Saturday, May 6, 2017

Cairns May 5-6

We got back to the apartment too late for me to write a post last night, so I'll combine yesterday with today's activities. First off, yesterday morning our AirBNB host offered us an upgrade to a one bedroom apartment. We had been staying in a studio, and it was a little cramped for two people. Even though it was a hassle to move, we jumped on the opportunity to have a unit with a kitchen and in-unit laundry facilities. I'm doing laundry as I type this since we are leaving in the morning. We are in a corner apartment on the 10th floor, and this place is nice!

After our move, we went for lunch while we waited to hear from a man that Jim Sinatra (Jim's professor when he was at Iowa State) had put us in contact with. Also a landscape architecture graduate, Lachy was going to spend Friday afternoon with us. When he said he was taking us to a local watering hole, we thought he meant a bar. But then he told us to bring our swimmers, so we realized he literally meant a watering hole.

Lachy arrived around 2:00, and first took us to see the Cairns Botanic Garden. It also has no admission fee to get in. I am amazed by how much is free here. It was quite lovely, though we did move rather quickly through it. Next we stopped at a local indoor market, and it was fun to see the different fruits and vegetables that are sold here. From there we went to his house, where we met his wife (who is French) and his two boys. Oh, and their beautiful dog, Maggie. Below is a picture of the view across the road from them. The crop that looks like brown mounds towards the front is peanuts, and beyond those are sugar cane.


After a refreshing drink of homemade lemonade (with lemons picked fresh from the orchard next door), we piled in two cars to go to the watering hole, which ended up to be a creek. We drove up a tractor path and got out of the cars, and all I could think of were the different spiders and snakes that could kill me. Due to the recent rain, the creek was high, and we had to walk through two streams to get to the actual creek. Luckily I had brought my water shoes along, as had Jim. The water was cold, so Lachy was the only one brave enough to go for a swim. The rest of us had light refreshments on a blanket. As it grew dark, we made our way cautiously across the two rocky streams to the cars. We ended the evening with dinner at a restaurant in Cairns. They are a wonderful family, and we are so grateful we had the chance to get to know them.

At 7:30 this morning the Skyrail bus picked us up outside our apartment to take us to the Freshwater Railway Station to catch the Kuranda Scenic Railway Train. Construction of the railway began in 1886, but passenger service didn't begin until 1891. Fifteen hand-dug tunnels and 37 bridges were built to climb from sea level to 328 meters up the Macalister Range. After a 1.5 hour ride, the Railway ends at the village of Kuranda, a touristy small village. We had an hour to kill before boarding our next form of transportation, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

We opted for the gondola with the glass bottom, which ended up to be a bit scary for me. It didn't help that the winds had picked up, so the car was swaying more than normal. We had the car to ourselves, although it holds 5.  The cableway travels over the Macalister Range, the rain forest and Barron Gorge. It also takes about 1.5 hours to get back down to sea level. It can carry 600 passengers per hour in each direction, though it was not very busy today.  While we had been warned that today's activities were a tad touristy, we thought the excursions were well worth the time we spent there. And a nice way to wrap up our time in the Cairns area. Tomorrow we are off to Melbourne, where Jim and Curtis Sinatra will meet us at the airport.

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