Cairns: Eat, Run, Shop, Drop
We spent a few days in Cairns relaxing and settling into some kind of routine. Cairns is a large and lively town with good access to the Barrier Reef. It’s big enough to have plenty of nightlife but not the traffic congestion of a large city. Our first night we merely stumbled across the road to the nearest hostel. For the next few days we were booked into Travellers Oasis which is about 10 minutes away from the centre of town. It’s a group of funky wooden buildings painted orange outside and bright primary colours inside. It’s actually right behind Cairns train station which is hidden by the largest shopping centre in Cairns. This puts the hostel in quite a convenient spot. It’s hot and humid in Cairns so the addition of a fridge in the room was a plus. We weren’t so enthusiastic about the air conditioning unit which sounded more dead than alive and was put to shame by just opening the window for whatever breeze was outside.
Our days quickly settled into a pattern. The early hours of the morning were most comfortable for sleeping as the night air finally cooled down the room before the rays of the sun reheated it again. After breakfast we would generally escape the slowly heating room to go over to the shopping centre. Aside from offering better air conditioning, McDonalds reside there and McDonalds offer free wifi that’s just crappy enough to be infuriating to use, but just good enough to make use of anyhow. If we weren’t sipping cool drinks and sending emails we were browsing the shops in search of suitable clothing for the warmer climates. It’s not exactly cheap in the shops, but there’s a large selection of good quality clothing that would cost a lot more in Ireland even if you could get as much choice there. Particularly when it comes to swimwear.
When it came to finalising arrangements for the Asia leg of our trip we made the unplanned choice to try and hop about on planes with whatever budget airlines we could find. In some cases the flight is cheaper than the train or bus, in others it’s just far more comfortable and gives a lot of extra time to spend in the locations we’re going to be visiting. Trying to research the cheapest flights is a head-wrecker on a bad internet connection though. Some of them may have to wait until we arrive in Singapore and are a bit more clued-in to the options.
The other thing we found some time for in Cairns was exercising. We’ve done the odd bit here and there during the last 2 months, but are definitely feeling the effects of our new lifestyle by now. While we’ve done a lot of walking, it’s just not the same as visiting the gym a couple of times a week. You quickly get into a vicious circle where you’re too tired/hot/lazy to go to the effort of finding somewhere you’ll be able to work out hard enough to raise your heartbeat. As a result the next day you’re feeling worse and are even less likely to exercise. Accompanied with that is the difficulty finding good healthy food when you’re moving around. Sooner or later you realise you’re not doing yourself any favours, but by then it all seems like too much effort to change the pattern.
Cairns itself doesn’t really have a beach. The patch of land between the town and the sea would better be described as a small sandy marsh. So instead, Cairns has a swimming pool lagoon complete with lifeguards and a 2.5km esplanade to stretch your legs on. This looked like as good a place as any to get back onto the exercise wagon. They even have a few free fitness classes of different types running each day. We watched the start of a fitness bootcamp with some amusement – it looked like pure torture. That was our first day exploring the esplanade where we did a 5km walk to ease ourselves in. The esplanade is quite scenic in the evening sun and makes for a pleasant walk.
On the second day Brodie went to run the 5km. I decided to do something I was bound to regret later, and joined the ‘Learn to Run’ class. Of course that day the class happened to be less about learning anything and more about a fitness test. Oh yay. After 2 months without proper exercise I didn’t really need a test to tell me I was unfit. In the spirit of forcing myself into pushing my limits, I followed the group to a small park where we were to run as many laps as we could in 12 minutes. Not having a previous time to beat, and considering running is my least favourite form of exercise, I just set myself the goal of running for the full time. By the time the run was done and the cool down exercises were completed I had the strong urge to slap either the weird Scottish guys that kept asking me stupid questions, or the bubbly blonde instructor who was very enthusiastic while not actually participating in the exercise herself. (I have a bit of a grudge against any instructor that’s going to be shouting at me to work harder when they’re not doing it themselves).
With the class completed I had definitely worked up a sweat in the hot weather. Despite my body being in shock at having been made exercise in the first place, I figured I may as well go all out and let my body know things were about to change (for at least a couple of days). 5 kilometres of running and walking after the class had finished and my energy tank was down to empty. The next day went a little better and I managed a full 5km running through the first rain we’d actually experienced for quite some time. The downside to running along the esplanade is that particularly along the more crowded lagoon end, you find yourself gulping in lungs full of smoke rather than fresh air. There’s something not quite right about saying you went for a run while having a couple of passive cigarettes. Still, it amounts to progress on the exercise front. With a day off for our diving trip we might fit in one more exercise bout before jetting off to Singapore to start the final leg of the journey.