So we slept in the car last night in the airport short-term parking lot. We woke up at 4:45 to get our bags together and check in for our 6:50 flight.
Our Sleeping Arrangements for the Night
We were in parking space C-16
The line was very long to check in, but we were able to get all our junk checked in. This is important because we had: 2 backpacks, one cooler filled with cooking supplies, and one tent. Total weight was 70 kilos. We’re supposed to be limited to 20 kilos per person. But the lady was really nice and overlooked the weight limits. She did, however, suggest that we carry the tent on with us. (Doesn’t make much sense, as the extra weight is merely misplaced – not avoided. But I don’t work for Air New Zealand so what do I care?)
Flight to Oz
We had seats in an exit row, and settled in with pillows and blankets to nap a bit. Unfortunately, the napping didn’t happen. Breakfast was served, and there were some good comedy shows on the television. And – after 2 hours – they showed the movie “Planet of the Apes”. So we got to see Mark Wahlberg again, only this time in an atrociously horrific movie.
I’m not joking. It was REALLY a bad movie. What I don’t understand is how Helena Bonham-Carter, who normally chooses excellent movies, decided that this script was worth her exceptional talents. She had to wear monkey-makeup, for God’s sake. I would think that would have clued her in. Oh well.
At 9:00AM Australia time, we arrived in 30°C weather in Cairns. Before our trip was extended, the plan was to drive down to Sydney Dec 12-16 and fly out on the 17th. So we’d previously arranged for a car beginning on Dec 10. We stopped by Budget at the airport to ask if we could move up the reservation and not drop off the car in Sydney. They had no problems with it so – PRESTO! – we have a car. This one is a Mitsubishi. It’s much larger than our little Mazda, but it also has 6 cylinders and some serious pick-up. It’ll work for the next week until we have a chance to buy a car.
Quest for the IDC
We drove into Cairns and began our first quest: to find a place to take our PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course). Now, Cairns is hardly short of dive shops. There’s a shop on just about every other block. But our qualifications were that it had to be a relatively large dive shop with some good deals for us to do some “fun dives” or get work as Dive Masters.
We were very disappointed.
First of all, the PADI IDC schedules are subject to PADI’s schedule of IE Exams (Instructor Evaluation). The IE is a standardized test that is given much the way the SAT/GMAT/MCAT/GRE is given. It’s done once every few months in a centralized location and it monitored by specialized PADI personnel. So most dive shops vary their IDC schedule around PADI’s IE dates. Naturally, almost all scuba shops follow this similar schedule. As it turns out, one of the IDCs began just last week. The next begins at the end of January.
Second of all, an IDC candidate must have at least 100 dives to sit for the IE. Jon and I have 60+. In Thailand, the additional dives were included in the price of the course. Not so here in Cairns. We would have to pay for the additional 40 dives on our own. Yikes.
Third, no one here really employs Dive Masters. Instructors are much more lucrative as they can do more than just lead dives. They can actually help the divers improve their diving skills and therefore up-sell the dive shop. Dive Masters – according to rigid PADI standards – cannot ever EVER teach. So we’re out of luck when it comes to working at a dive shop. (Not to mention the fact that we don’t have work permits.)
Fourth, the IDC is prohibitively expensive. We look at this as a kind of investment, as we can go back to NY and teach dive courses on the weekends occasionally. But we weren’t really prepared for the added costs of books, gear, and the fee for taking the IE. I suppose this is PADI’s way of weeding out the half-hearted Dive Masters. But damn.
So after running around all morning and afternoon, we were jet-lagged, exhausted, and more than a little bummed. We had a few leads, and a few more people to talk to tomorrow. But I was ready to get on a plane and head back to Thailand.
The Floriana Hotel
As part of our errands, we’d stopped by a few backpacker places looking for a room for the next few nights. We were disappointed here too, as most of the good ones were completely booked. But we finally found a cute little place to stay for tonight and tomorrow called the Floriana Hotel. Our room is ensuite, with a kitchen and bathroom, and is nicely air conditioned.
It’s also right on the Esplanade along the water. Note that I didn’t say “beach”. Cairns actually doesn’t have a beach. The only reason this town is here is because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. Regardless, the Floriana has a nice view.
The Floriana View
So it had been a long day by the time we dragged our butts back to the hotel at 5:00. We’d stopped by an Internet place and a grocery store for food, so we were ready to settle in for the evening. We’d also picked up a copy of the real estate section of the newspaper to find an apartment. Jon and I went for a little walk along the Esplanade, but it was so hot and we were so tired that we headed back in. I took a dip in the pool and then a shower while Jon make some calls about various apartments. He got some addresses for places that we’ll look at tomorrow.
We made hot dogs for dinner. There is a BBQ here at the hotel, but it’s not really a “grill” so we decided to cook in our room instead. Big mistake. The pan that’s supplied in the kitchen was really burnt on the bottom. After it heated up it started smoking and the fire alarm in the room went off. There was no way to turn it off, so I had to stand beneath it and wave a pair of shorts at it until Jon had finished the hot dogs. This was a good 10 minutes or so. My right arm is probably quite fit now, seeing how I couldn’t stop waving the shorts or else the alarm would go off again.
But the hot dogs were yummy and we sat around and watched TV for the evening. Finally, jet lag caught up with us and we were in bed by 8:30.