7th March – Yorkey’s Knob/Cairns

Sometimes this starts to feel almost normal. You get up, you do stuff, you go to bed, you have perfectly ordinary dreams – well, as ordinary as dreams get. Last night’s had a full orchestra, and the entire cast of All Creatures Great and Small, but still… And then you get a tender port. And you are reminded that this is not a normal life. You do not get to live it as you want. You do not get to decide when you wake. You do not have much control at all over your day. The announcements start at 7.30, if you are lucky. There are immigration announcements, import restrictions and quarantine announcements, tender boat ticket numbers being called, weather reports (28 degrees by 8am), crew drills. Sleep is moot. You can try, but you won’t get far. Even with ear plugs. If this sounds like a grumpy paragraph, bear in mind its content. I’ve been awake for an hour and a half and it’s not yet 9am. I’m probably not quite as grumpy as it sounds, but I do wish I was still in bed!

Had to wait a while for a tender. I don’t know why they were only loading one at a time. They had enough pontoons out to load four simultaneously, if they could be bothered. It took about 15 minutes to get to shore in Yorkey’s Knob. Yorkey was apparently the one-armed landowner who bought this stretch of coast. Allegedly. We went into the yacht club to (a) use the loos and (b) ask what there was here to see or do. You can’t rely on the port guide or the port talk woman, and the sum total of their information was precisely zero anyway. We were told there were some shops, so we took a taxi there. It turned out to be one enclave of shops, like they have in the USA – in the shape of two birds in flight, with car parks under the ‘wings’ (or two quadrangles, if you prefer). That was it for the whole town. So we had a drink in the Tasty café, bought some stuff in the Post Office (standard fare: postcards, magnets and a t-shirt), and the nice post lady called a cab for us. It never came, so we hailed one in the street and went back to the yacht club.

We then boarded the free shuttle bus, which took us into Cairns, about half an hour away. We drove through seas of sugar cane. This is flood plain, so no one builds here, apparently. That sounds smart. Hmmm. Maybe the UK should consider that? Not building on a known flood plain. What a novel idea.

Between the cane and the mountains that surrounded us on every side (except the one with the ocean), was the rainforest. It looked beautiful. But the humidity was so high where we were, there was no way we were going to get any closer to it! Those of you who remember my piece on the Panama Canal, will remember my mentioning how the clouds come so low, they literally seem to be catching on the branches of the trees, and shreds peel off. It’s really very pretty to watch, and it happened here too – more so on the way home, as the weather deteriorated somewhat. There was even a brief spate of windscreen wiper usage on the return shuttle bus.

Cairns is a biggish town, but well laid out, by the ocean, and very friendly. The oddest thing about it is that, whereas the rest of the world considers their coastline an asset and tourist trap, Cairns considers their coastline to be a positive danger. After having heard talk about jellyfish, crocodiles, sharks and cyclones, I can see why, mind you! Instead of putting hotels and cafes and watersports on their waterfront, they put their hospital there! It’s HUGE! It takes up several entire blocks. What a tragic waste of seafront. But, on the other hand, if you get caught by any of the aforementioned hazards, I suppose the location is very sensible indeed!

We eventually found a café overlooking the water –sort of – which was outside a shopping centre (both called The Pier). The food was quite good, although the service wasn’t marvellous. The sparkling water was out of date, but only by a couple of days. Does that count?

When I walked through the shopping centre afterwards, I found two other bars and cafes, both with amazing views of the water and the marina. And both SHUT. This is the venue nearest to the Cairns Cruise Terminal (where we clearly did not park because it was cheaper to moor off and tender in – there was no other cruise ship there). Why, if you know there is a cruise ship terminal, and you are located slap bang next door, would you be shut?! It’s Monday, it’s not even the weekend. Very puzzling. They knew we were coming, because you could see Arcadia moored out in the bay. In fact, several of the shopowners guessed we were from the ship, as soon as they heard our accents.

We browsed the shops and I very nearly bought a beautiful cocktail dress. I was, however, somewhat hesitant at paying £75 quid for a dress that doesn’t even reach the floor! I appreciate it was handmade, etc. but it still seemed prohibitively steep. Am still considering that decision, even now. Good thing they have a website, in case I change my mind… If you would like torture yourself by looking at some lovely dresses, the site is at http://www.wildsugarbysajeela.com.au. They ship to the UK, if that helps.

The heat and humidity was really tiring – 30 degrees in the shade and over 60% humidity, last time I checked – so movement and energy for exploring was severely limited amongst all three of us, so we headed back to the ship in time for 5pm. Confusingly, we had been told by P&O that the last bus from Cairns was at 6 and the last tender from Yorkey’s Knob at 7, but the bus driver, who drove us into town at lunchtime, said the last bus was 5, so we felt like we were cutting it pretty fine! Who was right and who was wrong, we may never know, but better safe than sorry (We eventually sailed a little before nine, so I have no idea).

Factoid of the day #1: Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse places on Earth, and has 841 languages spoken there. Apparently.

Factoid of the day #2: Only one in four in the UK reaches the age of 75. Woah. Really? Yikes.

UPDATE: This morning I left two letters at Reception. One, addressed to the Captain, about the church bells being piped into the cabins, and one addressed to Helen, the Hotel Manager, about her continuing lack of apology for the sewage incident.

This evening, the Captain has written to me to apologise for the church bells. He says it won’t happen again. He says he has personally seen to it.

The Head of Housekeeping (who recently changed) came to see me after dinner. The Hotel Manager, Helen, has also changed, and we now have Peter Someone (possibly Thomas). But Andrew Salinas, the new Head of Housekeeping took personal responsibility for the issue, despite not being on board when it occurred, saying it was his job to fix this. He was very apologetic and offered me some on board credit by way of an apology, both for the incident, and the delay in resolving the whole issue. This is a good deal. Most people get a free meal in one of the fine dining restaurants, that you normally pay extra to eat in. On board credit is a much better response, because I can spend it how I please. So I’m happy with that. And he said that, if I ever have another issue, I should contact him and he will PERSONALLY deal with it. This counts as a very satisfactory ending. Shame it took two months to sort.

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