After two days of traveling over the international date line from San Francisco (actual flight time is approximately 15 hours), I arrived in Cairns. Cairns is a tropical city in Queensland that serves as a very popular tourist destination due to its proximity to many attractions, such as the Great Barrier Reef. The majority of the people here are international backpacker types under the age of 30. This basically translates to a thriving nightlife teeming with binge drinkers and table top dancers. The older and more reserved tourists typically opt to stay in the quieter and posh Port Douglas (1 hr north of Cairns).
I arrived at the Cairns Colonial Club Resort and found several Contiki tour members already lounging around the pool. I was staying in a 4-person room, and briefly met one of my roommates who was taking a snooze. She had just finished another Contiki tour through Australia’s Northern Territory and outback (Alice and Uluru). Contiki offers many different tours of various lengths, so you can choose to do singular trips as short as 3 days or package them all together into one extended trip. In that sense, Contiki operates sort of as a “hop on hop off” type of tour. It is great to have such flexible travel options, although a lot of Contiki first-timers such as myself were unaware of these longer options. We met a lot of travelers who came for only a portion of the trip and were surprised to find we had already been traveling. Luckily, some were able to extend their trip last minute to continue on with us!
Contiki tours are a particularly popular option for single female travelers as 80% of our group were female. Very good odds for those male travelers. Approximate nationality breakdown: 50% UK (British, Welsh, Irish), 20% Canadian, 15% American, 5% German, 5% Australian, 2% Japanese. Here’s one of our first group shots- the “Before” photo. Notice no one is touching one another and looks fairly awkward (except for good ole Dave who looks quite cozy in the front).
The tour would not start until tomorrow, so we had a free evening to explore Cairns. We grabbed dinner at the infamous The Woolshed Char Grill & Saloon Bar, well-known as a backpackers’ destination for eating cheap bbq, chugging beers, and dancing on tables.
Also, interesting to note every single bar in Australia seemed to have the same playlist on repeat: Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance,” MGMT “Kids,” and Kings of Leon “Sex on Fire.” These songs, in addition to our Contiki tour song, “Trouble Trouble” by the Potbelleez, would inevitably become our trip’s anthems.