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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kuranda by Margot Justes


 


Another perfect getaway from Cairns is Kuranda. There are a couple of wonderful ways to get there, one is to take the combined Skyrail, and the Scenic Rail. Tours are available where you can do both. That is what I did, hindsight being perfect, I would have just gotten the tickets and taken the rail both ways. It was a sublime 45 minute ride and the scenery was incredible, huge gorges, waterfalls and lush vegetation.

Splurge for a first class ticket, and you will be wined and dined in delicious comfort on a train that dates back to the 1890’s, and along the way pass through some amazing scenery as the old train chugs along.  

The return trip was on the Skyrail, as it seemed to float over the top of the rainforest. You catch a tiny glimpse of the vastness of the formidable rain forest. I found the scenery was far more spectacular from the train, and I enjoyed it more.

Kuranda Village is delightful, it’s fun just to stroll down the street and visit the shops. The Heritage Markets operate 7 days a week, along the way there were a few galleries,  restaurants, many arts and crafts boutiques, it is a place to relax and simply enjoy. I even bought a contemporary abstract that was being sold off and discounted, really discounted. I picked it up for a ridiculous price, and lugged it home.

It is a charming, touristy place, the locals are friendly, and willing to go out of their way to be helpful, and there is the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and Kuranda Koala Gardens. To see everything at leisure, the best bet is to get a round trip train ticket and not worry about catching the last Skyrail.  I would love to go back and do just that.

Kuranda is not to be missed, and the way to get there is incomparable.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art
www.mjustes.com

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Daintree Rainforest by Margot Justes


 
 
Third day in Cairns took me to Daintree Rainforest.  It’s quite a hike, a good 2 hours plus pick up time from various hotels. The ‘safari’ truck was not the most comfortable mode of transportation, every bump on the road left an impression, and there were quite a few.  For me it was worth the effort. I’ve never seen a rainforest before, and didn’t really know what to expect. Our guide told us that the rainforest is over 125 million years old. Simply amazing.

The tour included, a two hour walk in the forest, a chance to swim in a creek in crystal clear water, sample the local fruit, and local Billy tea, basically an earthy bush tea, rather a muddy flavor, a barbecue lunch, a visit with captive kangaroos, and a Daintree River cruise in search of crocodiles. There was also a stop at Cape Tribulation,  a walk to the lookout to see where the rainforest meets the reef.

The first thing you notice as you enter the forest is the soft mist, the gently falling rain, the serenity, the tall trees and branches aiming for the sun, along with lush ground vegetation. You can hear drops fall on the leaves, listen to the countless birds chirping, and wild turkeys strolling in the distance.  

Even with the tourists, the clicking cameras and resounding footsteps, it was one of the most peaceful couple of hours I have ever spent. There is a boardwalk  designed for tourists, otherwise the bush is thick with vegetation. We searched for the ever elusive Cassowary birds, but we weren’t lucky enough to see one. The flightless birds are related to the emu, and are considered to be the heaviest birds in Australia.

After our tour of the forest, it was on to the creek for a swim and fresh fruit. I’m still not a fan of papayas, but loved the passion fruit. It’s actually quite delicious mixed with yogurt.  It became my breakfast treat, both in Cairns and Sydney.

Lunch was served in a local restaurant, where our tour guides put a steak on the barbie for us. I got to feed a couple of kangaroos. The restaurant keeps maimed kangaroos in a fenced yard; they survive, are well treated, and it’s great for the tourists. I have never seen a kangaroo before, and found these quite docile, and strangely awkward except when they run. The locals are not so delighted with the creatures, they are considered to be a nuisance. I loved them.

The last thing on the agenda was the Daintree river cruise, we were in search of crocodiles. It was a cloudy, rainy day, perfectly suited to the location, and we even found a large crocodile, along with birds, and Mangrove trees. You can see the roots well above the water, they thrive in salty, swampy coastal waters.  

The day was long, packed solid, and well worth it. It was an exhausting excursion, my endurance was well tested, I’m not as young as I used to be. Would I do it again? You bet.

More next week.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art
www.mjustes.com

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef by Margot Justes


 
 
 
On the second full day in Cairns, we booked a tour to Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef. According to the brochure, Green Island is a beautiful 6000 year old coral cay located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

It’s a 45 minute boat ride to Green Island from Cairns. The boat ride to Green Island was peaceful, even a whale paid us a visit, checked us out and went on his merry way.

The ride from Green Island to the Barrier Reef was exhilarating. Let’s just say it was a choppy ride-really, really choppy, knuckle white choppy. Even the crew had to hold on. I like speed boats, but that day my knuckles really were white. I was on the top deck, and couldn’t have moved if I wanted to, and believe  me I didn’t. I clung to the railing with both hands, and didn’t let go until the boat stopped moving.

Green Island was beautiful. Lush with vegetation, unspoiled and protected. There is one resort with a swimming pool, but it was a bit chilly, and only the birds swam. There were a couple of gift shops, a restaurant, and a cafĂ©, all part of the resort. After a walk about, I stopped for a cup of coffee-not a surprise-the setting was beautiful, right in the center of the entrance to the resort. Who could resist?  If you were not a guest, you couldn’t get to the resort property, but access was available to the restaurant, gift shop, scuba and snorkeling gear.

Green Island is isolated, but there are plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Peaceful and serene, and cut off from the rest of the world, it’s a perfect place to commune with nature.

After Green Island, it was on to the Great Barrier Reef. The boat docked along a pontoon, and we spent the rest of the day there. While the crew cooked our lunch, it was time to scuba dive, snorkel, take a helicopter ride, or a trip in a semi submersible to view the reef. I tried snorkeling once, but the water tastes terrible. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to drink the water.

I did go in the semi submersible, twice, because it was so incredible. I have never seen anything like the reef before, the vitality and variety of the life below was astounding,  because of the continuous movement of life, it seemed to dance. There are a few pictures, but they are cloudy, shooting through a thick pane of murky glass is not the best way to get great pictures. But I found Nemo. I really did.

More next week.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming soon Blood Art
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Exploring Cairns by Margot Justes




 
The first full day was spent getting to know the town, and stretch muscles in legs, after the long flight.  Cairns is a walking town, and absolutely beautiful. The boardwalk along the shore, the harbor, the vegetation, all were splendid. I absolutely loved Cairns.

An art gallery introduced me to Australian artist Lloyd Rees. I saw his work once again in Sydney, at the Art Gallery NSW-beautiful museum, but I digress, we’re still in Cairns.

I visited a casino, I don’t gamble but for some reason the stilted movements of the croupiers fascinate me, and it’s interesting to watch people so absorbed in what they’re doing that nothing seems to penetrate the intensity of their actions. The building was interesting too, the black dome caught my eye. The surrounding garden was beautiful, along a central walking path, small monuments dedicated to the Australian military branches, gave one pause.

Stopped for coffee, weather was perfect, even in winter, Cairns  is in the tropics, so temperatures during the day were in the mid 80’s. It actually felt good to sit for a moment. Saw a man wearing a Cubs hat and asked him if he was from Chicago. He replied in that wonderful Aussie accent-I could listen to it forever-that his daughter lived in Downers Grove, and he was familiar with the area. We chatted for quite a while.

That was the first thing that caught my attention, the people are so incredibly friendly, polite, and helpful. Even with a map, I’m directionally challenged-to be honest a map doesn’t help me much at all-but I’m not afraid to ask for directions, and people went out of their way to help.

The walk along the Esplanade was a delight; a central shopping, gazing, grazing and anything you want to do route. Along the shore there is a swimming pool, long and large it’s open year long, and looked positively enticing. A spectacular view of the shore from the pool, well designed for optimum pleasure.

Cairns is the perfect central location to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, fishing, surrounding islands, Kuranda, and many other places.

To make it absolutely perfect, there was an open air art fair in progress, and many galleries filled with Aboriginal art work. I assume no one comes home without a returning boomerang. Yes I have one, along with instructions on how to throw it.

More next week.
Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming soon Blood Art
www.mjustes.com