Cuddling Cairns Koalas

On Thursday, our first full day at Cairns, Laura and I took a trip to Kurunda, a rainforest village to the Northwest.

We took the ‘skycar’ funicular to get there, which consisted of a few miles of towers and little carriages propelled along the cable. It was very quick and we got some excellent views over the rainforest.

I was expecting some kind of aboriginal welcome to Kurunda but I suppose I should break the news to you that it really is intended for tourists – there is a charming market (and a quirky old market where you can buy coconuts, drink the milk, then crack them open to eat the pulp), and some unique animal sanctuaries, but it isn’t the rich cultural heritage of native Australia that you might assume.

Tempted by the butterfly sanctuary and birdworld, we favour a trip to the Koala Gardens, where I’m told you can hold a koala. And I’m not disappointed when I purchase my ‘cuddle card’ on the way in.

Holding a koala is best described as clinging to a warm fluffy cloud, it’s essentially motionless as I pretend to be a tree (albeit one with the biggest grin in the rainforest). It has very sharp-looking claws but I don’t feel them, and sadly too soon it’s plucked out of my grasp to the safe haven of the ranger.

I can’t describe why it’s cute; it has a weird squishy face and doesn’t really say or do anything. I think it’s the complete lack of any threatening action, and the fact that it’s a nicely-sized ball of fur play in its favour.

It’s possible to take a scenic and historic rail route back to Cairns, and it’s shocking to hear how so many people threw themselves at rock with chisels and spades in order to dig the tunnels. And for a second you gain an alarming insight into a time when work was backbreakingly hard and the threat of dysentery or tuberculosis loomed around the corner. If nothing else it makes me very glad I have a desk job and I get to fiddle with computers.

Food in Australia is not cheap – and Laura and I try to keep the prohibitive costs to a minimum by visiting Woolworths (which is still going strong over here) for some supermarket snacks on the way back. It’s still difficult to find a yoghurt for less than 2 dollars though!

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