Monday, November 19, 2012

Backpackers in Cairns

Today started with a 5 hour flight from Auckland to Cairns Australia. We chased the sun, arriving at 10 am local time.

I had low expectations for Cairns. It's billed as the "gateway to the Great Barrier Reef" and basically it's the transportation hub for Queensland (the northeastern part of OZ). Most recommendations are to just pass through.

The Great Barrier Reef as seen from the plane.
But it's actually quite nice. It has almost decent internet, cycling lanes(!), lots of parks, a scenic promenade, public fitness classes, neat kids jungle gyms, good dining, real stores and a free outdoor 4800 sq m salt water pool, aptly named the lagoon. (They even have there own Ironman). Today it was 28'C, a bit of very high cloud with 99% humidity.

The lagoon, still open at 7pm.
Cairns must also have the highest number of backpackers per capita in the entire world. (I have know idea if that's true, but it's seriously overrun with unshowered, hungover, passport toting 20-somethings.)

But when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So we checked into a hostel. A big one. Though we did 'splurge' on a room with a double bed an a private ensuite, so that's kinda cheating.

The courtyard at our hostel, Caravellas
Our hostel happens to come with a free dinner. For those that have travelled the backpacker trail, it's worth mentioning that these types of deals are pretty common and baked into the business model.

Here's how it works. Your "free dinner" voucher is actually for the local bar. The deal doesn't start until relatively late at night, 7pm in this case. There is some small print. First you have to buy a drink from the bartender, then, with drink in hand, you line up to order dinner. The dinners are pretty basic, but for a small cost you can upgrade so something more substantial. By the time you've ordered, you've finished your first drink, so you might as well get another. Etc.

The lineup outside the bar for the "free dinner".
Everything is fairly reasonably priced, and before you know it the bar is packed and most people are totally sloshed. The business, in turn, packs in a full crowd of hungry, thirsty and still unshowered 20-somethings even on a Monday night.

It's really fun people watching. I had a blast. (The photographic evidence doesn't really need publishing on the WWW though.)

Tomorrow's post is an introduction to Australian wildlife (not including the 20-somethings).


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