Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Well, you take the good with the bad.

From the airplane flying into Cairns we could see what looked like white outlined Islands out in the water. We later found out that those were the outer reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, the attraction we were coming to Cairns to see. What we didn’t expect was the mountains and jungle that awaited us as we were landing. The airport looked as if it was cut out of the rainforest surrounding it, but would soon be swallowed up again if given half a chance. The trees around the terminal were unlike any we’ve seen before, and the hot humidity hit us like a tidal wave as we walked out of the airplane. We had definitely gotten closer to the equator during our flight, I think I was sweating within a few feet.

Lyall, the contact that Liz (our host in Auckland) had set up, was waiting for us in the lobby holding a handwritten sign with our names on it. He was an older gentleman with a big smile, and a charming personality. He soon led us to his car and was giving us an animated history of the airport and surrounding area. I must say it was immensely better than catching a taxi. I felt as if I knew Cairns by the time we arrived at his lovely apartment. Lyall has excellent taste, and we were incredibly comfortable as we settled into his spare bedroom. Promptly joining him in the living room we learned about the cyclone that had been churning off the coast for a few days. The television was bleak that evening as all the news was about it, and how it had matured into a category five storm. This means that the cyclone (we would call it a hurricane) had winds in the 260 km/hr range (I have no idea how to convert it to miles per hour), category five is apparently as bad as it gets.

Well, you take the good with the bad.

The next day we decided to risk the bad weather (which was not really supposed to hit for a couple of days) and take a scenic train to a village up in the mountains called Kuranda. We bought a package that included the train up, a gondola ride back down, and an aboriginal cultural center called Tjabukai.

Remember the flight from Auckland? Well, the train was about the same. We got as far as a little suburb called Redlynch when we broke down. We spent the next few hours switching our view from the front of the train to a horse that was grazing in a field. I don’t think he ever presented any angle of himself to us besides his rear end. It was suitable to the occasion. I definitely felt like a horses ass after paying seventy dollars to ride on this “scenic” tour.

Front of Train and Horses Rear End

Eventually another engine was brought from behind to take us back to a little place we had passed called Freshwater. From there we were loaded on buses and taken up to Kuranda (after a nice long wait on the bus of course). When we arrived we were dropped off at the butterfly sanctuary (across town from the train station) without so much as a discount for a future trip, or “let us buy you lunch for your trouble.” I was not happy after finding a place for Joy to eat (she was starving), I marched off to the train station. She stayed behind (probably best) as I went to make things right.

When I arrived at the train station I was surprisingly the only person at the window. This did not seem to matter at all to the station attendants, as they just continued to eat their meals as I waited at the window. I was not happy. Eventually I got the attention of one of the “workers” and asked him what they were planning on doing to compensate their breakdown. They were apparently doing nothing...he told me it wasn’t their fault that the train broke down. I replied that it wasn’t my fault either, but I didn’t pay seventy dollars to take a bus to Kuranda. He eventually offered to refund my money, but by this time I was REALLY NOT HAPPY. I said that the way I figured it, if their time was worth twenty dollars an hour (the ride was one hour and forty five minutes, thirty five dollars a piece), then my time was worth the same. As we were supposed to be in Kuranda by 10:15 and it was now 12:30 I figured they owed me quite a bit of money. He didn’t see it that way, and told me he didn’t have the authority to do such a thing. I asked who did. He told me a name of someone in Cairns to talk to with the implication that I should go down there. I politely asked him to ring him up that person. The station attendant didn’t look happy as he started for the phone, and made a comment that he wasn’t even supposed to offer the refund. In that case I told him, you had better give me the refund before we call the other individual. He paid me the refund and then dialed the man in Cairns...he was looking quite unhappy.

When I told the man in Cairns my plight, he didn’t seem to have a clue as to how he might reimburse me for my wasted time. I said he could get me a voucher for my gondola ride (worth about seventy dollars),but he replied that it was housed under a different company. I told him he could give me the money to pay for the gondola, but he said he couldn’t just give out cash. So I put forth a novel idea that I had assumed would have come up much earlier in the day, why don’t they give me another free ride when the train is running? As fast as he jumped at the idea, it seems they could have saved us each a lot of time by offering the concession to the bus passengers as we came up the hill. I figure that even though they gave me my money back, and a free ride, they got off way better than they should have because of all the other tourists that didn’t get anything but a long hot thirty-five dollar bus ride.

Well, you take the good with the bad

Kuranda was a little touristy village full of shops with inflated prices and the typical Australian souvenirs (boomerangs, outback hats, and didjeridoos). The locals seemed bored with the outsiders constantly on their streets, especially those of obvious indigenous decent. Even the shop keepers were slow in giving service, and acted as if they were doing us a favor by selling us overpriced ice cream. Considering we were providing their livelihood, I wasn’t impressed.

The gondola back down the mountain was incredible. It was called the skyrail, and is the longest gondola ride in the world. It took us over the rain forest and the rivers below. It led us by a giant waterfall, and stopped twice along the way to allow walks through the jungle. I was very impressed.

On the Gondola

Barron Falls

Next, we arrived at Tjabukai the home of the dreamtime experience. We proceeded to a presentation where Henry (an aboriginal Tjabukai guide) talked about playing the didjeridoo. Other activities included learning about important aboriginal plants and skills, and how to throw boomarangs. After this, we watched several shows about aboriginal life including creation, cultural, and historical storytime events.


The next day was spent at Lyalls because it was raining. The news indicated that the cyclone would probably hit safely north of us, but we still received a lot of rain, and a little wind from it.
Well, you take the good with the bad.

Friday morning we took our free train ride to Kuranda (it made it all the way up this time). It was a very beautiful ride, and beside the inconvenience’s it took to get underway, it was a very nice experience. We passed many beautiful views, and a couple of nice large waterfalls along the way through a true tropical rainforest.

Running Train

Passing a Waterfall

It rained most of the time we were in Kuranda this time, so we ended up calling it a day and took a shuttle back into Cairns for two dollars a piece. The rest of the day was spent indoors weather watching. Overall it was a pretty fun day though for four dollars.

Lyall continued being an excellent host, cooking delicious meals (usually very spicy), taking us on drives around the area, and teaching us interesting tidbits.


We did manage to spend a bit of time walking along the estuary, where we found many interesting things to look at.


Our next hosts were a large wonderful family. Kerry was a surveyor and an artist (quite a good one I have to say), and Anne was working on a degree in Psychology. Hmm...sound’s familiar, we really enjoyed learning about the similarities and differences in our chosen fields. Joy was clued in about the Cairns art scene, and Anne and I compared notes on the psychology field in each of our countries. Did you know that one could be a practicing psychologist in Australia with a bachelors degree (honors program that is). Well you can, but they earn it, examining a bit of the work Anne was doing I realized that the education system in Australia is much more grueling. Anyway, Anne’s interest was childhood foster care, and with my similar experience with direct care for individuals with intellectual impairment, we never ran out of conversation. That was a good thing, because the sky never seemed as if it would run out of rain either.

Kerry and Anne

Well, you take the good with the bad.

Kerry an Anne had four children living at home; Oriel, Joel, Belinda, and Jonathan; and two more already grown. Oriel was an animal person, she was very inquisitive about our native animals and informative about those in Australia. She was in the Girl Guides (Australia’s version of Girl Scouts) and I think she reminded Joy a bit of herself at that age (Joy was a Girl Scout). Joel was very active, and always hungry. He was in gymnastics, and considering his activity level I imagine very good at it. Belinda was quite a socialite, and on par with girls around the world, very mature for her age. She already had a job at fifteen years old. Jonathan, on the other hand, reminded me quite a bit of my friend Richard. He loved computer games, and role playing Dungeons & Dragons. When I told him about Richards job working as a “computer security guard” he claimed that that would be the perfect job for him. He even looked like Richard a bit.

The Kids (Oriel, Joel, Belinda, and Jonathan)

When we finally got to go out to the reef it was still not exactly as calm as usual, and the ride was quite bumpy over the waves. Joy planned ahead, and had taken her sea-sick pills. I must admit that I even felt a bit queasy for a while, but our bodies were soon used to the rocking and dipping of the boat.

When we did get out there, there was a quick presentation on how to dive, then we were in the water snorkeling until our number was called. It was all to fast paced for Joy. She couldn’t get used to putting her face under water and breathing. We were in a deep area leaving the boat, and it didn’t help her looking down into seeming bottomlessness. When our number was called we were geared up and in the ocean with tanks and breathers in a few minutes. Like I said it was a bit to speedy for Joy’s taste. She decided to skip out on the dive. She needn’t feel bad because one of the other guys in our group also decided not to go. It was an altogether alien experience.

Though it was nerve racking, I did go on the dive. At first it didn’t seem as if the breather was giving me enough air, in actuality I was breathing way too fast. Need I say I was a bit excited. Anyway, once we were underway it was wonderful. The dive guide linked arms with the two remaining divers in our group and took us down. Occasionally signing for us to equalize our ears and letting us take pictures. It was a good thing he was in control, I couldn’t really get the hang of directing myself in the water. I would be floating, sinking, or drifting constantly the wrong way. The guide would then grab me and pull me along in the right direction pointing out items of interest. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.


Big Clam

After the dive we had lunch and the boat was on it’s way to another reef. It was an incredibly rough ride, and Joy was clutching my arm the whole way. She was not having fun on this trip, and when we did arrive at the other reef she didn’t want to go out. I went out and found a nice shallow area full of brilliant colors and teaming with life, I knew she would like it. When I went back to the boat and told her about it she finally decided to try again. This time she loved snorkeling.

Joy Snorkeling


If she would have had this experience at first I think she would have made it for the dive.

Well, you take the good with the bad.

The last day at Cairns was spent checking out some art communities that Kerry had helped found, hiking along some rugged trails, and exploring the botanical gardens. It’s amazing what will grow in a rain forest! Anyway, though most of our time in Cairns was spent waiting out the rain, we had some great experiences!

Well, as you can see, we took the good with the bad.

Tanner Noguess


iFunk said...

Hey guys, you're probably in Asia right now having a blast. Certainly a change of population compared to Australia. Shame about your bad experiences in Cairns. Some people just don't understand customer service.

Anyhoo, hope you guys are still enjoying every moment, and best wishes for a great "rest-of-journey". We visit here often to see how you guys are going (and where you are going).

Adam n Nee

Billie said...

It's always great to get a new entry on your blog snd vicariously scuba dive with you, besides climbing up those mountains, too! It's good to know that you are well and having a great time (along with the bad).
Tomorrow is Easter and we will miss you! We will all be at Mary's and Rick's for lunch and the easter egg hunt..There won't be any golden dollar eggs this year, but there will be plenty of surprises for the egg hunters..
We had quite a bit of rain last night along with lots of lightning and thunder..I guess it is our stormy season now.
Keep on having a good time and stay safe!
Love you,