After 2 ½ weeks in Australia, we made it to our final destination: Cairns. We had worked our way up the east coast of Australia and made it to the tropical, great barrier reef launchpad.
Here in Cairns, we have been doing our best to explore the city while taking it easy on the pocketbook. After a month of travel, we are really tightening down the hatches and living off of as little resources as possible. We find it much more rewarding to spend our time, effort, and money on wild experiences, such as Australian hip-hop concerts.
The morning after we arrive in Cairns, Jack was perusing the “backpacker” magazine in the common area of the hostel and found that an Australian hip-hop group, the Funkoars, were on their national tour and making a stop that night in Cairns. After a little research and listening, Jack found that they were the protégé of one of his favorite hip-hop groups, the Hilltop Hoods, who are also Australian. In short time, Jack convinced Ryan that it was not only a great decision, but it was also relatively cheap. [This is one of those times where the trust between us has been put to the test because we easily could have walked into a very unwelcoming situation] After a quick dinner, we were on our way to the UnionJack club for the Funkoars concert, fully expecting a very dark warehouse and a seedy crowd. We were so wrong.
We arrive to a great bar with a small outdoor ampitheatre setup and a crowd of enthusiastic twenty-somethings all moving to the beat of the hip-hop. Soon enough we were standing 10ft from the stage and jumping around with the crowd, talking to the musicians, and loving every second of it. In the end, it was an incredible night and we are very much Funkoars fans now.
After a few days of torrential rain and some nights of exploring the clubs of Cairns, complete with events of bringing cab drivers to tears of laughture as well as confronting a suprisingly nice OSU fan about the terrible state of his university and state, we were ready to go see the main attraction of the town: the Great Barrier Reef.
We get to the docks and find our boat, which is crewed by a group of young guys and gals who want nothing more than for you to have fun. We set off, out of the Cairns harbor, and make our way to the little dark patches of water ahead. We realize that within 45 minutes we will be on the Great Barrier Reef – woah. This was one of those life list points and we were going to make the most of it.
So we arrive at the reef and receive our 30 minute instruction session on diving. We had managed to sign up for an introductory dive, because neither of us are certified, and thought “what better place to learn how to dive than in the open ocean on the GBR.” In theory this might sound like an alright thing to do, but in execution, it is a bit more terrifying. We suited up, stood on the stern of the boat, and jumped/flopped into the dark waters below. The instructor in the water tells us to grab onto the bar 3ft below the surface and try breathing under water. This is the point where the freakout begins. Being our first time ever scuba diving, every bone in our body was telling us to not dare take a breath in while your head is under water. Eventually you take that first deep breath and your lungs don’t fill with water. You take the next deep breath and again you aren’t drowing. The terror/surprise/joy that you are feeling is undescribable, but before you know it, the instructor has our hands and is leading us deep below.
Within a minute, we are 30ft below the surface and are in an absolute alien world. We are looking at different colors, textures, and shapes that we had never seen before. We are at the Great Barrier Reef. Over the next 30 minutes, we explore everything that we could possibly see on the reef. We find Nemo, touch soft reefs, and avoid jellyfish. The alien world we have entered is just insane.
Finally we come back up to the surface and give a hoot and hollar – we survived our first open water scuba and checked something off of our life list. We also didn’t get eaten by a shark, which was a plus. After the scuba, we had 4 hours to snorkle a shallow reef and explore a sandbar all by ourselves. We could dive down, touch fish, flush out stingrays from the sand, and dive through the coral. We were going to get every minute out of our GBR experience, so we were in the water the entire time. By the time the boat left the reef, we were so tired and hungry that we sat down by the buffet and ‘helped ourselves’ to the ‘free’ food that was offered. We overserved ourselves, but the crew was cool with it and the other guests encouraged us because they loved our story about being poor backpackers going around the world. Finally with full bellies and happy hearts, we arrive back on solid ground and say our goodbyes. We officially swam the Great Barrier Reef. Hell yes.
So now we have been traveling for over a month and have had some time to reflect. On the walk home after the hip hop concert, we looked back on the original goals of the trip – to see as many different cultures, people, regilions, and music as possible. We came to the conclusion that as incredible as Australia has been, with Sydney, Fraser Island, Byron Bay, and the Great Barrier Reef, we really haven’t been overwhelmed by a different culture. We weren’t struggling to adapt, which is what we wanted to do. We wanted to be thrown out of our comfort zone and work to understand different types of people. We didn’t want to be surrounded by those who are similar to us – why would we want that halfway around the world if we could get the same thing at home? In any case, the hiphop concert was an opportunity to throw ourselves out of our skin a bit and I think that is why we loved it so much. We walked into a completely unknown situation, adapted, and absorbed as much of the different culture as possible.
It really wasn’t that big of an event, but little things like the concert keep us on the right track and keep our minds on the goals of the Grand Adventure. So nothing against Australia, but we are ready for some more adventure… Hopefully New Zealand will provide it for us.
Current Location: Cairns, Australia