Thursday, February 7, 2008

Australia Story (p5) - A New Me

I arrived at Kuranda, a village in the rainforest, with the idea to live there for three nights. Come to find out, it's a tourist place like Fitzroy Island. Everything is only open during tourist hours, from 10am to 4pm, and then it almost becomes a ghost town. I stayed at the only hostel, which was once a beautiful 1908 wedding gift, but is now pretty trashed with stripped bare walls.

The spiders and geckos are more abundant than the backpackers since the windows are open 24/7. The mozzies attack all night while I'm trying to sleep, and sometimes even during the day when I least expect it. The shared restroom is a separate pole shed with some plywood separating things and a few patches of green ants. (The ones that bite hard.) The shared kitchen is dangerously industrial sized, and the items we could cook with were questionable at best.

The first night, I was convinced that I had made a mistake. I had seen everything that Kuranda had to offer already, and was stuck here for another two days. Little did I know, this place would change me forever.

The next day changed my attitude into absolutely loving this place. I made friends with the locals, and they told me where the secret path was to get to the bottom of Barron Falls. (Which, by the way, is only baron during the dry season (now).) They told me "Yeah, you got to see the falls, but now you can experience the falls." When put into this context, being a regular tourist really sucks! That single statement has turned me off to being a tourist, and on to being a temporary local instead. I can "see" places via pictures on the internet, so why bother spending the money to simply "see" it in real life? Here's how to experience it:

A British backpacker tagged along on my hike, and we found the secret path. Taking this path was quite illegal, so we were told to be very discrete about it. It was a skinny, squiggly, rocky path to the bottom of the falls that took at least 30 minutes to traverse. We were well out of sight of the tourists (or anybody), and there were large pools all around us. She said she wouldn't join me, but I could skinny-dip if I wanted to. However, we were interrupted.

Down the trail were two German girls from the hostel, and the hostel owner. He said "we're not at the bottom yet..." He was right, the falls were like steps and we were on one of the top ones. I didn't even see a trail to go down further, but that's probably because their wasn't one.

The "trail" was all rock. At times, we were moving horizontally along a nearly vertical surface, with certain doom below. Of course, there was a moment of jumping over to another rock, also above certain doom. This was certainly a dangerous trail -- one that I normally wouldn't risk -- but we all did it anyway! Those Australians are fearless, and it's a trait that was rubbing off onto me.

At the bottom was a giant swimming area. (Click the panoramic above for detail -- notice the people, they were diving from there!) The owner was skinny dipping for a bit, mostly to get a reaction from the girls. He would slip off his budgie smugglers and twirl them in the air while he was floating around, like some sort of stripper. The Germans had their bathing suits, and the Brit uncomfortably swam in a bra after some persuasion. I swam in my undies for a while, only to be respectful to the apparently prudish women. I got out of the water when the freshwater crabs were pinching my feet, and took the photos for the panoramic above. It was impossible to capture the beauty and size of the area through a camera lens! This was a place that less than 100 people per year get to see -- and none of them are regular tourists.

The lesson for this story isn't about nudity, it's about life. Break loose of pre-packaged deals, and go hang out with the locals. Do something crazy every once in a while, simply because it gives you a unique perspective on things. Lastly, if it doesn't kill you, it can only make you stronger! (My favorite new philosophy.) I returned from Kuranda with a new sort of toughness, a new respect for backpackers, and a new outlook on life. I believe it was this trip that gave me the bravery, confidence, and sense of adventure that I needed for the rest of my story...

* Sorry to all those who have been bored so far, but I needed to put some perspective on the real meat of the story -- which starts next! The next 4 parts are a wild ride through some active, and disturbing, nude beaches.


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