Day 1 Down Under
Lush mountains kissed the clouds. Palm trees and bright bromeliads welcomed me off my airplane— contrasting the arid landscape I expected.
Cairns is a northern city. It’s tropical, yet a cool, cloudy, 70 degrees. I explored all day (to stay awake) and took a late afternoon hike though the ritzy part of downtown, toward the yacht docks.
There’s a park where the city meets the water. People of every color and culture walked, skated, and ate along the street-side restaurants. Towering lofts and lit trees reached toward golden stars, as children splashed in the park’s sand-bottom swimming lagoon.
I sat in the grass to absorb the live guitar. I looked up to see stars, but instead, I saw a veiny set of fleshy, clawed wings flapping out of the Palm tree under which I leaned. Fruit bats, measuring between four and six feet long, dove out of trees and flew toward the moon, adding a prehistoric flavour to the modern setting.
I thought about my adventure from an hour before. My friend and I watched sunset from a pier before running into a group of Australian youngsters. They were fishing, but the creature struggling at the end of their line was no fish. They accidently entangled a frantic seagull, and it was beginning to drown.
I dropped my backpack and prepared to climb off the pier into the water, but the kids warned of a saltwater croc exposing himself minutes before. Plan B was to walk the fishing pole close to a ladder, climb down, and grab the bird.
“Sorry mate,” the kids whispered, as the bird panted in fear while being dragged through the salty sea. The did their best to keep his head above water.
I pulled out my knife (a very Australian thing to say) and took the bird in my lap. I explained to the boys how to fold a birds wings to keep it still, and from further injury. I untangled the wings, but the neck feathers hid the green line cutting his circulation. I grabbed the base of his beak, allowing me to pull his neck out so we could cut the line. By this point, locals were gathering around, snapping photos of us.
I eventually got the bird free. He tried to fly but was so exhausted and disoriented, he flopped into the water and paddled like a duck to a near beach. I couldn’t help but feel connected to him. I had just walked away from a 24-hour journey in a plane seat. I was stumbling around this new world the best I could, trying to adapt. Back at the hostel, meeting my Israeli and German roommates, I laid in bed, listing in to the sounds of the rainforest outside our open window.
I’m untied and ready to fly.