CAIRNS - an illustrated adventure by Rono

Note: Not all the periphery shots illustrating this mini-adventure were taken on the morning detailed in my story. They were, however, shot in Cairns, except the U2 poster at the end! LOL!

Cairns.

In the Far North of Queensland, Australia, Cairns is a popular jumping off point for adventure excursions to the Great Barrier Reef and the Rainforest.

It’s a small town full of hotels, hostels, and plenty of companies that coordinate and book tours. It’s practically walking distance in any direction to the Tropical rainforests. There are restaurants and pubs and touristy gift-shoppes. There are stunning art-galleries featuring Aboriginal Art, and even Art on the Esplanade!

I even found a classic old American car parked on the Esplanade!

There are beautiful flowers everywhere, and colorful birds are common. At sunset, the fruit-bats (aka Flying Foxes) swarm all over the city on their way to the nearby mango groves.

It’s DEFINITELY a different environment to this sub-topical desert-dweller from Southern California!! I was there in early December – Summer Down Under – and the heat and humidity took a little getting used to! Most of MY activities involving the camera occured at dawn, dusk, and after dark. I learned quickly to give myself a good 15 to 20 minutes for the condensation that formed on the camera lenses to evaporate! I kept the hotel room highly air-conditioned!

Shortly before dawn one beautiful morning, I arose and readied my camera equipment to capture the sunrise over the bay in Cairns. I trekked to my favorite coffee place, the only establishment open at that hour along the avenue adjacent to the Cairns Esplanade. I got my usual Iced Mocha with whipped cream (at 6 A.M. it was already too warm to drink hot coffee!), crossed the street to the Esplanade proper and chose my spot to await the rising of the sun over the distant rainforest mountain.

The tide is out at that time, and there were crabs and mud-skippers in the mud where the tide recedes. Birds were plentiful, especially the sandpipers hunting for breakfast in the muddy sands of the low tide.

Other birds were singing in the trees and the spectacular black and white Australian Pelicans would show up a bit later in the day.

I got my shots of the sunrise and wandered along the Esplanade with the joggers and other early risers. The calm was nearly palpable. Cairns is even more laid back and relaxed in atmosphere than anywhere else in Australia that I had visited. That’s really saying something. Southern California has an international reputation for being laid back, but that’s not very accurate, as evidenced by the rush hour traffic and the stress expressed by those whose double-decaf-mocha-latte-cino order is slightly inacurate and they contact their attorney to file a law suit against the cafe!

ANYway, I wandered along the street with a little breakfast in mind. By now a couple of restaurants were open for breakfast and I wanted to eat before it got too hot. I tend to not eat when the weather is hot and heavy.

As I was meandering along the sidewalk thinking of having a proper English breakfast at one of the establishments I had patronized before, a small pick-up type truck quickly screeched to a halt along the curb. It was parked at an angle that could have earned him a parking ticket except he was at work.

The driver jumped out of the truck carrying some odd equipment: a long stick with a “grabber” at the end and another long pole with a large net attached to the end. He was looking around for some location, and seemed to not know where he was. There was a decal on the rear window of the truck:

Cairns Snake Removals

Breakfast was forgotten!

I followed the man through the closed Night Markets to the next block, where a group of City workers were gathered around their truck. He saw me following him and grinned as he realized I was readying my camera.

When I reached the next block, the Removal man was talking to several City workers. They handed Mr. Removal a bag.

I got a couple of shots and when the time seemed right, I approached the guy and asked him what it was they got. I was in Australia, and the most poisonous snakes in the world are here, so one never knows . . .

“A Python”, was his reply. “You want to see it?”

“YES!”, was my enthusiastic response. HOLY MOLY!!

I thought he would open the bag and I could get a shot or two of the snake in the bottom. Imagine my surprise when he reached in and pulled the snake out for me to see!

I snapped away, internally jumping for joy! THIS is the kind of thing I had hoped to see in Australia! And here it was!

The Python was about 2 meters long: not very large for this species. They can reach much larger sizes, as evidenced byt he photos on the Company’s web site.

Mr. Removal (I never did get his name – D’OH!) let the snake touch the ground while he got HIS bag ready, then put the critter in.

He tried to hand the empty bag that the City workers had originally captured the snake in back to them, but they all avoided it like it still had the snake in there! LOL!! I wondered how they caught it in the first place!

We walked back through the Night Markets and I asked what he would do with the snake.

“We take ’em back into the jungle, mate”, he answered. “Far enough in that they can’t get back so easily.”

I grinned. “SURE you do!”, I joked, “You’ll let it loose in some little old lady’s back garden and wait for the phone call!”

We laughed at that, then he told me that there were a couple of similar companies in the area and that business BOOMS during the Summer. Not only snakes, but spiders, small mammals and other creepy-crawlies!

We had reached his truck by this time, and he told me to hold on a second. He loaded Mr. Snake into the truck then reached into the glove-box and handed me the best souvenir I have ever received: A magnet for my refrigerator with contact info for the company.

“Just about everyone in town, whether homes or business, has at least ONE of these close at hand.”

I thanked him profusely and told him that this was the kind of thing I had hoped to experience while here!

I saw U2 4 times in the 3 weeks I was in Australia.

I saw (and walked through) Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Woy Woy, and Cairns. I stood on beautiful beaches and soaked in the atmosphere of a foreign land that I have wanted to visit since I was 10 years old.

But THIS is by far the best thing that I experienced while there! I’ll never forget it and can still get a smile and a thrill just thinking about it!

CAIRNS - an illustrated adventure by Rono

Ronald Hannah

Big Bear Lake, United States

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A Yank and his unforgettable morning in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

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