One to Grow On

January 12, 2010

Cairns: Rhymes with Fans

Filed under: animals, Australia, children, food, Planes, travel — midway2go @ 6:28 am

The flight to Cairns from Sydney was bigger than I thought, in almost every way.  For starters, it was around three hours.  We were shown a feature length film and were served a meal.  We apparently left culture in exchange for something like wildness.  And, to top it off, we changed time zones.  All this, flying from a city on the southeast coast to a city on the northeast coast.  Same side of the country.  This is a big country.  Huge.   Getting off the plane we walked down wide metal stairs.  I love that.  I wish I were wearing big white sunglasses and had a bouffant.  What a great way to enter this tropical land.  We’re spending a few nights in Cairns at a hostel.  The hostel is in a renovated heritage hotel, with wide wooden floorboards and a deep second-story veranda that runs along the front and the side.  The paths around the grounds are verdant and rich.   The kitchen, where we spend a disproportionate part of the day, is open and the tiny swimming pool is at the end of the tables.   When I was in Sydney, calling around about rooms and prices, I finally thought to ask about air conditioning.  Keep in mind, the highs are in the low nineties and the lows are in the mid seventies.  The humidity is always around 75% if it’s not actively raining, which it is five or six times a day.  This is Savannah in July.  So, I asked if AC was available.  He assured me that it was, but cost $1 an hour.  “Ohterwise,” he said, “people would just want to run it all the time.”  Yes, imagine that. 

 In our hostel AC is free.  Of course, the remote to turn it on is only available to be checked out from 6pm until 9am… 


The view from my poolside chair

our dining room

 I was reading Bill Bryson’s book about Australia my last week in New Zealand.  I do love his writing, but he does get carried away.  He’s particularly concerned about all the different stuff in Australia that can sting, burn, eat, or find some other way to kill you.  About Queensland, the Australian state we’re in now, he was warned that the residents are “madder than cut snakes.”  Well, I don’t know about that, but I glanced through the weekend paper over coffee, and the following three stories caught my eye: 1.  A local family pulled a snake out of a hole in their backyard that measured over 4.2 meters.  Check my math, but I think that’s longer than 15 feet, and, I don’t have the paper in front of me, but I think it was a python.  And,  while the family is glad to have removed that hazard, they are concerned because it layed eggs and soon they’ll have to round up the offspring. 

 2. Cane toads, a classic case of an introduced species run amok, are invading neighborhoods to the extent that the columnist I was reading couldn’t go outside at night without stepping on them.  Now, this isn’t a small critter.  They are toxic at every stage of life, from toadpole to adult, and have no natural predators. They poison household pets merely by passing through their water bowls.  And their size?  They are about 10 inches long and weigh almost nine pounds.  That’s a lot of poisonous toad.  

3.    Three local men have been bitten in separate instances by flying foxes, a large bat.  Two became ill (seriously ill?  Is there any other kind?) by a virus carried by the bats.  I thought, hmmmm, then walked up the block to discover that the rustling Rory and Nora and I heard was made by the wings of the flying foxes roosting in the trees above us.  How did I figure that out?  A little sign stating that if you came across a solitary young please not to touch it but to notify someone immediately.   Oh, it’s child-rearing time for these charming creatures.  At dusk we see their dark outlines swooping around, their long fingers in their wings made visible by the illuminated sky.   Their wingspan must be 18-24 inches.  Beautiful, but I sure would love to know how those three guys got those bites. 

So, Bill Bryson, if you’re reading this, sorry for doubting.  I’m a true believer now, boy.   

flying foxes at rest

Pelicans and Spoonbills

Rory reading to Nora in his bunk

Waiting for the airport shuttle, they find "play" all around them.

 Despite the tacky tourist shops and the ugly concrete buildings, I love this place.  And we haven’t even done the good stuff, yet.  I love the weather, I love swimming with the kids after breakfast, then before lunch, then after dinner.  I love the ceiling fans.  I love that in a thrift shop today I could not find one dress with anything like a sleeve.  This is a town deeply committed to the tank top as a way of life.  I love that, too.



  1. You had me thinking this was paradise until you mentioned the bats.

    Comment by Jill — January 12, 2010 @ 9:00 am

  2. So glad to see you safe and warm! We miss you guys!! love, Louisa & Sean

    Comment by Louisa — January 20, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

  3. Love your blog! I went to HS with Barb Stitch, and have traveled over a good portion of the workd by car and motorcycle. I firmyl believe what you are giving your children is invaluable! I hated civics until i started traveling and now I want to know what do they do here? How do they live? Super!!!

    Comment by Romeo Raabe — May 6, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

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