Happy Birthday Kris!!
Just a pause in the trip diary to give a shout out to one of my favorite people on the planet. He is 34 today and despite the fact I am on the opposite side of the planet, he is in my thoughts.
The Yulara/Ayers Rock Resort has a super early check out time of 10am to accommodate all of the travelers arriving on various planes from around Australia. A quick check and it looks like Alice Springs, Sydney, and Cairns are the big transfer points to Ayers Rock Airport, with occasional flights from other cities like Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, etc. Unfortunately for us, it meant that we had 3 hours to kill in the resort sans hotel room. I think we lucked out a bit since it was raining the flies were kept at bay. Over at the Resort Center, we sent some last minute post cards and then settled on the Gecko Restaurant for lunch. I had the spaghetti which had the “boiled in rainwater that might not have been filtered” aftertaste. Mom and Gary were smarter and ordered the pizza which according to them was very good. The slow pace of service and our general blase attitude about venturing out and waiting for the bus allowed us to kill all but 30 minutes before the bus came for the airport.
We made a quick dash for the observational lookout point near where the cell and radio towers were located and then headed to the hotel lobby. By this point the rain had stopped, the clouds were clearing and it was quite beautiful. Of course no rain meant the return of the flies and they almost consumed us alive as we dashed for the hotel. Unless you have the experience at Uluru with the fly swarms, you really cannot appreciate it. I think I did fairly well considering I am not a big fan of bugs swarming the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. The bus finally picked us up and we made it to the cozy and quaint airport. My backpack was overweight for a carry-on, but I was allowed to take my little Flight 001 Travel bag (the best purchase ever!) out and carry it on separately. It made no sense, but when I am at the airport, I follow the rules. At the X-Ray machine, I took the lap top out but forgot to ask about my disposable cameras. I am worried that the underwater disposable might have been compromised by the X-Ray machine, but I remember in Sydney they said that it was ok up to 1400.
Gary got caught at the security checkpoint with a pocket knife that somehow managed to elude the carry-on screeners at LAX, Sydney, and Melbourne. After a bit of stress, he finally was able to check his bag and proceed to the waiting area. When it was time to board we had another scare as Mom’s boarding pass came up invalid. More hilarity ensued as all the passengers were now waiting on the tarmac to go up the stairs or were on the plane by the time they cleared her. They gave her another seat, but she was able to sit with us. The flight to Cairns was nice and smooth. Ayers has that weird 1.5 hour time difference from Melbourne and Cairns, so we lost that time when we got into the airport.
Cairns, being the tropical paradise, was in the middle of a warm downpour of rain. We checked into the hotel with minimal fuss (we had to ask for brekkie vouchers, that’s it). I knew the hotel had wireless internet, but sadly it is not functioning correctly. The front desk assured us it would be back to normal by tomorrow. We headed out to the Night Market to do a bit of shopping. It was nothing too special, but we managed to find a super-friendly tour information lady who sweet talked us into the expensive Quicksilver tour to the outer barrier reef for tomorrow. I am a bit worried about the weather, but she assured us that since we went so far out on the reef, the weather should be better. She also told us that in case it was still rainy, they had a platform that was secured to the ocean floor that didn’t move and provided shelter in between dives or glass bottom boat rides or semi-submersible rides. I can’t wait! She also recommended a good place for dinner just around the corner. After dinner, I went to the Internet cafe so I could post the diary updates. I hope that they get the wireless working in the hotel again so I can post some of the amazing photos from the last few days.