We are in Cairns! After a flight on Monday, checking into a gloriously posh hotel (and not even in comparison to hostels, but in comparison to other posh hotels), and getting a good night sleep, we awoke yesterday morning to begin our journey to Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef. We were picked up at 8am with a coach and carted up the coast. I got some amazing pictures of the coastline along the way. We arrived to the port and checked in and were directed to our boat. We were given tea and cookies and began our almost 2 hour journey out to the reef. We finally docked with the pontoon, which contained all the various activities we could partake in the day. We could snorkel, we could observe from a semi-submerged boat or an underwater viewer, or other activities that cost extra so I didn't consider them, but seemed pretty cool. We decided to do the semi-submerge first, just to get an idea of what is down there. It wasn't as colorful as the photographs lead you to think, but they don't tell you until you get there that they have to use lots of artificial light to capture those colors. We were able to observe a large variety of fish, and of course lots of coral, and I saw 2 giant clam shells that had died and opened and become part of the reef. The lunch line had just begun to form as we climbed off the sub, so we decided to do that next. I have to say, I don't think it improves the experience of eating shrimp at all to leave the head on, so I do prefer our ways when dealing with shrimp. Snapping shrimp necks is a little more familiar than I like to get with food, even though I will be peeling their skeletons and legs off as well. After lunch, we got ready for snorkel. All day, they had been pushing their Lycra suits for $5, saying it's not common, but there could be a stinger out on the reef. I had decided I wasn't going to wear one, it was humiliating and should be included in the cost anyway, but Matt was convinced and got one. It turns out I was the only person out on the reef without a Lycra suit, and I think that is a pretty cool thing. There was an older lady who didn't have one, but she didn't swim out far. I was a little paranoid all day, but it was for no reason, I didn't see a single jelly fish, and I was looking. I did see lots of parrot fish (Matt's favorite), lots of coral in blues and greens and yellows, little fish, big fish, of all colors. I took pictures with my underwater camera, but will have to see if they come out. I got out after about an hour and spent some time in the underwater viewing space. I was able to get some pictures of fish with my normal camera, as well as observe the scuba divers. The day concluded with Matt and I boarding the boat, finding seats, and traumatizing children (it's a long story involving me tripping one, and Matt laughing at the other when he fell off the couch and hit his head), but it was a good day. We ended up moving away from the kids and spending the boat ride watching the TV screen with the horrible pictures the tour guide took of me during the trip. We then were loaded again into our bus and forced to wait for the important people to decide they were done shopping so the rest of us could begin our trip to town. We got back and showered and found a cheap and good dinner near our hotel.
Today was spent lounging- by the pool, in the Vietnamese restaurant, by the Esplanade. It is quite an experience to be able to confess getting a sunburn on December 1st while watching Christmas trees be put up, but such is the life in this hemisphere, in this land of Oz.