Thursday, June 05, 2008

What I Did On My Australian Vacation: Day Nine

I will finish this some time before I take my next vacation, I swear!

Day Nine:

This was our second day in the Cairns area, and I'd call it easily the fullest day of the entire trip. We started out on a scenic railroad tour through the mountains, which featured some pretty waterfalls. Here's a view looking out at the back of the train:


And a waterfall:

The railroad trip ended in the "village" of Kuranda, which is actually a tourist area featuring shops and wildlife parks and such. Unfortunately, we didn't get a whole lot of time to look around there, as it was scheduled to be a short stop, anyway, and the train got in late due to some brake trouble. But there was at least time for ice cream, and I also accidentally bought some mango wine. I'm honestly not at all sure how that happened. One minute I was walking past the wine vendor's stall happily minding my own business, the next I was overwhelmed with sales patter and found myself forking over money. According to the label, said wine won some sort of "tourism award." I can only assume that this honor was actually awarded in recognition of the hypnotic mind ray they were obviously employing. But, hey, I figured it might be a cool thing to bring home for my friends. If it was actually decent, we could enjoy it, and if it was terrible, we could have a laugh about it. (I did have a sample, but I am no judge of wine. All I can say is that it tasted like at least vaguely like mango, and that it clearly helped to chemically pave the way for the mind rays.) Unfortunately, the wine never did make it home. Since Australia doesn't have any regulations against liquids on domestic flights, I stuffed it into my carry on, figuring the bottle would be less likely to incur damage that way than in the checked luggage... and promptly forgot it was in there until it was confiscated by security when I went to fly home. Ah, well. Easy come, easy... mango. Or something.

Anyway, after that brief stop, we went on to a whole host of activities at the "Rainforestation." Which is, um, a station in the rain forest. First, we got a guided tour of a rather nice little zoo, where I finally got to see live kangaroos. Not quite as exciting as seeing them in the wild, but you could pet them, which was fun. We were introduced to lots of other native critters, too, including snakes and lizards, dingos, various marsupials, and crocodiles. Thanks to those last, I got to see the single most entertaining danger sign ever:


Speaking of crocodiles, I had my picture taken with a little one, as well as with a koala:



The cheesy hat in the first picture is one they gave me to pose with the croc in. The other, much cooler, hat is one I bought in Alice Springs.

Next up was a guided nature tour through a reforested section of rain forest on an old second-hand amphibious military vehicle called an "army duck." Vehicles that transform from cars into boats always look so cool in the movies... This one, by contrast, was kind of clunky and dorky, but nifty to ride on, anyway. We didn't see a whole lot of wildlife: giant butterflies, turtles in the lake, and a brief glimpse of a bird I believe the guide referred to as a "bush turkey." Oh, and a couple of huge spiders hanging in immense webs in the area where the vehicles were docked. But we did get introduced to lots and lots of plants, some of which were frankly kind of scary. (Spiders I'm not afraid of. Trees that grab your clothing and won't let you go... That kind of freaks me out.)

Somewhere in here, we had a nice buffet lunch, and then in the afternoon, there was a half-hour show featuring aboriginal dancers. This... was kind of cheesy, to be honest, and I had terrible mixed feelings about it, with half of me thinking it was a shameful exploitation of an ancient culture, and the other half countering with, "Hey, these guys have to eat, and they seem to be enjoying themselves, so go them." This internal debate, however, got completely short-circuited when they called for volunteers from the audience, and one of the guys from our tour group raised his hand. No matter what your political or philosophical stance, it is impossible not to find a giant pasty American in an orange polo shirt trying to do a kangaroo dance hysterically funny.

This was followed by a demonstration of various native skills and art forms. We were all given a brief lesson in boomerang throwing. My friend proved extremely good at it. Me, I couldn't even get the thing to go away from me, let alone making it come back. We were also introduced to the didgeridoo, which looks like it ought to be incredibly easy to play, an impression I'm sure is utterly deceptive.

And then we proceeded back down the mountain on the Skyrail cableway, a long, long, long tram line -- 7.5 km! -- that skims above the rain forest treetops, giving some of the most in-freaking-credible views I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, the entire Australia trip was probably worth it just for those views.

14 comments:

  1. Between you and my brother and every other darned tourist, that must be one of the most-photographed waterfalls in the world.

    The "tourism award" probably means they were recognized for top sales to gullible Americans and Asians, not necessarily because tourists actually like the wine.

    Trees that grab your clothing and won't let you go... That kind of freaks me out.
    Did you have a bad experience watching The Wizard of Oz when you were little?

    half of me thinking it was a shameful exploitation of an ancient culture, and the other half countering with, "Hey, these guys have to eat, and they seem to be enjoying themselves, so go them."
    That's a very similar argument I have with myself about the Miss America pageant.

    the didgeridoo, which looks like it ought to be incredibly easy to play, an impression I'm sure is utterly deceptive
    Actually, it is easy to play (and I won a bottle of wine for doing it when the Japanese businessman couldn't). Next time you come over for dinner, I'll show you how on the one I brought home. Now if you had wondered if it were easy to play properly and well...

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  2. Well, it's kind of a pretty waterfall! Although I imagine it's prettier when they're not in the middle of a massive drought.

    And, yeah, I'm quite sure the "tourism awared" was for the effectiveness of their Mind Ray, and not for the quality of the wine. :)

    Did you have a bad experience watching The Wizard of Oz when you were little?

    No, but I watched it a crapload of times, and it apparently made a strong impression on my developing mind. :)

    That's a very similar argument I have with myself about the Miss America pageant.

    My feelings about that seem to be much more one-sided, I think because I have much less sympathetic feeling for beautiful, vacuous women than I do for aboriginal people with dancing skills.

    Next time you come over for dinner, I'll show you how on the one I brought home.

    Cool! But, man, it's hard to resist making dirty jokes about blowing on a guy's didgeridoo. ;)

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  3. I like the pictures. They are keepers for me.

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  4. I think the originals are a bit better. The scanned versions make my face look redder than it actually was. :)

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  5. Is that an animal leather hat you are wearing while holding the croc?

    Maybe you got a sunburn.

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  6. That was a very, very fake crocodile hate. :) The one I'm wearing in the other picture, for the record, is suede.

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  7. you got to hold a koala??? That is soooooo cool!!!!

    PS: I'm going to Spamalot on Weds night ;)

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  8. It was pretty cool. :)

    And that's this week?! Aargh, I kept meaning to look into getting tickets, but June really did somehow sneak up on me insanely fast. Sigh. Even if my some miracle it's not sold out, I really don't think I can make it on Wednesday.

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  9. They claim to still have tix if you still want to see it.

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  10. I'd like to, but I've got some other stuff going on that day and might not be able to get up to Abq. in time afterwards. Plus, I've been falling asleep at insanely early hours and might not be good to drive by the time it's over. Ah, well.

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  11. it's hard to resist making dirty jokes about blowing on a guy's didgeridoo.

    And I was so careful about how I worded that in the first place.

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  12. I don't think there's any way to word that that doesn't invite off-color jokes. :)

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  13. Spamalot starts tonight but runs thru Sunday. Maybe you could go to a matinee!

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  14. Hmm, I might be able to make it Thurs. or Fri. Not sure, though...

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