成程 (Naru Hodo) - IC in Japan^H^H Cote d'Azur^H^H USA

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Arrival in Cairns

The first stop on our tour was Cairns on the north-east coast of Australia, which is (one of) the most popular enry points for the Great Barrier Reef. We were a little bit worried, that the cyclone that passed by some weeks earlier would have destroyed the reef, but luckly there was still enough reef intact to be enjoyed.
The first view of Australia was overwhelming. Lots of nature and most buildings were less than four stories tall. Appearently this is due to some regulation in Cairns, as there are hills nearby and the planes sometimes have to use the airspace above the city for landing or take off. After the cold Japanese winter, all the rain in spring and all those airconditions, the tropical weather in Cairns hit us like a wall when we left the airport. The taxi driver told us, that it was autumn in Australia and we picked the best time to come to Cairns: The hot summer and all those nasty storms are over, but it is still nice and warm outside...
The first contact with Australians was also something we were not prepared for after a long time in Japan: People are extremely friendly (as are Japanese) and litterally jump into conversations with you (where as Japanese are very reserved). The first person to jump into us, was some female customs officer. While we were a little bit worried that we might have done something wrong (e.g. you are not allowed to bring food to Australia, as it might have devasting impact on the Australian wildlife. They made very bad experiences with imported rabbits in the past that drove the Wallabys nearly extinct...) the woman just wanted to have a firendly chat with us: "Hey mates, how's going?". She wanted to know where we are from ("Wow Japan, are you studying there?..."), what we plan on doing in Australia ("ah, diving, best place in the world to do that...") and after those "official questions" the conversation drifted into all sorts of small talk and where to get a decent "All English breakfast" in the airport. The breakfast was very nice btw...
From the airport we took a reasonyably priced taxi and got a first introduction to the place and Australia in general by the taxi driver. Our first stop was the Esplanade, something like "downtown" Cairns. As it was early in the morning, most shops were closed and apart from occasional joggers, most people were still sleeping. The center of the Esplande is a small park with an artificial lagoon.
Unfortunately this is necessary, as in summer the beaches are occupied by large numbers of jelly fish and no swimming is allowed in the sea. When the jellyfish leave in autum, one still might not want to swim at the beach, as from time to time crocodiles pass by... ;-)

But the people in Cairns managed to create a nearly perfect illusion. Only the small ine on the photo indicates, that the people in the artificial lagoon are not really in the ocean.
A very nice thing in the park around the esplanade were public gas barbecues where everyone can grill his steaks.

After that we checked into our hostel, the Calypso Inn. The rooms were simple but clean, the price reasonable and lots of friendly and interesting travelers from all over the world hanging around.

We went into town again to get our "dive medical", a health examination required to go diving in Australia, pay for the dive couse and the boat and get some dive instruction manuals.
Although it was autumn in Australia, the sun was still burning mercyless. At least for me and my white skin way more than I could handle. While the other three continued to explore the beach, I searched for a strong sunscreen and shadows to prevent beeing roasted to death ;-).
After sunset we explored Cairns "night life". The clubs are nothing compared to the ones Tokyo (there were many Japanese people, but it did not help much...). As we had to get up really early the next day to catch our boat, this was not too bad and we went to sleep early.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Australia in the golden week.

The japanese "golden week" is a week with 3 holidays in a row. Some companies even close their offices for a week, as most Japanese people use the golden week to tke holidays and travel around. We decides to do the same and as prices for flights drasticly increase around this time of the year, we left a little bit earlier. Using four of our precious paid holidays (btw. in Japan holidays are also to be used in case you become sick and cannot go to work) we got a total of 11 days in Australia (4 holidays, 2*2 weekend, 3 golden week) :).
This is the first contact with Australian currency, just after exchanging money at Narita airport. Note the transparent security window under the number on the right, which I saw for the first time.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Yokohama Landmark tower

Today I went to Yokohama to meet a friend. While waiting, I had a look at the Yokohama Landmark tower.

With its 70 floors it is the largest building in Japan (296m), is rather earth quake safe and has the fastest elevators in the world (750m/min).

For some fee you are able to go up all the way, but I thought it might be a good idea to do it during the day...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lunch outside

As the weather was incredible and the cherry trees were blossoming all over the place, we decided to not have our lunch in the cafeteria near the AXT tower, but mount our bikes and search for a nice spot to have lunch outdoors ...

... and found a really nice spot with some benches at a sports field near the river.