March 20, 2004, 21:00: Cairns, Australia - Internet Cafe
What a long day. I got up at 3:45 to catch my shuttle to the airport to leave NZ. After paying $25 for the right to leave the country, and an extra $25 because my bag weighed 3kg over the limit (they haven't done this on my past half a dozen flights with the same weight), I was able to clear customs in fairly short order. This was after about 45 minutes waiting for the check in give preference to those leaving on an earlier flight, of course. The flight was reasonable, and provided an excellent view of the sunrise, and I managed to snap a few photos. On arrival in Australia, I looked for the appropriate documentation to clear customs, and I realised that my passport had slipped off my lap on the plane, and was resting underneath the seat. I managed to catch airport security's attention as I ran down the escalator back to the plane to retrieve the passport, and they followed me closely until I got back into the building into the long customs line-up. This was a really really long customs line-up. I had been listening to Matthew Good on the plane, and a certain set of lyrics was stuck in my head... "I'll dance, and I'll sing... we're all monkeys in a long line". It couldn't have been more appropriate here.
I managed to catch my connecting flight just in time, only taking about 2 minutes to stop and get some take out food to bring on the plane. These airport security checks and whatnot are very tedious and long. I imagine you could probably drive to Toronto quicker than it would take you to get to the airport, clear security, fly there, collect your bags, and finally step out of the airport. Well, not really, but still, it's excessive to spend more time in customs and security line-ups than actually flying. The flight took off from Sydney and I was on the way to Cairns. On descent, we went through a long period of flying through clouds, and once the ground came into view, it was very very apparently that this is not the prime time of year to be in this neck of the woods. Major roadways were totally flooded, rivers overflowing, it was raining. Once we touched down, and started speaking with the locals, it was made known to me that a cyclone had been anticipated today. Awesome. Also, it was expected any and all diving tours would be postponed at least another day, having just been put off the past 2 days as it is. The humidity here was amazing. I can't even begin to compare it to the most humid days I've ever experienced. You just feel *wet* walking around. The shuttle driver said today is actually quite nice, and not even close to as bad as it can get (80% humidity). This is one diverse country.
I got to Pete's Backpackers, and the place didn't seem very busy - actually, they close the office from 12-3:30, just because. I love the laid back atmosphere of this place. I was given a quick orientation of the city courtesy of a tourist map, and I headed to my room to have a much needed nap. I slept for a good 3 hours once I got used to sleeping in a practically wet bed. The humidity was killer, and the air conditioning was just kicking in at this point. I woke up with my alarm, and headed off to the local aquarium to see if they had some examples of the local wildlife, which they did. It just can't compare to the Sydney Aquarium. Afterwards, I headed to the dive shop to check if they had made a decision on the dive tour. I was told this would not be until 6pm, and to check back then. I headed back to the hostel, and grabbed my backpack, knowing I would soon be typing at an internet cafe. They had a shuttle that went down the street a few blocks to a local restaurant, which offered massively discounted meals. I had a peppercorn steak, salad, fries and a small beer for $8.50. It was very good.
I then took off to the dive shop - the dive trip is still on. This should be interesting. They suggested I go to a place called reef teach which offers free "classes" about reef life, which was interesting. A very animated Irishman was the one giving the class, and he was quite obviously enjoying his job. I spoke to him afterwards and he was quite knowledgeable. Should be quite fun to take off tomorrow. Back in a few days!