Orlando to Charlottesville, VA (Via Appomattox Court House)

Appomattox Court House

Thursday, August 25, 2016 Trip to Charlottesville, VA

Curbcrusher had asked me(Lady CC) if I wanted to accompany him to Charlottesville after Miss CC had gone away to college. Absolutely! I said. So we set off on Thursday via Southwest Airlines at 10 am. We had Pre-check which makes it easy to fly except right now I’m wearing a walking boot for plantar fasciitis. Which means I go through the full body scanner and get wiped with a cloth for ammunition residue. After we cleared we went to the gate to wait for our flight. This one wasn’t full like all the others we have been on recently. It was a short 1.5 hours and we landed in Raleigh NC picked up our car, a red Nissan Altima from Thrifty, to start our drive to Charlottesville. We could have landed closer but we wanted to see some historic sites on the way so this worked for us.

Our first stop was Appomattox Court House in VA. Neither one of us was ever great at saying this name. I had to keep thinking of phone apps to remember how to say it. This is the location for the official end of the Civil War where Lee surrendered to Grant. We got the Junior Ranger handbook and CC bought his National Park pin. The books we started with Miss CC years ago and I liked doing them so I always get one if they have it available. Right now we have 62 badges we’ve earned and been to more parks than that, since not every park has a Jr Ranger program. So we set off to explore the park. Everything here is pretty compact which was good since walking uphill on pea gravel was not the easiest thing in the walking boot. I didn’t get to see the buildings that were farther out but CC went to a few of the areas to get some pictures. We toured the Visitor’s Center with a movie and exhibits and then went to the slave quarters, looked at Clover Hill Tavern and the tavern kitchen (which is now the bookstore). Then on to the guest house, law office and storehouse, as well as the Meek’s Store where all the goods of the time were displayed.

McLean House
We spent some time in the McLean house where the surrender papers were signed. There was a ranger in there giving a tour. After looking around for awhile we headed back to get on the road to Charlottesville again.

We checked into the Doubletree in Charlottesville and were greeted with chocolate chip cookies and then went to dinner. After we came back we had a soak in the hot tub which was great. They have a very pretty garden setting in a glass house for their pool and hot tub so I’m sure it’s pretty in the winter when it’s cold outside.

Alexander Springs

Alexander Springs

For the last number of years in September, generally right after school starts, we’ve headed to Rock Springs for the day. (Of course we used to camp) As the days of August wore down, we realized that our daughter was not going to be her in September, instead she’d be away at college. We also realized that since we couldn’t go to Rock Springs on a day during the week after school started, that it would be way to crowded to enjoy for a day trip. So, we found an alternative.

About an hour and a half north of Orlando is the Ocala National Forest, and there are a number of springs and recreation areas there. In the past we’ve camped at the Salt Springs area and visited some of the other springs. We decided we’d do a mid week trip to the Alexander Springs Recreation Area and check it out.

This is a federal recreation area in the Ocala National Forest, and it cost $5.50 a person to enter. Once in, there is a paved parking lot, bathrooms, and a store. The store has an air compressor outside so that you can fill up any inflatables you may have brought. It is about a 100 yard walk on a boardwalk and paved sidewalks from the parking lot down to the springs. There is also canoe rental so that you can venture out from the springs along the run. While there are some pavilions and picnic tables, we were able to find a spot under the large trees to set up.

Claiming our space at Alexander Springs

Except for the area around the spring-head, the water was shallow enough to walk around, and deep enough to just float if that’s your desire. With the fresh spring water at a constant 72 degrees, hanging around in the spring is the best way to enjoy nature’s air conditioner and cool down in the August Florida heat. We didn’t see a ton of fish in the spring, and the clear water was great for putting on a snorkel and wandering around the spring-head. There are also a couple of walking trails that run along the banks of the springs with boardwalks through the marshy parts. Alexander Springs is a great way to enjoy the natural Florida while not overheating.

Following our three or so hours at the spring, everyone was hungry. As we left the springs, and everyone was talking about how hungry they were, I noted that if we made a left we’d be at Sparky’s in about 10 minutes. We first visited Sparky’s back in 2010, and nothing has really changed since I wrote that review. It’s still the best cheeseburger around.

We had a great “last day of summer” kind of day: Laying around the springs and eating good at Sparky’s. All the pics in the slideshow below.

Alexander Springs Sign

Auckland Day 14 – Headed Home

Our Plane Bound For Houston

Well today is the last day. We are going up to the Skytower to see the city one last time. Since we got 24 hours to use our pass if we get there before 10 am we are good. So up we go suited up for rain again. The elevator moves very fast going up 50 floors. We are able to view for a short while before the rain moves in again.

We leave and go to a coffee shop down the street from our apartment. I ordered an espresso but it was awful and bitter. Should have done what Eaglet did and order a tea. We went back to the apartment and finished our packing and called for an Uber.

The guy who came was on his 2nd day of driving. He is actually a performing arts major/dancer and can’t find work right now so he drives an Uber.

Before too long we are at the airport and checking in. This time they make us follow all the rules. We don’t like checking bags but they weighed all our carry-ons and wouldn’t let us on with them so we had to redistribute things and check our roll aboard luggage. Air New Zealand checked them all the way to Orlando but I suggested we will off the tags in Houston where we go through Customs and keep them for the next flight. [And once again, CurbCursher’s passport will not work in the automated reader at immigration while exiting the country. The New Zealand officer tells me that I’m not the problem. This is apparently a regular problem with US passports according to him.]

After arriving in Houston and clearing customs, we keep our bags and are glad we did. Our Air New Zealand flight was great until the last 30 minutes when we hit turbulence near Houston. They had a lot of storms today and we had to fly through them to land. We went through Customs and got our bags back. Then looked for our next gate. We weren’t supposed to leave until a 3 pm flight but we saw there was an Orlando one that was still on the gate from a mechanical so we went to see if we could catch that one. The gate agents said no, they had already closed the flight, so we went to sit and wait. [To make a very long story short, we didn’t leave Houston until 12:00pm the next day, getting home about 19 hours after we were scheduled, making the trip home twice as long, a 38 hour trip vs. the schedule 19.]

Auckland Day 13 – Just Roaming Around

View from Sky Tower View from Sky Tower

Today is our last full day in Auckland. I think today we will go up to the SkyTower to see some good views. It is lit up red for the firefighters climb on Saturday for leukemia. Victoria from the last 2 days told us for $4 more you can go up as much as you want in 24 hrs.

So we got ready after breakfast and walked about 4 blocks to go down into the Skytower. That’s where you catch the elevator that takes you up 50 floors to an observation deck. The elevator has a glass floor so you can see the shaft as you go up as well as cut outs in the walls to see how high you are.

The doors open at the 50th floor and it’s a beautiful view this morning. It hasn’t rained yet though. We were able to see all the islands we visited as well as the rest of Auckland. They also have glass floor panels in 4 places to look out below. One floor above here (on 51) is where they do bungee jumping and Skywalks where you are harnessed and walk around a platform outside.

We saw a beautiful rainbow over the city and surprise! it started raining while we were up there. You could see the rain moving in from over the water. Then we preceded up to the 60th floor for even better views. Here is where we could see the workers getting the harnesses ready for the day below us. There is a restaurant and café up here that turn once an hour and at the bottom of the tower is a casino, night club, 36 more restaurants and 2 hotels.

Rainbow from Sky Tower View from Sky Tower

Once we saw our fill we went down to the bottom where they play a movie of how it was built and a gift shop. We found a fern ornament and a pin for CurbCrusher’s collection. Then we were off to Albert Park to walk around and then through the campus of the University of Auckland.

Fountain in Albert Park Floral Clock in Albert Park

After that we walked over to the Domain which is a large park with a rain forest trail, Winter Gardens (a conservatory) and the Auckland Museum. We took the coast to coast walk and ended up at the Duck Gardens which had geese as well.

The Duck Ponds Auckland Domain Steve and Kelsea in Auckland Domain

Then onto the Winter Gardens that had a beautiful hot house (and it was hot and humid!) then on to the fernery which was a mini rain forest inside (it was 3 floors with winding paths). Then we walked up to the museum and walked around it and looked at the views. We went inside to see the gift shop but you had to buy a ticket to access it so we left again.

The Winter Garden The Winter Garden

On the way back we walked the Auckland rain forest Lovers’ Lane path which was winding and had a stream with a small waterfall. Then we retraced our steps to the University of Auckland where we ate lunch from a food truck on campus. Then we finished up with hot donut holes from another food truck.

We went to Countdown grocery to look for Manuka Honey. We can’t afford 100% (it’s around $75!) so we bought a blend at the grocery along with New Zealand coffee. Then off to the souvenir shop near the wharf for Rugby Lambs and CurbCrusher’s pin.

St Patricks Cathederal St Patricks Cathederal

We stopped to look inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral that we can see from our window. The inside is beautiful, they have beautiful pipes for the organ in the balcony and the ceiling looks like the inside of a ship. It was built around 1905. Later today near sunset (5:15pm) we are going back to the Sky Tower to see the lights of the city.

Sunset from the Sky Tower Evening View From Sky Tower

We went back later to see the sunset and were able to make out some of it but as usual in Auckland it started raining again. It was cool to watch the rain move across the bays and into the city. After watching for awhile and seeing all the lights of Auckland we left to go to Subway and get dinner. We took it back to the apartment and ate and started packing to leave tomorrow.

Total step count for the day – 15,288

2016 - Auckland

Auckland Day 12 – Rangitoto Island

Auckland Skyline from Ferry

Today is Rangitoto [the youngest of the volcanic islands that are found in the bay at Auckland. It is an uninhabited national and can only be reached by ferry] Day. We need to make the 9:10 am ferry so we have as much time as possible on the island before having to catch the return ferry at 3:15pm which is the last one of the day. We got ready and then left the apartment and stopped at Ronnie’s Bakery for some ham and cheese croissant sandwiches. There is nothing available on the island because it is a national sanctuary.

Map of Ferry Destinations Rangitoto Island

We had to brush our shoes off before going on the ferry because of the pests we might bring to the island. Our ferry today was ½ the size of the one to Waiheke Island and Victoria from Germany joined us on the trip over. We stopped in Devonport again and landed at 9:45am.

The island is mostly lava bed so everywhere you look there is black lava rocks. The paths up to the summit consisted of nothing but lava rocks. We got off the ferry and walked by a natural swimming pool that fills with seawater, next to it was an arch left when it was a prison camp for men.

Arriving Rangitoto Public Seawater Pool Rangitoto

We started up the path with a lot of volunteers who I think were going to the neighboring island of Motutapu to do some work. The path became pretty steep fast and by halfway up Eaglet and I shed our fleeces and then our rain jackets. CurbCrusher took off his rain jacket. The high temperature today was only 60F with intermittent rains all day.

Trail to Rangitoto Summit Lava Field On Trail to Rangitoto Summit

We finally got to an area that has lava caves and we saw 3 or 4 and walked the loop around them. We shined our flashlights into them but didn’t find the ones Eaglet saw online that you could stand up in. Most look collapsed to me. Coming down from the tubes on a really rocky slippery path it started to rain. So we had to scramble and get covered again.

Lava Cave Trail Sign Lava Cave

We had hiked about 40 minutes so far and the tubes were another 20 minutes of walking around and we still had to walk another steep path to the summit boardwalk for another 20 minutes. At least the path became wider and less rocky. We came to stairs that led to a viewpoint area that if it wasn’t raining would have been an awesome view of Auckland.

Kelsea on Rangitoto Summit Trail Rangitoto Summit
Views from Rangitoto Summit Nadine and Kelsea on Rangitoto Crater Rim Track

We then waked the Crater Rim Track for 15 minutes which hooked up to the boardwalk stairs that led to the Summit Road (a million stairs it seemed) [At the bottom of the stairs we ran into Victoria, who was the first person we’d seen since the summit. She was walking the same loop we were in the opposite direction]. The views were gorgeous once the rain cleared up. But the wind became fierce. We walked along the Park Rd which was nice and wide and mostly level for about 45 minutes until we reached Mackenzie Bay and the Beacon Lighthouse. It was a cute short Lighthouse with red and white stripes.

Road From Summit to McKenzie Bay McKenzie Bay Lighthouse

We decided to make use of the toilets located here and to eat on the beach. So we sat on a huge piece of driftwood log and ate lunch while admiring the view, it was sunny but the wind was cold. After we finished we started walking back toward the wharf on the road.

McKenzie Bay McKenzie Bay Lighthouse
Panoramic of McKenzie Bay

Rangitoto Island is supposed to be known for birds but there really weren’t a lot today, maybe because winter’s coming. They had lots of traps set to catch predators that eat the birds with an egg in each trap.

The walk through the mangrove are took about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We crossed a causeway and noticed there were no fish in the pools either. So not a lot happening on Rangitoto Island today. [It was about here that we ran into a family of four that had been on the morning ferry walking in the opposite direction from us. To give an ideal of how deserted this island is, they were the first people we’d seen in the 2+ hours since we’d run into Victoria at the bottom of the Summit Stairs.]

Rangitoto Summit View From Road McKenzie Bay to Wharf Road McKenzie Bay to Wharf

Getting closer to the wharves there were several Baches (beach houses) or signs for them. Most of them were built in 1906 or so and lots of them were knocked down by people in 1978-82. There were only a few left standing. One is a museum open on Saturdays during the warmer season. [It seems while Rangitoto was never really officially occupied by people, in the early 1900’s camping permits were issued for a shilling a year. Some folks built some rather permanent camping facilities (the Bachs) and a community starting growing up there following WWII. In the 50’s the government made an attempt to clear the island of residents, but gave life deeds for some Bachs. People transferred the titles to their children in order to keep the Bach private longer. Hence there are still a few Bachs left on the island.]

Bach Bach Interpretive Sign

We ended up back at the wharf area and waited for the return ferry. We ended earlier so we are taking the 2:15pm ferry back.

Departing Ferry Higher than Dock Bean Rock Lighthouse

When it arrived it was about the size of the snorkel boat in Cairns. The captain gave us a running commentary [Actually, the 2:15 ferry from Rangitoto to Auckland is also the 1:30 harbor cruise, so you are basically joining the harbor cruise in the middle.]the entire way back which included a closeup view of the Bean Rock Lighthouse and the new commercial harbor they are building. Also, we were able to see a close up of Queen’s wharf where the cruise ships dock (next to a large white caterpillar awning). We then walked back to the apartment and rested for a while until dinner. We had walked over 10 miles on the island today according to our phones and CurbCrusher’s Garmin.

Total step count for the day – 23,770

2016 - Rangitoto Island Auckland

Auckland Day 11 – The Waitakere Ranges

Lake Wainamu

Today was the day to explore the Waitakere (way-tucker-ee) Ranges with Tristan of Habitat Tours. We had a relaxing breakfast and watched the news for the weather (still not good) and went down to wait at 8:50 am. He was on time to pick us up and there was one other passenger, Victoria from Germany, who had spent 5 weeks in New Zealand.

We drove out of the city to our first stop- Lake Wainamu which has black sand dunes from volcanic ash. We walked a narrow trail next to a little stream until we reached an area that was all dunes. We climbed the dunes until we saw the lake and a beach. Tristan said in the summer hundreds of people flock here. Today it was all ours due to the overcast/rainy weather. We spent about an hour here.

2016 - Lake Wainamu, Auckland

Bethells Beach

We walked back to the van and drove to our next stop at Bethells Beach which was only about 2 minutes away. It reminded us of the Californian Coast with the rocky shore and big surf. There was lots of foam made by the waves and a calm area near the entrance. We walked to the lifeguard stand and took lots of pictures. We spent about 20 min here then back to the van.

2016 - Bethells Beach Auckland

On we drove to Cascade Kauri Park where Tristan gave us a choice of lunch first and walk second or vice versa. We agreed to lunch first then walking otherwise we might take naps. So we ate meat pies, a coleslaw, and couscous he made himself. Afterwards we had ANZAC cookies and tea. It was all very good. It started to drizzle again so we packed up and got started on our walk. It was a single track through the rainforest where the Kauri trees and silver fern live. We had to wash our shoes when entering and leaving so we didn’t bring/take any bugs or bacteria in/out with us.

We walked along and Tristan would show us birds/plants/trees that were living in the rainforest. We also saw a slot canyon with a small waterfall. We crossed a few boardwalks and bridges in our path. Then we left and continued on to Muriwai.

2016 - Cascade Kauri Park Auckland

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai has a beautiful coast line. The gannets (birds) have a colony here. We were able to see some of them. Tristan said they come over from Australia to mate and give birth and raise young then leave for AUS again. One side of the beach was rocky and rugged with big boulders on the beach with water caves and high surf. When you walked up the trail to see the birds you saw the other half of the beach which was smooth and had no rocks and there was a windsurfer enjoying it. We spent about 40 minutes here. It was really windy and starting to rain again.

2016 - Muriwai Beach Auckland

We started back to downtown Auckland. Our whole day was 9 am-5 pm. Tristan showed us a beautiful area of Auckland but he was quite dry in his personality/presentation. I wished he’d showed his passion for what he does. We got back to the apartment and rested a while then went out in search of dinner. We ended up at Countdown grocery each getting something different.

Total step count for the day – 16,798

Auckland Day 10 – A Zipping and a Wineing

View from first zip line departure platform

NOTE: Lady CurbCrusher wrote these entries, Mr. CrubCruhser is posting because I’m the one that knows how to insert the pictures. I’ll add some comments in []’s.

Today we are going to Waiheke Island on Fuller’s Ferry for an EcoZip and wine tasting tour. We got up and ate breakfast leaving the apt at 7:50 am since we hadn’t been able to check out the wharf the night before. We ended up on wharf 2 and asked someone when the office would open and she pointed us to another wharf. We went there and picked up our tickets for our zip tour and tasting along with the ferry rides.

Auckland Skyline from Ferry to Waiheki Bean Rock Lighthouse

At 9 am we boarded and left on the ferry which was very nice. They had lots of comfy seats and tables with 2 decks. We made a short stop at Devonport and then passed Bean Rock lighthouse a screw pile looking lighthouse from 1871. I got some good shots of it and of Auckland and the Sky Tower with a rainbow on the right side. It really hasn’t stopped raining since we got here and it is 14C/58F so it’s cold to us.

We all dressed as warm as possible to be outdoors today but we expect to get wet. A guy named Jake was waiting for us when the ferry arrived. He picked up 3 more people and we were off to EcoZip. He told us some info about the island and within 15 min we were there. One more person joined us for a total of 7 plus 2 guides. We got harnessed up and put on helmets and walked over to the first platform.

Nadine and Kelsea Geared up for Zip Line View from first zip line departure platform

They went over all the safety rules and took our picture with the group. We then paired up and started to zip. On this line we were going 2 at a time and racing. CurbCrusher and Eaglet went together and I went last with the guide, Sara. We went over a vineyard that the owners have planted and hopefully soon will be able to harvest and sell the wine.

Waiheke is supposed to have a very good climate for growing vines as there are about 36 vineyards on the island. After everyone went we got ready for the 2nd zip. We had to walk a path down to the platform. When we have zipped before we always stayed up on top of a pole and went platform to platform without descending but there are enough hills here that you can actually zip down with a natural grade. So this zip was quiet scenic with umbrella ferns underneath and beautiful views of the harbor. Luckily for us it stopped raining as soon as we started to do our zips.

View from first zip line departure platform Kelsea and Steve At Second Zip Departure Platform

After everyone had gone again we walked down to the next one that they had named “Big Dog”. It was longer and faster than the other 2. I didn’t video this one -I just enjoyed the view as I zipped down. After everyone was finished we were able to loosen our harnesses and take off our helmets for the eco walk back to their HQ.

The guide Alex led us and stopped at a few spots. We saw the tree that was used in Avatar, and tree that brings you good luck if you can wrap your arms around it (only CurbCrusher in our group was able to do this) and a wood pigeon who eats so much of a certain berry that it gets drunk and can’t fly. We walked through a rainforest and guess what? It rained! Surprise! The walk took about 30 mins and wasn’t too strenuous. The guides had a good sense of humor with us. When we got back we looked at our pictures and left our gear.

Nadine Completing Third Zip Line Steve the Tree Hugger (Its Good Luck)

Jake came back to get us and deliver us to Stoneyridge Winery just up the road. We got there before the bus so took a quick look around. At Stonyridge we walked in the olive grove and tasted a white wine and were told about the cork trees that they are growing. We went inside as it started to rain again. This time we tried a red and sat down for lunch.

Panoramic of Stoneyridge Vineyard

They served quiche, a tossed salad, bread and a cheese cracker tray at the end. Then we gathered up to go to the next vineyard Rangihoua Estate. The bus driver took us to see the beach area before dropping us off. They are well known for pressing olives for oil here. We were shown how they gather the olives and then the machines that press the olives. Then we tasted 4 different olive oils and a herb spread. We bought the Italian style one to try at home. I also tried the hand lotions they had.

Rangihoua Estate Olives waiting to be pressed

Then we were off to our 3rd stop at Wild on Waiheke where we tried 2 wines- a red and a white and 3 different beers. They only one we liked was the ginger beer which actually was 0% alcohol. Since it was raining we spent our time in their tasting cellar.

Wild On Waiheke Winery Archery Targets at Wild On Waiheke Winery

For our next stop we went to Mudbrick Vineyards which was very picturesque and beautiful. It had the best views and they said they do over 2 weddings a week here with a 2 year waiting list. The terraces were lovely and we had 2 wines to taste here and then we went into the original cellar and had another one. We bought some soap made with chardonnay but no wines today.

View from Mudbrick Winery
Nadine and Kelsea Tasting Wine at Mudbrick Gardens at Mudbrick Winery

Our bus driver brought us back to the wharf to catch the 4 pm ferry. Once again it is raining. It has been on and off all day. So glad it wasn’t when we were zipping. After getting back to Auckland we looked for places to eat and decided on Shakespeare’s Tavern, which was a few bocks away. We all ordered hamburgers and when they arrived they were almost as big as our plates. We enjoyed our dinner and went back to the apartment.

Step count for the day – 11,095

2016 Waiheke Eco Zip Line 2016 - Waiheke Wine Tour
Eco Zip Pictures Wine Tour Pictures

Australia – New Zealand Day 9 – Cairns to Auckland

[ Ok, I got tired of putting “College Bound CurbCrusher” in all the places for our daughter. So, since the Eagle is the mascott of the university she is headed to, I’m going to start using Eaglet as her nickname in the blog.]

Today was an easy day. CurbCrusher got up and went for a run along the quay. He said he didn’t go far only a mile or so. [I ran a total of 3.2 miles, it was all in the rain, and I was very wet when done, but my Garmin Connect account now has a run in Cairns on it.] Eaglet and I just relaxed and got ready to leave. After he came back and showered we got all packed up and left for Cairns airport. We did well checking in until Passport/Customs when CurbCrusher got stopped. They weren’t able to read his passport on the computer. They said after they tried for 15 min that his passport picture page was printed off center and the numbers don’t align the way they need to for the scanner to work. Our flight was good [and about 4 hours long] and on time. There was a good stir fry meal on board. Lots of movies, music, etc on Air New Zealand.

When we landed we went through the self-op customs kiosk again. These are nice as you scan your passport and they take a picture of you and if you have no declarations you can go. Unfortunately Eaglet was carrying crystallized honey and they won’t let you in with it in New Zealand. So she had to give it up and we got x-rayed then we could go. CurbCrusher changed some more US$ to NZ $ and we caught a cab to our next AirBNB on Federal St. near the harbor.

Interior of our Auckland Airbnb View from St Patricks Airbnb Windows

This one is a 1 bedroom with loft and has a combo washer/dryer but no microwave (as Eaglet discovered when she tried to netipot). We’re on the 6th floor with a great view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Auckland’s Sky Tower. We dropped our stuff off when Kate met us and showed us around the apartment. After learning the ends and outs of the apartment we left to find dinner after Kate sent us some suggestions. We ate at The Mexican Cafe on Victoria Street nearby and then came back to get showers and go to bed. It was the first time we had made it to our normal bedtime of 10:30.

Step count for the day – 9,383 (note this includes CurbCrusher’s morning run)

Cairns Day 8 – Karunda, Koalas and the Rain Forest

Panoramic of Kuranda Scenic Railway in Horseshoe Bend

Today is the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail day. We got up, fixed breakfast and walked to the train station by 8:10 am. Our train was departing at 8:30 am. We also saw 2 other couples from our snorkel trip yesterday -a couple from Brisbane and a honeymoon couple. We were in car 5 seats 53, 57, and 58. This was an old railway car from the early 1900’s. The ceilings on the cars were antique tiles and the seats were red leather. No A/C or fans. Just windows to open. It was raining pretty steadily since we got up so we didn’t open the windows next to us just the ones across from us. We started off with just a few people and made 1 stop at Freshwater to get the rest of passengers. Our car was filled about halfway. There was a narration of the history of the railway and Karunda. The rail line was originally made for a gold rush but then continued for tourism.

NOTE: Lady CurbCrusher wrote these entries, Mr. Crubcruhser is posting because I’m the one that knows how to insert the pictures. I’ll add some comments in []’s.

[I’ve always used Little CurbCrusher, but as those that have read this blog over the years know, Lady CurbCrusher has used “Pre-teen CurbCrusher”, “Teen CurbCrusher” and so forth. So now, we have the mouth full “College Bound CurbCrusher.” ]

Nadine and Kelsea at Cairns Train Station
Kurnanda Scenic Railway Passenger Car
Kurnanda Scenic Railway Passenger Car

We went through several switchbacks where we could see the front and back of the cars [see panoramic at top of post] and stopped at an observation deck to see Barron Falls. We got 10 minutes to view here.

Panoramic from Barron Falls Station

Then back on the train to get to Kuranda. When we arrived it started to really pour down rain. But we were in the rainforest so should expect it to be wet. We followed the crowd to the main street called Coondoo St. and looked around for the Koala gardens area.

Kurnada Station Kuranda Koala Gardens Map Sign

The directions funneled us through a flea market style place until we came to the right place. This is what College Bound CurbCrusher really wanted to do was hug a koala. First, when we entered we saw Freshwater Crocodiles. They are a tan color with black stripes and have a pointed narrow snout. Most were swimming but one was out trying to sun to no avail. Then there were several kinds of turtles and lizards to see.

Freshwater Crocodile Koala
Koala Koala

Then the star attraction! There were 3 koalas sleeping in a habitat right before you entered to get your pictures. Our koala was named “Yoshi” and was a male 2 years old. He was about 4 kg and will only get to about 8kg total. Steve went first, then me and then CB CurbCrusher because then she would get to hold it the longest for her individual picture as well as our family picture. Their fur was soft but bristly and Yoshi was actually awake and somewhat lively. CB CurbCrusher was so happy. We then collected our photos and finished the animal area.

Steve with Koala Nadine Cuddling a Koala
Kelsea Cuddling a Koala Steve Nadine and Kelsea with Koala

The wombats were sleeping in a log out of the rain and the wallabies and kangaroos were hiding under the walkways to stay dry, CurbCrusher and CB CurbCrusher walked over and fed them. We didn’t look at the snakes but stopped to see the squirrel gliders who were all sleeping on top of one another.

Wombat Kelsea Feeding a Kangaroo

We then talked about if we wanted to do a hike but it was so wet that we were afraid it would be slippery and muddy But we decided not to hike in this weather. It was about a 3 km walk with an add on to Barron’s Falls but just too wet today. So we went to find something to eat. CurbCrusher ordered Fish n Chips, CB CurbCrusher a hamburger and I had a baked potato with cheese, sour cream, and bacon. Mine was weird though because they put the cheese on the plate, potato on top of it then Canadian bacon and then the sour cream. I gave the ‘bacon’ to CurbCrusher and ate the rest.

Downtown Kuranda Kuranda Street Signs
Downtown Kuranda Kuranda Skyrail Station

Then we went window/souvenir shopping. CurbCrusher found himself a cool Aussie roll up hat for when we hike. It looks much cooler than the one he has been wearing for years. We also found a gallery that had water color prints I liked and we bought 4- one of Sydney, one of Cairns, one of fish, and one of the Skyrail cable car. Then we looked at opals but didn’t buy any here. We then walked back towards the rail station and Skyrail to catch the cable car through through the rainforest. We had booked Diamond Cars which have glass floors in them. They come every 10th cable car so we had to wait for one.

Skyrail Views Kuranda to Barron Falls Steve Nadine and Kelsea at Skyrail Barron Falls Overlook
Skyrail Views Barron Falls to Red Peak Rainforest Boardwalk at Red Peak Station

With it raining so hard it was a hard to see past the rain on the window but what we could see was very green. We rode it to the next station at Barron Falls and got off to view the overlooks. We had good views of the right side of the falls since we saw the left from the train. There were 3 platforms to go enjoy the view from. We walked the boardwalk back to the station and re-boarded another car to the Red Peak station. Here they would have made us get out anyway because they use 2 loops for the cables. This station had an interpretive display that showed how workers came and went to the top of the falls. It looked really scary to me. Red Peak had a viewing platform also but we could only see mist, it was so clouded over. There was a ranger giving a talk on the boardwalk but we didn’t stay to listen. We finished walking the boardwalk and went back to the cable car and boarded again for Smithfield.

The views when we could see them were gorgeous and looking through the floor was fun. It would be great on a clear day to look across the valley to the ocean. When we got to Smithfield we called a cab to take us back to Royal Harbor and within 20 min we were home again having afternoon tea and naps.

Total steps for the day – 10,242

2016 - Cairns and Kuranda

Cairns Day 7 – The Great Barrier Reef

Panoramic of Michaelmas Key

Today we go to the Great Barrier Reef [with the Seastar Cruises who were highly recommended by our AirBnB host Kay, and she steered us well they were great.] and the weather doesn’t look so good. It is very overcast and some raindrops are falling. We left at 7:10 am to walk to the E pier and we were the first ones there. The boat only takes 36 people so it should be a good group. We got checked in and the boat was off by 8:10 am. Good mix of people, some college girls, grandmas, and lots of couples. No little kids.

Nadine and Kelsea Before Boarding Seastar Cairns in our wake

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Michaelmas Cay and on the way they gave us muffins, tea and coffee. We had a safety talk and they numbered us. We were 1-3 so we must have booked first. The ride was fun with lots of bumps on the waves. When we got there we got our “stinger suits” which made us look like blue gumbys. They had hoods and covered our hands and hooked around our feet. Our fins and masks went on after. Then they loaded us on a glass bottomed boat to take us to the spit of land that is a bird sanctuary. We off loaded and looked at the birds, the hatchlings were really cute!

Steve Nadine and Kelsea on Michaelmas Key Birds on Michaelmas Key

Then they paired us w/ Dillon who took us around snorkeling for about 30 min and showed us different corals and fishes. My snorkel didn’t work well since it filled up with water after 2 breaths each time. College Bound CurbCrusher was really cold since the sun didn’t come out. After the 30 min I went back to the boat and she came in to get a wet suit. If I would have had a better snorkel I think I would have seen more and enjoyed it. Mr. CurbCrusher and College Bound CurbCrusher stayed out the whole time we were there. I asked Sergio if we could go on the glass bottom boat and since he had to go get the girl on the beach he let us go with him. There was a couple who didn’t snorkel and a grandma who didn’t either who went with us. He was able to show us more of the fish and coral that I couldn’t see when my snorkel wasn’t working. We picked up the girl and went back to the boat and they got us ready to go then served us a buffet lunch. Lots of good food for lunch.

Nadine and Kelse Snorkeling off Michaelmas Key Underwater Shots off Michaelmas Key

Then we were underway to Hastings Reef. I asked for a new snorkel and asked for a wet suit here since it was still overcast. The snorkeling was much better. Bigger coral with lots of colors and more fishes. We saw a shark, barracudas, and clownfish (nemo) here as well. No sea turtles for us though. This time I snorkeled for about 45 min before going back. CurbCrusher and College Bound CurbCrusher stayed out again. Sergio was giving glass bottom boat rides so I went. We saw several large clams and corals. We went back in and CurbCrusher and College Bound CurbCrusher were able to go out next. I changed to dry clothes and they were serving tea with desserts. Sergio had told us the way back would be a lot more bumpy because of the tides. We had about 1.5 hr ride back to the dock. The sun finally came out on the ride back.

Underwater Shot at Hastings Reef Underwater Shot at Hastings Reef
Underwater Shot at Hastings Reef A Nemo

CurbCrusher jumped in the community pool to col off and rinse the saltwater off. College Bound CurbCrusher and I got showers and now we’re looking to find a restaurant to eat at tonight. College Bound CurbCrusher decided on calzones so we walked 1.5 blocks down to Villa Romana. We ate at a table on the sidewalk. Not bad but it started to mist rain and some of it blew in towards us. Dinner was still good though. Afterwards we walked up the street to another UGG store (remember one on each corner!) for College Bound CurbCrusher to compare styles. She’s going to do more research and decide by tomorrow if she wants any. Then we came back and took the elevator to the 2nd floor where the pool is to look around. Then back to the apartment to sort pictures and write in the journal. Tomorrow we go to Karunda and our 2nd Koala encounter.

Total step count for today – 6,957

2016 - Cairns Reef Cruise