The morning was looking pretty damp, too. Never mind – the weather is one thing we can’t change.
The last time we were in Cairns was around 20 years ago, on one of our very first long haul holidays with Edward, who would have been around 7 or 8. We really enjoyed our time in this neck of the woods and the rainforest and reef left deep impressions on us. Given the choice today, we decided not to overwrite the snorkelling experience on the Great Barrier Reef, but instead chose to try something new.
Even all that time ago, we remember Cairns as being quite well developed in the tourism stakes and so it came as no surprise to find that one of the options we had was to visit a corner of rainforest and see an Aboriginal show and that this particular “experience” was in – or near – Kuranda. Twenty years ago we’d taken the steam train to Kuranda and visited the butterfly house there, though due to my fear of things flying, I’d sat outside drinking coffee for a while instead.
Anyway, here we were on a Monday morning in 2012, driving up the mountain to Rainforestation, where we were going to take a ride in an Army Duck vehicle into the forest. Yes, the full on tourist attraction, safe, controlled and no surprises guaranteed.
But you know, such things are not always to be sniffed at. In this case, the driver AJ was great and the whole shebang was so professionally run that really, it was hard to be at all critical. With only a short time to see something new, what better way than to put yourself in the hands of people who know what they are doing and who do it so well?
Because we didn’t so much go into the rainforest as have the rainforest delivered to the end of our noses, with the full commentary as well.
What better way to see water dragons and small kingfishers just a couple of feet away?
We loved being in the midst of such lush greenery, especially at such close quarters and the ride in the duck simply added to the fun.
There followed a performance by a group of Aboriginal Pamagirri people, which was fun to watch. Even so, we were waiting for them to strike up the HokeyCokey or something similar – you know the kind of thing that happens at this sort of show? Eventually, they cajoled three stooges to come up from the audience to perform the Shake a Leg Dance, which was more or less the same level of embarrassment. Thankfully it was all done in good humour and with a bit of a twinkle in the eye too!
After the dancing, we were taken to a wide open space to watch a demonstration of spear throwing.
This wouldn’t normally have been my kind of thing but I must say, I found it impressive to watch the accuracy and range that could be achieved by using the “spear thrower”; a shortish piece of wood with a hook at one end and a club at the other.
After a quick demonstration of boomerang throwing and one final didgeridoo lesson, our introduction to Aboriginal skills was complete. We’d really enjoyed our time here and appreciated the thought and organisation which had gone into providing visitors with such a wealth of cultural activity in the limited time available.
It was now time to move on to Kuranda.
My memory of the place 20 years ago is of a tourist trap of a village with tie dyed T shirts and butterfly wall hangings. Sadly, not much seems to have changed in the intervening years and though Shelagh, our guide, made much of the agreement of Kuranda traders to sell only Australian made products, we saw quite a bit which appeared to stretch the boundaries rather.
On this rainy Monday afternoon, much of the market was closed, which didn’t help, but nevertheless, we enjoyed a wander around and a little people watching opportunity as it gradually became clear that much of this wasn’t really aimed at people like us at all, but more likely the large groups of Asian youngsters who were there too and who are probably the main tourist market these days.
Back in Cairns itself later in the afternoon, it became more apparent that much of the town is geared towards the Asian market with restaurants and shops advertising in Japanese and Mandarin.
A few old buildings remain amongst the newer, flashier structures – this one is the headquarters of the local newspaper.
After a couple of hours downtown we felt that we had seen what we could of Cairns, given the dreadful weather. We made it back to the cruise terminal and admired this warning notice, even if it does seem rather out of date!
As we were about to board the ship, we stopped by a table and enjoyed a taste of Queensland’s harvest – the wonderful tropical fruits which taste so much better here where they are grown. After a few mouthfuls of custard apples, soursops, mangoes and sugar bananas we pulled ourselves away and back up the gangplank.
It’s a pity the sun didn’t shine for us today, but nevertheless, we’ve had a great time here and the atmosphere back on this ship is one of lively chatter as we all share stories of our time in Cairns. Tonight, we’ve set sail for somewhere new to almost all of us – Papua New Guinea. Now that’s going to be interesting, isn’t it?