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04/02/18

Oh look, another sugarcane train. Australia, Part 7!

Posted by bostonki on April 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

Back to Oz we go!  What’s keeping me partially motivated to continue my now months-long trip report is the fact that I just want a record of it to remember.  I lost my copy of the itinerary months ago and only have my location-alphabetized photos left to go by.  The 5 (?) days that we spent in Cairns were by far my favorite of the entire trip.

Once we finally surfaced again in Townsville after three long days of isolation on Magnetic Island (I’m probably the most introverted person you’ll meet and even THAT was a little too remote for my liking), we began the four hour trek up the coast to Cairns.  It turned into a whole day on the bus due to some pretty remote but awesome little stops we made.  Our trip leader informed us that since we were heading up to the Great Barrier Reef, we needed to watch a mandatory video from the Australian government about reef safety and conservation (it was winter, no stinger suits necessary).  He told us all to get out a pen and take notes.. then turned on Finding Nemo.

For lunch, we stopped in Mena Creek, which is a part of the Atherton Tablelands (Australia’s fancy way of saying it’s basically the boundary between civilization and outback).  It was a one-road town (maybe even less than that.. yikes) with a hotel (? pub?) that we ate at.  Perhaps the coolest part was across the street in Paronella Park.  There was this gorgeous waterfall and wooden bridge – think Shrek – and a stunning, never-finished castle built by Jose Paronella for his love, now seeping in moss.

Shrek: Oh, you can’t tell me you’re afraid of heights?
Donkey: No, I’m just uncomfortable about being on a rickety bridge over a boiling lake of lava!

The unfinished castle.

During our drive, we got a really deep look into Australia’s sugarcane, banana, and pineapple industry.  Sam and Austin were our bus captains that day and thus needed to keep us engaged by talking to us over the mic, playing music, whatever.  C wanted them to keep talking, so they eventually just reverted to pointing out every sugarcane train and pineapple tree we saw.  Kudos to them.

Oh, look. Another sugarcane train.  Surprise.

I still can’t get over how awesome Cains was.  It’s this cute, but rough, little city that has its fair share of questionable nightlife and Aussie surf culture.  Our hostel was probably a half an hour walk from the main thoroughfare, but luckily there were shuttles that ran back and forth.  Sam, Michelle, and I shared  a room for six with Chris, Austin, and Sean, and it was here that our legendary Cards Against Humanity nights would develop.

My favorite part of the city was the Cairns Night Markets, which must have had hundreds of stalls worth of food, souvenir, and gift vendors.  I tried bubble tea (it tasted slightly different, probably less Americanized.  Asian food as a whole was more authentic due to the proximity and large wave of immigration), brought my boyfriend back some coffee, and it was here (well, on the main touristy thoroughfare) that I purchased my beloved mother-daughter plush koala bear (later named Chloe and Joey) from a Chinese souvenir shop.  You don’t even know how hard it was to find a reasonably priced yet cute koala bear.  Some of them looked like they’d been through a woodchipper or something.

The entrance to the Cairns Night Markets.

I don’t remember the exact order of how things were done in Cairns.  I think I’ll save an entire post dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef for a later date.  The whole Northeastern Queensland is pretty much blanketed in rain forest, so we did a lot of wet, sticky, humid activities.  One day we went on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which took us up over the trees in gondalas and down the other side to the rainforest village of Kuranda, where we walked the streets and I waited ten minutes for them to bring me a muffin from behind the glass.  Australians pride themselves on relaxation and “taking your time” but come on man, I could’ve gotten that in thirty seconds at Tim Hortons.  The village was beautiful.  On the bus ride down, we got stuck in traffic and after waiting an hour, turned around.  Good thing!  It turns out there was an accident and the wait time was TEN HOURS to get through!

#views from the Kuranda Skyrail. There’s a train as well that weaves in and out of the mountain.

Another day, I went white water rafting on the Tully, which cut right through the rainforest.  According to the group that took us, it was one of the greatest places to go rafting in the world, and it was.. quite an experience.  I’d love to do it again.  And I only fell out once!!!  Rafting is kind of a weird combination of paddling and then all of a sudden you drop to the floor and pull your knees to your chest as you’re sailing over rocks into the next section of the river below, and the water you’ve displaced is crashing over you.  I was soaked!  Also that day, I slid down a rock-formed slide into a sucky spot of the water (like it sucked you and pushed you out) and jumped off a cliff (sorry, mom).  I totally almost backed out and I never want to feel that sensation of my stomach lifting into my throat ever again, but it was all good fun.  The whole trip ended up being twelve hours and I just crashed when I got back to the hostel.

Yet another day, we went to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center.  I wish I cold have looked around at the art and exhibits, but we were on a group schedule.  We learned about bush foods and medicine, Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, saw performances featuring an actual life sized digeridoo, and the best part, got to learn how to throw both spears and boomerangs!.  I was terrible with the spears (I would have starved if I had to actually catch kangaroo with these things), but if you threw the boomerang and it came back to you, you got to keep it.  My second time, I threw it.. and it came back in a complete circle and hit my arm!! He let me keep it, and to this day it’s one of my FAVORITE souvenirs.  Plus, it didn’t cost a dime 😉  What an awesome feeling!

My friend Mikaela throwing a boomerang.

I was having a terrible, panicky, cancel-all-my-obligations-and-take-a-mental-health-day kind of day but writing this made me so happy.

Next time – the ins and outs of the Great Barrier Reef.  So much barf!  Panic attacks in the water!  But what I did see int he 45 minutes I was under was astounding.

 

 

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