Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Australia, Day Seven

Posted by hyperpat on October 16, 2008

Bright and early the next morning, we headed up to Kuranda village and the Daintree Forest via the Freshwater Scenic Railway.

The Freshwater Train

The Freshwater Train

While the train was nicely appointed and appeared appropriately old-fashioned, I was a little disappointed in the amount of things we could actually see from the train windows, as a good portion of the route up into the mountains had heavy foliage on both sides of the track when it wasn’t otherwise obscured by the rock cliffs the roadbed had been cut through. But the train did make a short stop at Barron Falls, which is certainly spectacular enough:

Barron Falls

Barron Falls

At the Kuranda train station stop, we transferred back to our tour bus, which is certainly uniquely decorated, and finally reached Kuranda Village.

The Tour Bus

The Tour Bus

The major attraction here is the Butterfly sanctuary, which had something like 50 different kinds of butterflies merrily flapping their wings all over the place. These little guys were hard to get on camera, as they wouldn’t stay still most of the time, but we did get a few of them, including the gorgeously colored Papilio ulysses:

Papilio Ulysses

Papilio Ulysses

There was also the Cairns Birdwing:

Cairns Birdwing

Cairns Birdwing

We didn’t actually get to see this guy, but they had a specimen mounted in the display room.

Cosdinoscera Hercules

Cosdinoscera Hercules

It’s the world’s largest moth, with something like an 10″ wingspan (the larger female one shown here). The largest ever recorded had a wingspan of 14″.

Continuing from Kuranda our next stop was the Aborigine Cultural village and the rainforest itself.
Here we got to listen and watch a performance of native dances accompanied by the didgeridoo, a full half hour show that kept us spellbound:

Aborigine Dance Exhibition

Aborigine Dance Exhibition

These dances helped illustrate just how vibrant and ecologically aware the Aborigine culture was, a culture and people that have not been well-treated by the white settlers in this country, a treatment as bad or worse than that meted out to the Native Americans of North America. The country in recent years has moved to redress at least some of the most egregious treatments of this people, but Aborigines (and for that matter just about every other non-white group that has come to Australia) are still treated as at best second-class citizens. This is one record that Australia should not be proud of.

Of course, after that show, we had to learn all about how to play one of these weird instruments, which are formed from wood hollowed out by termites. The termites are heavily present in this area, and sometimes form six foot high mounds.

Didgeridoo Lesson

Didgeridoo Lesson

Next up was a lesson in how to throw a boomerang, absolutely essential knowledge for any Australian wanna-be:

Sylvia and Boomerang 1.01

Sylvia and Boomerang 1.01

My own practice throw was pretty poor, but I think I could get reasonably good at it with some practice. Some of the other people in our group did quite well at it, but there was one (isn’t there always one?) who managed to throw it almost straight up, and it returned practically on top of heads. I suppose that’s the reason that everyone except the thrower is kept inside a roofed wire enclosure, as getting hit by one of these things will certainly give you a long-lasting headache. We purchased a couple of boomerangs here to bring home, these being the genuine article, as opposed to some we’d seen in the various souvenir shops that may have been prettier (and a lot pricier, with some at $500 price tags) but certainly not as functional and strictly intended for tourists.

His..

His..

...and Hers

...and Hers

Next up was a spear throwing demonstration, both directly hand-held and using a woomera, a device that helps increase the distance they can throw. They didn’t let us poor tourists try this one, but it was quite impressive to see the distance they could accurately throw one of these things, and one of the demonstrators holds the Guinness record for an aided throw of 147.5 meters (1 1/2 football fields).

Spear Throwing 1.01

Spear Throwing 1.01

After a pretty good barbecue lunch we then seated ourselves in an old Army Duck for a little excursion through the rainforest.

An Army Duck

An Army Duck

These vehicles are over 60 years old, originally constructed for WWII action, and still running just fine today. Now if our auto industry would still make vehicles this way, you’d only have to buy one car for your entire life. Of course, that would mean the industry wouldn’t be able to sell nearly as many cars, which just can’t be allowed to happen in a capitalistic society. Of course, the top speed of about 5mph of these things probably won’t impress you, but they will allow you to get through some very rugged terrain and/or marshes quite well.

I thought the best part of this little jaunt was when the duck took to the water. While we didn’t observe any crocodiles poking their snouts out, there were turtles and snakes along the way. And our guide stopped at one point to demonstrate the extreme flexibility and sturdiness of the rattan wood, something I have memories of from my school days here, as rattan canes were used for discipline of extreme infractions (their use has now been outlawed in all schools in Australia).

Guide and Rattan

Guide and Rattan

After the rainforest, we took a stroll through the wildlife section of this attraction. While many of the animals were ones we’d observed earlier in Featherdale Wildlife preserve, there were some new ones, like this guy whom I unfortunately didn’t catch the name of: (Now labeled with correct designation thanks to a commentor):

A Quoll

A Quoll

We also got a better shot of one the big cassowaries here:

Cassorwary

Cassorwary

Sylvia got brave and actually went up and touched one of the kangaroos:

Kangaroos Can Be Nice

Kangaroos Can Be Nice

This day was still not done, as we still needed to get back to Cairns, for which purpose we took 7.5 kilometer Skyrail cable car ride over the rainforest (Sylvia once again surprised herself at calmly accepting this move to high in the sky).

Katoomba Skyrail cable car

Skyrail cable car

The views from the car were awesome, at some places just barely skimming over the tops of the trees, and allowing a view down to the forest floor some 200 ft lower, at others giving us a panoramic view of the entire area.

Over the river

Over the river

At the Top of the Forest

At the Top of the Forest

View towards Cairns

View towards Cairns

We finally got back to Cairns, and decided on a simple dinner, so we went to the local MacDonalds (yes, they’re everywhere). This allowed us to make a direct price comparison to American food prices. I found my standard Double-Quarter-Pounder combo meal at $14 AUD. Even applying the then current exchange rate, that translates to about $12.50 US, a lot more than the US price. Prices here are definitely high. After dinner,and this very long sight-filled day it was time to pack up and get ready for the flight back to Sydney in the morning.

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4 Responses to “Australia, Day Seven”

  1. Tracy said

    While I did enjoy your photo’s I was a little dissapointed with your comments on our Aborigine’s.
    I’m sure the ones you met were wonderful and had no hesitation in telling you how bad done by the race has been in the past.
    But you really need to hear both sides of the story before you give a verdict on how we should not be proud of the way they were treated nearly two hundred years ago.

    Yes the whites did come in and kill, but they have done that the whole world over many, many times. The aborigine’s came here around four thousand years ago(roughly) so they are migrants themselves.
    We the workers of this country are required by to work if we want money, or you can go on the dole but you must proove that you are looking for work and give references every week to show this. The Aborigine’s are not required to work and do not have to give any proof that they are even looking to get paid.
    I work in a bottle shop and can guarentee that evey pay day they would come in and each one would spend hundreds of dollars on alcohol. The government has now put proceedures in place to try and stop this but they manage to get round it. Now if they can’t control themselves how can we tell them no.
    They are GIVEN houses to live in, that they trash. They are GIVEN discounts on bills and car loans and if they can’t pay it back the government steps in for them. They are GIVEN privaledges just about everywhere they go that the whites can only imagine getting and 99% of them either piss it up the wall, inhale it or steal it.
    The majority are rude and arrogant and don’t have any pride in themselves or anything they own. There are exceptions and they are wonderful people but the rest have a huge chip on their shoulders that they are quite willing to let the rest of Australians carry.
    The so called stolen generation…..well if they could look after their kids properly I would agree that it was wrong. But I’ve seen the neglect they give to this generation so I’m not bothered by it one bit. What does bother me is when people jump up and down saying how bad they get it and they really don’t know what they get and how they get it. My child was forced with many others to get up at a school assembly and publicly apoligise for how they were treated in the past. Is it her fault, NO.. it isn’t, and I was outraged when I herd it. They make no effort to intergrade with the whites but they quite willing for us to support them totally.
    So it would be good to get the other side out there as the world tends to see only the poor inhuman treatment they got when the whites took over. Come and have a look at what they get now, they have had land returned to them to do what they want, so they can go and live the way they use to. But there’s not many that opt for it….I wonder why that is.
    regards.

  2. Renee said

    Hi! I’ve just come across your page whilst looking for some pictures. There’s a couple of captions you might like to correct. You have labelled the cable car as Katoomba Skyrail, yet Katoomba is in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. Also, the ‘odd animal’ is a Quoll. It is a carnivorous marsupial. Also, the comments made by Tracy are the opinions of some members of Australian society but certainly not everybody! It’s disappointing to hear people lumping all indigenous Australians into the same negative basket. I hope you had a nice time in our great country!

    • hyperpat said

      Thanks for the correction and additional info; you are quite correct about the skyrail. Must have been the confusion from going and seeing so many things in such a short period.

      Yes, I had a great time in Australia, both on this little trip and during the couple of years I lived there.

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