With my 24 hour City Explorer pass ending at 11:10 this morning, I was up and awake and heading off to St. Monica’s Cathedral before 8:30. Course like with all maps in Australia, its deceptively far, and I get there a little bit later than planned.
The Cathedral was pointed out during the bus trip yesterday as having the largest stained glass windows in the world. This seemed like something checking out, so figured I’d catch the bus from this stop. The building itself is very unassuming – I actually assumed the far more ornate building next to it was the cathedral – and certainly doesn’t look like much even when you walk in. Then you look up…
Got to say, not what I was expecting, but these windows are spectacular.
They show the creation of life right from the moment of existence to animals coming into being, and the front door is framed by two memorials for war, displaying fish and other sealife swimming amongst the remains of battleships. The building itself is nothing fancy, but the windows are well worth the stop – photos really don’t do it justice.
When I finally caught the bus, I was able to get more specifics as to the limits of the ticket. Although it was only good for 24 hours, the drivers are pretty flexible so long as you’re clearly heading back once your time is up. Thanks to this, I was able to go to the Botanic Garden without having to worry about catching the next bus – especially since the City Explorer went the long way past the Aboriginal Park and Sky Rail again.
The Botanic Gardens are exactly what they sound like, a set of gardens with different plants and designs. At this time of year, there wasn’t much in the way of blooming flowers, but there was plenty of vibrant greens and eerie tranquility interspersed with the crashing of falling palm leaves. If not for the manmade path, certain areas feel more like you’ve stepped deep into the jungle.
This area also hosts the Tank Arts Centre, whose tanks once held oil for war and ships, but once decommissioned were refurbished into art centres. Given just how big these drums are, this allows for a lot of space – which I sadly never got round to looking at properly as I was headed towards the Centenary Lakes via the Rainforest Walk.
This is a boardwalk through the jungle-thick forest in front of the Gardens that separates them from the freshwater and saltwater lakes. Much like the gardens only on a far higher level, you’re walking through dense forest that goes on in every direction. If you look closely, you can spot the tiny lizards darting around the ground – but keep an eye on the sky for falling leaves with surprising weight.
Ended up walking alongside the freshwater lakes, which are teeming with waterfowl, including some large pelicans which I saw pretty up close thanks to someone feeding them bread. If you’ve ever had a swan come lunging towards you – imagine that only with a beak as long as its neck and you’ve got an idea of just how intimidating that can be. There was also some adorable baby ducklings that were waddling around in the weed-laden water.
Had enough time to check out the saltwater lake as well, but this was more of a quick glance since I was hungry and didn’t want to stray too far from the bus stop and find myself waiting another 45 minutes – all in all this part of town is great to walk around, especially in the morning before it gets too warm.
Come noon I headed towards Gilligans – a large backpacker resort in the middle of Cairns which also has the a Job Club attached. Since I don’t really want to waste time finding work, I’m strongly considering joining this kind of agency just to make sure I get legitimate jobs fast. However, the woman isn’t there, and the girls at the travel agency section are completely at a loss as to where she is. After about 10 minutes, I decide I’ll come back later and grab a card instead.
My next point of call is the Reef Casino – but more for its rooftop than the gambling. This large dome hosts ‘The Wildlife Dome’ as well as the ZOOM zipline course.
The dome works mostly as a giant aviary, hosting a variety of Australian parrots, ducks and other birds, while also hosting enclosures for native reptiles and mammals (such as Koalas, and the more nocturnal bettongs and sugar gliders which only appear around 5 onwards). Every hour there’s a presentation for one aspect of the Dome, including feeding of the birds, reptiles, Koalas and the crocodiles (Goliath, a huge croc in a raised enclosure is one of the Dome’s stars). Most of the animals were either injured in the wild or hand raised – and the hand raised are the more interesting characters. Biggest contender was Maverick, a white and black duck that would follow the keepers everywhere and eat anything in his path, despite it not being anything he should really want to eat, including nectar and fish despite the grubs he should want being right there.
The other attraction here is the ZOOM course – which consists of 4 activities. A 13 metre jump, walking around the outside of the Dome’s very top layer, and the Mid/High Zoom courses. The first activity costs $15 dollars on top of your ticket, and every additional one $10. I decided to go for the Mid/High Zoom courses as I genuinely wasn’t sure if my vertigo would let me do the other 2. However, when I first start the Mid Zoom, I am behind the worlds slowest family, who continually do each activity as a unit and therefore are taking 4 times longer than they should be. Due to this, the staff offer to let me off and have me restart once they’ve gotten through a significant amount. I agree – and return about 15 minutes later hoping this should give me enough time to see the crocodile show. It would have…except that while the slow family was making their way through, another family started up, and I got caught in a traffic jam about 3 activities towards the end. One of the staff took pity on me and let me off at the next evacuation section so I could go and see the crocodile presentation – but this in turn meant that the slow family had started the High Zoom when the staff member in charge had planned to have me go on ahead of them so I wouldn’t be slowed down. In exchange, they offer to take me out on the rooftop for no additional charge. A little nervous, but not really wanting to say no to that kind of offer, I agree.
Lordy is this nerve wracking…You’re god knows how high up and walking along a little metal walkway. Admittedly you’re also attached to a zipline with industrial grade climbing equipment keeping you attached, but my legs were still a little shaky. Worth it though for this view…
By the time I came down, slow family were at least halfway through the course, so everyone figured I could get through without getting caught up too much, and I begin my ascent.
The ZOOM courses are essentially obstacle courses in the sky – you balance your way across strangely constructed bridges and supports all the while getting higher as they get harder. The High ZOOM has the added bonus of being a favoured perch for many birds, so often find yourself trying to shoo them away in order to continue.
Some of these exercises are hard going for me, but I managed to hold myself together up until the very first zipline, which I’ve never actually seen anyone do, and is very high up. I’m sort of frozen, wondering exactly how I’m supposed to do this, and irrationally not expecting the cord to hold my weight. Thankfully, one of the staff members watching suggests I sit down so I can feel the cord supporting me before I shove off, and I manage to zipline across without screaming. This successful attempt got my confidences up enough to do the second zipline standing – once its done once (and not at quite the original height its actually a lot of fun).
Unfortunately, I’ve finally caught up with slow family, who are struggling with the next bridge (a very hard one made with swinging logs and not particularly well placed rope for your arms). End up with another traffic jam as I have 2 Japanese boys behind me – they do at least get across the final zipline (over Goliath the crocodiles pen no less) at speed, and I struggle across the log bridge for my final zipline and continue waiting for them to finish so I can do the same.
By this point, the next bird feeding presentation is on, and I follow along so hear the stories of the birds (stalked by the previously mentioned Maverick) before the mammal show at 5. This time of day, the bettongs are starting to wake up, and as I’m walking back towards the main enclosures I spot 2 of them foraging around the ground. Extremely friendly, they’re perfectly happy to be pet, so long as you can offer them an almond for their trouble.
The final presentation spoke more about them – the keeper Chloe had hand raised all of them and could tell you each one’s quirks. There was also a sugar glider on display, which was probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen – fur is like exceedingly fluffy velvet!
I really enjoyed the Wildlife Dome – and since the ticket gives you 4 day access I’ll probably pop in during the evenings at some point. However, I’ve enjoyed myself so much I’ve definitely missed the woman at the job club if she had returned, so will have to get in contact with her soon.