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Monday, May 25

Kimonos Down Under: Day Two

Like every day that we awoke in Australia, we could hear varying degrees of rainfall intermingled with the crashing of ocean waves outside our open windows. Our second day would be no different, but we weren’t concerned because our plans were to take ourselves deeper into the rainforest. And what is a rainforest without rain?

As we waited in front of the hotel for the shuttle bus, the rain cleared and it began to look like it would be a brighter day. However, only minutes later, it was pouring heavier than it had all morning. We were happy to see the shuttle bus pull up and drive us to the station for the Kuranda Scenic Railway, where we would take a train that would slowly wind its way around the mountains until we arrived at the village of Kuranda. I can’t imagine the people involved with envisioning and establishing this track. They would have had as tough a time as the Japanese prisoners who were forced to build the tracks from Burma to Thailand! Gorges that needed to be crossed, mountains that needed to be dug through, and wet and dangerous weather conditions that had to be endured certainly didn’t make the job easy; let alone, the simple tools of picks, shovels and dynamite which were used definitely didn’t help make it any easier. One story told on the train was of how robbers managed to pilfer a good deal of money from the train that was heading to Kuranda. They were never caught. Whatever wicked souls came up with that plan had to be pretty darn desperate to drag their asses up into those mountains, if you ask me.

Reaching the top after about an hour and a half, we arrived at Kuranda Station, which has been a tourist destination for over 100 years. Shops, restaurants and tiny zoos and museums all seemed to pay tribute to the traditional locals, the Djabugay people. These aboriginal rainforest people had their artwork displayed everywhere our eyes looked. Australian art is by far understudied in my passion for art, causing me to know very little about it, but I loved that it just didn’t remind me of anything else I have ever seen. You know how in Europe, Asia and Africa, there are traces of influence from so many cultures in art and architecture. In Australia, perhaps you could say that there was so African influence in color and technique, but subject matter was just so different. I know Australia was colonized by the British for many years, but it seems like, at least in this tourist area, Australia seems to have remained… well… Australian. I digress.

The afternoon was ours to do as we pleased. We strolled a few shops, but really were headed straight to the small zoo, Koala Gardens. I’m talking really small, but it had pretty much everything we were hoping to see in Australia when it came to wildlife: wombats, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, wallabies and the beloved koalas. Not only were these animals there to see, but a few were even there to touch! Before passing through one of the gates, KH and I each took handfuls of wallaby food from the hanging bucket. Several wallabies lazily lounged in the grass waiting for the tourists to bring the food to them. A few zealous babes, followed us around hoping we would give them everything in our hands, but we aimed to spread the wealth. With your palm open and the food cradled inside, the wallabies slide their teeth across your palm scooping up the tiny pellets. It seriously tickled. These must not be very aggressive marsupials because I didn’t see a zoo guide in sight. So I’m guessing that few tourists are ever mauled by the wallabies. Before you ask, no, KP was not given the opportunity to feed a wallaby. I’m pretty sure the food would only have made it to his own mouth and I was having none of that. Plus, why be the first people to ever be attacked by wallabies at Koala Gardens? Then we’d be those a-holes who ruined it for everyone else. Gah. No.

You know… I will add here that I really was hoping to see a kangaroo in Australia. They are supposedly like deer back home… they are everywhere! But the only place I ever saw one was dead along the side of the road… again just like deer at home. And in case you were wondering, their feet do not come together when they lie dead on their side either. I digress again.

Next stop was to hold a koala. I just had to do this! They seem so friendly and cute in pictures! But up close, do you know how long and sharp their dagger-like fingernails are? The woman shows you how to hold your arms and then plops the little guy into them. He immediately digs his claws throw your think shirt and into your shoulders and gut. Still cute, though! And lighter than my own little man! The women there took photos with their camera and then ours as well. They asked if we wanted to add our own little guy in with daddy for a family picture. Now daddy, does not have the hawk eyes like mommy. Instantly, Kimono Pip had a fist full of koala hair. I know these little devils have sharp teeth to match their claws, making me instantly nervous. I guess this guy was pretty tame because all the zoo keepers did was to zoom in for a closer shot of KP and his new friend. We switched positions then so KH could also snuggle up a koala. KH managed to come out poop free this time! Unlike his past experience with the baby tiger in Thailand. He was happy for that, but I was a bit bummed.

We spent the rest of the afternoon gorging our stomachs on all the delicious platters (read: like American, not Japanese) of meat and potatoes that Australia had to offer and picking up souvenirs for the family at home. Of course we got ourselves a beautifully painted boomerang which the shop guy flatly refused to let me throw out into the street. Party pooper.

Our trip back was to be by Skyrail Cableway this time. This is where the full realization came upon me that I have become one major chicken since becoming a mom. What has happened to me? I used to be so tough! Afraid of nothing! Now, as we traveled hundreds of feet in the air, dangling over deep, deep rainforest where it was impossible to see the ground below, I could think of nothing but how the steady rain that was now falling would surely make our cable car loose, slipping us off the line above and dropping us into the miles and miles of rainforest below. We actually looked around the abyss for civilization in case this happened… which way do you go? There was absolutely nothing though! I tried hard to keep KP sitting very still in my lap so we didn’t rock the cart even an inch. I also tried hard to remember if I ever saw a “Man vs. the Wild” show on rainforests. If we survived the impact, would we survive the plethora of poisonous critters that lived in the expanse below us? You may be thinking that surely someone in another cart would see us drop, but hot even fifteen minutes into the ride, misty clouds swirled over the mountains and we couldn’t even see the carts in front or behind us. The only way anyone might know we were missing was when the line came in empty at the next rail stop. And then where would they know to look in all that wet and gray? Freak. Ing. Out. I. Was.

Obviously, this anxiety was for nothing as I am clearly alive and writing this today.

Back at the hotel, we changed into nicer, drier outfits and headed out for dinner. It was pretty pointless to go for drier because as soon as we were outside, the rain started again. We chose Chiantti’s Pizzeria for dinner, an Italian place with lots of red checked tables under an awning, which allowed us to sit as close as possible to the ocean across the street. Salads of tomato, red onion and fresh mozzarella, bruschetta, lamb chops with garlic mashed potatoes smothered in a rich and spicy tomato sauce, and an even amazing spicy scallop and pasta dish, all topped with a bottle of South Australian red… we were barely able to walk back to the room and end day two.

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