After I left the wallaby project I took the overnight train to Innisfail to meet my friends Melanie and Nathan, who were lovely and gorgeous and made me breakfast and drove me around the Tablelands and were generally impeccable hosts. You are going to just have to believe me on this because my camera took it into its head to get some grit stuck in its lens while I was sneakily eating some rice pudding in the Rockhampton cinema as I waited for my movie to start. So no pictures of the cool fold-down shelf beds in my train berth, no pictures of the dudes in boots and short-shorts cutting sugarcane, no pictures of Melanie and Nathan picking me up from the train station and giving me their house, no pictures of their awesome son Harry chewing on my hoodie pull, no pictures of the guide to the remote controls Melanie’s sister Cheryl drew for me, no pictures of the cheese plate we ate near Mungalli Falls.
No, no no. None of that. No pictures until I’d fetched up at the door of the red-and-purple painted Gecko’s Backpackers, where I immediately ran into some extremely excellent people and commenced to hang out for a week. I learned that I would have to send my camera to Sydney to get it fixed and it would take four weeks and so on and so forth and the upshot is I ended up buying another cheap camera to take with me to the reef and the rainforest…which I also ended up breaking somehow on the last day of the trip. Sometimes I astound even myself, you know?
So by the time I’d got my camera situation sorted I’d been there for a couple of days already and had got into a nice little routine, which went like this: wake up late, eat breakfast in pajamas, take shower, put on singlet top, sunnies, and thongs, go to shopping center and run into four people I knew from the hostel, go to internet café and place where they sell shell necklaces and run into a couple more people I knew from the hostel, consume either lemon sorbetto or ridiculous convenience-store iced coffee thing called Ice Break which I loved with an unholy passion, go back to hostel, get into bikini and sit by pool with everyone I hadn’t already seen in town, gossip and flirt for four hours, not forgetting to reapply sunscreen, make dinner all together, decide not to go out that night, sit around outside table talking and laughing and telling lies, decide that well, maybe, go out just a little bit but that you’ll definitely come home early, put on boob tube and awesome necklace, go out and dance for four hours, fall into bed at five in the morning, and get ready to do it all the next day.
Man, that was fun.
Those of you who haven’t been backpacking because you have, like, jobs or kids or lives or whatever: it’s only fun if you are easily entertained and you have no sense of personal shame. Since those two descriptions are pretty much me in a nutshell, these pictures give you only a little bit of an idea of how much fun it was.
Well, just to get us started off, here’s a shame photo I secretly took on the way back from the Esplanade to the hostel—I was thinking of writing this very entry you’re reading right now, and I knew it would be at least a semi-cool picture, but I didn’t want to be seen taking it, you know? Anyway, the whole point is that Cairns is very touristy. Very very very touristy, and part of the conversation you have every night at the outdoor picnic table is about where you’ve arrived in Cairns from, and where are you going next, and hey I hear Port Douglas is nice but it’s kind of posh and yeah, man, the rainforest is supposed to be amaaaaazing, and which dive company are you going with?
Here are my lovely friends Nat, Scott, Abby, and Sam. They’d all met up in Thailand a couple of months ago and were reunited in Cairns a couple days after I got there, and they very sweetly referred to themselves as The Family. Nat and Sam were the second and third people I met at the hostel and I liked them immediately; our love was cemented when Sam offered me some of their dinner that first night so I wouldn’t have to go to the store all hot and tired. I really hope I get to stay in New Zealand so that these four can come to visit me here in Wellington.
And here is the first person I met in Cairns, Adam, who happened to be sharing my dorm room. He was implicated in a couple of these statements that first night we all went out and is also the one that told me I’m really pretty…for a thirty-two year old. Bless his heart.
Here is the stunningly beautiful Lorena, who, along with her boyfriend Simon, is from Milan (although, interestingly, they met in Bondi Beach). I was in the kitchen one evening and saw that Simon was putting together a stove-top coffee maker exactly like the one my dad used to take with us camping in the 80s, and I was all “Sei italiano?” and he was all “Certo!” and he introduced me to Lorena and I got to practice my Italian for the rest of the time I was there. One night I cooked pasta for them, which was extremely nerve-wracking for me, but they were nice about my attempt and were always willing to let me borrow their good olive oil.
Get ready, y’all, because here are Fe and Monica. Their other two partners in crime, Tom and Grace, must have been at work or something when I took this, which is a shame because the four of them together were like nothing I have ever seen in my life, and I include the entire membership of East Dorm in 1995, for those of you whose memory stretches back that far, in that assessment. These people were lots and lots and lots of fun and fortunately none of the pictures they took when we’d all go out have survived. (Okay, well, they have, but only on Facebook.)
I have to stop for a minute here and repeat a real sentence one of them said to me when I got back from the dive trip, referring to a night out: “I was in the Woolshed and I was on The Goon and I snogged this guy and… apparently…he had those body-modification horns in his head, right, like some people become tigers and some people get their tongues cut into lizard tongues, this guy had sort of horns underneath his skin. And I didn’t know about it until I saw the pictures the next day.” I didn’t stop laughing about that for about twelve hours, and then when we all went out that last night in Cairns and boys would dance up to us we all made a point of touching their foreheads to check for horns, pre-snog. I am still laughing about that, actually; I don’t know what the guys in question thought was going on.
Okay, where was I?
Here we all are holding down the fort.
And here we are on the night we had a big barbecue, which started out with our discovery that we were out of gas for the grill and ended up with our discovery that we’d bought way way way too much food. In between, though, it was lots of fun, although it was pretty funny to see some of the differences between the way the British people did a barbecue and the Italians did a barbecue. Brits: steaks and chop and frozen burgers, put together in sandwiches with ketchup (oh, sorry, with tomato sauce). Italians: grilled peppers, onions, zucchini and eggplant in olive oil and garlic with fennel sausages. (Guess which side I was on, in this debate).
Speaking of food, here Nat and Sam attempt to recover from the night before with some spaghetti on toast, in accord with their Englishness. At least it wasn’t beans on toast, my opposition to which I believe I have made clear. This didn’t stop Tom and Grace and Fe and Monica from threatening to leave some under my pillow, which I thought was quite heartless of them.
I really fell down on taking pictures of Cairns, it seems, but I did manage to walk out to the mudflat by the esplanade and discover these excellent pelicans. I would not be me if I didn’t manage to sneak an animal picture in here somewhere.
And lastly, before we head into the home stretch of My Australian Adventure Series (spoilers: boat, reef, and rainforest!), I present you with some of the green ants liberally festooning the hostel’s fence. They taste like lemon. If you ask me how I know this, I will tell you, with great seriousness and uplifted eyebrows, that what happens in Cairns? Stays in Cairns.