13 Random and very scattered thoughts from the coral reef (Cairns, Far North Queensland):
1. Some aboriginal words I’ve learned in Cairns > a. Kangaroo means I don’t know. When Captain Cook asked what those animals were, the aboriginals didn’t know what he was pointing to or saying so they said “I don’t know” (aka kangaroo 🦘). b. Koala means never drink. The native aborigines didn’t realize koalas 🐨 obtained their liquid from the highly moist trees, so they thought koalas never needed water. Therefore, since they never saw these animals come down from the trees to drink water, the aboriginals called them the never drink animals (aka koalas).
2. The security check is stricter in Cairns than in Sydney. They said the area is higher in security than Sydney. I know because they gave me some hassle about my wheelchair tools.
3. There is no train system here, but the public buses are relatively accessible. You need someone to help push the wheelchair up because the ramp is a bit steep at times.
4. The Great Barrier Reef tours are accessible but I would advise you to book at least two weeks ahead of time if you require some sort of special accommodation. I booked it the day before and risked not being able to get on if people weren’t willing or able to help me. The tour companies said they couldn’t arrange accommodations on such a short notice. Luckily our boat was not super crowded and people were very patient as I “frog and walked” (essentially propelling myself by grabbing my legs using 100% arm strength) up and down the boat and into the water. And I couldn’t bring my own wheelchair on board so I had to leave mine at the hostel. The tour company we used, SilverSonic, had a big and clunky wheelchair at the entry and exit, but we weren’t able to bring it on board. This, of course, made it hard to use the restroom on board... For your sake, I will not elaborate on this. 😉
5. The hostel I stayed in is clean and orderly, but it is loud and not really wheelchair accessible. The place is called Gilligan’s and, apparently, it has the biggest night club in the whole city. However, both of their bathroom stalls were NOT wheelchair accessible inside the night club. I, of course, then had to get out of the club to do that, but ironically you risk not being able to get back in if you do that. Loud music starts at 9pm and does not turn off until 3am. You really have to be insanely tired to fall asleep. I couldn’t close the bathroom door in my 8-person room, but the girls in the room were super nice and accommodating. Most of the staff there are super nice and friendly as well. What they lack in accessibility, they make up for in their amazing staff.
6. Speaking of the staff, one local told me it’s difficult to find a full-time job here because they mostly hire seasonal worker from outside the country. This definitely seemed to be the case in my experience. The person that checked me in at my hostel was Canadian. The person we booked our Great Barrier Reef from was British. The people who gave us a tour in the water was Argentinian, etc.
7. There’s a place downtown called the Esplanade. It has a really fancy, infinity like pool. And then right behind it is the coastline. It’s beautiful and definitely one of my favorite places.
8. The city of Cairns is pronounced “Kent” in the local way of saying things. Apparently the person who this city is named after never pronounced the “r” in his name and that’s how this came about.
9. Just like in Sydney, people here are so hospitable and kind. The accessibility of the infrastructure ain’t bad, but the attitude of the people is icing on the cake 🎂.
10. Even though a lot of progress has been made in terms of transportation and wide sidewalks, a lot of the stores and restaurants have a step leading into them. According to disability advocates, this is hard to change because of flooding in the area.
11. I was told you don’t tip in Australia. Does this sound about right for those if you who’ve been here?
12. In case you want proof of climate change, the Great Barrier Reefs really are dying at an exponential rate. The amount of dead corals under the ocean while snorkeling 🤿 was so sad. We can see them before they totally die off or we can try to save them for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. The choice really is ours.
13. I learned about the existence of a new animal called cassowary. Anybody know what it is? I saw them for the first time on our Kuranda tour.
If you read to the end, kudos to you. Next time I will write it in a less convoluted manner. I’ve been sleeping 3-4 hours a night here, being jet lagged and sleeping above the city’s biggest night club doesn't give you much Zzz time.