Monday, December 8, 2014

Venom, Bats and Getting our Footing in Cairns, Honeymoon Part 2

The classiest 11m crocodile bar I've ever seen.
It took us a day or two to put it into words, but at some point on our second day in Cairns, we realized what Cairns reminded us of. Originally a gold boom town, it eventually became a gateway port for the western interior, and is now something of a resort town as it is one of the ports with close access to the Great Barrier Reef. Though it's been over a century, Cairns hasn't quite shaken the atmosphere of a boom town, and it certainly hasn't shaken its “rustic” character. Touristy. Chintzy. A little rednecky. I say this with all due respect and affection. Cairns reminded us of Old Orchard Beach.

It's Australia. Even the signs are venomous.
But that was later. The first thing I noticed was the sound of birds. Such a cacophony of bird song so suddenly when the automatic airport door shushed open, and all of it unfamiliar. There was a lot that was familiar about Australia and New Zealand but this was such a sharp, sudden, moment of foreignness that it stuck with me throughout the trip. It told me, even more than the high heat and low humidity, that I was somewhere new.
Yes. This is a shrine.

Our first scheduled event was a trip to “Kuranda: The Rainforest Village,” on a historic railroad. We figured after 30 hours of travel a day composed mostly of sitting on a train was a solid plan. It was a relaxing, interesting and beautiful train ride. (See pictures.) And Kuranda itself? Well, sticking with our analogy, Kuranda was very much The Pier. Plenty of souvenirs. Galleries of local artists. A dinosaur “museum.” A boat tour to see crocodiles. The two big attractions at Kuranda for us were the rainforest walk (see pictures) and The Venom Museum, which was just as sideshowy, just as chintzy, just as touristy as everything else in Kuranda, but had snakes and spiders so obviously it was awesome. Perhaps the highlight of the tour was when SOMEONE you know asked a question that made the herpetologist say, “Are you a biologist?” (IT WAS RISSA!) and we learned that a genetic lineage leading back to a rodent-like mammal means some snake venom kills us but not our dogs.

That snake is climbing that branch & into your nightmares.
But the main reason we went to Cairns was because of a chance to snorkel along The Great Barrier Reef. For me, there was a moment when the talking part of my brain pretty much shut down and turned all of it's blood and oxygen over to the looking part of my brain. (The talking part of my brain rarely gives up its blood and oxygen.) In the square feet I could see below me, lived more ecological diversity than exists in Somerville. Everything was new. Everything was strange. Everything was different. Everything was an animal. And everything was fragile. Not just in the climate change sense, though certainly in the climate change sense, but also in the personal sense; this was a fleeting experience for me, one that I am unlikely to repeat. You want to absorb everything, but, really, the brain doesn't work that way and it is easy to be spend so much mental effort (and battery life) trying to preserve your experience, you have nothing left to feel the emotions of the experience. So, obviously, we took a helicopter back. (See Pictures) (Oh, quick tip. You have to go to an actual pharmacy to get Dramamine in Australia.)

Maybe I should've subtitled this post: Nightmare fuel
Cairns was, by far, the least “Josh and Rissa” of the cities we visited, but we had some good meals there (more on Asian food later), some good experiences, and got our footing in a foreign hemisphere. Oh. And on our last day, after breakfast, we saw this awesome tree, filled with awesome bats. It made one of us particularly happy.

Weird Travel Experience 2: There is no drip coffee in Oceania. Everything that is “coffee” is prepared by an espresso machine. Which really isn't a problem. Once I figured out that a “long black” is the closest thing to a “fuel for my day jolt of caffeine” I was good to go. Of course, not every “long black” was the same. Some were like Americanos. Some were like long shots. Some were like double-shots. So, one orders a drink, one receives it, one likes it or doesn't, and one moves on in the experience. Except for the coffee I got from the Hudsons in the Auckland Airport. That tasted like cigarettes and shame. And an “iced coffee” is, obviously a coffee with ice cream in it.

Kuranda Railway Pictures (Click to embiggen.)

The intrepid traveler still too jet-lagged to notice I'm taking a picture of her.

The outskirts of Cairns

Train painted to depict an aboriginal dream song.
One of those "vistas" one hears so much about.
This waterfall once drowned out all the speeches prepared for a bridge dedication ceremony making for a much better party.
View to the ocean.
This is also a waterfall, though farther away &, apparently, worth stopping the train for.

Rainforest Walk Pictures

Pretty sure this will kill you.  
Play "Find the animal before it kills you."
This is a kookaburra eating a cheeto & it will kill you.

Great Barrier Reef Pictures

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! I've wanted to visit Australia ever since I remember hearing of that mysterious continent. reading Bill Bryson only whetted my appetite for visiting -- some of your photo captions remind me of him.