Fun facts: the Cairns airport only gives you 30 minutes of free wifi, and while Towoomba chateaus may be surrounded by wallabies, they don't have Internet. I'm sorry that I did not post when I said I would - please forgive me. And while I'm asking forgiveness, I will let you know that I have rescheduled my flight home. I am now returning on August 10th. I really don't think many people will be surprised to hear this. I love Travel Jenna and she needs to stay here a bit longer. And I'm already all the way over here.....
Anyway. So during my last full day in Cairns I took the Skyrail up to Kuranda. It's basically a gondola split into three segments that ends in an adorable rainforest village. On the second gondola segment, there was only one other person in there with me, so we had a chat. She was from New Zealand. I mentioned that I had been scuba diving the day before and that I had seen a shark, and she responds with "I was attacked by a shark a couple of years ago while sailing in the Whitsundays.... I had to have two blood transfusions and four surgeries." Oh. Well, that didn't happen to me, so all is well. And she seemed in good spirits about it. She said she would definitely still go back to the Whitsundays. When I got to Towoomba, I got a coffee and then wandered around the many little markets that make up the entire main area of the town. The highlight, however, was the Kuranda Koala Gardens. Is anyone surprised? No, me neither. This was the place where I finally got to hold a koala! His name was Charlie, and he was adorable and very fuzzy. I've never been so close to a koala before, obviously, but they don't look real! If it wasn't moving, you could say it was a stuffed animal and I would completely believe you. Their fur is so different than anything I've seen on another animal, and looks identical to what you would see on a well-loved stuffed animal. I've also never seen a koala walk on the ground before! I felt like there should have been more to the back half of their bodies. It was strange. So I held Charlie the koala and got my picture taken, and then walked around the village some more and had lunch. I then took the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns. It went very slowly, but there were some great views over the valleys. The railway went through 15 tunnels, which were all dug by hand back in the 1800s.
I stopped by the grocery store on my way back to the hostel, and then sat by the pool and read my book. The next morning, I got an email confirming that my several week battle with UVic about which faculty I was allowed to be in was successful! So after I checked out, I sat in the lobby of the hostel and registered for my classes for September. One quick airport shuttle, an hour and a half wait at the airport, and then a two hour flight later, I was in Brisbane!
I was picked up from the airport by Rob, another Contiki friend, and his girlfriend, Bec. We then drove for an hour and a half to Towoomba, which seemed a bit like Parksville, minus the beach. Bec's friend's parents own a place that is literally a chateau. The interior is all beautiful wood and windows that look out over "the bush". Danny and Rhiannon, more Contiki friends, met us there, along with a couple of Bec's friends. It was an excellent reunion, and I was finally able to dispense the rest of the Canadian gifts I brought with me. That evening was spent drinking cider, catching up, and watching Planet Earth. The next morning, we made pancakes (with real Canadian maple syrup, not the sacrilegious "maple flavoured syrup" they have here), and I was introduced to classic Aussie foods like Milo and vegemite. Vegemite is really salty, and I'm not sure I would want to eat it for breakfast, but in general I would eat it again. I also had a lamington, which I was told is also important to try while I'm here.
On our full day in Towoomba, we went into town and wandered in and out of shops. We had a tasty lunch, and then went back to the chateau. The afternoon was spent reading and playing Trivial Pursuit, which I lost. In my defence, it was an Australian-specific version. I also made friends with a possum! It was sitting on the deck railing, and was very curious and cute. Everyone else thought my excitement was very funny. For dinner, Rob cooked up a huge pot of delicious spaghetti and several loaves of garlic bread. I finished yet another book after dinner, had a shower, and then went to bed relatively early.
This morning we departed the chateau at 7:00am, which seemed to be peak wallaby time. We saw at least 20 as we drove down a windy road, which was extremely exciting for me. Most of them were just standing along the road looking regal, and a couple of them stared us down and then decided to cross the road directly in front of our oncoming vehicle. This explained the several roadkill wallabies we saw along the way, which was tragic.
I am now sitting in the lounge at Rob's house, my residence for the next few days. Soon we are going to pick up Harry from the airport, and then this afternoon is the long-awaited Contiki meetup! I am not sure how many people are actually coming, but apparently we are going to a bar that is filled with board games, so it should be a very fun afternoon.
Again, I'm sorry I didn't post when I said I would, and I'm sorry I'm not coming back when I said I was going to. Well, not really that sorry, because I love it here, but sorry that some of you are disappointed in me. I still love you, I promise. I just have a few more favourite things to discover before I come back to the real world.
I hope you're all doing well.