If I had written down a bucket list when I was younger it would have had a lot travel involved (or maybe things like see N*Sync in concert, which CHECK I did)! The Great Barrier Reef would definitely be very high on the imaginary bucket list I have in my head. I think it was pretty high on mom and dads as well. So very early on January first, at 5 am to be exact, Alex was driving my parents and me to the airport so we could take the three and a half hour flight to Cairns, Queensland.
We arrived nice and early and my dad got to experience driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time. I was really envious because we had nice open roads with very little traffic in Cairns for him to learn on, when I arrived I was thrown right in to driving in Sydney which was SCARY! From the airport it was only about a thirty minute drive to our nice little hotel in Clifton Beach. My mom of course made all the reservations and she never disappoints. Our apartment was right near the beach which was empty so we had it all to ourselves.
The first day we were there we took a drive to Port Douglas to have lunch and do a little shopping. We ended up going to see what our options for the Great Barrier Reef would be and what else there was to do in the area. The travel guide pointed us in the direction of Mossman Gorge. We took the drive and ended up in the rainforest. We bought our bus tickets to get up to the gorge and when we got off we took a walk. It was gorgeous and HUMID! It was either from dehydration or lack of sleep but mom swore she saw a koala in a tree…upon further examination by my dads video camera the koala ended up being a plant. At that point dad decided to break off and get some refreshment in the gorge’s little lake. Mom and I continues the walk for a little while before joining him. The water felt so great since it was extremely hot out! Of course dad was jumping off the rocks and convinced me to do it also…I hurt my leg. Mom took the climbing in approach though and didn’t fair much better…neither of us looked very graceful. After our dip it was time to head back to our hotel, Abby needed a nap badly!
After a great night sleep it was day two in Cairns mom and I went to have a walk on the beach while dad worked on some emails and his book! What a perfect day! Clear skies and cool water. But it was not meant to last after we were about half way down our stip of beach the unthinkable happened. We had walked past the lifeguard station and seen the beaches were closed due to marine stingers (aka jelly fish). Even the parts of the beach roped off by jellyfish nets were closed. No getting in the water on the beach today. I had merely bent down to get some shells where the waves washed up on the beach and I felt it. The immediate pain on my wrist. I could not have possibly gotten stung! I wasn’t even really in the water. But sure enough about 30 seconds after the original feeling i saw welts on my wrist. Mom promptly offered to pee on me, so thoughtful but I decided to pass and we walked back to the lifeguard station to get some vinegar on it.
Below are the chronological photos of my experience, but I will finish the story first. So we get to the lifeguard stand and the guard on duty came over to examine me. He was very laid back sounding and said cool a lot. He put some vinegar on the sting and I thought that was sufficent enough to get back to our walk…I was wrong. He told me I was most likely stung by an Irukandji, which just happened to be deadly if you are stung bad enough. Two people had already gone to the hospital that week for stings so he wanted to keep me around for about 45 minutes and watch to see if I started presenting any symptoms. What were the symptoms? HE WOULD NOT TELL ME!
“I am not going to tell you what the symptoms are I just want to watch and you tell me how you are feeling”- lifeguard
“UMMMMMM exsqueeze me sir I am currently feeling really panicked!”- in my head.
He took down my information and even called another lifeguard over to examine my wrist…the anxiety was growing. I text Alex to tell him about what had happened and he went into an absolute panic. I believe his words were why are you not at the hospital. He continued to feed his panic by looking up what happens on the internet, never do this, and wanted updates every 5 minutes or less. What a quality boyfriend I have, ready to jump on the next flight and rescue me from the jellyfish (swoon). Well after being reexamined by lifeguard number two and waiting 45 minutes we left. They told me if I started feeling weird to dial 000 (911 equivalent) and go straight to the hospital. Later the the skin where I got stung started falling off, yum. I can see why if the sting was over a larger portion of the body how it could be deadly. I am currently a jellyfish sting survivor, with a barely noticeable mark on my wrist.
After my near death experience we drove into Kuranda. Its another area in the rainforest in Cairns. There we found a market and a very tiny zoo. The appeal was that mom was going to get to hold a koala! So we got our stamps and went in to this mini zoo where we stood in line and waited for mom to get to have her cuddle with one of the cutest animals on the planet. Here the koalas are only allowed to have 30 minute work days. So after a koala has clocked 30 minutes of cuddle time its will be swapped out for a new one. An interesting fact I found out about koala’s is that the eucalyptus leaves that their entire diet consists of makes them have the feeling of being high which is why there are always sleeping. Mom had just missed the first koalas cuddle because its 30 minutes had come and so a new littler koala was gotten from a tree and it was time for her cuddle. In the professional picture that was taken this koala definitely looked a little stoned with half eyes open only, but what a fun experience to get to hold these fluffy little guys.
After another full day we had an early night because on Friday we were finally going out to the Great Barrier Reef! We drove back up to Port Douglas in the morning and boarded our ship to head out to our floating platform. It was a 90 minute ride from the port to get to our spot. The lifeguards all advised us to get stinger suits so we wouldn’t be bothered by the little jellyfish and since I already experienced a sting mom and I wore the severely fashionable suits. Dad opted to be brave and go in with no suit on! What a manly man!
We were suited up and ready to get our snorkel on! The first thing we saw after getting into the water was a sea turtle! My second encounter, the first being on the girls trip to Mexico, and they are just as cute. We were some of the more experienced snorkelers and found the most dangerous portion of the day was swimming back to the platform for a rest. The currents were pretty strong but we went all the way to the boarder and even had a couple of the lifeguards on boats tell us that we were far enough. Pictures I took with my iPhone will never due justice to the beauty at the reef. The greens and blue were so vibrant and all the multicolored parrotfish were absolutely stunning.
After lunch we had another snorkel run and after coming in went out on the submarine boat. We got to have a different view of the reef there and I may have gotten a little nauseous from the tight space and hot air but it was really cool to see all the different kinds of fish and marine life with someone telling you what everything was.
We had such a fantastic day and I couldn’t have imagined having this experience with better company than my mom and dad. On our way back to the apartment we stopped on a beach so mom could practice one of her favorite beach activities of searching for shells. The views we saw while in Cairns were breathtaking and unforgettable. We went out to Palm Cove for our last meal in Cairns and ate at this cute little spot near the beach and had some delicious food. It was the perfect way to end out time in Queensland. I have always felt very fortunate to have seen so much of the world by the age of 23 and look forward to continuing to find places to visit and things to do on my imaginary bucket list that I keep adding to.