I'm going to make this two entries because we've been moving around a lot. Thursday morning we boarded the Oz Experience bus in Cairns that would take us to Mission Beach. There were about 20 or so other backpackers on our bus, so we had a lot of room to spread out. For those who don't know, Oz Experience is a bus system that takes backpackers from place to place on a specified route, but buses come along every few days so you can get off at a certain city and stay there for however long you want and then pick up another bus later. Each night, the bus driver recommends a hostel and gives you discount accommodation if you stay there, so you end up meeting a lot of people riding on the bus all day and then staying in the same hostel at night. Our particular route is from Cairns to Sydney, but we're only taking it as far as Brisbane.
Another cool thing about Oz Experience is that you make a lot of stops at scenic locations, towns, places of interest, etc. The first day we had a lot of stops. First we went to a beautiful crater lake where we took a short walk through the rainforest and then had tea and scones overlooking the lake. (I've been drinking a lot of tea here.) Next we stopped at a gorgeous waterfall. Then at this giant tree known as the curtain fig tree because of the way the roots are hanging down - hard to describe but you'll see when I put up the photo.
For lunch we visited a crocodile farm and had some Aussie BBQ, then took a tour of the farm. They farm crocs for meat and skin, but they also have sort of a zoo of "problem" crocs that have been rescued from the wild because they are injured or have been found in places they shouldn't be (like someone's swimming pool, for example). They are extremely agressive. The people that work at the farm are nuts! One guy had these scars on his legs and arms, plus his fingers were kind of disfigured from croc injuries. There were also kangaroos, emus, and cassuaries (sp?) - emu-like birds that have red and blue heads and are also very agressive - hanging around. After a tour of the farm they let us take turns holding a baby croc that had its mouth taped shut (it was very soft actually) and putting various snakes around our necks.
We arrived in Mission Beach and stayed at what looked like the only hostel in the area. It wasn't great - the 4 of us shared a room with 2 other girls (yes, we have been very spoiled so far!), no blankets (you could hire one for $2), etc. But there was a nice pool and the first time we've had our own bathroom. We took a short walk down to tbe beach as the sun was setting just so we could see it since we would be leaving early the next morning. That night we went to the hostel pub and had a blast playing foosball at this really ghetto foosball table (there wasn't even a real ball, we had to use a golf ball). Alyssa and I won the series against Hilary and Alison, 4-0. We met a lot of travelers that were on the bus with oo. No Americans on the bus, but one Canadian. Lots of English.