Camp # 31, Days 95 to 97 – Lake Placid, Cairns, QLD

Being it was again a relatively short drive we opted to visit Paronella Park. Everyone raves about it and it was a very pleasant visit. Now in ruins but under gradual restoration, it is to a place that shows you dreams do come true. It just takes a lot of passion, displine, love and hard work. Jose Paronella dreamt of building a castle. Being the youngest of six from a poor family he had little prospects. Immigrating to Australia with nothing and working in the mines and as a cane cutter he saved enough to begin his dream.

What came of it was a spectular oasis open to the public from 1935. With beautiful ground, picnic areas, catering, tennis courts, ballroom, theatre, water falls, bridges, tunnels and lush tropical gardens, it was the place to be in its day. Today it stands in ruins from floods, fire and neglect but still the ground are beautiful and lovingly maintained, restoration gradually underway and with a guided tour it an enjoyable outing.

Staying on the outskirts of Cairns at Lake Placid was the perfect location to for the two main attractions we wanted to visit. Firstly Karanda and secondly Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. It was also going to be the last chance to get things for Georgia’s 7th birthday. Being a total sucker for birthday’s and party’s I fear I may have bitten of more than I can chew with a rainbow unicorn theme and the birthday girl determined to find some friend and have a party. Yikes!

Our first day we took the scenic railway train, a delightful and beautifully restored old train, up to Karanda. It was a slow but fun and a lovely way to climb up the mountain. Throughout the journey commentary runs giving you information on the history and construction of the railway, the natural features of Barron Gorge, and Falls and the Dreamtime story of how the gorge was created.

Being a Monday Karanda was pretty sleepy. I can imagine on a weekend the place would be bustling. We visited the Butterfly Sancturary and the markets were Ken and the kids enjoyed a game of mini golf on the most lush and tropical of courses. To get home we took the Skyrail cable car across the canopy of the rainforest. It was a little freaky but totally cool at the same time.

The Skyrail experience was really made by seeing two of the elusive Ulysses butterfly. Their bright blue wings stood out so clearly against the canopy of the rainforest. On the second stop we had to change cars and took the opportunity to join a short tour by the park ranger through the rainforest. The guide was so passionate about this environment (Steve Irwin-esk), he had us all hanging on his every word and infected with his enthusiasm. Wonderful, education and memorable.

Our second day at Tjapukai Aborignal Cultural Park was also magic. Ken drew the short straw and had to find some birthday gifts for Georgia while us girls spend the day learning about the local Djabugay people, rainforest people. It was a really great day with the chance to learn how to throw a spear and boomerang, and about bush medicine and food, weapons, culture, law, creation and arts. Hopefully when we return to Cairns we can do the Tjapukai by night experience.

Map of the Tribes and language groups of indigenous Australians.

There is loads more to explore around Cairns but we need to keep moving at this point wanting to get to Cape York, (the most northerly point of Australia) and back to Cairns in the next month. Next stop Port Douglas to celebrate Georgia 7th birthday.

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