My new room at the Traveller’s Oasis hostel was luxury. Only two other roommates?? Just a single bed with no overhead bunk?? This is what kings must feel like! It was not long after I had checked in before I heard Alan’s voice float in through the window. “Tally ho,” he ordered the troops. Around a month ago, Alan and Nathan revealed that they had booked a week in Cairns roughly around the same time I wanted to head there and I non-subtly invited myself on the trip.
I gave them a few minutes to settle in before going to join them including Bryce, Jes and Mina and ventured forth to find a drinking hole. The first one we passed had an assortment of typical, tough looking Australian men with grizzly beards and florescent jackets. Despite going through the entire trip trying to declare how Australian I was, there was just no way I was Aussie enough to drink there.
Over the first couple of days I became acquainted with Jes quickly, what we shared as a common quality was our uncompromising style of planning and organisation. She was the key driving force behind the trip. She kindly promoted me to vice-president, where some people would find a chore, I took it up with extreme enthusiasm. “VP,” Jes would shout for my attention when she wanted to consult me on some detail of the trip. We also spent a great deal with Helen, the rep at the hostel who was a star sorting out tours and deliberating what package was best for the whole group. Alan had forfeited all his decision making rights into my capable hands. A few times he would walk up to me and mention something he would like to do and say “make it happen”.
One of the nights we were partaking in a backpacker-esque meal and it was a Hawaii themed, trivia night! Armed with a Hawaiian flower lay around my neck, I felt confident of winning. Our team was called ‘Fans of Leon’ and we got off to a great start. Towards the end we became a bit disheartened as we felt we did not get enough and when the quiz master went through the answers it turned out we only got 13/20 correct. No way we can win that $100 for 1st place now. Then he began to read off the team names in reverse order. Many teams were called out with only 7 and 8 points. Wait a minute now. Then a few teams were tied in third place with…11 points! No way, we could not have won. In 2nd place, with 13 points…The Fans of Leon. “NOOOOOO!” we cried out.
The same night we went to the casino. In my opinion, it was a bad idea to gamble so early on in the trip in case I blew all my budget. I stepped up to the blackjack table and lost $50 quite hastily. There were just no decent cards coming my way. Had my luck finally run out? Depleted, I followed the gang around the casino. Someone wanted to play a wheel-spinning game. I sighed as the others watched the reef themed pictures being blurred into one drab colour as the wheel was spun around. The odds for the pictures were 1-1, 4-1, 11-1, 23-1 and 47-1 depending on the frequency of the picture on the wheel. I broke away from the group and decided for one last ditch effort to win some money back. I placed a $5 chip on both the 23-1 and 47-1 pictures. “Hey Ryan! Are you betting?” the others asked as they wandered over. The wheel started to slow down and pointer made a constant ticking noise while passing all the potential pictures. I nervously watched mine agonizingly pass through the point. All of a sudden the pointer rested on the 47-1. What?? I started jumping up and down to the bemusement of the guys. Cheering commenced and I dished out a few high fives around the table. $235. With a spring in my step I went over to the roulette table while pocketing the two $100 that I just acquired and bet the excess $35 on red. BOOM! Red. $270 in chips that were happily cashed in.
On one of our ‘relaxing’ day we bought a heap of meat and rocked up to one of the near by beaches, now joined by Vanessa. Mina kindly cooked the BBQ of steak, sausages and burgers while the men sat around in the sun drinking. After the delicious feast, the men and Jes took part in a little beach cricket. I loved being out in the field and celebrated two catches. Bryce, on the other hand, sliced a shot into Nathan’s face. That was just as good.
Cairns gave me the impression of a retirement town in Florida but instead of elderly folk, the place was full of crazy backpackers. There was a Dutch girl named Willeke, who despite being much skinnier than myself was freakishly strong. There is thing I do as a backpacker and it is that I challenge female backpackers to arm wrestling matches. I proudly boast a 100% undefeated record and Willeke wanted to get in on the action. Ha, no worries I thought to myself as I had defeated girls with arms bigger than her waist. With everyone watching we began and I arrogantly mocked, “have you started yet?” keeping the arms in the starting position. “Yes, have you?” she replied. Wait. When I pushed back there was great resistance. “NO WAY!” I shouted. It took me a few seconds to win but that was too close. Still undefeated.
The other friend we made was a Yorkshire girl named Emma. Returning to the room, I was looking forward to a nap before some crazy night antics. There I found a new room mate who had spent 48 hours flying to Cairns from England, who was also looking forward to a nap. Instead, we spent the next hour talking about back home and our travels around the world. Emma seemed to be a good laugh so I extended the invitation to join us for food and partying and she happily agreed. When introducing her to everyone downstairs, she looked at Alan in a funny way and they announced they already met. Earlier on in the day Emma had sent Alan to the ‘naughty step’ for misbehaving in the pool.
During the evenings, we spent time trying the many different restaurants in Cairns. As a backpacker it was a pleasant change to eat in a lot of fancy places. On a couple of occasions we visited one of Cairn’s most famous night spots, The Woolshed. Even though it serves food, after 10 pm everyone is allowed to dance on the tables. It gets mad. All of us were on one of the long tables getting our freak on to ‘Cotton Eye Joe’. Into the early hours of the morning after many hours of dancing, I headed back to the group and noticed Alan talking to the girl with the tray of shots. By the time I had arrived, the table was covered with +30 jelly shots. Alan had bought the entire platter. While helping ourselves to a cheeky few, Emma and I distributed them to friendly passers by.