Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Rainforests of Northern Queensland

It was so good to be out in the trees again. I used to think that there was nothing that could rival the Redwood Forest in California, but even those grand trees have some competition from the rainforests in Queensland.

I took the skyrail from Cairns to Kuranda (a small town about 1-1/2 hours from the city), so I got an aerial view of the trees. Pretty magnificent.

Kuranda definitely caters to tourists, but I read that if you can avoid the crowds, it is a beautiful little town out in the rainforest. I did the reverse of most tourists who do day trips to Kuranda, and instead took the last skyrail into the town and spent the night there. I booked a room at the Rainforest Park (only $20 for the budget accomodation - cheaper than the hostel!). When I got into Kuranda I had a quick look around, then decided to head out to find the Park. I picked up a map and it looked pretty easy to find so I started walking. I walked for what seemed like a really long time, at least an hour or more, which surprised me since the Lonely Planet said it was just a 10 minute walk from town. I got a little worried when I passed a sign that said, "Thanks for visiting Kuranda!" The walk, however, was really nice despite the light rain falling, so I kept walking. Eventually, I saw a tiny sign that directed me to Rainforest Park.

I found the registration office right at the edge of the park and went inside. As I was talking to the lady, she cocked her head to one side, looked me over and said, "You took the shortcut, right?"

"Uh, shortcut?"

Apparently, there is a shortcut that takes you right into town. But despite being rather damp and cold, I was happy to be in such a nice environment.

Not a bad place to wake up, huh?

Here is the cottage that I stayed in. The accomodations were simple, but actually pretty perfect.

There was only one other person staying at this cottage. She was a volunteer with WWOOF (worldwide workers on organic farms) from Switzerland. It sounds like a great program. She does 4-5 hours a day working on the grounds in exchange for room and board. She was on a 6-week holiday from work as a social worker. This was the shortest holiday of anyone I had met; most were travelling for 6 months to a year. I thought 2 months was a long time to travel! I guess that is the difference between the US and most other places. I met a woman who was a CPA and just promoted to the step before partner in the firm, so she took a 6-month around the world trip since she knew it would be a while before she could do that again. Her company totally supported this idea!

The Park was great, and I was awakened by kookaburras laughing. Both charming and very loud. I spent most of the day hiking around the trails. Also, I tried the shortcut into town.

Oh, just follow the tracks. It is so obvious now.

It was impossible to photograph, but here is an idea of how lush it was. Because it had rained the night before, whenever the wind blew and the trees swayed, it would feel like it was raining. Awesome sensation, as it was a really sunny day.

I saw this little guy crawling around in the leaves.

On the way back into Cairns, I took the Scenic Train. It was pretty cool, but it was a shock to go from the peace and quiet to a crowded train of people snapping pictures out the window.

Here is a picture I snapped out the window of Barron Falls.

Again, I have a place that I need to return to one day. That is happening so much on this trip. If I had known how beautiful Rainforest Park was, I would have spent more time there.

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