Holding Koalas and Feeding Kangaroos

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
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Trip End Jun 11, 2011


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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today was our first full day in Cairns, Australia and Ken's first day in Oz so we wanted to do something fun but not something too strenuous for Ken's sake.  So we booked a day taking the scenic train to Karunda, a small town deep in the rainforest and planned to spend the day in town and then return to Cairns by Skyrail.  So at this point Dave and I have been traveling a ton and planning a ton and knowing that Ken was with us we really took a hands off approach to this leg of the trip and so the above information was as much as I knew when we started out for the day.  Not ideal, I know, but sometimes you need a break from the planning.  I also woke up today not feeling the best and pretty sure I had a full blown sinus infection after sleeping outdoors in the outback in the cold for 2 nights and then flying the day before.  But we had 9:30am train tickets so I figured I'd deal with that later and push through to enjoy the day. 

Our hotel wasn't right downtown or on the Esplanade but was about a 20 minute walk from both places which we didn't mind.  The weather here is quite pleasant, sunny and balmy right on the ocean and during the day it gets up to the low '70s F I'd say while cooling off at night.  Anyway, after enjoying breakfast in our hotel we walked to the train station which wasn't too far and exchanged our booking for tickets on the train, skyrail and bus.  At exactly 9:30am the train departed and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery during the hour-long trip up the mountain to Karunda.  Along the way the train stopped a few times to pick up other passengers and then for su to take pictures of Baron Falls, huge waterfalls that border the town.  During the train ride we also learned about the history of the train when it was built, etc. 

Once we arrived in Karunda we hopped on the free shuttle bus to the shopping area to get our bearings.  During this free shuttle bus the tour driver explained a few things to us about the town.  It's an old hippe settlement so the markets are full of locals selling their wares.  In addition, there are several sights to see here: a zoo, a butterfly park, a koala park and a rainforest hike.  We decided to have a snack of coffee and locally made scones with honey and then wander around the market before committing to any other activities.  The food was delicious and the items sold at the market were definitely interesting and definitely sold by old hippees. Dave considered an Ozzie--style Crocodile Dundee hat with croc teeth around the band but at the last minute decided against it.  I did find some authentic made in Australia souvenirs (most are made in China).  We decided to have lunch since we passed a good looking Vietnamese place before we headed off for  park or a hike (if you couldn't tell, we still can't get enough Asian food).  This little stand charged 7 times more than we paid for the same food in Vietnam but what can you do.  Our options were limited in the rainforest.  So we go up to the counter and a young hippee takes our order, gives us a number on a stand and we sit at a table to wait for our food.  45 minutes later Dave and Ken have their lunches as do about 5 other groups who ordered after us and I'm still waiting for my spring rolls.  I am so annoyed I don't trust myself to go up to the counter to ask for the third time where they are so Dave goes up (he's also finished his lunch by then so it's fine).  As Dave is asking about my spring rolls he sees a plate of them go out to another table who just sat down.  At this point we demanded our money back and I forgot about the spring rolls.  I wasn't that hungry since we had a mid-morning snack but I was ticked.  The guy didn't even apologize or anything.  Another couple was looking at the place as we were leaving and I told them not to bother.  Lan's Vietnamese in Karunda messed with the wrong hungry girl.

Disappointed with lunch (Dave and Ken's dishes were medicore at best) we headed for the Koala Zoo as we thought nothing could cheer us up more than some cute koalas.  We were right. 
We paid entrance to the entire zoo with local animals like wombats, skinks (snakes with legs), freshwater crocs, black pythons, kangaroos and wallobies (not all together of course).  Our first stop was the koala bears and they were so cute snoozing away vertical in their trees.  We bought a session for me to hold one and I got to meet Tilly before holding her for some photos.  She's a bit older and was very calm as long as I was fully supporting her.  If I faltered, who knows where her big black claws would have ended up.  But she was super sweet and I wanted to just keep carrying her and bring her home for Hannah to play with.  They even let Dave jump in for a family foto. 

After saying goodbye to Tilly we went to see the kangaroos up close and saw that there was food available for us to go right up and feed the kangaroos and the wallobies.  We had a ball with them eating right out of our hands and most of the kangaroos were females with joeys in their pouch.  I'm sure they have these at American Zoos and maybe we just don't get out much but feeding them right out of our hands with no one else around in this open area was amazing.  They were obviously very tame (unless you tried to mess with joey) and hopped on over to us for a snack.  After walking through once we circled back and went to feed them a second time because it was so fun (and we wanted to get our money's worth).  Dave even pretended to box one so now we can cross that off the scavenger hunt list.

At this point it was raining a bit so we strolled through another market where I saw some sushi rolls that were reasonably priced and Dave found some sounvenirs to keep him busy.  Unfortunately, this 'sushi' wasn't quite so - I asked for a tuna roll and when I opened it up it was flaky tuna out of the can with a layer of mayo in between rice.  Very strange.  Anyway, the rain eventually stopped so we followed signs to walk through the natural rainforest which was amazing.  It was very quiet and very clean (something we've noticed in all of Australia is that it's super clean) and we saw some very neat trees, plants and birds.  We eventually made it to the river which we followed back to catch the 4pm Skytrain.  We were a bit early so we headed back to some of the tourist shops to see what was there and found a mango wine tasting booth.  I wasn't feeling up to it but the boys enjoyed a few samples.  I think they said that everything tasted the same (like mango).  Since seasons are opposite in this hemisphere mangos aren't even in season now so I'm not sure about the whole thing.  Anyway, we made it to the Skytrain which turns out is a private cable car for your group that goes back through all of the rain forest.  It was spectacular to be above the trees in the glass cable car.  It was raining and windy by this point (it is the rain forest) which made the ride really kind of adventerous.  After about 15 minutes the car stopped for us to get out for a viewpoint of Baron Falls (on the other side from the train up).  Back on the Skytrain it stopped about 10 minutes after that and we followed signs for a free tour through the rainforest. 

We had gotten there just in time and the nicest tour guide (also from NZ - all the tour guides in Oz are from NZ I guess?) offered to take us around to point out some things on the last tour of the day.  We learned that there are 13 different types of rainforest in Australia alone.  We learned a bit about some of the more common and notable trees and vines and also saw a golden orb spider in action.  The best part was that the male spiders were tiny, the size of a pinhead while the female was massive, bigger than a baseball.  She just hangs out in the middle of her web and the males scurry around her like mad.  We also learned about the most dangerous plant in the rainforest called Gympie Gympie.  If you even brush up against it by accident it injects tiny fibers of poison that are super painful and can kill small animals.  Finally, we concluded the tour with a lesson in Cassowarys, the biggest bird in Australia.  We had just enough time to hop on one of the last cable cars to finish the journey high above the rainforest to the Cairns station.  From there, we had to take a bus transfer back to our hotel.  While waiting I wanted a snack and the cafe was closing but they did have something called a sausage roll that I decided to try.  It was pretty good - ground sausage inside a filo pastry dough.  Dave enjoyed about half of it and has a new favorite food I think.  Good thing they're pretty common around here.  Our bus transfer was painless and we made it back to Queens Court around 5pm.

Unfortunately, by this time I was feeling really rotten and knew that I needed antibiotics for a sinus infection.  Also unfortunate, were not in an Asian country where we can just buy antibiotics but now we had to go to an actual doctor for a perscription.  We'd seen an urgent care type clinic the night before a few blocks from our hotel so Dave and I headed there and told Ken to meet us in an hour.  The clinic was crowded but I was seen in less than 40 minutes and the doctor was very nice.  He told me that I had a mild fever so anitbiotics were necessary.  I was concerned because we still have another few weeks before malaria isn't a risk for us (let alone the other things I could have picked up in our travels) so I felt better that antibiotics would help.  Although the doctor told me that malaria has nothing to do with congestion so I shouldn't worry.  A short trip to the pharmacy next door and by then Ken met up with us and we're on our way for dinner.  Luckily the nice pharmacist told me that although my medicine says not to take with alcohol, they have to print that and I will be fine if I have some. Whew.

We decide to head down to the Esplanade for a nice dinner and chose a restaurant based on it's name - Barnacle Bills.  How can we not eat there?  Feeling adventerous, Dave and I decide to share the Taste of Australia platter: grilled crocodile, barramundi (a fish) and grilled kangaroo.  I'm on this roll of petting/riding/feeding an animal during the day and then eating it for dinner.  The food was all delicious.  Some people say 'tastes like chicken' but crocodile really does taste like chicken.  The kangaroo was actually the best, kind of like filet but a tad more gamey.  We hadn't had a lot of desserts in Asia so when the waitress offered I asked what the traditional dessert is around here.  Apparently there is a merengue pie with fruit called pavlova that is very famous in Australia (although NZ claims it's from there also).  I usually don't go for this sort of thing but when in Rome...thought I'd try it.  Let's just say I had to ask for 2 more spoons for the guys and everyone was very happy.  We had a big day planned the next day and I wanted to rest so we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.
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