Archive for the 'Cairns' Category

…see the difference between them? Of course you do. Can you please teach me? Ta.

Yes, despite my previous attempt at going white water rafting going up the swannie due to the rafting company’s silly Hotel/Hostel muck up, the attempt this time was no better.

This time it wasn’t their fault. It was mine.

Somewhere between not being able to sleep last night (I think the excitement of going home and thus thinking about all the people to catch up with / things to do / places to go meant that my mind just couldn’t shut down – the last I remember it was gone 2am) and my alarm waking me up at 6am (for a 6:40am pickup), my subconsiousness decided that stopping my alarm, rather than snoozing it, was the best plan.

At least, that’s what I assume. I woke up at 9am none the wiser. Damn it.

Still, luckily I’d only lost the deposit on the trip – plus I managed to get my flights sorted to get back home (the lack of flight availability may have meant that doing it tomorrow would’ve been even harder to find dates any time soon), so I’m not too cheesed off. It’s a pain though, as that would’ve been fun.

Ho hum, worse things have happened at sea. Plus it’s rainy and a bit on the cool side today so it’d’ve probably have sucked. That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself, anyway.

I’m such an idiot :-)


Dime Bar
Pat “Dime Bar” Scullion

by Squage
on Jun 20th, 2007

Learn To Fly Dive

# A long, long time ago,
# I can still remember,
# How that Scullion used to learn to Dive…

Yep, it was ages ago now, but when he was last in Cairns, Pat learned to dive. He even got a certification, allowing him to dive pretty much anywhere in the world without supervision.

Because he’s been banging on since that time about how bloody great diving is, I figured it’d be a nice idea to give you an idea how Pat’s 5 Day PADI Open Water Diver course went, in case you’re intruiged by what goes on.

So here goes:

Days 1 and 2
These were based at Pro Dive Cairns’ training centre and involved half theory and half practical (in the training centre’s 3 metre deep swimming pool) – along with a medical examination.

  • Theory
    As with many other skills you’ve got to understand the principles, “do”s, “don’t”s and important safety information prior to getting out there and diving. After all, you don’t want to jump in at the deep end! (Oh dear, this is going to be a tough read isn’t it? – Pat)

    This section was made up of three core parts:

    1. A large part of section involved watching “educational” PADI training videos. These came wiht not-at-all irritating cheesy American voiceovers – and some cut scenes starring a goofy bloke showing us, by example, what not to do – with HILARIOUS results. Pat remembers even vaguely smiling once, although that might’ve been due to the background music sounding like something some Carlin’s CHILDREN / COMEDY / SHORTS CD (Levin, check out that link as it’s the “Liono is a clown” tune!!!11one – Pat).
    2. Reviews of the video and a “question and answer” session (this was by far the most useful part)
    3. End-of-module “multiple choice” tests – and one final, wholey more complex… “multiple choice” test. It reminded Pat somewhat of the GCSE General Studies exam, except that he actually gave a damn about the PADI exam. That said, he probably did as much revision for each – and I’m sure you can guess how much that was *.

    Excitingly, Pat managed to ace all the end-of-module tests and only screw up on one of the 50 questions in the final exam. Apparently he was in shell shock for a while, as the idea of doing well in an exam was something that had been long since forgotten…

    * That’s right: 3 solid years of revision.

  • Practical
    This was by far the more interesting part of the first two days, whereupon Pat and the other 10 or so people in his group eased (or forced, in Pat’s case) themselves into their wetsuits, attached their air tanks to their BCDs (Boyancy Control Devices (a jacket, which you can inflate/deflate as required in order to… you guessed it… control your boyancy!)), plonked their masks and fins on and walked into the training centre swimming pool.

    This was the section Pat was feeling a little nervous about, as it would show him and everyone else whether a) he was actually learning anything he’d been told or b) he would panic as soon as he went underwater. Luckily for him, it turned out that a) yes and b) no. In fact, he took to being underwater with his breathing equipment, BCD et al on like a fish to water (or whatever the phrase is).

    The instructors show by example various techniques that you need to learn, and then each of the team follow suit. What do you learn to do? Well, in your buddy pairs (key point: when diving, you ALWAYS dive with someone else (your “buddy”)), you do the following:

    • Signal for help / to go up / that you’re ok / that you’re low on air / out of air / that there’s a fupping big shark next to you etc
    • Clear your mask
    • Remove your mask and replace it
    • Remove your regulator (breathing bit wot you put in your mouth) and put your buddy’s reserve regulator in
    • Head towards the surface with/without a regulator in
    • Gain “neutral boyancy” – whereupon you can control whether you move up or down in the water purely with your lungs… it’s quite cool!
    • Various other things!

    Above the water you learn to do things like carrying your buddy towards your boat (if they’re too knackered to move themselves) and also not to wave to say “hi!” (waving means “ARGH I’M IN TROUBLE!”).

    The weirdest thing for Pat in this section was going so deep (4 metres) that you HAD to “equalise” (pop your ears by holding your nose and blowing hard) to prevent the water pressure “knackering up” your ears. He also had trouble grasping the fact that a “thumbs up” meant “I/we need to go up” – not “wicked cool”, “skill” or “rad” (I think that’s what the cool kids say nowadays, right?) Two weeks after this course, on a separate diving trip Pat was STILL occasionally responding to someone showing him a cool sea creature by giving a two-thumbs up – followed by a shake of head, and a few “ok” signs instead. He’s a fast learner, our Scullion.

Days 3, 4 and 5
My Diving Buddy And Roommate!These were spent out on the gorgeous barrier reef on board Scubapro, one of three Pro Dive boats fully kitted out for diving entertainment. There were about 30 on board (including people who were training for their Dive Master certification, Advanced certification and the Open Water certification peeps) and each buddy pair had their own, rather roomy cabin. Pat’s diving buddy Sebastian is seen to the right enjoying their spacious cabin. The photo’s taken from the corridor in order to be able to see that much of him.

Boat In The WaterEssentially, all that was done in the ocean was the same as in the swimming pool – just at between 12 and 18 metres below the surface surrounded by an amazing, colourful alien world teeming with life. Visibility was probably as good as you’d get a swimming pool, too – up to 35 metres at some points! The water, as you can see to the right, was quite pleasant…

On each dive various tasks were performed, a different selection on each dive, and at the end of each dive the tasks were ticked off on each person’s PADI Open Water Diver checklist.

Trying To Smile...
Still doing the thumbs up even on day 5…

One of the strange things Pat noticed was that being on the surface tended to be a lot more unnatural and unnerving than underwater. Mainly, it’s due to the contrast of above and below the surface:


  • Waves bobbing you up and down
  • Boat noise, wave/splash noise, people shouting stuff at eachother
  • Water splashing in your face
  • Water droplets on your mask impeding vision
  • Very limited idea of what’s under you
  • A lack of movement due to a fully inflated BCD (you kinda have to lean back and just float there like a wetsuit covered log)


  • You can see around clearly (visibility allowing that is – which on Pat’s training was at a minimum 15 metres and a maximum over 30 metres!)
  • There’s a real sense of calm and tranquility all around
  • You can move about freely… it feels a little like flying.

Not hard to see why Pat preferred things underwater. He also found that there was an odd sensation of unease whenever he went to descend underwater. Despite breathing through the regulator above the surface, whilst deflating his BCD and beginning to sink he had a strange feeling that he might drown. I guess it’s because, more often than not, you don’t have an oxygen regulator stuck in your gob and as such if you’re slowly sinking in some water you probably are about to cop it. Once underwater though, as soon as he took his first breath he was perfectly at ease.

I guess that might be the part where a lot of people panic. That and when they’re diving in shark infested water.

Group Shot!Pat had a good group of people to dive with. Sebastian (Pat’s German buddy) had an excellent dry sense of humour. Paul (from Colchester, no less!) was a top bloke, doing his Dive Master training and really easy to get along with (and discuss the delights of such things as Dukes Genesis nightclub in Chelmsford). Gemma (from Ooop Nooorth) was a top lass, really funny and shared Pat’s sense of humour (poor girl). Gav (from Scotland) was a very funny fella. There were lots of other cool peeps and everyone got on really well.

Instructor-wise there was Oscar, a Kiwi ex-rugby player who was very knowledgable but rather on the strict side. Then Kay, a Chinese… well, a Chinese mad bloke, with a limited grasp of English but an excellent sense of humour (for example, after any “attention please people” announcement in the galley from one of the crew, he’d follow it up by adding his own formal-sounding announcement which was often along the lines of “Oscar likes to wear lady underwear”… well, I think you had to be there to appreciate it). Finally there was Katie, who’s English and in Pat’s words “fit as” (I, er, meant she didn’t get tired quickly – Pat) Oh aye? (No, no not like… oh forget it – Pat) and really helpful to everyone.

Evenings were a quiet affair on the boat, mainly because everyone was FULLY KNACKERED from their days of diving, so most people were in bed by 9pm (including Pat)… ready to be woken up at 6am for more diving action.

Because Pat, Sebastian and Ian wanted to get their “Adventure Diver” certification, which would allow them to be able to perform night dives and deep dives (up to 40m), they had to partake in both of these during the trip.

The night dive was very strange as aside from the torches of the diving group it was totally, utterly dark. Possibly more peaceful than daytime diving, although signalling was a lot harder (as you had to shine your torch at another person / into their beam to attract attention, then point it towards yourself in order to then make the signal you wanted – which, to add more fun to the equation, was often a different signal to that made on daytime dives).

The 30 metre deep dive was a very strange experience. There’s a phenomena known as Nitrogen Narcosis, which (according to Wikipedia) is “a reversible alteration in consciousness producing a state similar to alcohol intoxication in scuba divers at depth”. This occurs any time after about 25 metres and can cause people to do such clever things as take their regulators out and think that having 20bar left in their oxygen tank is fine to last them the next 10 minutes.

Oscar took us down to the sea floor at 30m (well, 29.7m according to Pat’s dive computer) and gave us some puzzles and memory tasks to do (I won’t spoil these just in case you end up doing them at some point). Pat actually found them easy to do… so was convinced he actually wasn’t “Narc’d”. That was until a fish started swimming towards Pat, which Pat for some reason found really funny looking. To the extent he started giggling like an idiot. To this day he can’t quite explain why it was so funny, so I guess he was feeling the effects :-)

Pat’s last dive (in order to get his Adventure Diver status) could’ve been from many skill categories and he chose underwater photography. Here’re some of the things he managed to snap:
Coral And Fish Which Way Up?
Romford Stadium Angry Nemo!
Can Anyone Think Of A Good Clam Pun? Silouhetted Scuba Scullion!
My Buddy!

Apparently it’s very hard to stay totally still, even at neutral boyancy because currents move you horizontally. That’s his excuse anyway.

Post Diving Party
As is customary for any trip / training course, a post-trip drinking session had to be partaken. Pat’s been fairly useless as a source of information for what exactly happened that evening, but apparently it involved Jager bombs, snake bites, shots and some other horrible sounding concoctions… and lots of laughing. And rather “sober” looking photos:
Apparently, Gemma Didn't Expect The Shot At This Exact Point Good God, Will Someone PLEASE Drink Some Alcohol?
Stop Pretending, We Know That's Just Ribena! Hey Look!  A Sober Photo!

So there ya go – it’s about 2 months late, but it’s (hopefully) better late than never! Next up? Pat’s Whitsundays sailing trip. Don’t worry, there’ll be more photos and less text (a bit like More Music And Less Chat, but in Blog form. Without adverts. Or Dave Kelly telling you there’s More Music And Less Chat every 3 seconds)!

Til then… toodles!


by Squage
on Jun 18th, 2007

Kuranda Day Trip!

Yes, you heard right – a day trip! A day where Pat and I spend the day doing something other than sitting in the hostel, sitting by the pool, sitting in net cafes (bar this bit) and generally milling around. Makes a change, given the past few days!

Today Pat and I went to Kuranda, a village in the rainforest about 15 miles northwest of Cairns.

Part of the fun was actually the getting there and back – although some cool stuff was done whilst at the village itself.

Getting There
The journey to Kuranda was pretty cool, mainly due to the 2nd part of the journey. However, at a couple of points during the first stage of the journey Pat was concerned that we’d not actually make it to Kuranda at all.

The first time was before we were picked up. Pat was standing by the side of the road, in the rain, next to his hostel, waiting for the courtesy bus to pick us up. And waiting… and waiting. Pat was getting rather concerned that this would be a repeat of his previous, failed white water rafting trip, but just as he was about to phone the company and state (as was stated when booking about 5 times) that he was standing outside Cairns International HOSTEL, the bus turned up. Phew.

The second time Pat thought we’d never get there was during the bus trip, whereupon the bus driver repeatedly pulled to the side of the road (whether it was a minor back road or major dual carriageway, it didn’t seem to matter) in order to answer one of the two mobile phones he had by him. Which rang a lot. At the volume of a harrier jump jet from 2 metres away. To be fair, at least he pulled over to answer. From Pat’s experience, most Aussie drivers just answer their mobiles whilst cruising along – and it seems the concept of “hands free” equates to “holding the phone under your chin whilst trying to change gear and steer”. And don’t get me started on seat belts…

Anyway, eventually we got to the Sky Rail depot. Thus began the fun part of the journey. This part involves traveling in a cable car up above the canopy of a mountain rain forest along the world’s longest cable car cable. Sky Rail travels over 7km through the rain forest covered mountains and provides exceptional views of the mountain ranges:

Sky Rail Views

Alas, due to a fair selection of low-lying cloud and plenty of rain everywhere, what we got to see was this:
...And Just Like That: It's Gone

Ok, ok, it wasn’t like that all of the way – Pat and I got to see some nice (raindrop filled) views:
Gondola Over The Baron River! Look!  You Can See!

Along the route are a couple of stations, where you can jump out of your cable car and have a look around the rain forest. So Pat did:
Rain Forest Pat And A Sky Rail Brolly

He also took the chance to have a look at the mightily impressive (probably more so when there’s not fupping cloud everywhere) Baron Falls:
The Impressive Baron Falls Pat And The Baron Falls... And An Umbrella

One of the good things about clouds, rain and general grottiness weather-wise is that it deters many tourists – meaning a) you’re more likely to get a cable car to yourself and, thus, b) you can take a couple of photos of yourself and your adorable (Well… – Pat) companion:
Pat On The Sky Rail: A Shocking Experience Pat And Squage Skyrailing It TMX

They actually take a snap of you as you arrive into the Kuranda station, then super impose a scenic “middle of the cable car route” backdrop, for the princely sum of $15. I think it’s fair to say that with the above photos there was no need for that. Impressively professional, aren’t they?


Getting Wet (a.k.a. At Kuranda)
Once in Kuranda, the rain continued merrily on but it didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves: browsing through the markets, sampling some of the tasty local food and laughing at some of the “fine” goods available for purchase:

  • Squidgy faces:
    Magic Face Rip Offs
    It’s a clone of everyone’s favourite squidgy face thing – Magic Face!

  • “Hilarious” door signage:
    Awful, Awful, Awful...
    Sorry, but that just simply doesn’t work. “Do it until megabytes”? What does that even mean?

We also visited the Koala Gardens, which has got all sorts in it:

  • Lizards:
    Lizard In The Grass!

  • Snakes:
    Spot The Snake
    Including Snakes POSSESSED BY EVIL:

  • Wallabies (which Pat took some time to feed):
    WALLABY! Feeding A Wallaby!

  • And, funnily enough, Koalas:

Now remember that $15 Pat didn’t spend by not buying a photo of us in the cable car? Well, he convinced himself that he’d just saved that money and thus could spend it on whatever he fancied, guilt free. To be fair, he did say he’d been wanting a photo of him holding a Koala for ages, so I guess some dosh of him with little “Irwin” didn’t hurt:
Holding A Koala! Holding A Koala

Cuddling a Koala: Check. I think that’s almost all of Pat’s “Australia: To Do” list complete! Now just white water rafting and something he’s written about Holly Valance and some whipped cr… er, forget I said that. Jeez, Scullion.

Anyway, aside from that Pat decided to go for a nice walk as, well, it was only drizzling and it would be pleasant to wander through the rain forest. The latter was true. The former was true also, although only for 15 minutes. For the remaining 30 minutes of Pat’s wander, it BUCKETED it down. I ended up rather damp, despite being in Pat’s bag. Still, some nice sights were seen:
River In The Rain Forest Rain Forest Rainy River
Attempted Arty Flower Shot #0404FFE2

A well needed dry off in a cafe later and it was just about time to head back to Cairns…

Getting Back
This was a very pleasant way to end the day. An hour and a half long train journey along the sides of mountains through the rain forest and back to Cairns, in the Scenic Railway Train.

Again due to the lack of people we had a nice amount of space to ourselves – allowing us to both get window seats:
EXTREME PHOTO TAKING: On a Train.  Whilst Being Wet! Squage Enjoying The Views

The journey itself was very relaxing, the train pootling through the beautiful scenery, past gushing waterfalls, through tunnels and across bridges over gorges, all accompanied by an automated commentary thing, which was surprisingly a) non-irritating and b) informative. Pat did have to laugh though, when at the end of the journey it stated that it was “really pleased to have [our] company for the journey”. In his words: “Uhuh, did you my friend? You enjoyed our company… from a recording studio 5 years ago? I see!”. Obviously as Pat’s never prerecorded anything and pretended it’s live, he can mock this system without being a massive hypocrite… (Yeah, ok, ok… – Pat)

Some of the sights on the way back:
On The Edge Baron Gorge
The Train Passing Stoney Creek Falls

And then… we were back in Cairns! Since that point we’ve been to an Internet cafe to write this blog, had some dinner, Pat’s spoken to James, Gib and Tony from work (Hi dudes, enjoying your Monday in the office? :-) – Pat) and come back to the hostel… to finish this blog.

Which is… now… done. Bye!


by Pat
on Jun 13th, 2007

Hello! I’m Back In Cairns!

Yep, about a week later than originally planned but I’m finally here.

Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve had a really lethargic couple of weeks to be honest… don’t know why… I think it was SAD syndrome kicking in (yep, it’s cold, rainy and rather “UK in the Winter”y down in Melbourne). That and having nothing to do at all each day… it’s amazing how tired and lazy you get through doing bugger all, eh?

Still, good times were had in between the idleness, with a fair few good nights with Hannah, Lauren, AJ, Kirsten, Fletch and the rest of the Urban Central smokers gang.

“Smokers Gang? Have you started smoking?”

No! AJ and Kirsten smoke so I spent a lot of time outside in the smoking area with them and ended up meeting lots of the smoker folks. You know, it’s amazing how quickly smokers get to know each other as mates, just through meeting during smoking breaks. It’s like a secret club or something. If it wasn’t for the fact that in order to join the club you have to a) shorten your life by a decade or so, b) forfeit the last years of the remaining life to being very, very ill and c) smell like an ashtray, I’d definitely join!

If you smoke, no offense. I’ve just had it up to here [points to top of head] with bloody smoke.

Aaaanyway, now I’m in Cairns I’m going to get some work and also help out at the community radio station here (if they want me, that is… I’m going in on Saturday to chat with the station manager).

That and doing lots of exercise. I need to work off the lethargy-induced crap food eating, dead lungs and lack of exercise of Melbourne. :-)

So here goes!


by Pat
on Apr 26th, 2007

Diving Is Great!

Just a quick one to say that, after my first day of my 5 day PADI Open Water Diving Course with Pro Dive, I am FULLY looking forward to tomorrow and even more to the three “on a boat on the reef, doing dives amoungst amazing fish, mammals and plants” days starting on Saturday.

Today was half classroom based (the morning) and half practical based (the afternoon), with a medical sandwiched in between. Excitingly, I passed the medical, but alas 2 of the 12 of us didn’t and had to go back to their hostels.

The classroom work involved watching information DVDs, going through the points made in a less cheesy American fashion and doing a couple of multiple choice quizzes. We even got some homework to do (although I’m not sure I’ll be any good at it as, well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to motivate myself to study in my own time and, as you might know, I wasn’t all that amazing at that whilst at Uni. At least there’s no student radio station here, eh? ;-) ).

The practical part of things involved getting used to the diving gear in the swimming pool and doing such things as “seeing what it’s like when your air runs out”, sharing your buddy’s air / sharing yours with your buddy, descending, ascending and all that.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like it at first but I can safely say that I really enjoy being underwater with all the diving gear on. I guess I’m a bit of a water baby. It would explain my love of swimming underwater… and at least with diving I’ve got a mask on so my eyes don’t feel like they’re about to bleed for five hours after a long swimming pool sesh…

Bring on the reef!!

Right, time to go and get a nice $10 meal and pint at The Woolshed pub. I’m a classy guy.



P.S. More stuff about my time in Darwin, Cairns, Cape Tribulation, plus the full low down on the diving course will hopefully emerge next week.
P.P.S. I’ve got lots of stuff booked for the east coast – I’m now doing “Xtreme” river rafting on the Tully river, sailing (with more diving) around the Whitsundays group of islands, 4×4 driving on Fraser Island, surf lessons in Byron Bay and, of course, some theme parks on the Gold Coast. I might even do the Syndey harbour bridge climb when I get there this time. Wooh!

by Pat
on Apr 20th, 2007

1:40am Flights Are A Bad Idea

Particularly if you’re already tired due to a night out at The Vic in Darwin the night before, then do a (great) day trip to Litchfield National Park during the day and then go out in the evening prior to the flight.

Nevertheless, I made it on my flight from Darwin to Cairns… via Brisbane (hooray for the budget flight involving doing about twice the distance needed)… and am now in Cairns, feeling a bit better despite being awake for about 28 hours – as I’ve had a nice 5 hour sleep this afternoon.

I’ve noticed that I didn’t really mention anything about Darwin – well, it’s nice. Not a great deal to do, but the city’s clean, people seem pretty nice and the coast is lurvely (despite being somewhat inaccessible due to jellyfish). I spent about 4 days there and did such things as a) use the Internet (wow), b) visit the Museum and Art Gallery (very interesting, particularly the stuff about Cyclone Tracey), c) Walk around in the sun and d) sit by a pool at one of two hostels, occasionally doing some swimming. “d)” was mostly performed.

Now I’m in Cairns and there’s lots more going to be going on:

  • Cape Tribulation / Port Headland Visit – Tomorrow Raf (from my Perth to Broome tour), James and Liz (both from my Heading Bush tour) are going to be hiring a car and heading up to that gorgeous area, staying overnight. Should be ace!
  • Atherton Tablelands – Again a hire car will be involved (although not sure who’s coming yet) and we’ll be enjoying the impressive views in the ‘lands
  • Kuranda Scenic Rail / SkyRail – A lovely scenic winding old railway into the forests, followed by some Koala holding at an animal park and then a trip on the world’s longest Gondola thing (a full 7.2km long) across the hills and valleys
  • Minjin – Not quite a bungy, more of a biiiig swing thing that you sit in. It’s at the Cairns bungy site and is run by the same folk who somehow convinced m e to jump off a bridge with in New Zealand…
  • 5 DAY LEARN TO DIVE COURSE! – On Thursday I’m going to be embarking on a 2 day classroom, 3 day “on the sea” diving course to get my PADI Open Water Diving license – and have an amazing time. It’s with Pro Dive Cairns, who a number of people tell me are the best (big thanks to Mr Gib for the recommendation!)

For now though, I’ve got some dried clothes to fold up and then some dinner to have. Live the dream ;-)



A bit tired