Cairns. “It’s a place people go to to leave,” my wife said.

And it is. Cairns is a tiny tourist town, with nice hotels and hotel-casinos surrounding a waterfront walk and a couple blocks of high-end bar/restaurants that feauture live music at night and places that book tours and attractions designed to get you out of Cairns for a day or more. Those hotels are ringed by scrubbier hotels and parks that look like you wouldn’t want to cross them after dusk.

Which, closer to the equator, comes in a hurry. The sun comes up about six, sprints up the sky, hangs there for twelve hours, then drops like a stone to set at six.

We spent our only full day in Cairns river rafting on the Tully. This is way cool, but it is deceptive, because the companies advertise a full day of insanity, but because the way it’s run (safely) it’s not at all chock-full of excitement. It’s more like…

Wait for other boats to go down rapid 1.
Go down rapid 1.
Wait for all other boats to pass rapid 1.
Proceed down the river.

In fairness, there are stretches of constant excitement, hard work, and terror. But it’s not an all-day carnival of craziness.

During which, I got knocked off the boat and then, later, our boat tipped over, dunking us all. Both of which were kind of funny.

I get knocked off the boat: we head into a set of rapids. As we head down, we hit something that propels me right out. I managed to hold onto the line, which wasn’t easy, and they hauled me back in.

We all get dunked: well, you can check out the pictures.

The first sign of danger…

I’m top-left, in the white shirt, next to the guy in the blue shirt.

It gets worse (and it looks like I’ve been knocked off):

But no! Even as it’s clear what’s going to happen next, despite the dude hip-checking me into the drink, I’m holding on!


Once everyone got out from under the boat and started laughing and whooping, our guide started to yell at us to help flip the boat because we would eventually hit another set of rapids.

Later, after we’d made it through, the guide made us do this thing where we all sat in a semi-circle on the back of the boat, not holding on to the ropes, with him. The boat dropped down a quick, steep fall, and when it hit the bottom, the guide let go of our hands… the boat rebounded and all the rafters flew off into the river (which was a huge, open section near where we beached for lunch). This was hilarious for the guides, who I believe had an informal competition over who could come in with a clean raft. After they’d go through, dropping almost all of their people, guides would push the rest off the boat and bow, or stand up and cheer… it was really funny.

After which we took this picture with Andy:

I’m the guy on the right in that fetching hat. After this picture, we threw Andy in the river.

This day was another great example of the particular Aussie sense of humor, as well: saying the horrible thing you’re thinking.

“And as you may lose valuables in the river, we ask that you store them here with your things on the bus in the overhead bins so that we can more easily go through and pilfer them while you’re on the river.”

“If you find yourself under the boat, do this or you will drown horribly, which is a horrible inconvenience to us as we then have to do a lot of paperwork or find some place along the river to hide your body, and I believe we’ve used up all of the obvious places… Dan? Yes, Dan says we’re fresh out of places to hide your body, so please don’t die on us.”

I love these guys.

On the river rafting I wear my beach sandals and burn the tops of my feet horribly. Pictures of that later. This haunts me the rest of the trip, needless to say. The less said about that, the faster I’ll forget it.

And my wife is an absolute saint for putting up with me when I get crazy ideas like going river rafting all day with a bunch of nutty Australians.

Next up: Lizard Island. Featuring some lizards.