|Our second full day in Cairns was another bus excursion, this time to Kuranda, a small village in the heart of the rainforest. The original itinerary called for us to take the Kuranda Scenic Train, a narrow-gauge rail service that takes you up the mountain through a series of switchbacks. Unfortunately a few days before we arrived the rains had come down so heavily it had caused several mudslides that covered over sections of track so they were forced to close down for repairs to be made. So instead we took our bus up.
We only had 90 minutes in Kurunda, and there were a number of attractions available, so I opted to go to the butterfly preserve. Learned lots about butterflies and, of course, saw thousands of them, many with amazing colours. Unfortunately they were a bit hard to photograph. They fly so erratically it's hard to track them, and when they land they close their wings so the colours are hard to see/appreciate.
From Kurunda we bussed to another attraction called RainForestation, a former coffee plantation that's turned into a combination zoo and aboriginal cultural attraction. When we got there we were introduced to an aborigine who demonstrated the didgeredoo, then took us to an area where he demonstrated his prowess as a spear thrower (Since he kept missing the target, though not by much, he reminded us that not too many years ago he and his family would have gone hungry that day!). Our next stop on the walking tour was everybody's favourite for the morning: the boomerang demonstration. After he showed us how it's done, anyone who wanted was able to try it as well. My first attempt resulted in something of a grass trimming exercise, but my second try provoked many ooohs and aahs and even some applause from the group so I knew there and then it was a good time to quit! Then it was off to an outdoor stage where several aborigines demonstrated a variety of dance numbers, and Jim even volunteered to head up on stage to prove he's a better tour operator than dancer.
We enjoyed an excellent barbecue lunch which included steaks, chicken, and lamb as well as a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. And of course a cold beer!
Right after lunch we had a guided tour of the zoo which included excellent commentary from a young man who I'm sure was barely old enough to shave. But he knew his stuff. We learned about kangaroos, wallabees, dingos, koalas, crocodiles, and assorted other native animals not seen anywhere else. This facility is also one of the few the Australian government allows to let koalas be handled/held by visitors. But there are strict guidelines limiting the koala's to 20 minutes of "work" at a time. Then its back to their homes for 4 hours of rest! To hold the koala you had to be willing to pay for a picture, and no personal photography was allowed so we passed on this opportunity and moved on.
We ended the visit with a trip into the rainforest on an amphibious vehicle called a "duck". These were developed and manufactured during WWII as landing craft for troops. They are propeller driven in the water, then as they leave the water and climb onto the beach, their tires takeover. Again some great narration on what we were seeing in the bush by our guide who struggled mightily to make his old duck run.
Our visit ended with a trip back from Kurunda on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Each gondola held 6 people, and took us on what was about a 45 minute ride up and over the rainforest canopy. It was amazing! We made two stops along the way which allowed for a breathtaking view of some very high waterfalls, and another which provided something of a directed nature walk on a boardwalk through the forest.
And then back to Cairns.