July 18th:

The bus was about 10 minutes late today. And then he went all over Cairns picking up people until the bus was full - every single seat. Finally, he headed out to Freshwater Station. I got my ticket for seat 37 in car 6 on the Kuranda Express (train), and then wandered around until it was time to board. Thanks to how late the bus driver ended up (not helped by our last stop, where people were still running for the bus stop even though we had to be 15 minutes late by then), I didn't have to wait all that long. I looked at the museum and walked around the grounds taking pictures of neat flowers and stuff. Finally, the train arrived and people boarded. I found that my seat was by the window, which was nice (only 1 of the 4 seats on each bench is).

The train ride was very picturesque. There was an in-car video system that gave commentary here and there, helping to alert people to photo ops and giving information about what we were seeing. We stopped once, about 5 minutes from Kuranda, at an overlook of Barron Falls. The falls weren't in flood, so they were barely trickling down the rock, but it was still interesting.

In Kuranda, we got toted to the center of town in a Down Under Tours bus. I walked around a little, then went into the butterfly sanctuary. The butterflies were really cool, just flying around all colorful and such. After that, I went to Birdworld, which I got into for free but without a nice colorful bird-identifier. The birds were really cool too - they were also all flying free, except for the cassowary ('cause they're dangerous). There were lots of very colorful parrot-like birds, but lots of other types too. I took lots of pictures there, too, and got to hear the thrumming call of the cassowary too (a very strange, deep, rumbling noise that you'd never expect to come from a bird, ever!). Back at the top of the path by the exit, I gained a friend - a mostly-green parrot-type bird landed on my shoulder for a while, then walked to the other, then finally flew off. It kept saying "hello" to me, too.

After Birdworld, I walked back to the Skyrail and rode the thing down off the mountains, stopping at Barron Falls (but not getting off), Red Peak Station (getting off and taking the boardwalk through the rainforest before getting on the other half of the line), and finally at Caravonica Terminus.

I then walked over to the Tjapukai Cultural Center for lunch. The buffet was nice, but not spectacular - a limited selection of main courses and a rather muddled appetiser/salad tray. Next was a series of exhibits, beginning with a dance demonstration, rather more choreographed and shorter than the one I had seen in Alice Springs but with marked similarities (which wasn't strange - the dancers in Alice Springs were from Queensland, which is where Cairns is). Then we filed out of that theater and into two separate smaller stages where we got first a didgeridoo demonstration, including how to make one (either from a tree or from a PVC pipe) and then how to make noise with one, and then a slightly quick but entertaining overview of rainforest food and medicines.

Next there were a couple of participation areas where people could learn to throw spears and boomerangs. After that, we returned to the front of the center and saw a multi-media presentation of some creation-time stories (live actors and filmed special effects). Lastly, we saw a film about the impact of the white man into Queenslander culture, and how they're struggling to come back.

Somehow the schedule got out off whack, and we basically had to run for the busses, so there was no time to shop for anything. I got on my assigned bus, and got taken back home.

I didn't go up to my room, because I had decided to get the other three Jasper Fforde books (I've been reading the first, The Eyre Afffair, and it is so interesting that I don't want to wait until I can find or order the rest at home). I walked to the Center mall, stopping briefly at that used book store I had stopped in earlier to see if I could get them cheap. The store didn't have them, so I continued on to the Center, which to my dismay was closing at 5:30, and it was 5:25. I have no idea why the mall closes at that extreemly weird hour, but I should have expected it when I had seen that the place closed at 6pm on Saturday!

I raced up to the bookstore, which had its walls closed even though the mall was still open and other stores were fully open as well. I persuaded a clerk to open the gate because I knew exactly what I wanted. Sometime between Saturday and today, they had restocked the books, so I didn't get a matched set of 4 - two are a new edition, but that's okay.

Next it was time for dinner. I walked around a couple of blocks, looking at Italian places, the other Mexican place (Montezuma's), an Indian place, and a few Chinese places. I settled for La Fettuchina because they had the Caprese Salad, even though it used the bocconcini cheese instead of mozzarella. Whatever bocconcini cheese is, it worked well - very close to mozzarella, and the dish was good, as was the ravioli. I walked back to the hotel, stopping to get some drinks, and also to get some final gifts.

(Note from after my Scotland tour - one of the Italian restaurants in Glasgow also had the Caprese Salad with bocconcini cheese, but they called it bocconcini mozzarella, which I suppose explains why it works so well!)

Tomorrow is my last day in Australia, though I'll mostly be looking at airports. I've ordered breakfast for 9am, and I'll do the bulk of my packing tonight. Tomorrow morning should be very, very relaxed.

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