By Linda Bach
That is how spoilt for choice I was during a recent visit to Cairns, the administrative centre of North Queensland.
Luckily, I didn’t have to sweat about making that choice. A day before the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, which was to be held at The Cairns Convention Centre from July 9-13, journalists covering the event were invited to visit the Great Barrier Reef in the company of eminent scientists attending the meeting.
Cairns enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year, a friendly, relaxed tropical lifestyle and is, therefore, one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. Most of the tourists are locals, Chinese, Japanese, Americans or Europeans. I did not spot any African tourists probably because of the cost of travel and the distance; given my own experience.
Australia being both a continent and country is vast; flying from Sydney alone to Cairns takes about three hours; just about the same time it takes to fly from Nairobi to Democratic Republic of Congo.
The journey, the longest I have ever made, took me across three continents. My journey began on Thursday night. I checked in at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport two hours before my flight at about 10.45pm. After five hours, we landed at Dubai International Airport.
After a four-hour wait, I was airborne again, flying to Sydney, a journey that took about 14 hours. Thanks to advancement in technology, there was no dull moment. I whiled away time eating, sleeping, watching movies or listening to music.
We arrived at Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney at 6am on Saturday. How I wished I could continue the rest of the journey by train or bus but that was out of question, as it would take me days to reach Cairns.
Tired but enthusiastic, I disembarked from the plane and joined a long queue through immigration. Later, I collected my luggage and went to the domestic departures. I finally arrived at the Cairns Airport at 1.30pm; after 22 hours of flying and a day since I left home. I was, therefore, more than glad when the drive from the airport to the Sebel Hotel where we were staying took just about ten minutes. I had a good rest. I woke up refreshed for a dinner organised by our hosts Jodie Rogers and Gina Dow.
Cairns is a relatively small town, with a population of about 130,000 people. There are no traffic jams that is characteristic of Nairobi. Australia is a continent that experiences a variety of climates due to its vast size. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are in reverse to Europe and America. I had been duly informed it was winter and came expecting the worst. It, therefore, came as a pleasant surprise when I found the place rainy and warm with temperatures ranging between 18-28 degrees Celsius. But that is not to say the entire country enjoys warm winter. In other parts, such as Canberra, it was freezing cold with temperatures dropping up to negative five at night.