Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A week in Cairns (part IV/V)

Barefoot tours
Cairns, the tired little coastal town filled with backpackers and unfriendly locals (probably a slightly unfair statement).  Cairns is only a destination on the traveller’s map because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, but surely there must be more to Cairns than just the reef?
Whilst booking our excursions to the reef the people at the hostel recommended a day trip to us called the “barefoot tours” or “Captain Matty’s barefoot tours” to be more precise.  The trip was highly recommended not only by the people in the hostel but also on Trip Adviser where it has been voted the 1# attraction for several years along with a heap of excellent reviews.  The day trip was not expensive either so Olivia and I booked ourselves on the trip.  The plan was that Captain Matty (who wears no shoes hence the name barefoot tours) would pick us up from the hostel, drive us inland and up into an area known as the Atherton Tablelands.  Here we could swim in some old volcanic lakes, swim underneath some waterfalls, slide down a natural waterslide, have a good Aussie pub lunch and generally enjoy the views and company of Captain Matty and his bare feet.

No friends of mine
Captain Matty pulled up outside our hostel bright and early as promised in his tour bus.  He was a medium height friendly looking bloke with no shoes and dreadlocks, though he didn’t look much like the cartoon character on his website.
After Captain Matty picked us up we headed out of Cairns and towards the tablelands.  On the way to the Atherton tablelands some idiots driving a ute  (Australian for pickup truck) came speeding past us beeping their horn and waving frantically at the tour bus.  Matty wasn’t sure if he knew them or not so waved back out of courtesy.  After the idiots overtook us the passenger threw an empty drinks carton onto the side of the road.  Matty who was obviously a man who enjoyed the great outdoors disapproved of this, “they are certainly no friends of mine” he said.
The long steep road up to the tablelands

Captain Matty was a legend
The tablelands
The Atherton tablelands were a stark contrast from the somewhat dry and arid Cairns.
Swimming in the natural waters was one of the main activities of the bus tour, however I found that the majority of people on the trip had no intention of swimming and didn’t even bring any swim wear.  I could understand why though, all the waters were not heated and therefore were going to be very cold.  But this is what made swimming in the natural waters fun.
When we stopped off at the first body of water I was reluctant to go into the cold water at first, I was quite happy being a wall flower (or edge of water flower) and take in the beautiful scenery like most of the other people. 
But I changed my mind, I remembered some advised the guy from the hostel gave me before going on the trip; he basically said that in order to make the most of the day we had to get involved as much as possible.  I guess you could say that is a good metaphor for life in general.  I was standing at the edge of the cold natural water doing exactly what the guy at the hostel told me not to do.  Also Olivia was in the water having an awesome time and was requesting my presence in the water.  So I thought “fuck it, I am going in”.
And yes, the water was painfully cold, but only at first.  After the initial shock you quickly get used to the low temperature and you start feeling great.  It is a little hard to describe but the cold water is just exhilarating!  We stopped off at several swimming locations including a small mountain stream, a large and very beautiful waterfall and the famous natural waterslides.  All of them were not only beautiful to look at and to take in but awesome to swim in.

A calm and tranquil lake

Fresh mountain water

More fun than any heated swimming pool

Hidden crater
We also stopped off at a very deep hole in the ground called Mount Hypipamee Crater.  This very sizeable hole in the ground was apparently first discovered when some guy who was exploring the area apparently fell into it.  Looking at the sheer cliff faces that made up the hole you’d had to feel sorry for the guy.  The crater was actually an old volcanic vent and Captain Matty said the flooded lake of the crater was extremely deep and no-one knew the true depth of the water.  However Wikipedia suggests the depth of the lake is actually 82metres (which is still pretty deep).

Mind that step
Overall we had an awesome time.  The scenery was amazing and swimming in the natural waters was exhilarating.  But I guess the real hero of the day was Captain Matty himself.  He was cool, fun and generally a great bloke to be around.  It is amazing how he can run these tours day after day and still maintain his energy and excitement.

Olivia, thanks for dragging me into the water, it made the trip

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