Oh, what a day ... Thursday, 12/15/16
This was our last full day in Australia; in fact, today was the last day of our month-long journey Downunder. So, we made the most of it, you know, make hay while the sun shines! In the tropical rainforest, the sun will shine!
When we left our room for breakfast, I automatically walked around the corner to the end of our fourth floor hotel balcony, just to look around, and came face-to-face with the cutest, uh, teddy-bear like, bat, snugly wrapped in its own cape and lookin' me right in the eye. If you needed a jolt to get you awake, that'd do it!
After breakfast and a lecture from Brian, an expert who was (among other pursuits) one of the last professional crocodile hunters and who lives in the rainforest, we boarded our coach for a short trip up to the Village of Kuranda, a mountain retreat in the rainforest. I say "up," because the village is about 1,000' above Cairns, though only 15+ miles away. It's a beautiful place to visit, filled with flowers and ferns and trees and critters unlike we've yet seen.
First thing I saw? This pair of Stone Curlews.
We walked about the town, poking into shops, agog over the "landscape." The trees are unique and massive; in fact, everything we saw growing was over-the-top! A couple of examples below:
One huge Ficus (Curtain fig), and me.
Heliconia or false bird of paradise of some kind.
As Jimmy and I meandered, we came across this vintage 1942 C-47, manufactured in Long Beach, CA, destined for Australian shores as part of the USA 5th Air Force, and nicknamed, "GERONIMO." After the war, it became a work horse in various venues and places. In 1983, it was repainted and renamed "Miss Fortune" for a movie called "Sky Pirates," and -- long story shortened -- ended up, in pieces, right here, where you see Jimmy. And apparently being swallowed by the jungle.
Good food, and lots of iced tea and water, perfect ... we were all thirsty. Sitting under shade on the deck, listening to birds and admiring the lush plant diversity, plus the entertainment (below) made for a nice lunch.
Eastern Water Dragon -- three of them roamed the deck at Frog's, at our feet! And these dudes aren't dinky little lizards! The biggest one was approx 18" long. I guess they're the rainforest's version of a beggar dog! Someone dropped a piece of bread near one of them, but that wasn't the ticket. They're vegetarians ... he should've dropped a piece of lettuce!
Papaya tree with fruit and a windmill (?) just off Frog's deck.
I used to have a Schefflera houseplant, many years ago when I lived in SoCal, easy to grow, not too big. Then there's the rainforest kind, called Umbrella Trees (Schefflera actinophylla), 50' tall, with bright red flowers on long spikes that radiate out of the end of each branch, rich nectar food source for Honeyeaters and Rainbow Lorikeets. I nearly fell over when learned they were in the Schefflera family ... we saw quite a few.
Australian Bush turkey, just scratching around, like chickens and turkeys do.
Not very pretty. Again, we saw more than one.
Following lunch, the group had an easy walk to the Skyrail Cableway. There we boarded cable cars for a stunning cableway excursion, sweeping above the rainforest canopy, that left us breathless, at least for me and Jimmy, Bernice and Ibby. The entire trip lasted about 90 minutes, including a stop at Red Peak Station for a guided tour (via boardwalk) of the forest floor. Wonder how many towers from to beginning to end? 33 towers in 7.5km, wow!
We crossed Barron River at least once, and somewhere between Towers 18-25, our cable car seemed close enough to the canopy, that leaves looked almost within reach! Bernice and I braced ourselves approaching each tower, usually accompanied by a "whoa" as we passed beneath it.
With the approach of the rainy season, Barron Falls wasn't a spectacular show, but it looked good to us. We also liked the guys in the photo below. 💕 Ibby on the left, Jimmy on the right. Cool guys in their hats.
From the cable car, I saw a lot of something that had me wondering, and when I asked later, I found out the yellow/ish whip-like "cords" I saw were part of a plant called Golden Lawyer Cane, a type of palm (Calamus australis). It really stood out amongst all the green. Don't know if you can spot it in the photo above. Maybe enlarge the pic.
Returning to Cairns. Really enjoyed this ride!
All day, we saw an array of Epiphytes -- staghorn, elkhorn, basket and bird's nest ferns.
Even an orchid or two.
Back to Cairns, we regrouped and walked to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Park, which was quite an eye-opener. We learned so much about the lifestyle of these northern coastal Aborigines,
First we "got painted." Lightly on me, please.
Playing the Didgeridoo. What a sound!
This is a fierce warrior (from New Zealand?) 😀
Dancing a traditional corroboree. You can tell the Americans from the native Australians ... they're the ones in western clothes. Linda in blue shorts, then Ron, Ibby, Mary partially hidden, and Bob toward the right-hand side. They managed to "do" a pretty good dance, while the rest of the audience joined in by singing and clapping.
Indoors, the gathering and cooking of bush foods, and medicinal values of native foods, was an interesting, hands-on presentation. We watched a fire-making ceremony ... starting a fire like they did in ancient times, before matches, and then we trooped out to a field for boomerang and traditional "milay" spear throwing. My first try at pitching the boomerang nearly lopped off someone's head (kidding), but on the THIRD try, my boomerang did a bat-turn and came back to me. Jimmy did great on the spear throwing. We'll probably never do these activities again, but it was fun giving it a try.
Finally, we posed one last time for a group photo, and I think we look as happy as a group of people who have successfully completed a fantastic one-month journey "on the other side of the planet," enjoying almost every moment. Look at those smiles! Life is good.