on January 20, 2006
I have a new friend. His name is Hogan, and he’s a one-year-old baby koala bear. He smells like the eucalyptus he eats, and he was so very soft. I met him at the Kurunda Koala Gardens, which is in the village of Kurunda. You can reach the village in one of two ways – the train or the skyrail. Meeting and holding Hogan the koala was certainly what being in Australia was all about. This location is one of only two in the country that I know about (the other being the Cairns zoo) where you are actually able to HOLD a koala (rather than just a close-up photo-op).It cost $14 for entrance into the Kurunda Koala Gardens, then another $14 to have my cuddling/photo op. The map they give you at the train station has a $1-off coupon, but the woman at the front desk had given us that discount before we could remember we had the coupon. There are other animals there as well – alligators, wallabies, and kangaroos. We saw a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch. Only his feet were sticking out at first, like he jumped head first into her pouch. But he turned around and stuck out the part of him we wanted to see – his head. : ) Get a handful of feed for them upon entering their paddock, but they didn’t seem all that interested.The journey there is half the fun. The train chugs up into the rainforest for an hour and fifteen minutes, and there’s a hand-held map that explains what you’re seeing. There’s one stop, at the Barron Gorge Waterfall. Get back on the train, by the way, because it’d be a long walk into town. People stayed behind anyway! At the train station in Kurunda, shuttle buses will take you to the top of the hill, and you can tourist yourself back down the hill, which is where the skyrail also picks up and deposits people. The skyrail also offers two opportunities to stop and take photos. Other than that, it’s about a 10-minute ride down. ($144 train/skyrail)The tour we purchased to get to Kurunda took us up on the train, and back down on the skyrail. The price of the tour (which we purchased at the train station after a shuttle from our hotel dropped us there) was $109. There are other options, like skyrail first, skyrail up and back, train up and back, etc. Also of interest in Kurunda are the markets – lots of shopping, good prices. There’s also Bird World and Butterfly World, at $14 each admission. (We skipped those in favor of shopping, as we had about 2 and a half hours in the town.) Kurunda Café was a lovely place to stop for lunch (I also picked up a meat pie from a shop next door). If you’ve had a day on the reef and have more time in Cairns, I highly recommend this excursion.
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