Never Get Out Of The Duck

After two long flights, we made it to Cairns in northern Queensland. From here, you can explore both the rainforest and the great barrier reef (we’re doing the reef tomorrow, and today we did the rainforest) .

Cairns is a tropical town. The temperature today was in the 90s with humidity running at about 95%. In Cairns, you sweat. Walk two blocks down the street and you will look like a used Kleenex. I’ve been sweating from places that I didn’t even know I had places! . It feels a little close. As I write, it is 8pm and the temperature is 27 degrees C and the dew point 24 degrees. A massive hunderstorm is brewing in the hills overlooking the town and heading our way.

Today we visited the Rainforestation centre up in the hills overlooking the town, for an opportunity to learn more about this extraordinary ecosystem. We started with a chance to view some of the local wildlife at close quarters, including Koalas & Kangaroos – everybody go “Aaaaah…”

After a BBQ lunch we explored the rainforest more closely with Ranger Lance as our guide, travelling in a Duck (actually a DUKW, a 2.5-ton six-wheel amphibious truck used in World War II by the U.S. Army). Ranger Lance gave us a safety briefing about not standing, touching plants or animals that immediately reminded me of that scene in ‘Apocalypse Now’…

What Ranger Lance doesn’t know about the Rainforest isn’t worth knowing. He was originally English, his parents moving to Tasmania as Ten Pound Poms. He’s now married to a Japanese lady and has two red-haired Japanese Australian kids (Wow!).

By now, thanks to sweating we were all 5Kgs lighter than when the day started so it was time for an Aboriginal experience – as you do do with a didgeridoo.

It was time to return to the hotel. We were running out of sweat and air con was calling us back. But first we need to travel the 23 miles back to Cairns by train, on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, an extraordinary 19th Century feet of engineering that cost many lives during construction.

Finally, Bus driver Tony was anxious that I tell you about this bird, called a Cassowary which is endangered but lives in the area. This one isn’t real, but a replica. It’s a traditionally Australian example of wildlife in that it is highly dangerous – think ostrich crossed with velociraptor. It has talons on its’ feet that can disembowel you and it runs towards you faster than you can run away from it. On the top of the head there is a sort of military tin helmet. I didn’t see a real one, which, on balance, is, I feel, a good thing.

I’m now on the balcony in my hotel room and I’m plumb tuckered out. An early night to regenerate the necessary sweat and then off to the reef tomorrow to meet pretty fish that want to kill me. To finish today… a rather snazzy flower, growing at a Cairns bus stop.

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