Thurs., Oct. 17th
We had breakfast on the veranda of our hotel, as usual, looking out at the sea. I’ve noticed Australians like baked beans for breakfast. It’s been on the menu every morning since we arrived. Also, baked tomatoes with bread crumbs. Always a very good start to the day. People were jogging or skateboarding down a winding path in the park that runs along the waterfront. In between the boardwalk and the jogging path are picnic tables, or memorials, but across from the hotel, is an exercise station with equipment supplied by the city for the public that you would find at Powell Wellness Center: stair stepper, rower, etc. But we couldn’t do any of that --- we’re off again!
We boarded the coach and headed to the rainforest. First stop was Tjapukai Aboriginal Park (don’t pronounce the T). We wer first led into an area where aboriginal symbols were painted on our faces. As she did mine, she whispered, “A campfire.” (two yellow dots) “People.” (six, then seven black dots around the yellow ones) So I had two campfires with plenty of friends! However, when I looked at it, it looks just like more aged spots, I think…
A young man in native costume (not much costume, lots of body paint, though) showed us how a didgeridoo is made and performed. Then, he entertained us by playing it and mimicking the sounds or motion of the animals of Australia on it: a kangaroo jumping, a little joey trying to keep up, a dingo yowling, a kookaburra calling, a crane swooping . The instrumentalist buzzes his lips continuously while blowing out of his mouth and breathing in through his nose. During a lovely video, he played the background music – fascinating, because after hearing the thrumming sound of the cassowary yesterday, the didgeridoo is similar.
We continue through the park to the learning area, where two young aboriginals showed us how they made medicines and food from the plants in this area. Aborigines here are very different from the ones we met in the outback. First of all, they had much more in their environment on which to thrive. Secondly, these people have integrated with white people and are much more urbanized.
Then we had a boomerang lesson. Not all are “come-back” boomerangs, and there are even right or left-handed ones, and are many different shapes: the familiar curved one, a “J”, an “X”, and a “Y”. The one I threw actually spun around about a half-circle, not bad for the first time. Hunting is men’s business in the aboriginal life, so when it came to spear-throwing, I left Darrel to try it while I went in pursuit of some women’s business – the loo.
We ended our stay there with a fantastic dance show. Six to eight young people played traditional instruments and danced for us. Each of the dancers was representing a different clan: the rainbow, the river, the emu, the snake, the crane, the kangaroo, the cassowary, etc. And when they danced they portrayed the motions of these animals. Wonderful! Then they taught us a song in their native language. One side of the area sang “Euu, Ohh” and our side came in with “Bona, Bona, Boora Bu Rang, Boora Bu Rang, Boora Bu Rang.” We were given the hard part! It was great fun. One of the men even showed us how they start a fire from just a piece of wood and dry grass – no flint! - but we had to help him by chanting and keeping a clapping rhythm. Darrel shot a marvelous short video of the show, and we will be delighted to share it with you when we return.
A class of students was also having a field trip while we were there, darling fourth graders, I think, in their blue uniforms and caps.
Then we drove up to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to take us up the mountain and over the rainforest canopy. From our gondola, we could see staghorn & bird’s nest ferns growing from towering trees, the beautiful blue Ulysses butterflies, Barron River Gorge and Falls, tumbling down the mountain. There were two stops along the Skyrail, where we got off and walked on a boardwalk under these majestic trees, lush with all kinds of growth, the songs and chatter of birds all around us.
Our bus met us at the top and took us a short way to Kuranda Village, a hippie town in the 1960s, but now a quaint tourist trap. We had lunch at Annabelle’s Pies, famous for her small hand-held pies (pasties, for my Michigan friends) with hundreds of different, delicious fillings. We chose kangaroo, and I had a Bundaberg ginger beer, non-alcoholic. We call root beer a beer, same here, but this is like a ginger ale (Australians say lemonade, but it’s more like ginger ale, only much more gingery). Very refreshing. After a macadamia nut ice cream cone and a shopping-run through the market place, we headed back down the hills to Cairns.
Australians like rotaries, or round-abouts, so in many places, both on highways and in town, right turns go in a circle. It seems very efficient here, Culpeper…
After a short rest, our entire group was treated to dinner at the RSL club, Returned Service League. This organization is set up to help war veterans and/or families of service members. Yvonne told us that at exactly 6:00 p.m., everyone is asked to stand at attention, facing the memorial we saw last night, just across the street. A commemorative poem was read, “Lest We Forget”. Then we ordered from the menu. I chose Beef Thai Salad, and Darrel had Chicken Parmigiana. Glass of wine cost only $5. Nice slice of cake for dessert. Very tasty. And all throughout dinner, keno was being played. Fun!
Back to the hotel to pack because:
TOMORROW: we fly off to Sydney. We’re concerned because we’ve been reading and hearing about the hundred or so wildfires that are raging out of control, completely surrounding Sydney. Over 40 families have lost their homes. Much like the wildfires we have in the West, they are caused by the severe dry conditions, carelessness and lightning strikes.