Cairns: Enjoying the Tropical North

Lagoon lying along the Esplanade

Lagoon lying along the Esplanade

Since arriving in Cairns, Australia, my moving-around-every-day-backpacker-life has come to somewhat of a standstill.  Now my days are full of lazy mornings playing too many card games and long afternoons lounging by the lagoon in the city center. After my frigid experience in Tasmania, the sun finally came out to play and I’m soaking up every minute and luxuriating in the warmth of the Queensland climate.

Enjoying the Tropical North – Cairns, the major mecca of Queensland’s tropical north, is the base for many touristy spot such as Cape Tribulation, the Daintree rainforest, Cooktown, the Great Barrier Reef, and Atherton Tablelands, as well as many off-the-beaten-path trails, lagoons, waterfalls and open, starry skies. I arrived to Cairns after a brief stop in Melbourne to collect my bags; then off it was on an airplane to some true Australian sunshine and ocean play. (don’t pronounce the “n” in Cairns, people).

Looks are deceiving – The Asylum, where all residents are referred to as “inmates,” was my home for the next three weeks as I explored northern Queensland and took a much needed rest from too much life on the road.  Dorms were cheap at $13 a night, the kitchen was clean and there was a lovely, comfortable patio area where I probably spent 70% of my time meeting travelers and sharing backpacking stories.

Asylum Backpackers, Cairns

Asylum Backpackers, Cairns

Upon first glance, the Asylum seemed to look like a half-hearted attempt at a garage with the occasional lawn chair or swaying hammock on the front lawn. As the days turned into weeks, the yellow edifice grew to be a welcoming beacon after early morning walks home from downtown pubs -a home for those of us who were half a world away from our real homes. There was a small group of us that hung around together for the majority of my stay at Asylum. Chelsea, a vivacious English girl, became my sole female companion while the rest of our mates consisted of a group of lovable boys from Ireland. We “adopted” other random travelers, and our close, little group ebbed and flowed. Between hitting the bottle shop for boxed wine and playing rotating tournaments of hearts, my new friends and I quickly developed a semblance of a routine to keep our days busy and “fulfilling”.

For example….Those of us who could drag ourselves out of bed before noon trooped down to the grassy park along the Esplanade.  There was a gorgeous lagoon near the waterfront with bubbling fountains and many coffee/smoothie/ice cream shops catering to our humble crowd. When the sun set behind the mountainous, blue landscape and dimmed our reading/card playing light, we dragged our sleepy selves back to the hostel for a nap (imagine that!), shower (sometimes), and the opening of the outrageously cheap, though exceptionally infamous, boxes of goon.

On the more energetic evenings, we managed to traipse into town to visit the Woolshed, a nightclub/pub full of various teens and twenty-somethings, all gathered together for a loud night of cheesy music, spilled beer, and table-top dancing. Those of us who wanted a quieter evening stayed back at the Asylum, huddled together on the front lawn picnic tables playing card games which eventually turned into drinking games …….and so time went on……and on……and on……..and I was still stuck in Cairns having a wonderfully lazy time as the clock continued to tick off till my departure date to New Zealand.

The Mad Monday Experience – Asylum’s Mad Mondays are a paramount evening in Cairns. Consisting of Asylum patrons only, we dressed up in the same shirt, drink cocktails on the front lawn, and then load up in buses to start the long night of pub crawling. Some “mad monday-ers” don’t remember much past the first bar or two but, somehow, we managed to visit several of the most populated bars and used free drink vouchers to get us through the night- – doesn’t that sound a bit dangerous?

A festive BBQ at the Asylum

A festive BBQ at the Asylum

Mad Mondays = Matching t-shirts and free wine

Mad Mondays = Matching t-shirts and free wine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I have to admit that I did feel a bit silly walking around town dressed exactly the same as 70 other people, but it was all in good fun. We certainly made some great memories from our Mad Monday nights as well, and many were well documented by the doting video camera following us around to capture moments of inebriation and stupidity. These somewhat embarrasing images were then played on Asylum’s t.v. screens on Tuesday mornings.  We watched with anticipation, just hoping that some of our more awkward moments were not captured for the community to see.

Introduction to Aussie sports- The FA Cup finals came around one Saturday evening. For those of you who are not up to par with the worldly sports lingo – that is a soccer game, or as the rest of the world calls it, a ‘football’ game. The game didn’t start until midnight, but I was determined to watch the game along with the rest of the crowd.  With some Red Bull to keep me awake, I spent the evening huddle in a smoky, beer drenched bar in downtown Cairns with Liverpool fans on one side of me and West Ham fans on the other. Not sure of who to cheer for, I made friends with whomever was winning at the moment until I finally vowed my loyalty to Liverpool. Lucky thing I did too, they wound up winning!!

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