It sometimes makes me laugh when I think of how many different forms of transport Otis has been on given he’s only 10 months old, and this week was one of those weeks where it felt like we hopped from one mode to another. It was one of my favourite weeks because it included staying on a live aboard diving trip, and yet one of my worst weeks as it also included a hospital visit for the little man, our scary first experience of him being hurt in any way.
We spent the week in and around Cairns, staying in an Air BNB as there were still horrific storms, and thus our camping came to an end, without a seemingly fitting send off of any kind, as our time post Cairns was to be in a camper van.
Cairns is an interesting city, a ‘grower’. We were staying near the CBD, and wandering in to town were met with a grid network of busy roads and unappealing street sides. But, then you reach the boardwalk, a lovely waterside area with cafes, a huge water lagoon that is the hangout for all of the locals (the sea has crocs, which don’t make for good swimming companions), and shady picnic areas. It’s an easy city to hang out it when the weather is good, and a base for a huge number of backpackers finishing their east coast adventures.
Our trip here was driven predominantly by the fact that we’d found a diving company that would allow us to take Otis onto the boat for a few days, meaning that both Ben and I could dive, taking turns to look after him. It was the best solution we could work out to indulge our passion, albeit it meant that we couldn’t dive together. We were unsure as to how the whole experience would work with Otis, but it was absolutely brilliant. Divers Den, the company that ran the trip, didn’t purposefully cater for children in any way, but were extremely welcoming (particularly Arthur and Alice who ran the trip we were on).
There were obviously challenges at first - baby proofing the room meant asking for numerous extra blankets and pillows to provide a space for Otis to explore. Luckily, he seemed fine, even better with the rocking of the boat (it was quite rough on this particular trip). We had to bring our own food on board for him, but actually the food provided across the day meant that he could easily sample our meals and the other passengers on board were understanding about the occasional food throwing and table banging that feeding a baby involves. The boat had a closed in room (used as a bar in the evening) with air conditioning which provided an ideal space for him to crawl around (hide and seek and chase provided hours of fun). There were 5 dives a day on the boat, 12 across the total trip, so although Ben and I could only do half each, we managed to get our diving fix, each coming back excitedly reporting what we’d seen to the other, and happy to see the little man enjoying himself.
The best thing about trips like this is that your own routine is taken out of your hands. Someone else is sorting all of the food, timing revolves around diving, and you just fit around it with a baby. It’s mindless to some extent, and that is lovely as a parent. We would have stayed much longer if we could have.
Our time however, was squeezed slightly by the not so positive side of our experience in Cairns, which had delayed our diving experience by a few days. On our first day there, I went out for a run in the morning while Ben gave Otis his breakfast. Halfway through my run, at the point most distant from our house, I got a frantic call from Ben telling me to come home NOW. I could hear Otis screaming his head off in the background. It transpired that whilst Ben had been holding him and reached for some coffee in the kitchen, Otis had kicked out and his foot had touched the outside of a kettle that had remained hot after boiling. I realised I couldn’t get home quickly, and saw a man nearby about to pull out of his drive to take his daughters to school. I ran over, explained (potentially like a mad woman) that I needed to get home to take my baby to hospital, and pretty much commandeered the man, his vehicle, and daughters to give me a lift home. It’s pretty amazing sometimes what parenthood will drive you to, all notion of embarrassment disappears when you need to do something for your child.
Luckily the hospital was near, and the care was speedy and the staff were lovely. You receive reciprocal care in Australia, which was a relief. Otis finally calmed down when the pain killers they gave him kicked in, and two visits later his bandages were removed and the foot had healed nicely. Even on the same day he was standing on that leg, sad little bandaged sock in tow, and a smile on his face. I’m convinced that children handle these things far better than parents do.
Our delayed diving trip meant that we had to forgo staying in the Daintree for a few days, but on returning from diving, we managed to squeeze in a day trip for a cruise up the Daintree river. We went with a company called Silent Whisper who specialise in enabling you to get up and close with nature. I’m not sure ‘silent’ was exactly the word that came to mind that day as Otis was teething like a mad man, and we spent much of the trip rotating between different tools to help him ease the pain (we never leave without carrots, cucumber, teething biscuits, hairbrush.. the list goes on). Despite this, we managed to spot some huge resident crocs, including a 70 year old called scar face, and Otis gasped in amazement as their mouths opened up to show us their toothy grins.
And now on to the last stage of our adventure in Australia. We flew from Cairns to Darwin, to pick up our home for our last month here, a 6 berth camper van. A new set of challenges (baby proofing and working out where the hell you put the travel cot was fun), and a new routine to master without killing each other in the process….the story continues.