The kids were less than enthused. Big sigh... we pulled the 'parent card' and said we were going anyway.
The drive was lovely and we came into the little town called Atherton. The kids knew there was no reason to complain, we were going to go to the rock shop. And frankly? They always enjoy themselves once we go in. The shop looked like any other rock shop. Lots and lots of pretty stones... geodes to crack open... jewelry that I like but won't spend money on... same old, same old shop. As we were looking around, I knew that the 'crystal caves portion' was in the basement and I thought that I would just send Papa Echo in with the kids and I would wait upstairs. (I wanted to save the $25 adult admission price.) But, as we went towards the back of the store, I saw that it wasn't just a boring stairwell going downstairs. It was decorated to look like an actual cave. I was intrigued and decided to pay the money and take a look.
We were given hard hats with lamps to wear and told to enjoy and touch everything and take lots of pictures. As we walked down the winding walkway into a man made cave with real gemstones placed in the faux rock wall, we realized we were seeing something incredible. The kids were THRILLED!! You felt like you were discovering these gems for the first time and the kids were encouraged to touch all the beautiful rocks. The cave system was HUGE with over 600 crystal formations.
Towards the end of the tour, we came upon "The Empress of Uruguay" which is the worlds' biggest amethyst geode.
So, here's the thing. Finding amazing wonderful things to do in the middle of nowhere is happening all the time here. We looked at and touched the world's largest amethyst geode in a tiny town 1-2 hours west of a smallish tourist town called Cairns. And the only way we knew about it was from little blips in some of the tourist pamphlets. If this attraction was in the U.S., it would be located in a big city and admission would be higher. Nobody would be able to touch the geode and to get your picture by it would be extra. This entire cave was designed just as well if not better than anything I've seen at Disneyland. And for anyone that knows me, knows that 'that' statement is saying a lot.
The kids admitted that they were glad we went for the drive. We ate a picnic lunch (in the car because it was starting to rain) and went to find some waterfalls.
We found our way back to Cairns with plenty of time to catch our flight back home to Brisbane. I'm so glad that we chose to drive north and fly south. It was a wonderful adventure to drive but flying home was a good way to end the vacation.
And speaking of flying? Does anyone remember what it was like flying in the states before 9-11? Because if you don't, come to Australia. When we got to the airport, the kids were getting nervous and worrying about what was in their carry on bags (like lotion bottles and a lack of ziploc bags). We told the kids that they didn't need to worry about that. They also didn't need to take off their shoes. And, if for some reason they set off the metal detector, they wouldn't get an invasive pat-down. They would just go back, take off their belt and try again.
It made me get a little teary because I know that the security system in the states will NEVER go back. And it makes me sad because we have lost so many rights because of the TSA and I don't think we are any safer. It's really sad.
I'll get off my soap box now. Thank you Australia for reminding me of what once was.