Steve and Chris in Australia, Aug 16-28, 2004

After a couple of years of vague mumbling (um -- I mean, intensive planning), we finally got our act together and flew to Australia. NE Queensland to be precise. Our base of operations was Cairns the first week, and Mossman the second week. Nearby places we visited, shown on the map below, included Green Island, Kuranda, Fitzroy Island, numerous beaches (e.g., Palm Cove, Trinity) north of Cairns, Port Douglas, and Cape Tribulation.

Cairns is primarily a tourist town, with hundreds of hotels, and a downtown area featuring dozens of restaurants and small "tourist information" offices selling packaged tours. We stayed at the "Cairns Villa & Leisure Park" a couple of miles from downtown -- this necessitated many bus rides. Our first excursion was to Green Island, on a giant catamaran. It's a beautiful place. Unfortunately, we have no photos from that day. We rented masks and snorkels from the boat operators, swam around near the beach, and saw a few fish.

Next day: We took a "scenic railway" up the Barron River Gorge that leads to a plateau (called "The Tableland") west of the coast. Everybody got out of the train to view a waterfall along the way:

The town at the top of the train ride is Kuranda. We went to a butterfly sanctuary (website here).

The spectacular individual below is a female "Cairns Birdwing" (Ornithoptera priamus), the largest butterfly species in Australia.

A hospital for injured fruit bats was nearby. The young lady in attendance informed us that fruit bats (order Chiroptera, suborder Megachiroptera) are "primates" and "closely related to lemurs". I restrained myself from giving her a lecture on mammal systematics, but this became a running joke for Chris and me throughout the trip.

The tourist shops on the main street were full of didgeridoos. We ate foccacia sandwiches (a common item in Australian delis) at an outdoor cafe. I was amused by the sign shown here, which says "Today's special deal: Didjeridoo sent to your home, for AUS $150 only".

These aboriginal instruments are 5 or 6 feet long and rather awkward.

I imagined a scenario in which a guy from Illinois sees the above sign, says "That sounds like a great idea", and signs on the dotted line. Three weeks later, back at home, he sees a huge package lying on his doorstep, slaps his head, and says "What the hell was I thinking?"

Anyway, in fact, we saw quite a few Americans in Kuranda and Cairns proudly carrying around recently-purchased didgeridoos.

Instead of the train from Kuranda back down, we took the "Skyrail", a ski lift-type gondola. It provided an awesome view of the rainforest canopy from above

and the coastal area and sea in the distance.

Back in downtown Cairns, we strolled by the huge public pool

and the "Esplanade", a long boardwalk. The Cairns mudflats, at left in this photo, are inhabited by a variety of birds, including many pelicans. The tide advances almost to the boardwalk, then recedes a mile or so, within an hour.

Next day: Another giant catamaran waited to take us to Fitzroy Island.

There are several trails on this island, including one that we followed to "Nudey Beach".

Disappointingly, there were no nude people on this beach. But the view was nice.

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