Cairns looks beautiful as you drive into the city. Smaller than I had expected, it is nestled between some impressive jungle-covered mountains and a calm turquoise ocean.
Anna had also been here many years ago and it became clear why she wanted us to spend our last week in and around this region.
As with most places we have arrived in, we were without a solid plan so headed straight to the centre of town. In Cairns’ this is a well-kept promenade where we went for a walk and an inevitable beer.
As we entered the pub I was told in no uncertain terms to remove my hat, strange in such a sunny part of the world, but I complied.
With just one free campsite near Cairns, we stopped off at the bottle shop and drove toward the site earlier than usual to ensure we had a space. Arriving at a huge field under the motorway and mountains, we were glad of the space but less so of the sign informing us that crocodiles lived in the creek running alongside it!
With the help of the booze, we had an early night followed by an early start the next day as we had decided to climb one of the mountains which overlooked us.
Walsh’s Pyramid was the one we chose and at 922 metres tall, is the world’s largest pyramid, natural or otherwise.
The first challenge came in finding the car park at the bottom of the mountain. The road is mysteriously not on Google maps.
(When I say the bottom of the mountain, the car park lies pretty much at sea level)
With two big bottles of water, two sandwiches each and some sunscreen we set off. We did this later than planned and dangerously close to the midday sun as we had struggled to find the start of the track.
The path wasn’t really a path and went from very steep to ridiculously steep before morphing back to insanely steep all the way up!
As we approached the boulder with the halfway point marked on it we didn’t know whether to feel relief or horror as our legs were already done in and a large percentage of our water had been consumed.
After a real effort, we did make the summit and the views on each side were awesome.
We had carried lunch up with us so ate that before descending.
On the way down the heat got a little too much for me as I started to feel weak, nauseous and develop a bad headache but we made it after a total of 6 hours!
Stopping off for a pizza on the way to camp, we couldn’t help but feel proud every time we saw the mountain over the next week.
Waking up early the next morning (me not Anna) I caught the England vs Colombia penalty shootout and despite the stress of the event, was extremely happy with the result, my shriek of joy probably woke up half the campsite!
We went to Cairns lagoon later that morning and despite being heckled by a street performer, I wore my England shirt with pride.
After a quiet day relaxing in the sun we had another early start, both of us this time as we jumped on a boat to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
Stopping at two snorkel spots, we were slightly disappointed as we had built it up to be an incredible sight but in all honesty, it wasn’t much more impressive than some of the snorkelling we had done in Indonesia.
The second spot was so choppy, waves frequently came down our snorkel tube making it impossible to carry on for her long.
After a nauseating journey home in rough seas, we felt a little dejected so we went back to camp and had some beers.
It turned out to be a lovely evening as, nearing the end of our incredible adventure, we reminisced about the people we’d met, the things we’d done and the places we’d seen. That night we pretty much laughed ourselves to sleep.
The following morning we got back into road trip mode and drive up the coast and along one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever experienced to Port Douglas.
The town didn’t disappoint either as it has a similar vibe to Byron Bay so we happily wandered it’s streets and made use of the free BBQs on the oceanfront, buying some ‘kanga bangas’ for good measure.
We had just enough time to make the short journey to the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest in the world and had a lovely walk through an aboriginal settlement and the forest itself.
As it was getting dark by the time we got back to the van, we decided against the journey back to Cairns and found a free site about an hour away.
Driving down the darkest and emptiest road I’ve ever seen, we found the “site”.
It was the creepiest plot imaginable and with nobody there, we quickly moved on to a paid site nearby.
Despite only taking cash and us having none, the lovely elderly lady let us in on trust and we sat out and looked at some of the brightest stars you will ever know, the milky way so visible that despite the cold, we couldn’t hate to go inside.
As we made breakfast the next day, a recently retired Australian couple approached us for a chat. We ended up sitting in their camp with them and their two dogs as I tried (not too hard) to refuse the beer being offered to me at 10am.
It was going well, they gave us a lift into the nearest settlement to get cash, fed us our lunch, took the dogs for a walk and we exchanged travel stories.
Suddenly the bloke, covered head to toe in prison tattoos, exposed himself as a racist and a chauvinist. We quickly made our excuses and left.
Going back to Cairns we stayed in a paid campsite near the centre in order to watch the England vs Sweden world cup quarterfinal game.
Discovering a sports bar named, The Union Jack, we thought it likely to be our best bet.
As we approached there were hundreds of England shirts descending upon the bar (along with a few Swedish fans too) and once inside the atmosphere was electric.
Despite being away from home, we got a taste of the excitement around our boys in that bar. Even Anna got into it as people were on each other’s shoulders, singing “3 lions on a shirt” and “football’s coming home”.
We joined a group of friendly English people and had a really good night, taking their details in the hope we would meet again.
The next day was tough due to a monumental hangover, unfit to drive despite having to leave the campsite, I moved the van to a car park next to the site and we stayed there until I could see straight!
The day got worse as the racist couple we had escaped posted on Facebook that they were in our faithful campsite just outside of Cairns.
We couldn’t risk seeing them again so monged out in the van until it was dark enough that they may not see our pretty obvious van pull in.
Luckily we would be away early the next day to do a… Skydive.
That night we were awake every hour on the hour as the thought of jumping out of a plane was clearly on our minds.
We barely spoke on the drive to the offices and didn’t start once we arrived.
As a group of around ten of us boarded the tiny plane, I was last on which meant first off. I didn’t even get a seat as I had to sit next to the roller door, after ten minutes and some amazing views that I really didn’t appreciate the doors opened.
As my tandem diver leaned out of the plane, I fought it as much as I could before I am hanging out of a moving plane 8,000 feet above Cairns.
I honestly can’t put into words the next five minutes and I’m sure Anna can’t either, we do have video footage of the jumps and neither of us has looked that terrified/excited/alive in our lives!
Despite it being just 8am by the time we got back to the van, we couldn’t think of anything better to do that have a beer as we were still jittery from the adrenaline!
Knowing it was my last day with the skateboard, I took it for one last run around a nearby park with a steep hill whilst the adrenaline was still pumpingbut after a while, we both started to finally come down.
After Anna had a nap to recover, we checked our van into a hostel and waited to meet up with Emile and Georgie who had finally caught up with us having met a few weeks previously.
A few drinks later and we headed to a Brewery near the seafront and met up with a few of the people who we had met during the England vs Sweden game.
I remember feeling really happy that evening as whenever I got time to myself, I would think about the amazing trip we had come to the end of and to spend our last night with friends met on the road was quite fitting.
The next morning, Emile met us before we dropped our van off, which despite its quirks, failings and general crampiness we fell in love with.
It was time for me to say goodbye to my skateboard but in the knowledge that it was going to a good home in Emile, I was quite happy.
The flight home was OK, landing in Heathrow to grey skies and England’s elimination from the World Cup was less OK but we were excited to finally see friends and family.
The past year has been life-changing for us both and despite a couple of dark days and experiences, the positive ones massively outweigh them and we now have memories we can cherish forever.
For now, Adbenturetime is signing out but hopefully, I will log back in for our next adventure before too long!