“spring” break in cairns

So last night I returned to Brissy after a nice holiday in Cairns (pronounced like CANS for all my friends back home) for spring break. All the18033283_783929385107238_3253468793685726767_n Americans keep referring to it as spring break, but over here it is actually autumn so we get quite a few weird looks from our Aussie friends when we call it that! So I suppose “Easter break” would be more appropriate. Anyway, I went with my dear friend Lauren from back home at Messiah. She was the only ASCer that I was friends with before venturing over here, so we buddied up to take on Cairns together!

Originally we had planned to vacation in Whitsundays, a BEAUTIFUL bunch of islands further north from Brisbane but at the southern-most point of access to the Great Barrier Reef. However, a few weeks ago Queensland was hit by Cyclone Debbie, leaving the Whitsundays area particularly a bit smashed. So Laur and I adjusted our plans to go even further north to Cairns, which was less affected by the cyclone. And what a lovely trip it was!

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We flew out on Saturday over Easter weekend in the morning. It was about a two hour flight and we arrived in Cairns around 11am. Cairns is a much smaller city than Brisbane, if it can even be classed as a city — I would actually venture to just call it a town, because it was so tiny. We stayed at the Cairns Central YHA, the same branch of hostels that we stayed in when we first arrived in Brisbane and when ASC went to Straddie for the weekend. As far as hostels go, they are so nice. The one in Cairns had a nice central pool area where all of my fellow travelers and backpackers congregated, using the free wi-fi and eating their meals. Lauren and I stayed in a six person room, with our four roommates coming and going during our time there. One girl CRACKED ME UP. She was hilarious. I mean I never really spoke to her, but what a truly odd soul. She made a little cave for herself in her bottom bunk with her sheets and only came out after Lauren and I had gone to bed and we heard her coming back at 3am most mornings. I don’t know what she does every night, but that one is definitely nocturnal. The one time I did happen to see her during normal evening hours, she was practicing her ukulele. Ah, the people you encounter in a hostel.

I have to say though, I love hostels. They are truly just a culture of their own. If you have an adventurous spirit or an empty wallet – or both – hostels are the PERFECT place to stay when traveling. There is something kind of magical about knowing that all of these strangers are from different places and going to different places and for one short space in time, your lives happen to intersect in this mutuality of adventure. Everyone has their own story and a reason that brought them there, and as I sat by the pool area watching these wanderers traipse around the common area, I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories are.

As far as adventuring goes, however, Lauren and I sure had our fill. The day of our arrival and the next were more of leisure days, just wandering around the town and sun baking by the lagoon in the center of the city. They have this pool lagoon area for the locals and visitors, because the waters along the coast are too dangerous for people to enjoy them — too many crocodiles and such 😉

On Monday we ventured off to Kuranda on the Scenic Railway. Kuranda is this cute little village in the middle of the rainforest, with a lot of little shops and exhibits and trails to walk. On the railway there, we saw such incredible views.

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Kuranda Scenic Railway

I am continuously blown away by this earth that God created, and anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite things is being in nature surrounded by the beauty of this world. Absolutely stunning. I know I’ve really been blowing up everyone’s Facebook with photos, but I just want everyone to be able to experience what I have the great fortune of experiencing. Once in the village we browsed in the shops, got some fish and chips for lunch, went to the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (I LOVED the butterfly sanctuary, what a magical place filled with some of God’s most beautiful little treasures), and went walking along one of the trails through the rainforest. On the way back, we took the sky rail which was BREATHTAKING.

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Skyrail back from Kuranda!

Being lofted so high above the rainforest was amazing, and it was so peaceful and still. We also made friends on the sky rail with a guy named Aaron who had just moved to Australia from England. He had been in the country for two weeks, and he travels around building aquariums all over the world — what a cool life, right?? It is crazy who you run into and hearing about the life they’ve lived.

Below are some photos from the Butterfly Sanctuary, and above are more pictures of the views on the way to Kuranda! Man, do I LOVE this world God has made!

On Tuesday, a major bucket list moment happened. Some people dream their whole lives to have this opportunity, and I actually got to live it out. That’s right, folks, I’m talking about going out to the Great Barrier Reef! Lauren and I booked a snorkeling cruise that took us out to the Outer Reef area near the Continental Shelf. This cruise was supposed to take us to three different reef locations, but the weather conditions were really rough the day that we went out, so we ended up only going to two of them. Despite the wind and rough waters, the snorkeling was soooo worth it. Lauren and I both got sick on our way out to the first location, along with half of the rest of the passengers onboard, so that should explain just how choppy it was out on the ocean. The current was really strong once we were actually in the water, and we swam against it the whole time. Quite the full-body workout, if you ask me. I’m a bit sore now actually.

BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT. Honestly, it was was of the most incredible, impactful things I’ve ever done. Imagine how small you feel when looking at a sky full of stars — it was much the same thing looking out at the immensity of the ocean, and the endlessness of the coral in the reef. You would feel as if it could just go on forever. And there is a weird stillness when you have your head under the water, a kind of calm in the storm. You poke your head out of the water to gauge how far you’ve drifted from the boat and get hit with the wind and the water and the ugly side of snorkeling, but then you submerge your head and see the wonder of everything that rests just below the surface, close enough to touch (which of course we didn’t because 1) it was a marine reserve & 2) poisonous coral + touching it = death). But it almost sounds like some sort of metaphor for life, doesn’t it? It makes me wonder what it resting just beneath surface in my everyday world.

And the crew was phenomenal! Such kind and helpful people — it takes a special group to help clean up after a gaggle of sick passengers in the middle of the ocean with no escape. But everyone was so unbelievably gracious and caring. Laur and I made friends with a young guy on the crew staff named Riard (not sure if I spelled that right, but I took a crack at it), and he was so lovely and checked in on us constantly on the boat ride out to make sure we were alright. He was quite an interesting individual as well! About to start uni in Melbourne studying … psychology! But he works on ships, taught hip hop and jazz dance, and wants to eventually become an actor. I love learning the stories behind the people, and a cool person he was!

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Palm Cove Beach

Finally, on our last day (and we were EXHAUSTED by this point, let me tell you) Lauren and I decided to go to Palm Cove Beach about 25 minutes up the coast. We spent the morning lazing about and sun baking some more and then bussed back to Cairns City to head to the airport to fly back to Brissy! It was nice to be on holiday for a few days, but BOY was it good to come home! (yes, I have started referring to Brisbane as home, because home it is has become)

The past week was such a marvelous opportunity to see more of the splendor of this world. I am so privileged to be here and to travel the way I have, all by the grace of God! He’s been good to me.

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Thanks for reading, friends!

xoxo, Riss

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