29th July 2006:
I have traveled to quite a few airports around the world over the years but the approach into Cairns airport was one that I won't forget anytime soon. The airport is located next to the coast and as planes land they skim in over the blue water to touch down, usually without much drama. In our case, though, our skimming was suddenly aborted seconds before landing: the flight crew came on later to explain that the plane which had landed previous to ours had suffered from landing gear failure(eek!) and so we had to circle just over the water to give the airport emergency services time to respond. We weren't told about the other plane's problem as we were circling though, so in my blissful ignorance I found myself staring down at the water out my window at... hundreds of whales! Some were under the water, but many were blowing big spouts of water vertically, and others were creating big splashes with their back fin/tail: neat!
Once we did land we saw the stricken plane with the problem surrounded by airport fire brigade vehicles but whereas the flight crew on our plane had made the impression that the stricken plane was a big Boeing/Airbus, it was merely a small two seater... still, no doubt an exciting moment for the pilot who had a lucky escape.
It was hard to stay staring at the little plane too long, as the view in the background was also impressive. Much of the Cairns area is flat, but it is surrounded by high mountains, golden beaches, intense blue seas and the nearby fields are planted with tall sugar cane.
I'm staying for the first couple of days in the nearby town of Port Douglas. I'll be popping back to Cairns later in the week to stay up all night in the bars/clubs, but in the mean time I've rented a serviced villa at the "Rendezvous Resort" in Port Douglas for some R&R and the villa will be the base of operations from which I tour the area. The villa costs 79AUD a night and is vast. The resort also has three pools, and is a five minute walk from the "4 mile beach". Only minor downside is that its a 30 minute walk from the town center, but there is a regular bus service to and from the resort reception.
Before I left, one of my housemates warned me to watch out for the insects: Sarah, you weren't kidding! I had noticed before arriving at the villa that there weren't many flies about Cairns/Port Douglas, and then I found the cause: the spiders here are massive! Well, I've only seen the one, but it was at least the size of my hand (I didn't want to get too close to measure it...) and in addition to the insects, this thing could probably have taken on small birds. The main reason why I noticed it was because whereas the spiders back home tend to spin their webs into small corners, this thing's web was stretched between the ground, the first floor of a neighboring villa, acrossa scmall garden and was finally attached to the villa's carport. I've never noticed fangs on a spider before (they were always too small), but it was clear from the fangs on that spider that it meant business... The house that it was attached to was empty and I suspect it will be empty for a long time as I can't imagine anyone wanting to take that spider on!
Well, its getting late and nearly time to sleep. Even though its coming up on midnight, it is still hot outside. Despite the heat, though, I'll be sure to keep the windows closed in case I wake up in the middle of the night to find that spider crawling across the pillow...!