Day five of our trip started out bright and early with a plane ride from Melbourne to Cairns. The flight was about 3 and a half hours. As soon as we exited the plane we were surrounded by warm weather and mountains covered in trees. Once we were settled into the hotel we walked around a bit and got some lunch. The lunch was delicious. Then we all met for appetizers and a social hour at a pretty neat restaurant called Rattle & Hum. Then we all went for gelato (which became a common theme throughout our time in Cairns). After the delicious gelato (I got coconut), it was off to bed for a historical wonder.
On day six I woke up early for this wonder; the Great Barrier Reef. Once we got on the boat it was about an hour out in the sea to get to the first snorkeling site. To say the ride out was bumpy would be an understatement. Passengers got sea sick within minutes of being out on sea. Luckily I took the sea sick pills so I didn’t get sea sick, but It was a little nerve wrenching with how bumpy it was.
Once we got to the first snorkeling site I was so nervous. I finally got the fins over my feet and after a few minutes of being too scared to jump in I finally did. They told us not to smile when snorkeling because it would let water into our goggles or our snorkels. But as soon as I began to look down at the coral reef I couldn’t help but smile. As soon as I did the nose of my goggles filled up, but I had too! It was so amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at the Great Barrier Reef.
I have dreamt of being in Australia since I was 13 and I’ve always pictured seeing the Great Barrier Reef. I can’t believe I was almost too nervous to do this tour. After I was done snorkeling the first site the crew served us lunch. The lunch was delicious. We had prawns, steak, bread and an assortment of different salads. Next stop was another snorkeling site. This site the coral was right up next to you, so close you had to be careful not to touch it. I was so amazed.
Out of my two snorkeling trips I saw two tiny squids, many parrot fish (my favorite), clown fish, blue tangs, angel fish and tons more. The trip back home was just as bumpy if not a little bit more. After the rough seas I promised myself I’d never complain about turbulence on a plane again. Even with the bumpy ride this was still the most amazing and adventurous thing I had every done and I am so glad I was able to do this tour.
Day seven I got even more adventurous. This day was the Kuranda Scenic Tour. It started out with a train ride through the rainforest where we heard historical facts from making the rail road, to World War II military stories. We also say two AMAZING waterfalls. Oh yeah, did I mention this rainforest is the worlds oldest rainforest?? Incredible.
After the train ride was over we got off in the little town called Kuranda which was absolutely the cutest town I have ever seen. It was just full of little touristy shops. I wish we could’ve had more than an hour there but I made the most out of it. We found a shop that sold prints by an Australian artist. They were so beautiful I couldn’t help but buy four of them.
Then we rushed to the opposite end of the town for our chance to hold a koala. One of my biggest goals for this trip was to hold a koala so I had too. We waited in line for about 15 minutes and when it was finally my turn to hold Charlie the koala he decided he was down being held. So the keeper had to find a different one for me to hold, her name was Ivey and she was everything I dreamed. She clung right on to me and she was so soft.
After our pictures printed we had to sprint to get to the Sky ride on time. We made it with three minutes to spare, it was well worth it. The gondola ride over the rainforest was like something out of a dream. Even though I am terrified of heights I looked down the entire way. It was too beautiful not too. How can anyone be overtop of a rainforest and not look down? I could hear the sounds of the rainforest as we rode atop the canopy. Absolutely mesmerizing. We stopped a few times for 10 minutes in between the three gondola rides to explore into the rainforest a bit. I was in paradise.
Next stop was the Hartley’s Crocodile Farm. This is where I got even more adventurous. The first thing we did was stop for food, I decided to try crocodile. Basically it tasted like really chewy chicken, but it was good! As we were eating we say a sign for getting your picture taken with reptiles. I decided to take my picture holding a………python. Yes a python.
Trust me, I’m surprised too. I honestly don’t know why but Australia has made me unafraid of things I’ve been afraid of my whole life. I was so happy I held that snake. Her name was tangles and she was absolutely adorable. We had a 2:30 appointment for a boat ride in the Lagoon. The ride took us through a pond type thing where they had 27 saltwater crocodiles. The driver used a stick with chicken to have some of the crocs jump up for us. He entertained us with jokes and stories. All of the crocodiles had names which made me really happy. After the boat ride we watch the crocodile attack show where they showed up a massive croc. Then we walked around and saw snakes, frogs, lizards, quell, cassowaries, and wombats. Then it was time to head back to the hotel. Once we got back we found a pub crawl for 25 dollars that took us to some of the pubs around Cairns. I met a lot of interesting people, watched some live music, and saw the modern night life.
On day eight the entire group went to the Aboriginal village of the Tjapukai tribe. This visit was absolutely amazing. We began out tour with authentic face painting done by our tour guide, then we moved in to a room with a large tapestry that covered the entire wall in front of us. This tapestry told the story of the Aboriginals from the dry lands and the wet lands brought by their grandfather the rainbow serpent. The tour guide explained that if a man's father is from the wet lands then they are a wet land man and must marry a dry land woman, and vice versa. He also explained the different types of Aboriginal tribes. Desert people, rainforest people (the Tjapukai tribe were rainforest people), bush land people, and coastal people.
We were then escorted into a black box theatre where there was a visual representation explaining the story of the tapestry we saw before. This animation took 2 years and $20,000 dollars to make. The digital artists who worked on the movie Avatar helped in the creation of the beautiful work we saw. As we exited th theatre to the next experience, there was a display of pictures under the pictures there was a part of a statement as we walked on. The statement was: “We lived in peace for 50,000 years. Our land was taken. Our culture broken. Our children stolen. But we are still here.”. This really struck me. In class we learned about the struggles these people had to endure, but during this tour we never focused on what the white man did to the Tjapukai tribe, we only embraced the culture.
Next we were brought to an outdoor theatre where we watched and participated in a culture dance, song and chant. After the beautiful stories of the Tjapukai culture we painted our own boomerangs using the 4 sacred colors (yellow-sun, red-earth, white-clay, and black-from the fires). We also made our own pieces of jewelry using straw, beeswax and beads.
We moved into the banquet room to eat a delicious lunch and another cultural dance. They served several salads, fish, chicken, desserts, fresh fruit, soup and kangaroo. So I checked eating kangaroo off my bucket list. It was very tasty, similar to venison but a little sweeter. After lunch our tour guide brought us out across a bridge to teach us about what the Tjapukai tribe would eat (nuts and fruits from the rainforest). Our tour guide also taught us about the traditional weapons, how they are used and what they are used for. Then he taught us how to throw spears, and a returning boomerang. I was not very good at this. The next part of the tour we walked around an the tour guide taught us about the different plants and trees and what they can be used for.
Our last part of the tour was a jam tasting. We tried three different types of jams, all of them were delicious. After we were done there was left over bread and we were able to go to the bridge and feet the turtles. Once the first bread dropped about 20 turtles and some large snake eel looking fish came to eat it. This visit was absolutely amazing. I loved learning and participating in the Tjapukai culture.
Cairns was an amazing city. Much different from Melbourne in that is was slower paced and smaller. But it still had the Australian culture I picked up on in Melbourne. There was still throwback music, chipotle mayo/odd ketchup, and nice people. I loved Cairns. I got so many life experiences from Cairns in such a short amount of time I can’t believe it. After my memories from Melbourne and Cairns I can’t wait to see what Sydney has in store.