The next morning we boarded a plane and were off to Cairns. We had to deal with some unpleasantness (students sneaking out of hotel rooms) but it was to be expected. Not so shockingly, the culprits were the two students who did not attend any of the orientation meetings and the two students I did not want to go on the trip. People to People basically told me that since they had already paid, there was little we could do. (Well, they didn't say it like that, but I knew it's what they meant.) It was one of those, "Why didn't anyone listen to me in the first place??" moments.
Regardless, it was worth the frustration to finally be in the warm weather! The first stop was the zoo. I'd been looking forward to this the entire trip. The zoo promised us a snuggle with a koala. After scarfing down my lunch, I ran to the koala stop and was at the front of the line for my koala hug. Yes, I pushed people out of my way.
At the zoo, I really wanted to see a crocodile. It was the one Aussie critter I hadn't laid eyes on yet. Finally, I found the croc habitat. Looking at the beast, I thought to myself, "This looks just like an alligator! I don't see the difference at all. No wonder people get confused."
Then I saw the sign that read, 'American Alligator. Native to Southeastern United States.' Yep, I came halfway across the world to see the same reptile who lives in the pond behind my house. I began to fear that they didn't have any crocodiles at this zoo, that maybe Steve Irwin had such a powerful influence that they had released all the crocs back into the wild at his funeral in some ceremonial crocodilac salute.
But then I turned the corner and saw this:
What else was one to exclaim besides, "CRIKEY!"
After the zoo, we headed to the "lagoon" at Cairns. Cairns wasn't the most cultural city (read: backpackers and military men haven) but the views were beautiful.
The next day was what we'd all been waiting for: snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef! We boarded the boat and took a long, windy ride out past Green Island to the snorkeling spot. I'd never been snorkeling before, so Jess and I stuck together with the "beginner" swimmers. It was a little difficult for me, due to the cold I was battling. Sneezing and coughing into a snorkel mask while drifting in the Pacific Ocean is not the most pleasant experience. However, nothing would keep me from this once in a lifetime opportunity! I think the story is best told in pictures:
Snorkeling trip = AWESUM!