Consult most guide books about the Cairns area, and they will mention taking a trip to Kuranda. Kuranda is a charming little village tucked up high in the rainforest, accessible by train, car, or as we arrived: Skyline Gondola. We spent a couple of hours there, enough time to visit the zoo, hold, yes, actually cuddle and HOLD koala bears, eat lunch, and shop.
Upon leaving Kuranda, we opted for the Scenic Railway to take us home. It is an old-fashioned and comfortable train that soars through the sky, above the trees at times, over bridges where the train seems to be propped up on stilts, and past waterfalls all the way back to the city of Cairns.
Upon arrival in Cairns, we once again split into small groups and explored the pretty waterfront neighborhoods, ate dinner out, then returned to our rooms by 8pm to pack and turn in for the night. Wake up calls in the morning were scheduled for 3am to accommodate for our 6am flight.
Day 11: Visiting the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center, Kuranda Village, Koala Gardens, and the Scenic Railway
Today we spent the morning learning about the Northlands Aboriginal Cultures At Tjapukai Cultural Center. While there, the students participated in lessons about medicine, poisons, weapons, dance, folklore, etc.
Next, the students had a short lesson in boomerang throwing:
to round out the morning, we used the Skyrail Gondola and rode up in the air above the rainforest all the way to the village of Kuranda!
The second half of the day - to be continued in the next post...
Day 10: The Great Barrier Reef, an Uninhabited Island, Beach Time, & Dinner out on the Town!
Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef is no longer just a dream.... we did it! This morning started with breakfast at the hotel, then. Bus transfer to a boat that would take us to an uninhabited island in the Great Barrier Reef National Reserve to snorkel the reef and interact with the wildlife. To get there we took a scenic cruise down a river:
Next we spent about 2 hours snorkeling the reef and observing the corals, fish, and turtles from our goggles and also the windows of a semi-submarine boat.... soooo amazing! We don’t have photos from the actual snorkeling experience because of logistics, but it is an experience that always stay with us.
Then we followed our snorkeling with a couple hours of free time and lunch on the beach:
We also took an optional island tour with a certified marine biologist to learn about the island and the critters and sea life that live on it:
Then we returned home, mostly worn out from a long day in the sun and we enjoyed free time and dinner in Cairns:
Day 9: Traveling to Cairns
For those who woke up early enough to eat breakfast and pack long before our bus was due, a trip to St. Mary’s Cathedral was an added bonus:
Today was a laid-back, relaxing morning in Sydney as we left the hotel relatively late to catch our flight to Cairns (around noon). Upon arrival in Cairns, we checked into our hotel (Ibis) and got to work immediately exploring the town... we walked down to the waterfront to visit the “Lagoon.” It is an ocean-water swimming spot tucked up safely away from the croc-ruled marshy but beautiful beaches!
All-in-all, it was a good travel-day. And boy were we excited for the upcoming Day 10 - snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef!
This morning we spent our time at the Featherdale Wildlife Park: hands down the coolest petting zoo ever!
Next we drove to Manly beach - the place where Sydney-folk apparently go to vacation and get away. It was an absolutely gorgeous beach and lunch there was great, complete with the staff singing happy birthday to our Marie! However, it was quite cold, windy, and rainy, but we made the best of it...
Next we returned to Sydney via ferry boat (which the kids loved as we bounced along the waves). We arrived at Sydney Harbour and took a full-tour of the Sydney Opera House. It was beautiful, and we decided we would like to purchase tickets and attend a show that night, but unfortunately they were all sold out.
We ended this amazing day with a trip up the Sydney Tower Eye where we took some silly photos too:
Day 7: Sensational Sydney
Today was a busy, exhausting, and beautiful day taking in the sights of Sydney. We began our morning with a 6am breakfast, then departed by 7:30 for a full day of sight-seeing. We began with the Hyde Park Barracks. The Barracks are essentially a museum of convict history, including visits to the old sleeping barracks, lunch area, living quarters, and tools and artifacts from some of Sydney’s founding people.
Next, we embarked on a 3-4 hour sight-seeing tour of Sydney. This included overlooks of the bay, views of the opera house and Sydney Harbour Bridge, lunch at Bondi Beach, and much more...
Next we boarded a long slow cruise around the Sydney Harbor to take in views of the city from the water!
We ended our night with free time, dinner, and shopping..... and a few of us climbed to the very top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Today we walked nearly 7 miles (according to Mrs. Dahlberg’s pedometer). We began our day with a walk down to Denny’s restarurant in Auckland, then loaded our luggage up on the bus for our flight that afternoon. We spent the entire morning touring Auckland, and it was beautiful, both in landscapes and weather!
We stopped at several spots with views of the city, and a large crater/volcano that overlooked the city skyline. Our morning began with a visit to Mission Bay, then Mount Eden & MJS Memorial Park!
We spent a couple hours enjoying the Auckland airport before embarking on a 3-hour flight to Sydney Australia! This trip brought our first time flying Qantas Airlines, and they served some of the best airplane food I’ve ever eaten - Bravo Qantas!
Upon arrival in Sydney, we took care of a few minor issues at the airport, then proceeded to drive into the city center to our hotel: Sydney Travelodge. We freshened up then walked about 20 minutes down to Darling Harbor to eat. After dining on burgers and pasta, we ventured outside to enjoy the harbor for free time. We rode the Ferris Wheel and shopped and wandered until 9pm - when we walked back to our hotel and turned in for the night. Just found out too that breakfast is at 6am tomorrow! Ouch!
Today we began our morning by sleeping in a bit, later breakfast, and then a jade carving demonstration, and a morning spent having adrenaline rushes at Velocity Valley. While there, many students drove fast speed boats and did the giant free-fall swing: the swoob!
while most of our adventures at Velocity Valley were caught in videos rather than pictures, we took an enormous amount of pictures during our afternoon trip to Hobbiton!
Then finally, we met up with the rest of our tour group in the town of Matamata (pronounced meta-meta) and drive the rest of the way to Auckland. Auckland, a much larger city than Rotorua, did not disappoint. It was beautiful by evening and night time. We walked to the coast and hung out at the pier for a while and ate dinner down there until the rain came and we returned home to the hotel for the night.
Following our Rotorua Skyline Gondola & Luge experience, we visited the funny, entertaining, & impressive Agrodome:
Then after an hour-long rest at our hotel, we loaded a bus where a Tamaki Maori Village elder told us stories & sang us songs while we rode out of town to a nearby village to participate in cultural activities for the night!
And then, we feasted! The village chief pulled out an impressive display of food cooked from a hangi - an in-the-earth oven! We watched a full cultural show of singing, dancing, and story-telling, then we ate the hangi feast together before returning to our hotel to sleep for the night.
Day 3/4 - Sunrise, Duck Boat Tour, Geothermal Rotorua, Skyline Gondola, Racing Luges, Agrodome, & Maori Village Visit
Our day in Rotorua started with an opportunity to watch the sun light up Lake Rotorua with beautiful hues of reds & oranges and then breakfast at the hotel.
Then our day officially began, with a two hour cruise around the city and lakes in a Duck Boat: a converted authentic WWII military vehicle (Lucy) that bumped along the road and glided along the water as we stopped at lake after lake listening to our snarky and funny guide, Shelly, narrate for us about the region, history, landmarks, and made up facts! Our students wore and used duck whistles and sang along to songs as we explored Rotorua.
Following our fun morning aboard the Duck Boat, we ventured into a Maori Village that is set upon a hotbed of geothermal activity. The area reminded us of Yellowstone, and we walked along with a local guide from the village and learned about their customs, ways of life, and cooking & bathing techniques using the geothermal hot steam. Fascinating.
To round out our morning, our guide, Glenn, took us to the Skyline Gondola to ride to the top of the mountainside to get spectacular views over the city of Rotorua. At the top, we ate lunch at a cafe with a view, where there was also a winery, a candy shop, an ice cream & coffee parlor, and much more...
And finally... the Luge, chairlift, and Gondola back to the bottom...
our Mason, Tyce, & Coy raced Mr. Cox down the mountainside, the girls stuck together and slowly careened down their first time led by Sydni, Kat & Kyle took the sibling route, and we all made it safely back up - with most choosing to go again!
More from this crazy day in the next post...