Saturday, January 29, 2011

Australia - initial observations and more on Cairns

January 30, 2011 - at least I'm pretty sure it's Jan 30.  I'm still a bit turned around on time. 

After my internet cafe check-in, I wandered around Abbott St and the Esplanade in Cairns which is right near the wharf.  It rained off and on as it tends to do in tropical areas and the heat (when it was sunny) and the humidity (when it was raining) were challenging, especially when you're sleep deprived.  I had my first lunch in Australia by having fish and chips at the food court at the Cairns Night Market (most of the market was closed since it was daytime).  My friend Cheryl, who lived in Australia for several months, said I had to try the fish and chips, especially berrumundi.  Unfortunately the stand only offered mackerel but I thought it was pretty good.  A bit greasy but nowhere near as bad as the one I had in London.  When I get back home I'll have to go back and update these blog entries with pictures as yes, I take pictures of my food.

ETA: fish n chips

We had a welcome dinner at the hotel last night but by then I was so sleepy I really couldn't function very well.  It was a buffet dinner but I was still full from the fish and chips so I didn't eat much.  The offerings seemed like standard Western fare that you'd serve tourists.  It wasn't bad but nothing really stood out.  I left the dinner early as I was on my last legs, was back in my room and crashed by 7 pm.  Slept like the comatosed until just past 11 pm then dozed off and on (mostly off) for the next few hours.  By 4:30 am, I had given up.  I was awake.

I initially planned to hit the fitness center and, tricked out in my running gear and armed with my ipod, I got there by 6 am only to discover they don't open until 9 am on Sundays.  No matter - I went outside instead.  I might've planned to run since there's an awesome path by the waterfront but in reality, I was so intent on absorbing my surroundings that I did more of a gawking walk than anything more cardio-minded.  Which was great.  I saw the sun come up over some hills, the sky spill into blue and, because it still kept raining off and on, a rainbow made itself known halfway through my walk.  I always love looking at bodies of water and there's something beautiful and soothing about walking alongside, just enjoying the ambiance.  As in most places, sometimes the best part of the day is the early morning, especially in the tropics.  The heat and humidity haven't taken hold yet and the morning air is nice and cool.

Other random reflections: had a laughable moment when I first got inside my hotel room.  I kept flipping the light switches but nothing was turning on.  After a few minutes, I finally discovered the slot to insert my room key so that the switches worked.  Smart thinking on the hotel's part - ensures less energy is wasted when people aren't in the room.

Currency: the challenge of going to any country with different currency is becoming familiar enough with it that you're not always fumbling for the right amount to give and knowing how much change you should expect to get back.  The AU dollar and the US dollar are almost at parity.  The best exchange rate I saw without fees was $100USD = $94.50 AUD.  And did I mention how expensive everything is here??  The smallest bill seems to be for $5 AUD and their $2 coin is smaller than their 50-cent piece, something that always throws me off.  But it's all good learning and I'm enjoying the differences.

Oh and the most US-centric thing I'll say - they drive on the "wrong" side of the road!  lol.  I have to swivel my head like an owl as I cross the street as I always seem to forget which side I should be looking at.

More later - heading out to the Great Barrier Reef shortly.

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