Originally published in August 2013. Updated April 2020.
Steve and I were in for quite a treat today—holding koalas and exploring the rain forest! We took and excursion up to Kuranda, which is a former hippie village in the rainforest, just above Cairns. The bus was a bit late, but everything seemed to be running late that morning, according to the bus drivers (we had to change buses a time or two). We got dropped off at the Skyrail station (like a ski lift, where you’re in a little closed in car hanging from a cable), and up, up, up the mountains we went!
We got to see the rain forest from a bird’s eye view before stopping at a boardwalk about a third of the way up. We got out and went on a little nature walk with a guide who explained about how the rain forest works. The rain forest us actually a rough environment for the plants that seem to thrive there.
Surprisingly, plants don’t live very long there. Rain forest trees live around 120 years, if they are fortunate, where as trees in other areas like the Redwood Forest in Northern California can be THOUSANDS of years old! And actually, the only way to tell how old a tree is there is to do carbon dating; you can’t cut it through and see the rings because… there aren’t any! Trees in the rain forest don’t grow at a regular rate there, and they don’t stop growing in the wintertime like trees in temperate areas do.
Back onto the Skyrail! Over and across the forest we flew. Next stop, Kuranda!
Kuranda Koala Gardens is sort of a small zoo. There are crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and turtles to see from a distance or behind glass, wallabies and kangaroos to pet and feed, and the best part, koalas to cuddle and hold! This was certainly a highlight for me!
So, we got ourselves ticketed to enter the Gardens and got a pass for me to hold a koala. Steve was more interested in watching! Koalas are even more precious and lovable in person than they are in pictures! There were four of them hanging out in the trees just in front of the koala holding area; they’re just so precious!
When it was my turn, the girls taking the koala holding pictures called me over and showed me where to stand and how to hold the koala. When you hold the koala there, the left arm curves against your stomach, and that’s the koala’s seat. The right arm curves in front of you, just below your chest, to support its back. One of the girls brought a female Koala over to me and set her in my arms, and her claws dug right into my shoulder! Worth it!
She was so sweet and laid-back. Her name was Lola. I got my picture with the koala with their camera, but I was surprised when they told me Steve could use my camera to take pictures as well! And even more surprised when the girl said Steve could come over with me and the two of us could have our picture together with the koala, too! Life: Made!
Lunchtime! All that koala cuddling and overwhelming preciousness is enough to make a girl famished. There’s a restaurant conveniently right at the top of the Koala Gardens, so we found a seat and looked at a menu. I just about had my heart set on some sort of barramundi fish, but at the last moment, I saw there was a combination appetizer of crocodile, emu, and kangaroo—yes, please!
Crocodile is white meat, and the other two are red meats. Emu was my favorite because it was very tender and absolutely delicious! Steve got a HUGE barramundi burger. When that was done, we set our sights on souvenirs. We had another hour and a half or so before we had to board the train back down the mountain, so we took our time to mosey that direction.
When we made it back to the train, we got our tickets and waited to board for “One of the most scenic train rides in the world.” We had been looking forward to it, but in all honesty, we were unimpressed. There were a few scenic views of the water from up on the mountain, and one waterfall view, but we wouldn’t recommend it. The Skyrail was much better.
Next stop, the grocery! I needed to try out this thing called Vegemite that I keep hearing about. The train station was right next to a mall with a grocery, and there we found it. It comes in a jar like a spread, though I’d always heard people compare it to spam. So we picked up a jar and walked back to our hotel. Too easy!
I opened the jar to see what looked a lot like hot fudge, but smelled a lot like a hot salty mess. Here we go! Steve didn’t want any, but I grabbed a spoonful and spread it on the bread. I took a picture, took a bite, and… UGH! I don’t think I’ve ever had to truly stop eating something, but this was truly the exception. I’ll pass from here on out!
And now… onward to the lagoon! For those who want the beach experience without leaving the land, there’s a lovely lagoon—saltwater, of course—just next to the Esplanade. Steve and I took a dip, but the evening was growing quite cool, even in the tropical north! After an hour or so, we started back to the hotel and stopped at The Coffee Club for hot chocolate with marshmallows and a cookie. This was better than the vegemite!
What a full day! Holding koalas, trying new things, walking to and from town. We booked an excursion to Green Island the next day to take a glass-bottom boat ride, and it was time for bed!
Tomorrow—a walk to the Cairns Botanic Gardens and a couple of hours at Green Island! The adventure continues!
Get the whole scoop on our Cairns adventures on my Australia Page!
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