On my second visit to Australia, we flew up to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. After just a couple days in Sydney, we took the train to the airport.
Barely. Somewhere on the train a fight broke out. A couple drunken blokes (as the Aussies say) still in party mode from New Years Eve celebrations the night before started pounding on each other for reasons unknown.
The train stopped at some random station in the middle of nowhere. There it sat.
And sat. And sat some more. If it had stopped anywhere near civilization of any sort we would have bailed and took a cab the rest of the way to the airport. This station offered no such option. We nervously looked at our watches and hoped the train would move soon.
Finally some cops showed up and dragged the culprits, still bickering, off the train. Moving again, we reached the airport with not much time to spare. Running to the Virgin Blue check-in, we encountered something the Aussies seemed to expect that I had never seen before. They had the normal long airport check-in line, but next to it a far shorter line reserved only for people who got there later than they should. Quickly checking in through that line we made it to our plane before it took off.
Stopping at another airport along our way, we saw just how big Virgin Blue is in that area. Not only did that whole part of the airport seem to be dedicated to Virgin Blue, but even the restroom was called the Virgin Loo.
In Cairns, we stayed in a hotel right on the Esplanade. A word I’d never heard before,
but it seemed to mean a walkway with the beach on one side and hotels, shops, and restaurants on the other. They also had a beachside public pool, necessary because sometimes stinging jellyfish render the beach unuseable.
One day we took the Kuranda Scenic Railway up the mountain from Cairns through rainforest to Kuranda. Once a lifeline for miners, it now takes daily trips full of tourists.
We spent some time and money in Kuranda, then made the return trip to Cairns on the Kuranda Skyrail in a gondola gliding over the treetops of the rainforest.
After a couple days in Cairns, we went to the harbor to meet a boat for the main reason we went to Queensland, a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef.
We booked this trip through a travel agent in Australia. Australians seem to use travel agents a lot more than Americans do. For a trip like this with several segments it is a very good idea. The travel agent coordinated transfers from hotels to airports, airports to hotels, and to the various tours we went on. We always had a ride waiting to take us to our next stop, while some other people wandered aimlessly around the parking lot with their cell phones, wondering how they would get where they wanted to go.