Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Koalas - Oh My!

It's been a busy, but great, few days and I'm enjoying an evening of relaxing in our hostel. On Friday, Katherine and I took the bus to see the famous Bondi Beach. I hate to say it, but I was actually a little disappointed. It is a beautiful beach with perfect soft sand and stunning blue water and I'm sure it would be a great place for surfing but it only covers a short stretch of shoreline and there's not much to do there unless you want to surf or swim. Since it was a little cold and rainy, we didn't feel like swimming or surfing so after walking around and taking pictures for a bit, we hopped back on the bus to the city.
Bondi Beach
Once back in the city, we walked down the main street - George Street - and caught the free bus to Circular Quay where the Opera House and Harbor Bridge are. We caught the ferry there to cross Sydney Harbor and go see the Taronga Zoo. The zoo was pretty cool, but we were a little disappointed because we were hoping to hold a koala and didn't get the chance and we also didn't get to see a platypus, which I really wanted to see. I did like seeing all the other animals, though, especially the big cats, although I always feel a bit bad for animals in zoos. They did look well-taken care of, though, and seemed as happy as possible for being in captivity.
Sleepy koala at the zoo
Swamp wallaby!

Kitties :)
 It wasn't too late when we got back from the zoo so we walked back to the hostel and got our laptops from the hostel and then went to the train station to get free WiFi. Free WiFi is a rare thing in New Zealand and Australia and most hostels and many caf├ęs don't offer it so we'll take what we can get. After getting our WiFi fix, we walked back down to the Quay to get dinner at a restaurant we'd seen earlier in the day that looked good and wasn't too expensive. After we ate, we took the train back to our hostel, rather than make the 45-minute walk across the city for the third time that day.

Yesterday (Saturday) we had an early morning and were up by 6:00 to get a shuttle from our hostel to the airport to catch our plane to Cairns. Cairns is north of Sydney in Queensland and it is a popular destination for diving and other tourist activities since it lies on the Great Barrier Reef and is in an absolutely beautiful mountain-meets-shore location. Our flight was supposed to leave at 9:10 but was delayed over three hours due to some intense fog. When we finally did board it was almost 1:00pm but, luckily, the rest of the flight went smoothly and we arrived to beautiful, warm, sunny Cairns around 4:00pm. We found a shuttle and went to our hostel - the Travellers Oasis - and got settled in and then explored the beach town that is Cairns.

Today was another busy day that was spent exploring the Kuranda Rainforest. We took a bus at 8:30 in the morning to go see the World Heritage Rainforest that surrounds Cairns in all directions. The village we went to, known as Kuranda, is only about a 40-minute drive from Cairns but I think it gave us a good taste of the rainforest. It is so beautiful and lush and filled with singing birds. We started off by hiking to see Barron's Falls outside of the main village. It was a huge, stunning waterfall in the middle of the rainforest and definitely worth the walk. Unfortunately, once we got there, it started to rain and we weren't at all prepared to get wet. Katherine and I really didn't walk back in the rain and luckily for us, we ended up talking to a nice family from Texas and they offered us a ride back to town in the back of their car! 
Exploring the rainforest
Barron Falls

Back in the village, we explored the shops and then went to Koala Gardens to see some of Australia's most characteristic fauna and cuddle a koala! We first went to feed the wallabies and kangaroos but it was a little rainy so they weren't very interested in coming out to get the food from us. After trying to feed them for a little while without much success, we went to the "koala station" where we handed in our tickets for a cuddle session and then got a huge koala placed in our arms by the zookeeper. The koala was heavier than I expected and he gripped on with his little hands and feet but he stayed exactly as the zookeeper placed him and sat completely still in my arms. The poor guy was probably sleepy since koalas are nocturnal and his sleep gets interrupted all day so people can hold him. After a few quick pictures, the koala was put back in his home and we went to walk around the village some more. 

Koala cuddles 
My new friend
It continued to rain on and off but we did take advantage of a sunny spell and walked back to the Koala Gardens to see if we could have more luck with the wallabies and kangaroos. With the rain stopped and the sun out they were much more active. The kangaroos were still pretty aloof but the wallabies were much more curious and friendly. The Swamp Wallabies would even let us pet them and would sniff us and hang around us! The smaller wallabies, the Red-legged Pademelon, was much more shy but we did get a chance to pet them a couple times and they are so soft!
Wallaby kisses!
We caught the bus back to Cairns and wandered around town for a bit before grabbing supper and then strolling along the beach for a while and taking in the sights. Cairns is a really beautiful place naturally but it also has a really great atmosphere that feels very friendly and welcoming and makes me feel like I could live here. We stopped for ice cream at Movenpick and then made our way back to our hostel for a quiet night in to rest up for a big day tomorrow...

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