I currently have some more internet available to me which means I can catch you up with some more of my activities. This time I'd like to tell you about Cairns.
My flight from Adelaide left at 6am, arriving in Cairns at 09:30, but despite this early arrival I spent the rest of my day relaxing and trying to recuperate after a very early morning. Whilst in Adelaide I'd booked myself some activities for the Wednesday and the Thursday but didn't have anything planned for the Tuesday.
A contact on Facebook had mentioned a cable car and train ride centered around a village called Kuranda: The village in the rainforest. It sounded interesting, so after booking myself a trip to fill out that empty day I set off to have a gentle explore of Cairns.
Cairns isn't a very exciting place. It's clear that it's a very tourist driven city, the main streets are filled with party orientated backpacker hostels, bars, clothes shops, souvenir shops, and travel agents to book tours. I took the camera around with me but spotted nothing of particular interest so headed back to my (less party orientated) hostel for a much needed early night.
I awoke early on Tuesday morning and quietly readied myself for the day ahead, being careful not to wake my other dorm buddies. My pickup location was across the road at a railway station, and after waiting a while a bus turned up to take me to the Skyrail station.
Skyrail is a cable car that runs up a very large hill that happens to be covered in rainforest.
It's a really cool way to see the rainforest from above; as you can see, it's remarkably green! But that's not the only place to see the rainforest from, Skyrail has two mid stations where you can get off and have a short wander around boardwalks through the rainforest itself. You can get some pretty impressive views of the Atherton Tablelands from these mid stations.
Skyrail travels up past Barron Gorge, which happens to host Barron Falls. If you search Google for Barron Falls you'll find a host of images of a raging waterfall, the falls only look like that after very high rainfall during the wet season though. I visited during the dry season so it looked like this:
Not quite as dramatic, but still quite impressive to see.
I saw some cool stuff inside the rainforest too. Like these epiphytes (on the right. I just learnt to rearrange photos in posts!). Epiphytes, I discovered, attach themselves to trees in rainforests and hitch a ride up towards the sun. They don't have roots in the ground, or into the tree that they cling to, they gain nutrients by collecting dead leaves and plant material that fall from above, creating this nest sort of appearance. Cool huh?!
There are many things in the rainforest that seem to cling to trees. Check out these vines for instance (down below). Trees that are covered in big vines are all over the place.
Also, the trees in this place are huge.
I would consider some of them to be the gigantically enormous kind of huge!
At the second mid station I caught my first glimpse of an animal I have never seen or heard of before; The Scrub Turkey. They are baffling little creatures! Now I know I missed focus on this shot, but I had to share because the pose pretty much sums up the scrub turkey in one image.
They can be considered to be quite the little pest in Australia, they lay their eggs in massive piles of dead leaves that the females pile up. I haven't seen a nest, but from what I hear there are a lot of leaves involved. Once the ladies have laid their eggs they leave the men to do the incubating, and this is where they show some serious intelligence.
The scrub turkeys know how the general scrub turkey population is divided between males and females, so they know whether they need to hatch male or female eggs. They can do this! The temperature at which the eggs are kept determines the sex of the turkling (yes I just invented a word, doing so far outweighed the option of searching Google to see if "chick" is correct for turkeys). I can't remember the exact temperatures for each sex, but I think the difference was a mater of 1 to 2 degrees Celsius between the two. The male scrub turkeys monitor the temperature of the nest (somehow??!!) and adjust the amount of leaves covering the eggs to control the temperature! Pretty incredible stuff for such daft acting creatures.
Anyway, upon reaching the top of Skyrail, after some enjoyable rainforest exploration I reached Kuranda; dubbed "The Village In The Rainforest" because it's... well, it's a village in the rainforest! Fairly obvious really. I was greeted with my first opportunity to properly photograph some of the ridiculous root systems that rainforest trees have developed.
Kuranda itself was a bit of a walk up hill from where Skyrail drops you off, and as I walked I slowly got the impression that the place wasn't as I had anticipated.
Calling a place "The Village In The Rainforest" gives that place somewhat of a romantic, mysterious feel. I had thoughts of some small place, perhaps it had been inhabited by natives at one point, now turned into a pleasant cultural centre for learning and exploration, with walking trails around the nearby rainforests.
Kuranda is very much a tourist town. It's mainly one street, lined with souvenir shop after souvenir shop, overpriced food vendors, and markets. The markets are something of a draw, inside you'll find some nice stalls with what appeared to be good quality wares, but then I saw the "Little Scotland' stall, selling nothing but Scotland branded merchandise; bears in kilts and the like. This made me walk out of the market in search of something a little more real.
I thought I'd found it when I saw a sign for "Historic Crashed Aircraft". I had to have a look, and at first glance it looks pretty cool; a decrepit old aircraft lodged in the undergrowth.
Then I spotted a sign with loads of writing on it. Cool, some history about why it crashed...
Turns out that after a fairly extensive history (various military posts and service as a cargo plane), Geronimo, as the plane is called, was intentionally "crashed" as part of a movie (Sky Pirates) and then dumped at a scrap metal yard in Cairns. The aircraft was rediscovered in the scrap yard (in 50 pieces) and was donated to Kuranda and now "stands as visual memorial to all those fortunate enough to visit Heritage Markets."
So, a big bit of pretend really. It does look cool though!
After being fairly non-plussed by Kuranda (I chose not to pay the vast amounts of money for the butterfly reserve, or wildlife park), I headed towards the train station for my ride back to Cairns. And me being me, I ended up half an hour early for it, so I went for a wander.
And this is where I found something more my cup of tea. More rainforest, with more crazy roots.
Oh, and this area was quiet, with no touristy folk. This made me happy.
And at some point, a thing randomly flew from the ground, in front of my face, and landed on a leaf nearby,
I think it was some sort of stick insect. It was very difficult to photograph, but I gave it my all, just so you guys can have a look!
So after a little walk through the forest, it was actually time to go and catch my train. Oh, did I not mention? I wasn't taking the Skyrail back down, I was taking the Scenic Railway.
The locomotive for the Scenic Railway train looks like this (right). The train itself is incredibly long, and combined with its location while stationary I stood no chance of photographing it as a whole.
Now I took this next picture at the end of my journey because everyone in the carriage departed before me, but I thought I'd include it now because it fits with the subject matter.
On its way down the hill, the train goes through 15 tunnels and around 90 odd bends, offering very scenic views of Barron Gorge (including the falls) and Stoney Creek.
My ticket allocated me the seat on the left in that picture above, with three people next to me towards the window on the right. All the views were on (what is in the picture) the right (actually the left in direction of travel) so I didn't really get any pictures because it would have been awkward leaning across people. I get fussy with my photography!
I did get one picture though, because the view was actually on my side of the train this time. There are a lot of waterfalls in this region of the country, this one is Stoney Creek Falls.
With my inability to capture the views with my camera, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride back into Cairns. I do like rail travel.
And you remember I said I was picked up from a railway station across the road form my hostel? Well that was where the train's second, and last stop was, which was handy!
After having a quick shower, visiting a camera rental shop, and calling in for a kangaroo burger at the local Mexican cantina, The Green Ant, I hit the hay in reasonable time for an even earlier morning the following day. The day I went snorkelling off the Great Barrier Reef...
I'll keep this section short because you've just read a whole bunch of stuff, and this bit's going to keep you occupied for at least 6 minutes and 14 seconds...
My early start took me to the Reef Terminal in Cairns for check in with Down Under Dive & Cruise, I then boarded an Osprey IV catamaran, listened to a safety briefing, and was shipped 65km off shore to our first reef.
My usual photographic gear does not like water, so it stayed safely locked away in my hostel dorm. Instead, I was geared up with a rented GoPro Hero 4 Silver, thanks to the folks at WetRez.
GoPros are of course known for their video capabilities, and that's why I'd rented one, but I couldn't help taking a quick selfie in the ocean.
I've never used a GoPro before, and I've never really delved into the world of video before either (except a cameo appearance in a live action cartoon once). This was evident once I looked at all the footage. Part of the reason this post has taken so long to materialise is because I had to edit together a video of reasonable length from a total of 46 minutes of footage. I do not envy video editors.
Nevertheless I persevered, and now I would like to present you with a 6 minute and 14 second video of my adventures underwater. The clips are very shaky, it's difficult to keep your hand steady underwater whilst holding your breath, sometimes there was fog on the GoPro case, and I spared very little time trying to compose shots effectively. I have also learnt that when recording video, you need to slow down. Anyway, enough waffling, here's the video...
In the interest of supplying credit where it is due, the music I've used in this video is by an artist called Tryad, their music is released with a Creative Commons license and is rather good. I've just downloaded their latest album in fact!
We had a total of 5 hours available for snorkeling, although I'm pretty sure I didn't manage that much time in the water. I took the opportunity to take a short trip in a semi submersible (glass bottomed boat) to get a look at bits of the reef with some commentary. This is where I saw Nemo's cousin; a type of clown fish, but not the bright orange one that Nemo is. Sadly I didn't spot any sea turtles, sharks, or rays at any point on the trip.
On the semi submersible trip I also learnt that the coral isn't full of colour (as you may have noticed in the video) because it is currently the dry season and there is less sun (I'd say there was quite a lot of sun to be honest, the water was 26 degrees C!), for me this is an excuse to go back in the wet season for round two, maybe with some scuba diving involved (which Down Under Dive & Cruise also offer).
On the trip I managed to get a bit of sunburn on my back, through not properly applying sun cream (i tried so hard) I ended up with a pink square on my back. Honestly, a ridiculous looking pink square!
When it comes to sunning yourself though, these guys know what they're doing, spending A$100 on a snorkeling trip to one of the world's most iconic coral reefs, and then spending the time lounging on the boat topping up their tan.
Lunch was supplied in the form of a barbecue, with plenty of meat and fish, as well as salads and pasta and things. And on the way back we had live music entertainment from Elvis. One of the crew members Elvis; the king of rock n roll isn't working on a small snorkeling expedition in Cairns.
And that pretty much sums up my adventures on the Great Barrier Reef. It's an amazing place to be, hard to describe really. I saw so much, but there's so much more to see as well, I hope I can make it back for another trip at some point.
Snorkeling really does take it out of you though, I had another fairly early night after enjoying an evening meal at a Japanese restaurant, all set for Thursday's adventures in the Atherton Tablelands.
My final adventure in Cairns was a bus tour of various locations around the Atherton Tablelands, all of which could be swum in. The tour is operated by Barefoot Tours, and has been voted the number 1 tour in Cairns on TripAdvisor for several years running. It's not surprising why.
With the amount of water in the day's trip I didn't take my camera out much, but I was still equipped with the rented GoPro, and on the occasional viewpoint stop I cracked out my iPhone. The easiest way to present all the day's photos is in one long, stacked gallery as there's not a lot to say about each one. So here we go...
At one point, whilst at Dinner Falls I managed to spare some time to mess with the camera for some long exposure waterfall-y goodness.
And for those who haven't seen it on Facebook, here's my flabby upper body making a very rapid descent of Josephine Falls. With a very brief chip tune soundtrack courtesy of Inverse Phase.
The whole day was great fun, met some cool people and had a good laugh, if you're ever in Cairns I'd advise booking yourself in with Barefoot. It's bloody exhausting though!
I rounded out my trip to Cairns in an appropriate way, with a couple of beers, and then the following day I was on a flight to Brisbane, which had some rather nice views of The Great Barrier Reef.
I've already enjoyed a bit of Brisbane, a week of it in fact but now I'm a bit further North at Sunshine Coast for some more WWOOFing.
At some point in time I do hope to be up to date with the bloggery of my adventures, but for now, it's quarter to midnight and I have a strong desire to get some sleep.
Until next time...