I awake from a somewhat sleepless night
of unfamiliar rainforest bird calls and various forms of cicada boisterously screeching in a constant crescendo and decrescendo, each species trying to outdo each other in noisy leg rubbing. I do need some reminding that we are living on top of a mountain in a rainforest. We have seen big white cockatoos, geckos, and tree frogs, and have heard many other unknown animals. The cockatoos will steal your food if you aren’t careful.
John has been up since seven and I keep the pillow pulled over my head until at least 9 o’clock. The tumultuous thunder and lightning storm from the night before has completely faded and the morning has broken with brilliant sunshine and a gentle breeze.
I pull on a pair of cotton shorts and a t-shirt and head up to the main building for breakfast. John has already had his cereal, juice and coffee and has sourced out a 4 day diving certification course run from Cairns. Two days of theory, then two days of diving on the “Reef”. We had talked about being certified (diving, that is) when we had begun laying plans for our trip and what better place to do it than the Great Barrier Reef. John makes the call and Trevor is helpful with details and expectations and we book the time. We both have to be able to swim 200 meters and tread water for 10 minutes. I plan to spend some time in the pool today seeing if I can actually do this.
Our day today is completely unplanned. The only thing we have to do is spend time by the pool. Which we do, at least until it is time for lunch. We head to Kuranda to post a letter, grab lunch, and do our usual scouting of an internet café that will let us use our laptop. This has been an unexpected hurdle so far, so when we find one, we try to strike up a relationship with the owner. In the car, we immediately break sweat and, the wusses that we are, crank the AC – although not as hot as yesterday (it is only 31°), the humidity makes the heat intense. We spend a bit of time walking around Kuranda, sweating up a storm. After a couple of tries, we find an internet place that is willing to let us bring in our laptop. After lunch, we walk around the shops – Kuranda is noted for its market – and note with interest the large number of Korean tourists whose dress (long sleeves and pants) strikes us as cute, given the intensity of the heat.
Onto Barron Gorge and a Little Salvation
Then up to Barron Gorge, where the Barron River used to tumble out and has created a wonderful cataract. We had hoped that, after yesterday evening’s rains, the waterfall would be interesting, but alas, the gorge is barren – with only a bridal veil of water. The river’s water is diverted above the gorge and used to produce electricity. The locals tell us that the only time the gorge is alive is when the power authorities open the dam. We meet two charming Aboriginal women, Mavis and Glady, who are viewing the gorge (and spreading the Lord’s word). We offer to take their picture together in front of the gorge, and they offer us everlasting salvation.
There is a walk through the rainforest to the Barron Gorge train station (there are a train and a gondola (7.5 kilometres!) that go up the mountain and through the rainforest from Cairns to Kuranda) that is mainly on bridges, to avoid damaging the forest floor as much as possible. We enjoy exploring the rainforest – so different from a North American forest. One of the things we find fascinating is all the air roots that the trees have.
We get back to the resort and are ever so glad to jump into the pool. We spend the afternoon either in the pool or napping under the umbrellas, and on returning to our hut are surprised to see how pink we both are, despite having stayed covered except when in the pool.
Heavy thunderclouds started to gather in the sky just as we finished lunch, and just as we finish pouring ourselves a late afternoon vodka tonic, the heavens open, the lightning flashes and thunder roars – for about 20 minutes, bringing wonderful coolness when they are done.
At dinner (wonderful again) we discover that there are so few people here because it is monsoon season. They tell us that in another month the place will be hopping. Walking back, the tree frogs are singing up a storm – and apparently the fact that they are singing means there will be another rainstorm this evening. More salvation from heat. We see fruit bats hanging from the palms. They are quite amazing to watch – the most sensual consumption of food since Albert Finney played Tom Jones. And when they fly overhead, there is a gentle flapping noise and you can feel the movement of the air.