For over 18 months I have been helping visitors to Cairns book and organise their holidays by working in an Information Centre. ...

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Myself in the sun in Prague. Photo by Britt Lapthorne 2008. 

I am writing this on a sundrenched balcony in heart of the tropical city of Cairns. I have escaped the ever-getting-colder month of May in Sydney to visit friends, drink wine, eat and get some sun.

Already, I feel I have burnt myself a little, gosh darn it New South Welshman white skin!

I lived here for around 5 years and absolutely loved my time here. It all came about to live here when I came here on holidays in 2002. I had come back from the USA 6 months prior and was getting itchy feet as the travel bug had bitten me and I needed to travel to somewhere, anywhere! Cairns seemed like a far enough away place that I had never been too. The pull of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest was great. As an Aussie, you really should visit these places just once! Just like Uluru you MUST get to experience our broad wide land and I am fortunate enough now to have visited all of the above many many times. On my first visit I dragged my 2 best girlfriends from high school along and our first stop in Cairns was the YHA Hostel near the shopping centre.

Cairns is Backpacker central!
My little European backpack verses Britt's one. Photo by Tara Reynolds. 

If you have been here before you will know what I mean. Put together your top 5 "must see" places in Australia (let's face it, it's a bloody long way to come and expensive too. You have to limit your options also because of the distance in between them) and it would look a little like this (in no particular order...).
  • Sydney, Opera House & Harbour Bridge
  • Uluru & Kata Tjuta
  • The Great Barrier Reef & Daintree Rainforest
  • Melbourne
  • Byron Bay
Byron Bay could have well been the Gold Coast and I even felt like saying New Zealand but that's obviously not in Australia so it doesn't count. Most Packers get a bombed out van and make the drive up or down the East Coast of Australia to see it all cheaply and live on 2 minute noodles and drink goon (box wine if you don't already know what it is). They stop in Cairns and usually get a job in hospitality for a few months to fund more travel. Some join group tours and I was fortunate enough in my life to be a tour leader and show these packers the time of their life.

Which ever way you do it, if you are an Australian or not, make sure you get the the sites on my Top 5. If you travel alone, stay in a hostel and there are many here in Cairns of a similar standard and centrally located. You will meet other travellers in the hostel kitchen cooking up their 2 minute noodles and drinking goon before hitting one of the many pubs and bars here in Cairns. There are even pub crawls you can go on, but you'll find it easy to stumble around from pub to bar to pub on your own and with your new hostel friends.

Which leads me to bring this up... you are new and fresh into the city. Everyone walks around in their bathers and lay around the Cairns Lagoon all day long. It feels like an eternal Holiday, it feels safe and relaxing. My advice is this.... Britt didn't know anyone on the night she went missing from the Club Fuego in Dobrovnik. She was drinking goon with her new friends at the hostel and they all went out the the club together but no one had her back, no one noticed her gone as everyone was having a good time and having drinks on their holiday of a lifetime.

Even though your new hostel friends aren't your life long friends from school, they are just like you. They have similar interests, they have come to the same holiday destination as you and want to have fun as you do also. Please, for the love of god... keep an eye out for your new friends. "Who is that random local putting his paws all over her?". "Why is she just wandering off with that guy? Who is he?". Ask these questions to yourself and hopefully your new hostel friends will do the same for you. Remember, you will feel relaxed, at home on the piss but that doesn't mean you are safe. Britt felt safe but clearly wasn't, she became a target.

This happens all over the world and also here in Cairns. It's all about being smart and looking out for each other. I have dodged the bullet many times and had a very bad habit of just leaving a club and going home when I was done for the night. I wouldn't even tell my friends, I would just do a "smoke bomb" and disappear. BAD FORM TARA! PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS NEW OR OLD WHEN YOU LEAVE THE CLUB/BAR AND WALK HOME WITH SOMEONE!!!

If this helps at least one person to not get in to trouble... I am a happy lady. Your new hostel friends may become life long friends anyway, someone you dearly love and care for (and borrow their couch to crash on in another country when you travel!) so you clearly wouldn't abandoned a good friend on a night out, you clearly would want to make sure they remain safe. It's all about having fun whilst travelling, safe fun.

Oh and one more piece of advice... goon gives you horrible hangovers.


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