Friday, June 12
This morning got off to a great start as I took part in a free (beginner) yoga class at 6:30 AM down near the waterfront Esplanade. The very pregnant teacher said we’d usually be on the dock down by the water but since the weather was not cooperating, the nearly 40 of us in attendance all had to squish underneath a police station awning. The class was only an hour and rather easy so I stayed longer and practiced some more of my own more advanced poses.
Afterwards I headed to Rusty’s Market which was basically a big, (thankfully) covered Farmers Market. The smoothie and juice bar was still setting up when I arrived so I meandered around the many stalls which also sold jewelry, clothes and other knick knacks. Tucked back in a corner I saw a sign for Japanese Shiatsu & Reflexology so I decided to indulge in the 30 minute calf and foot package. The cute little Japanese girl did a great job hitting all the pressure points from my knees to my toes and I was incredibly relaxed afterwards. Then it was back to the bar where I enjoyed a Green Super Smoothie, a magical mix of Apple juice, Banana, Macca Powder, Spirulina, Chia Seed, Spinach & Cacao powder. Aaaaaamazing.
Then I started on my quest for foreign fruits, which I am going to evolve into a tradition during visits to future destinations. I found lots of juicy treasures including red dragonfruit, custard apple, soursop, starfruit and a paw paw. I also bought some more mundane bananas for breakfast and avocados, tomato and onion to make guacamole later. As I was paying for my onion, I went into a state of panic as I realized I no longer had my phone in my hand. I retraced my steps to the past few vendors to no avail and eventually made my way to the manager’s office. He graciously let me use his computer to attempt to locate my phone. I first tried findmyiphone, but I guess since I have the cellular data turned off then the gps doesn’t work either. Next I Iogged into my gmail account and used google voice to call my phone. I heard it ring and then go through to voicemail. Also not a successful endeavor. So, I left all of my other contact info with the manager, who advised me to check with the stalls I had bought produce from one more time, before heading to the police station. I went to the onion vendor and the older gentleman that had sold me my onion earlier handed me back my phone, which he and his younger Asian lady partner had stashed behind the register. She said “We were worried... so worried.” “Me too!” I said and tried to give her my last $10 note out of gratitude but she refused so I settled for an awkward hug over some boxes of fruit.
On my way out of the market, I stopped by a homemade dip vendor to ask where I could buy some chips, since I was planning to make guacamole the following night. They said there was a convenience store down the road and they were particularly chatty and well traveled so they kept me engaged in conversation for quite a while. They were friends from Hungary and one guy was a serial entrepreneur and the other cooked and ran the stand. I heard stories about how awful India is and how wonderful Bali and Thailand are. I was standing there so long that the owner asked me what I was doing for lunch and said “probably just getting a sandwich somewhere” and he shook his head and handed me a Hungarian version of an empanada filled with spinach and feta and topped it with slightly spicy sun-dried tomato sauce. I offered to pay for it but he insisted it was on the house. After I finished my little meal, I thanked them each again with a handshake and went on my way.
I returned to Calypso and immediately assembled a plate of my new foreign fruit which would serve as the remainder of my lunch. (And help to subliminally support my secret, vegan/vegatarian agenda mwa ha ha ha.) I got several envious stares and a few comments and I invited anyone to join me. One kid from Canada named Eric took me up on my offer and tried each of the fruits on my plate: starfruit, paw paw (which is similar to papaya), red dragonfruit and a soursop. Everything tasted pretty good except the soursop, which I renamed jizz fruit because of its appearance and consistency. But apparently if you can stomach it, it’s supposed to be great at fighting cancer cells. We nibbled on fruit and talked travel and about being the North American minority among the myriad European travelers, eh.
Later that night, I went downtown for a pub crawl with stops at five different bars. I met a nice enough local girl but it all went downhill after that. We were waiting in line for our drink tickets when one girl at the front summoned about 30 other kids to the front of the line who jostled the rest of us out of the way, like they were all Aussie royalty or something. I found out later they were a big group of American college kids on semester abroad and they were pretty obnoxious and took over most of the bar. Then the free BBQ meal that was advertised and included in your $35 cost turned out to be slices of bread, hotdogs and a pile of produce refuse that they called a salad. And the first drink which was supposedly something mixed with vodka tasted like watered down Kool-aid. And although it was pouring rain, which is incredibly unseasonal during winter in Cairns, I felt awkward being the only one logically wearing a raincoat. In summation: bad crowd, bad food, bad drinks and bad weather. I had already wasted money on this thing but I didn’t want to waste any more of my time so I made an Irish exit down the stairs and out of the bar virtually unnoticed. I know I’m not 21 anymore, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed this anymore even if I was. By the time I got back to Calypso, it was close to 10 PM and they had just wrapped up a beer pong tournament. I was done for the evening so I went upstairs to bed.
Saturday, June 13
I woke up about the same time as the previous morning and had to wait a while until 7 AM before I could go downstairs for my two dollar toast. I had four slices with jam and an apple and banana from Rusty’s Market. Then I caught up on some writing in my room for a bit while waiting for the rain to subside. By the time it was reasonably dry outside, it was close to lunchtime so I walked a mile or so back downtown to a Swedish cafe & shop that I had found the previous day. They didn’t have many vegetarian options but the owner was glad to make me a warm, pressed veggie and Jarlsburg cheese sandwich on sourdough, which I paired with a Swedish iced tea and later enjoyed a little almond tart for dessert all for about $15 AUD / $11.50 USD.
I continued exploring Cairns on foot and ended up down at the harbor which was packed with boats but also had some pretty nice views of the surrounding coastline. I followed the shore northward and stopped along the esplanade, draping myself over one of the thick wooden beams that served as crude benches and dived back into Walden.
I draped myself over one of the thick slabs of wood beam bench lining the edge of the boardwalk. When I opened my book, it was low tide and the dark sand was exposed for several muddy meters. Three chapters later the tide had rippled itself back almost completely to shore.
My bench overlooked a sandy patch of land between the boardwalk and a dock. I observed at least a dozen children leap onto it uninhibited and run around, some with shoes and some without, reveling in their sandy respite from the ubiquity of paved pathways. Adults, however remained on the well-trodden pavement. Only when a child pleaded for a while did one of his or her parents venture reluctantly into the sand. This makes me think that as we grow older, most of us also simultaneously grow apart from nature and the general fun of frolicking in it.
It was just starting to get dark when I returned to the hostel with the remaining ingredients needed to make my guacamole: chips (regular potato chips because I couldn’t find tortilla chips anywhere), a lime and some garlic salt for seasoning. It took me longer than usual and came out a lot chunkier because I had to use the dull, community hostel knives instead of my Shuns and my vidalia chop wizard. Still tasted ok though, so I plopped down at one of the picnic style tables where there was a handful of other hostel-goers.
TRAVEL TIP #1: FOOD MAKES FRIENDS.
I offered some chips and guac to my new friends, who I found out were from various parts of the UK and one guy from France. They munched on some chips with their beer and took a few adventurous scoops of guacamole every now and then. We all talked for a while before they made their own pasta dinner. FACT: Pasta is the number one homemade hostel food. (Now you know, if you ever happen to step into the Cash Cab in NYC and get asked this question.) Everyone was eating now and I smelled a couple’s freshly delivered pizza and correctly guessed the pepperoni topping from across the room, and my new friends marveled at this talent.
Eventually, the guys of our group left to go buy more beer while the only other girl, Alyssa, and I enjoyed a few glasses of the best boxed wine $3 can buy. She was an adorable little Brit with some pretty cool tattoos, including a rockinghorse fly on her shoulder and another one on her thigh that said Curiouser and Curiouser, both Alice in Wonderland references, so we got along just fine. We started spectating a nearby game of pool and those guys invited us to play next. Add two more Brits to my tally, who happened to be complete opposites of each other. The first was shorter and looked/acted kind of like a little frat boy and talked with a typical accent while the other was tall, bald and tatted up and talked like he had just stepped straight off of Green Street. He was impressed at our ability to communicate since “Yanks can never understand what I’m sayin’. You’re the first one!”
I’d also like to amend my previous statement and say that Germans AND Brits are freaking everywhere. And I’m convinced they’re up to something. Like one day, they’re all going to get the same text message and simultaneously assemble into a series of flash mobs and start doing some sort of global, choreographed dance and set a new Guinness World Record. Obviously.
But let’s back up for a second and talk about how weird this game was in every single way. Apparently in “proper English pool,” the billiards are about half the size, numberless and come in only four colors; the majority are ketchup red and mustard yellow and then you have the game-ending black ball and the white cue ball. The rules were pretty much the same but I had the hardest time adjusting to how different everything else was and made hardly any shots. And the guys found it amusing every time I got frustrated and complained aloud about how much “I hate these tiny balls” which would usually elicit a response from one of them something like “Oh you like big balls then. These balls aren’t big enough for you American girls, eh?” (Cue AC/DC.) Just another example about how ‘Merica has to go and make simple things more complicated, not unlike our arbitrary Fahrenheit temperature scale and units of measure. Metric makes so much more sense, and pretty much the entire rest of the world uses it!!!
After a few more games and glasses of wine, and being pretty much the last people in the common area, Alyssa and I decided to call it a night and head to our respective rooms alone, which I’m sure left the shorter dude a bit disappointed because his intentions were painfully obvious, yet unfulfilled.