Cairns – About Diving, Leeches and Fig Trees

February 2021 – March 2021

Having moved down to Cairns from Port Douglas we were keen to explore the surrounding areas, both on the water and inland, and enjoying some general RnR.

The first item on the To-Do list was a refresher course for our diving tickets and while doing so we accidentally signed up for a three-day trip out to the Coral Sea.  The diving skills came back easily.  The trip with ProDive, out of Cairns, to Milne and Flynn Reefs was spectacular and really well organized.  The trip took 32 passengers with 6 crew and with COVID was only about half full so plenty of room.

“Who you lookin at?” (Humbug Dascyllus)

Because this lifestyle is suiting Peter (he has lost weight and gained fitness), he is nearly getting double the dive time out of his tanks.  This is great as I am no longer his spare air and having more dive time together was most enjoyable.  

We found quite a few Spikes, from the movie Finding Nemo

There was a huge variety of undersea life in the areas we dived.  I can distinctly recall the curious Cuttlefish, Turtles eating jellyfish alongside us and a fascinating creature that looked like a mass of brown lace (the books back on the dive boat identified it as the juvenile form of a Rock Mover Wrasse).

On the second day we came across Coral shimmering with the small fish living amongst it, Grouper, more Turtles (you can’t have too many turtles) and Puffer Fish behaving like aggressive little terriers. 

This is the view I usually have when night diving; Peter is the little yellow light ahead.

During the night dive that evening I was headbutted by Red Bass chasing the fish that were suddenly lit up by the rays from Peter’s torch (I enclose the only photographic evidence I managed to take).  Apparently, it was entirely accidental that he shone the light around my head! 

Peter playing peek a boo behind a fan coral

We were very impressed with the very clear and easy dive instructions and directions given before each dive.  I don’t have a great sense of direction and these dives were set up so even I would be hard pressed getting lost.  Our big achievement on this dive trip was needing to start a new record book – we have just reached 40 dives (one of the other divers on this trip was on his 500th dive!).

Suz providing a scale for the size of the clams

Unfortunately, doing seven dives in two days (I didn’t do the final morning dives) left me with a headache. And I got a locked ear on my last dive which had me stuck at 7m trying to work out how to let Peter know I was above him – I’m thinking of carrying some pebbles to drop on him if it happens again.  He never thinks to look up, which given my buoyancy history is the first place you’d think he’d look.

Cairns foreshore sculpture

A few weeks later we needed to escape the marina again.  So, we booked Neon into a cat hotel (he was very unimpressed) and took the car up to the tablelands to do the Waterfalls tour. We took the longer southerly route to the tablelands and on the way, we stopped at the town of Babinda and the local bakery for lunch. The bakery is renowned for its pies, and it is true the sausage rolls had the flakiest pastry, but don’t let that lead you astray; the apple turnovers are worth the calories!

On reaching the tablelands we really noticed the temperature difference to that on the coast – it was so nice to be cool for a few days.  It was so comfortable snuggling under covers at the cute and very well fitted out Eden House cottage we had booked in the small town of Yungaburra. 

The waterfall tours is well worth doing (It is clearly marked and there are brochures available from the tourist office in Cairns). Milla Milla Falls is commercially developed but, easily accessible and a safe spot for a dip.  We had a swim at one of the lesser known (and tad more difficult to get to) waterfalls.

The waterfalls were lovely as waterfalls are, but the really impressive thing from this excursion was the Curtain Fig near Yungaburra. 

It is huge and stately and gives the same sense of majesty and awe as I get when walking around cathedrals in Europe – truly magnificent.  Figs don’t usually grow into a curtain like this fellow.  These figs start life when a seed falls into the branches of a tree courtesy of a bird.  They grow happily there dropping roots to the ground and eventually strangle their host.  This guy started growing like this but when it had killed its host that tree fell over and was caught in the branches of another tree.  So suspended above the ground the fig started dropping roots along its length, thus forming a curtain of roots, 15m long in some places. The whole thing is thought to be 50m tall, 38m round and 500years old. 

My sister and her husband were moving to Laos (mostly so that Scott could avoid the quarantine period at each end of his work rotation).  So, we jumped on a plane to Brisbane to see them before they left.  While down in Brisbane Peter also wanted to check out The Boatworks (boat yard on the Gold Coast) before we moved ‘Opal Lady’ down there for her haul out.

We headed to the hills above Brisbane for coffee, cake and a wee bit of exercise at Mt Glorious on the Sunday morning.  It was a lovely, though wet walk. 

The little Pademelons sitting on the side of the paths were very cute and pretty fearless.  But they weren’t the only wildlife up there, and the one that we were forced to think about most was far less cute…

While walking along we could see the leeches waving up from the path trying to get onto our feet.  It seemed it was impossible to avoid picking up a few hitchhikers.  Even the true hikers that we passed, with appropriate footwear, were having trouble with the little blood suckers. 

Leeches really suck

Fourteen hours later, when we were boarding the plane back to Cairns, I was still shoving tissues into my sandals to staunch the bleeding (and I have since found out that is not an unreasonable period of time). And two weeks later the bumps that were left starting itching again – I have also found out that too is not an unreasonable reaction.  We really, really don’t like leeches.

The end of February saw a cyclone winding up way out in the Coral Sea.  By the first of March the Low off Cairns was expected to turn into a cyclone overnight, but not expected to cross the coast.  Beloved rode into the city that morning to drop his bike off for a service – he didn’t check the weather forecast first as it was all quiet out where we were. It took me 2 hours in the car to pick him up – there were already power lines and trees down and torrential rain.  Back at Bluewater Marina there was just a bit of breeze (Bluewater is usually a very hot marina as it doesn’t get a sea breeze, but in this instance that was a distinct advantage).  Cyclone Niran was named the next day as a Category 2.  He never made landfall in Queensland, but we stayed home in the rain for a few days.

Three days later, we decided to leave for our run down to the Gold Coast.  The cyclone was pulling the bad weather east as it headed off to make a mess of New Caledonia (Niran built up to a category 4 by the time he hit them with winds up to 220km/hr).  High tide was at 3pm, and we needed a high tide to safely get out of the creek, so it was straight into the night shift.  Peter had bought a camping mattress that makes sleeping in the lazarette so much more comfortable (the seat benches are just a tad too narrow).

Now to move down the coast with purpose to get some work done on the boat in Brisbane.  I am keeping a list of all the places we pass on the way that I want to stop at on the way back – it is quite a long list.

Social Distancing signage for North Queenslanders

Boat Works:

Defrosted fridges again and de-molding anything not in a breezeway (the boat smells of tea tree spray)

Refueled boat

Mark Rathbone and assistant (son) replace engine mounts (rubber feet) on rear of genset

Replaced side pole ropes for flopper stoppers

Replaced bungies on flopper stopper poles

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