Giant spiders, cycling in Cairns, and Crystal Cascades Park

This giant spider jumped up on Caroline's pedal when we stopped in the Cairns Botanic Gardens!

Yes, we know that Cairns is a world-class tourist destination, with many beaches, catamarans that transport people to floating platforms in the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling or diving, nearby Kuranda National Park, and more.

We were not impressed with the snorkeling and diving on a previous trip.  It's not that the experience was bad, but rather that our expectations were much higher.  After all, the GBR is THE coral reef, right?  Well, at the spots we visited, we've seen better.  So we knew this time we were going to avoid the diving, and go inland.  But where to visit?

Bicycles are a great way to travel.  You can cover much more ground than by walking (which I love), but you are still "in tune" with nature.  The sights, sounds, and smells in the outdoors are not masked or hidden by an air-conditioned car or bus.  You feel every bump that a tree root makes in the path, hear every bird that is singing, and with your legs churning and your heart pumping, you feel alive.

Of course, you can also get a "Use your bell, fucker!" comment tossed your way by a drunk stumbling down the bike path, but these experiences are uncommon.

Caroline and I decided to explore a section of Cairns by bike, but we knew we had to experience... tendering.  You would think that when you arrive at a destination like Cairns, you'd walk off the ship and start your explorations, right?  Wrong.  There are a number of harbors where there are no facilities for a large cruise ship, so you anchor offshore and use either commercial or the ship's lifeboats to take you ashore... this is called tendering.

A commercial tender boat is loading passengers alongside the Celebrity Solstice.

You have to amuse yourself during tendering.
So here's the timeline: you get a tendering ticket to schedule your time to catch the tender, then go through security to get checked off the ship and board the tender.  But the tender doesn't leave until filled, so you wait for that to happen.  As I write this, an announcement is being made that a tender with a capacity of 300 guests is available... this same announcement was made 30 minutes ago, meaning that those first people on the tender are still waiting.  Finally, the tender pushes off from the ship.  In Cairns, the ride to the pier is about 30 minutes or so (the tenders vary in speed, with the ship's lifeboats being the slowest).  You dock and... you board a bus to Cairns.  Yes, the pier is not in Cairns, but rather Yorkeys Knob, about 7 miles away from downtown.  Twenty minutes after the bus leaves, you step off near the lagoon in central Cairns. This whole process can be between 1-2 hours, each way.  

For those of you considering a future cruise, consider how many tendered ports you visit!  Waiting is a hidden cost on cruises.

Caroline scoped out a bicycle rental shop in Cairns, and soon we were on our way to the Cairns Botanic Gardens.

This photo was taken in a bamboo grove right after we got that giant spider off of Caroline's pedal.

Our eventual destination was Crystal Cascades Park, a destination for locals to escape the sweltering heat of the tropics and play in a freshwater river (and actually named, Freshwater Creek), 18 or so miles away.

Make sure you ride on the left-hand side of the road!

There was considerable flooding last week in Cairns from Cyclone Iris.  Here in Crystal Cascades Park, there were many indications of high water... in this case, metal railings knocked down.
The fungi liked the recent rains!  We also saw many large, electric blue butterflies.
We finally got back on our bikes, and eventually made it back to the Botanic Gardens and a delightful rest stop at their cafe.

Thirty-five or so miles cycling, with another 5 miles of walking, made for a full day.  Of course, then there was the bus and tender ride back to the ship!  Because of sea conditions, the commercial tender boats seemed to be having some trouble docking with the ship, so we were left bobbing in a ship's lifeboat tender waiting for a turn.  Hint: the bobbing is what makes people seasick (only 2 passengers requested barf bags).

We did note a local campaign about invasive "electric ants" as well as checking out the Cairns lagoon.  No feral cats were observed this visit, but we did see numerous squished cane toads on the road.


Sunset offshore from Cairns.

What happens to your map when you sweat through your backpack!

Checking out the route to Crystal Cascades Park.  I love the part when the shop owner circled a spot on the map and said, "you need to check your GPS here."

Continuing our observation that everything in Australia can kill you.

Looking for cane toads in a sugar cane field.


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