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Monday, July 30, 2007

Mt. Isa in the rearview, and hills all around (now that it was daylight I could see them), I drove on through the desert. And drove. And drove... And drove. And drove. While coming into the desert was exciting, and the day prior had also been a bit interesting in that I was now looking at the local vegetation to determine what was happening under the surface, leaving the desert now was just tapping my foot and waiting. Except that, thanks to a lack of cruise control, I couldn't even tap my foot. And the lack of power steering made thumb twiddling an extreme adventure sport. So I waited, and my knee locked, and still I waited as the kilometers ticked by. I listened to my music, thank goodness for the iPod. I contemplated the remainder of my stay in Australia and postulated some perfectly permissable plans. And I drove. I almost wished that there were a few kangaroos hopping around the road to pass the time - I almost hit one last night, plus a dingo - but I suppose it's best they didn't. So I did what any Australian does in the outback on a hot and boring summer day. I called into the next town, ordered a pie, and had a beer.

And I continued stopping in small outback towns as they came up, and I grew an appreciation that this was my last time really in the outback as I think of it. I would do the Kimberley in WA later on, but here I am with wheels driving through the desert. I stopped in a town with a dinosaur heritage and not much else. I chatted with locals. I donned my outback hat. And, once in awhile, I wore the aviators with it. And as darkness fell, I was back on the coast, coming into Townsville. Palm trees, bustling streets full of tourists and restaurant goers, and civilization as I've come to know it. That is, until I got to my hostel. The Lonely Planet directed me, as it is wont to do, to a hostel that doesn't exist, but nearby was the Transit Hostel, and they had rooms, and it was already at the point that they were just closing the front desk, so I thought I'd better take it. So it happened that I had two nights in the dodgiest hostel on the east coast. The outback had come with me - and grown mean.

I spent as little time as possible there, as you might imagine. I wandered the streets, grabbed a bit of food and came back just to sleep. The town which looked so alive when I drove in with Betsy seemed quite dead now. Maybe it was later, maybe it looks better through the window, but it was dead. The next day was a bit better. I walked along the streets, along the esplanade, had an audioless video chat with dad and Mariah, and was going to go to dive to Yongala, but there were not enough people and so it was canceled. I had dinner out again at a place called The Brewery, which had some pretty decent beer and pub food. As I sat alone with my six beer samples in front of me, I drew the attention of three English girls who must've admired my late-stage alcoholism. We joked a bit and I joined them for dinner and that passed some time. Back at the hostel, I met a few people that weren't terrifying, and we hung out a little bit as well. We went out to a couple bars and sampled the quiet nightlife, but there aren't really any stories to tell. It was quiet.

I spent the next two days making my way up to Cairns. Although it was only about 300km away, I could have spent at least one more day on the trip. As you travel up you really enter the World Heritage Wet Tropics. Rainforest, mountains, waterfalls, it's a beautiful area to have a car in, and I took advantage. Anything that looked interesting, I pulled in and checked it out. I went 50km out of my way at one point for a waterfall, and luckily I did, it turns out it is Australia's tallest. I also did the shorter run to another set of waterfalls that starts with a "J". The water falls and forms a bunch of rock pools that were very tempting for a swim in the sun. I took photos but with all the stuff in my pockets and no trunks on, I decided to leave it for next time.

I stayed the night in Cardwell, in another hostel that I avoided but only because it seemed pretty dull. I went and got fish and chips, fresh and quite nice, from a crazy old lady at a stand, and was quite amused with her antics as were some Melbourners in line ahead of me. We got talking footy, and I mentioned that Geelong was going to take it, and so I was invited back to have supper with them. The game didn't turn out to be on, but it was nice to have a little company and they were lovely people. Cairns was my next stop the following afternoon, because the weather was not conducive to any sort of outdoor activity (rain, cloud, mist), and I checked into Gilligan's hostel. It's a very nice but pricey place, swimming pool, lockers, movies all the time, you name it. It's more hotel than hostel, but $30/night.

And then I booked myself onto a 5-day reef tour. I leave on Friday and get back Tuesday, and it'll be the longest I've ever been at sea in my life. I just really, really, really hope I don't get seasick too badly. And that there is lots of life on the reef. This time of year, we should be right in the whale migration lanes and our company (Taka Dives) has a license to actually get out and dive with the whales, so that would be amazing. Plus we head out for some sharks (and a feeding, too, if I believe... hopefully no Dean on the menu) in the Coral Sea, where there is a one kilometre dropoff. It will be an eery feeling to not see the bottom and be some 30m from the surface. And we do some day dives, night dives, pretty much everything but a wreck dive. Anyway, after booking this, I started looking for work and cheaper accommodation until Kirsty gets here on the 16th. Not much there for short term, but I think I can get a job on a farm for a spell. Though I just realized that by the time I get back, I'll only have a week. All I know is that the money is dwindling and a cash injection is needed. Plus, I didn't get off of either of my parking tickets in Melbourne after all that headache. And the reef trip is not cheap, but hey, one of the main things I came to do was see the reef, and I'm doing it properly.

So that's what's been going on. As for Cairns itself, it's nice though smaller than I'd expected - only 100,000 people. Still, that makes it easy to get around even if job opportunities are not exactly plentiful. There's no beach, which was a surprise, and in fact the coast is largely mangrove mudflats that are inhabited by crocodiles. Which, and I didn't know this either, can be found up to 30km from shore. Yikes! Which reminds me, I should go and look up some crocodile wrestling moves, so I will leave it at that. With one last note. I'll be heading up to the Daintree rainforest for the next few days to see Cape Tribulation and everything I can up there before I return to Cairns for my dive. So now you know everything that I know. Which, unfortunately, is very little and can't be used on a resume. See you in a week!

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