We spent today at the Great Barrier Reef, which was probably one of the coolest experiences of the trip. I personally went snorkelling, and several others in the group went diving as well. We went to two reefs, where I saw more fish and more colorful coral than I have seen at any other snorkeling site. Once we were back in Cairns for the evening, we walked to the downtown area and did a little shopping before turning in for the night.
Today we spent the day north of Cairns in the Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage site. We started the trip by taking a short crocodile cruise on the Daintree River, where we saw a 12 foot crocodile. We then headed further into the rainforest for some hiking through the rainforest and a mangrove forest. We ate lunch at Cape Tribulation, which has a beautiful beach. On the way back to Cairns, we stopped at several lookout points, Port Douglas, and Mossman Gorge. Mossman Gorge is a sacred site for the local Aborigines; there are rounded boulders everywhere, and it is a popular swimming destination.
Yesterday, we traveled by airplane from Brisbane to Cairns. The flight was a little longer than the flight from Sydney to Brisbane, but it still beat the flight across the Pacific. By the time we got settled into our hotel, which had a great view of the mountains from the balcony, we didn't have much time to make it into downtown Cairns. We went to the grocery store for food, cooked dinner (tacos), and spent the evening on the balcony, enjoying the weather.
We spent today in Kuranda, a town in the Atherton Tableland and the rainforest. To get there, we took a scenic railway from Cairns, which had great views of the region and ocean, as well as the surrounding rainforest. We spent the day shopping in Kuranda and hiking through the rainforest around the town before heading back to Cairns via the Skyrail. The views from this were fantastic; we traveled over the rainforest before going over a hill and being able to see for miles and miles around. This was one of the best experiences of the trip so far.
Today was a busy day at the Queensland University of Technology. We first met with Professor Rosemary Kennedy, who runs the Centre for Subtropical Design at the university. We also met with Professor Vaughan Coffey, who gave a virtual tour of Brisbane and the area. During our break, we walked along the river and through the City Botanic Gardens; we then headed to a lecture on risk management.
We had another free day today, so some of us decided to spend the day westof the city at Mt. Coot-tha Reserve. We had great views of the city and surrounding area from the top of the mountain, and there were a lot of opportunities for bushwalking. We chose a trail with an Aboriginal art section. The art was created in the early 90s by local Aborigines. At the base of the mountain are a botanic garden and planetarium, which we wandered around for a short while before heading back to the city. We then met up with the rest of the group for a tour of the Castlemaine Brewery, which is one of the main breweries of Queensland. After the tour, I had an excellent barramundi sandwich for dinner; this was my first time trying beet root, which I surprisingly liked. We also decided to try Vegemite tonight; this was not as good as the barramundi and beet root. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever tried, but it reminded me of using too much soy sauce.
This morning, our professor led us on a short tour of the city. We started by going up the clock tower of City Hall, and then took the bus down to the Parliament House of Queensland. We were given a tour of the building, which included a library with documentation from every session of Parliament, and the main chambers. Our guide was very informative about the roles of the different branches of Australian government. We had the afternoon free, so we headed out to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to 130 koalas, as well as kangaroos, wallabies, emus, and other native Australian animals. We were able to hold a koala, and were also able to walk around with the kangaroos and wallabies.
We left Sydney this morning for Brisbane. The flight was only about 1.5 hours, which was nothing compared to the flight from the United States. By the time we checked into our hotel and got settled, there wasn't much time for exploring. We crossed a bridge over to the South Bank of the city, where we walked around the Wheel of Brisbane and the manmade beach. After that, we headed to Chinatown for dinner and called it a night.