When my flight landed in Cairns I was greeted by torrential rain. I felt a bit subdued after leaving beautiful guaranteed sunshine and laughter behind in Asia. I reminded myself that I was in the tropics, in the middle of the wet season, grabbed my bags off the carousel and headed outside to catch a bus into town.
This would be the first time I have ever had to do Australia on a budget, I didn’t realise how much of a budget until I checked my bank account to see that I only had £28 left in there.
I stayed at Hides Hotel in Cairns, which is right in the middle of town. The bus dropped me off outside, I dumped all my bags in the pokey little room and went outside to re-familiarise myself with town. Really there was only one thing to do in that sort of weather and given mood, and that was to get a beer. This set the scene for the rest of the day really. There I was, minding my own business, having a think and drinking my beer outside, when the guy sat on the table next to me starts talking to me. This was noon, for the next five hours I sat talking to the same guy, his name was Corey.
What a funny afternoon. The more beers Corey drank, the more about himself he told me. By the end of it, from what I could understand, amongst other things, he was on the run from Western Australia for what he described as ‘a minor crime’. He also told me that he had come up to Cairns to see if he could get a job working on the fishing boats. He said he’d had a job offer and was waiting for the boat to leave. I wasn’t under any illusions about him; I thought there was something a bit dodgy about him when I first started talking to him. Nonetheless, he was a good conservationist, funny, and a really curious character. I couldn’t believe he was only 32 years old; really he looked closer to 50. His face was so weathered with half of his teeth missing or blackened, his face told a hundred tales all by itself.
As the afternoon wore on, the sun started to set. There we were, still sat in the same spot we’d started off at, except now the bar was a bit busier and we were sharing a table outside instead of each being sat at our own. As we were in mid conversation, a new face walked out of the bar looking for somewhere to sit outside, he asked if we would mind if he joined us. Happy for another injection of conversation, that was fine and then there were three. After about another half an hour, Corey announced he was going home which was a shame, but looking back was definitely a good call. Shortly afterwards, I watched him wander off into the distance to catch the bus to where ever it was he was off to.
As the evening drifted on, this left myself and number three sitting at the table. I can’t for the life of me remember what this guy’s name was now. What I can remember is that he was in Cairns on business, was staying at the same hotel as me, and was more than happy to sit, talk and buy me a few drinks. We ended up going down to the Esplanade, and he treated me to a delicious pizza. After this we went to the casino. Here I turned my last $10 into $60 on roulette, and felt very happy. Actually, I was on top form really, so I should have been as well after the ale I’d consumed! By this point in the evening, it was probably getting on for midnight. What’s his name bid his farewell, as he turned in and left to go back to the hotel. I stayed at the casino; I ended up getting chatting to a few more people who insisted on buying me a drink or two and I was having too much of a good time to decline.
After I left the casino, as is often the case, I was still up for a bit more mischief. I took myself back towards town. When I was passing the good ol’ Woolshed, I could here quite a nice vibe coming out of the door, so I headed upstairs for a look. Who knows what inspires you to do certain things, but by the time I left the place, I’d convinced the guitarist and singer that I was a talent scout. I crack myself up sometimes, things you do to amuse yourself when you’re on your own.
I made my way back to the hotel after grabbing the singer’s card. Before I went to my room, I went out onto the balcony for a last look over the town square. The balcony was huge, and one of the best places to be a spectator of drunken behaviour from a safe distance. Just as I was watching what was going on below, a lady came over to speak to me. Her name was Kim; I’ll never forget her. She was staying at the hotel for a week with her boyfriend. She would have been in her mid fifties at a guess, not that that mattered a jot. She had an amazing outlook and personality, and was a fantastic storyteller. A self-confessed old school hippy; Kim, her boyfriend and I sat up talking until after 3am. If I hadn’t said I was ready to drop, we’d have still been sat there when the breakfast brigade arrived. We all decided it was time to get some sleep. I amaze myself sometimes, my staying power, some fourteen hours after I sat down for that first beer. I woke up the next day really feeling like I was back in Australia. After only one day, I’d met all these fantastic friendly fun-loving people. The sun was finally shining, and It felt good to be back!