Cairns: The (Exhausting, Expensive & Exciting) End of the East Coast

Somewhere in between the sore, tired eyes, the torrential downpours, damp clothes, bewilderment, miscommunication and panic, and the tantalising touch-and-go operation that was the uncertainty of my bus’s arrival and the THRILL when it did arrive, I completely forgot to notice that this Greyhound was the final one I would board. My route along this fabulous coastline had finally come to an end. But my time in Australia hadn’t.

So a few days ago I found myself in that position, stranded for four days in my Townsville hostel, hoping and praying that my bus would still be departing at 7am and NOT cancelled due to the recent weather conditions, despite literally EVERYONE telling me that would be the case. You may have even seen it on the news or Facebook at least but if you haven’t, Townsville in North Queensland has supposedly had a year’s worth of rain in one week, they are closing schools, evacuating homes and are referring to this weather as a natural disaster. The main road running from Townsville to Cairns was experiencing cases of flash-flooding and there was fear of landslides and so, Greyhound were warning their passengers to prepare for their transport to be cancelled, understandably so.

I myself had stayed relatively calm for the four days, it’s the weather – what can you do about it right? So for me, it meant four days to rest and eat and write, which was sort of perfect anyway because as my route has edged closer to it’s finale, it’s become the most exhausting part. It is as though someone has pressed a fast-forward button on my journey over the last few weeks and I’ve barely had time to pause. Before Townsville, I was in Airlie Beach and arrived back on land, swaying from my 2 night Whitsundays tour. I’ve never slept on a sail boat before, the whole experience was different and one that I probably wouldn’t repeat, as much as I like boats and the ocean, I don’t wanna make a habit of sleeping out there. Clearly, it didn’t bode too great with my body seeing as after just 2 nights, it still took about 3-4 days for me to stop feeling light-headed with every small move I made. That’s if it even was related to the sea, I also diagnosed myself with a case of WAY too much sun in the Whitsundays (the kind where you end the day with tingly skin), flits in and out of the ocean, a consecutive series of early mornings and nights with little sleep. I decided travel had finally taken it’s toll on me. It is inevitable at some point or another that travel really does batter you.

Anyway, to cut a long and boring story short, the bus came! I was elated. I didn’t even want to get my hopes up until lugging my backpack across the road in the rain to hear the driver get off and say those words: ‘Put your bags on this side if you’re heading to CAIRNS’. Literally everyone on that bus was ecstatic, never have I been on such a lively Greyhound at just 7 o’clock in the morning. And I guess maybe it was about 20 minutes into the journey when I was settled, music on, staring out the window that I suddenly remembered: this was the last one.

The entire route: Melbourne to Cairns

It’s been 3 months, 10 buses and 17 hostels and I’m finally at the end. In a way, I suppose it wasn’t just the final bus that I had forgotten to notice, but it’s everything over the last few months. Because you’re constantly on the move, planning and prepping for the next stage, researching everything, spending any of your free-time using up mostly-slow Wi-Fi to browse pretty much the same three websites over and over again: HostelWorld, Greyhound and Google Maps. And I guess it’s that little bit more strenuous being solo and having your entire headspace consumed by all of these things and not having someone else to share the load. AND also, it becomes your life; it is not just a never-ending vacation like some people think, it becomes your lifestyle and as with normal day-to-day life, you don’t often have time to reflect on things because you’re too busy… living. There aren’t many times during travel where you can truly sit back and reminisce on EVERYTHING you’ve seen and done. And it’s important to remember, because it’s been SO AMAZING! Expensive… and exhausting at times… but AMAZING!

However, now I’ve reached the end of the route, there’s also this quiet relief that it’s done and I can turn the page on another new chapter in Australia. I’ll be flying out of Cairns to Darwin in over a weeks time to travel down – through the Outback – to Alice Springs. From Alice, I’m flying to Adelaide for a few days before returning to Melbourne, which is where my journey began! I’ll be there for 10 days and then I’m heading to Tasmania, which was always a ‘if I have time and money, I’d like to go there’ thing but now it’s a ‘definitely happening’ thing not even half way through my year here! After all this, I will have been to 5 out of the 6 Australian states and 1 of 2 territories. SHIT!

Cairns, by the way is experiencing pretty bad weather as well, although not on the same level as Townsville. But when it rains here, my God it pours. Being the main gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, most people come here to experience the many nearby islands to snorkel and scuba dive but sadly, with the weather conditions staying the same for my entire time here, I won’t be doing any of those tours. I can’t justify $250-$400 on boat tours here if the weather is going to be awful. Plus, I think my body needs the rest for a while and it’s more important to put that first, over feeling pressured to do a bunch of tours because you’re in Australia and you MUST ALWAYS BE DOING SOMETHING. (You don’t). And weatherwise, I can’t be too disappointed with it because up until now, Australia has given me a great run of endless sunshine. And as an Australian lady recently pointed out to me, there’s a lot worse places I could be. I could be in Townsville still, considering my bus was actually the final one that left and the river is now flooding so much that there are crocodiles floating down the street. Seriously. Or I could be in an area struck by bush fires, which is terrifying. So I have to count myself lucky.

Another fortunate thing about reaching the end of the route is the experience I’ve gained from it, which I can now lend to others via this blog! By ‘lend’, I mean write a bunch of information about my time here, the adjustment to Australian life, the do’s and don’t’s, the what-to-expect’s and the near-perfect (because nothing is perfect) itinerary of Australia’s East Coast.

So that’s it, after February 11th I’ll officially have left Cairns and the East Coast Club. Erm… I don’t think that’s an official club, but that’s definitely what it feels like most of the time, because it’s SO popular with backpackers, you’re sure to bump into several of the same people you’ve met over the weeks. Strangely for me, this only happened in the last 3 weeks since Noosa, but from Noosa that’s where everything get’s crazy expensive and crazy fun. You have Fraser Island, The Whitsundays and then the Great Barrier Reef so it’s easy to see why this end of the coast is pumping with people.

I wanted to write this as sort of a farewell to the Coast but also to show that travelling is not always an easy ride and things do go wrong, be it weather, transport or illness, but the ride continues and you go with it! Thanks for reading this post and all my posts so far. The blog is still very new and hopefully now I can write lots more content that is of genuine use to backpackers and anyone considering a working holiday in Australia, look out for my next few posts!

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