I woke up early--this time just from habit--and had no choice but to sit around reading some more. The first bus from my hotel to town didn't leave until 8am, which left me with several hours to kill. Finally the bus arrived and dropped me off at the train station across from the mall. There I purchased a day trip package to the town of Kuranda. The package included a scenic rail tour, entry to koala, bird, and butterfly parks, and a ticket for the Skyrail back.
Those among you who have been with me to Tokyo Tower may see where this is going.
I went to the food court at the mall to pick up some breakfast. The rest of the stores wouldn't open until 9, but at least I could buy food. Then I boarded the train, only to find that the person who gave me my ticket had somehow double booked my seat. I wound up displacing one of a group of four husky Australian men in the coveted window seat. Thankfully, the men were very nice, and one of them (who must have been on the trip before) advised me on where to look to get the best photographs.
The trip was indeed every bit as scenic as promised. The train wound its way through the mountains, at one point making a 180° hairpin turn, at another point driving nearly under a waterfall. The one thing that worried me was that my camera battery only had 30 minutes of time left.
I arrived in Kuranda Village and walked up the avenue of souvenir shops to the koala park, where I had my picture taken holding a koala. Apparently a single koala is only allowed to be held for a half hour per day (according to Australian law), so only a few parks have enough koalas that they can rotate their schedules to accommodate a sufficient amount of holding time.
After the koala park, I continued on to the bird park, at which point my camera battery started to sputter out. I squeezed as much juice out of it as I could, both there and at the butterfly park. I ended my visit with a lovely vegetarian pizza and some browsing at the souvenir shops.
The next leg of my journey was on something called a Skyrail. I didn't think too much of it at the time I booked the tour, but then I arrived at the Skyrail station and realized the horror of my situation. I was to take the gondola-type ropeway back, over the mountains that I had come through on the train, high above the canopy of the tropical rainforest.
This was not some five minute ferris wheel ride. Including two brief stops to go down and look at the rainforest flora, the trip was expected to take an hour and a half.
I spent most of the trip gripping my seat tightly to prevent myself from making any sudden moves that would rock the gondola. I did, however, force myself to look out at the scenery, knowing that I would probably never have such an opportunity again (if I could at all help it).
Needless to say, the gondola didn't fall out of the sky, and I made it to my destination safely. I took the bus back to Cairns, relieved to be back on the ground.
When I got back, I dropped into the mall again in search of another book, as I was finally reaching the last of what I had in my possession. I was happily scanning the shelves of paperbacks when I flipped one over to read the plot description on the back and chanced to see the price tag.
Now, I know that books have gotten more expensive recently. English-language books are particularly expensive in Japan, but that makes sense. The market is small, and they have to pay to import the books from New York or London or wherever. However, I reasoned that such wouldn't be a problem in Australia. After all, it's an English-speaking country, so the market is much larger than in Japan. Also, it has its own printing companies. Therefore, taking into account that things in Australia are comparatively expensive, I estimated that a paperback would probably be about $8-10.
When I saw the price tag on the book in my hand, my eyes bugged out. Even if I had the wild and crazy notion to double my estimate, I still would have fallen short. The price on the book was $22.
Twenty-two dollars. For a paperback.
And that was one of the cheaper books. As I checked more on the shelf, I found that the thicker novels got up to $26.
All I can say is, what the HECK, Australia?!
...Sadly, the thought of all the boredom I would face in the coming days without a book to read forced me to pick something, despite the price. Addiction is a dangerous thing.
I got back to my hotel room thinking, "Hey, I'll plug my camera into the recharger to fill the battery up for tomorrow." That was the moment it struck me that the recharger is a Japanese electrical appliance and, as such, cannot be plugged into an Australian outlet without an adapter.