreshing effect of the foliage to some degree. Either way it’s great to see plants, trees and fauna grow so readily as they do in the tropics. This place is full of palm trees too, as is to be expected.

I decided today would be the day that I just hung around the town. I went for a long walk up and down the Cairns esplanade. Again, it’s not so different to the esplanade in Melbourne’s St Kilda, or Brighton Le Sands in Sydney for that matter. You really can’t help but notice that you’re in a vastly different place out here. There are mountains on either side of the esplanade that jut out from the heads in each horizon. You feel that enclosed zingy sense of being in the tropics. Most of all, and it’s almost a dissapointment, there’s no stirling bright blue beach in Cairns; what is all up and down the esplanade are mud flats. Mud flats, with a few attempts by trees to grow before they become flooded by heavy rains, and birds such as ibises nibbling on what they can gather from there. The mud flats aren’t ugly, but they ain’t pretty either. Tomorrow I’ll be going to the Great Barrier Reef where the water is expected to be a lot clearer!

I have tours booked for some of the days. Sunday and Tuesday I plan to be a bit more local – and this may include a bus trip to the beaches north of the city – and also visit the city markets, the botanic gardens and do some tropical rainforest walks. On Sunday too I plan to go to the markets in the morning, and in the evening attend an open mike night. At this stage however I’m content to relax and stay indoors a bit, particularly at night. I’m enjoying the feeling of sorting out my brain and my head and whatever feelings of dissatisfaction I’ve been dealing with at home.

The answer to my spiritual problems??? Get on with it. Do it. Unhappy about something? Take action. Leaving Sydney is pointless almost, and besides, the people I care for and love are all there. That’s why travel’s never been a huge imperative for me, even though I do make a good traveller and I enjoy it. I love being in new places and finding my way around them and experiencing the sights and smells and weather and feels of the new place. But there tends to be a form of ephemerality to travel. It’s like great music if you’re a musician. It can be loved, glorified and revelled in, but it can’t be sustained. Without fail there’s always “myself” to fall back on. That’s why, I realise, I need to deal with myself on a practical level. Sometimes this needs to be done within one’s own doorstep, within one’s own shoes, wherever they may or may not trod.

I’ve only been here for 10 hours, and it does feel like I’ve been here much longer yes, but the sense I have from being in the tropics is not an all too comfortable one. I feel much more settled and stable in the temperate zones. The feeling you get in the tropics is a sort of “pinched” vibe, where you sense that the headiness of the environment is trying to squeeze you out of there. The noticeably-angled palm trees lining the esplanade are their way of warning me to watch out for the elements here. The weather is volatile here in FNQ. I’m here during the quiet period but coming into October onward and the heavy rains and winds come lashing down. Hot, steamy, and stormy! Those mountains surrounding Cairns look like they’re in control and have authority to unleash whatever extremity they like on the local and visiting populace down at ground zero.

But for the meantime I have some tropical exploration to do! Cairns, and Far North Queensland!


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