An Australian Thanksgiving

The ship’s stop was Cairns, but I had Kuranda on my mind. It’s a tiny town about 1000 ft. above sea level, that you can reach via an antique train, then depart via a horrifyingly high cable car. Just the way to spend a tropical Thanksgiving, I thought. I booked a ticket for the trip, and thought that, if nothing more, it would be a good way to take my mind off being away from the family at Thanksgiving.

Then, the night before, I had a look at Facebook and got into this amazing conversation with a couple of old friends, Della and Greg, whom I hadn’t seen in about five years. They had posted a picture of themselves in an album labeled “Australia.” A flurry of messages ensued.

A: Hey, are you guys in Australia??? I am too!!!
D&G: Yeah, we’re in Cairns.
A: No way, I’m going to be in Cairns tomorrow!
D&G: We’re planning to go up to Kuranda tomorrow, though.
A: I am going to Kuranda tomorrow too!

And thus was hatched one of the most far-fetched and wholly unexpected Thanksgiving plans I have ever made. We agreed to meet up in Kuranda, and so we did. But first,

I took the antique train up there. This railway is 23 miles long, has over two kilometers of tunnels that were dug out by hand, over two kilometers of bridges, has been in service since 1891, and traverses an incredibly lush rain forest. 

32 men died building this railway, much of it pickaxed out of sheer rock faces.

This huge boulder remains as a monument to those workers.

Arriving in Kuranda I was met by Della and Greg, who had made the upward journey by cable car, since the train was sold out. After a long series of hugs and greetings, most of which were of the “Can you actually believe that we are all accidentally celebrating Thanksgiving together in a tiny town in Australia?” sort, we set off to explore the town.

Of course we went shopping, although none of us bought anything except the macadamia nuts I got to take back to the ship. Greg insisted on taking this picture, and even I resisted the kitschy opportunity, I’m glad he did.

It was a super-hot day, and we were all thrilled to find this shady terrace restaurant where we could have lunch over a bottle of an unremarkable but refreshingly chilled sauvignon-blanc semillon blend. And then, after a bit more sauntering through town, came the time I had been dreading.

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever mentioned it here, but heights are not my favorite thing. A cable car ride high above a rain forest is not an activity I would normally choose to do, but I had heard that it was a spectacular trip. So I swallowed my totally irrational terror and hopped aboard.

Della’s not a fan of heights either, but she was braver, having come up that way earlier in the day.

It really was a beautiful ride, and although the river below looked inviting, it was almost certainly full of fresh-water crocodiles.

I kept taking pictures, trying to show how high up we were. This is the best I could do, since my camera just refused to look through the forest canopy all the way to the ground. See that small dark blob, suspended toward the center from 2:00? That’s the shadow of our gondola, high above the tree canopy. We were a long way up, and we had a couple of nervous conversations about how one might be rescued, were one so unlucky as to suddenly be stranded up there. It really didn’t bear thinking about, since at least two of us would undoubtedly have died of fright before any rescue could be accomplished.

Arriving back in Cairns we recovered from our self-inflicted ordeal with more catching-up conversation, accompanied by quite a lot more more chilled white wine and an Indian restaurant dinner. There was no turkey, and we resisted the urge to try the crocodile curry.

All in all, I’d call it one of my most unusual Thanksgivings ever. Not least because I normally think of Thanksgiving as a cool-weather, northern-hemisphere, red-wine holiday. Also, I never did really see Cairns.

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3 Comments on “An Australian Thanksgiving”

  1. What fun!!! Things like that are so serendipity! And half a world away, too.

  2. Eliza Ayres Says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Sounds fun. I like gondolas.

  3. barbara Says:

    crocodile is nice; worth trying. A cross between fish and chicken. I had some somewhere in Africa, maybe Zimbabwe.

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