Monday, January 31, 2011

Australia - Kuranda

January 31, 2011 - today we took a ride on the Scenic Railway up to Kuranda, a "hippie" village in the mountains.  The train ride was about 1 1/2 hours through 15 tunnels and a number of bridges with 1 horseshoe turn and a stop at Barron Falls which were utterly gorgeous.  It was a nice ride up there and they gave a good voiceover on the train about its history.  I can't wait until I can upload pics to these blog posts.  Everything was beautifully green.  I could easily imagine I was back in the rain forests of Belize, complete with the humidity but sans the man-eating bugs and howler monkeys.

Barron Falls:

When we got to Kuranda, we walked along the town's main strip lined with tourist shops and ended up at the Heritage Market where we went to the Koala Gardens.  For a tour-discounted entrance fee of $12AUD you can get into the gardens which boasted crocodiles, wallabies, lizards, a cage of snakes and, of course, koalas.  For another $16AUD, you can "cuddle" a koala and get your picture taken with it.  I wasn't so hot about the picture (in the humidity, my face was shining like a homing beacon and my hair was flatter than limp noodles) but it was the koala that mattered, right?  The picture taker's assistant positions your arms before plucking the koala from the last tourist and putting it in your arms.  You have to cradle "the bum" with one hand and keep the other hand up so the koala can be draped in your arms.  I've never held a koala before and hadn't realized how sharp their claws are.  Fortunately the one I held didn't scratch me or break skin although it got a pretty good grip on my shirt when it was time to give it to the next tourist.  We could get our picture taken with one of the two koalas they were using for that purpose.  I got the smaller one which I wanted - the big one looked like it could take me on and win.  Both poor things looked a mite cranky but I would be too if I had to put up with a never-ending lineup of tourists.

Within Koala Gardens, they also had a small lake for the crocodiles (don't disturb them and they won't disturb you), some lizards (in a fenced off area but the top half was open which made me wonder what makes them stay there), and wallabies (who I consider kangaroos) including some "joeys" or baby wallabies.  I've never seen them up close before so that was pretty cool to experience.  There was also a snake cage for the snakes but I channeled my inner Indiana Jones and skipped all that.  Some things I don't need to experience and snakes are on that list.

We had a few hours to kill in Kuranda so I did a lot of walking.  The town's main strip isn't very big so I traversed it several times before sitting down and writing postcards.  It was pretty hot and humid so it kind of kills the desire to do much.  I did finally get to try a meat pie - or rather, it was a chicken and potato pie.  Pretty good.  It was deceptively small but actually quite filling.  I also bought a Lamington and a macadamia Anzac but saved them for later.  More on those later in a separate post once I can get the pictures up.  I'm trying to try as much authentic Australian food as possible - that's one of the pleasures of traveling, after all.  Unfortunately the heat and humidity is a bit of an appetite killer and the chicken & potato pie did me in so I saved the desserts for later.  Although I did indulge in ice cream (hey, it was hot) and tried a flavor called violet crumble which was a mocha and chocolate swirled ice cream with a toffee crunch.  It was GOOD.

Violet Crumble gelato

ETA: criminy, I was so focused on the food I can't believe I forgot to mention the gondola ride down.  We took the train up and the Skyrail gondola down.  It's listed as the longest gondola ride in the world and I'll say it lives up to that.  It was an awesome experience.  You're up ridiculously high so if you're afraid of heights, this won't be the best ride for you but I loved it.  I may feel icky on 15-foot waves in the Coral Sea but hanging in a little gondola over the highest trees you can imagine that are so tall you can't see the ground they're growing in is cool. Not to mention the scenery was just top notch.  I am in awe of all the people who built this thing.  Not only is it so high up but it's a long ride and a lot of towers to build and a lot of cable to string up between the towers.  I'll have to look up how they built it and how long it took - it's really quite impressive.  My pictures don't do it justice because you can't really get a sense of how high up you are through pictures.  Only that you're hanging all the way up there in an enclosed "car" hanging on a cable.  Awesome.

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