FRIDAY 12 JUNE CAIRNS
I got up this morning hoping that my stomach will stay settled all day and not spoil the tour! What lousy timing.
We had to be out the front of the caravan park at 8.30, to be collected by the bus that would take us to the Skyrail “base” at Caravonica. Skyrail is a type of cable car operation, where small cabins are suspended from cables that go up the range to Kuranda – over the top of the rainforest. It was only built three years ago, but has already won some awards. It is the longest gondola cable way in the world, at 7.5kms.
I wanted to have this experience, but at the same time, given my aversion to heights, was rather apprehensive. We booked to go up to Kuranda on the Skyrail cableway, and back on the little old train that snakes down the range. The Kuranda Markets operate on Fridays, so we will also have time to browse those. The entire package cost us $128, for the two of us.
The Kuranda Railway was opened in 1891, so it is over 100 years old. It is about 30kms from Kuranda down to Freshwater Connection, where our journey will end. The train can’t go in a straight line, like the cable way! The Railway was quite an engineering feat when it was built, given the terrain. There are fifteen tunnels, lots of bridges long and short, as it winds around the face of the range.
The cable car carriages are fairly small, so one is not in with a heap of people. There are two “stations” and the idea is that one can get off at each, explore what is there, and then get back on the next car – they come at about 20 minute intervals.
Going up, we looked back down over the Barron River, the farmed plains, suburbs, and over the sea.
The views were awesome. The first part seemed a really steep gradient, and we were not all that far above the canopy of the trees. We got off at Red Peak, where there is a little walkway that goes over the rainforest, and then again at Barron Falls, which is similar but with lots of information provided too. Obviously, we could see the Barron Falls from this stop.
A bit earlier, we had seen the railway train, across the Gorge, snaking its way uphill.
The Barron Falls drop a long way, but there was not a great deal of water coming over them.
The Barron River is dammed at the top, for a hydro electricity generating plant, and that affects the flow. But it would be really spectacular to see the Falls in a big Wet season.
It took us 75 minutes to get to Kuranda.
Once there, we walked around and went to the Markets. I found these rather predictable, to the point of being boring. There was much New Age, hippie stuff. Actually, the same could be said of Kuranda as a whole! It did not live up to what I was expecting, as so much is made of the place as a “must have” experience.
We did buy K’s birthday present – for next year! A special fishing vest with lots of pockets. It was on sale, reduced from over $100 to $39. Apart from that, I bought postcards, some Tic-tac mints; we had a can of Coke and an ice cream each. As the day progressed I felt much better, though I didn’t want lunch. John was starting to feel off-colour too.
We walked to the very picturesque railway station, to catch the 2pm train. The station has beautiful gardens.
The train carriages are old style, like the originals – lots of polished wood and red leather seats. The seats are in facing pairs.
The train was no speed machine. It was pitch black through some of the longer tunnels. Much of the time, because of curves, we could see part of the train ahead of us, or behind. It actually felt rather precarious at times – narrow little railway, deep gorge below us! We stopped part way down the mountain, to view the Falls.
It was a good combination, to go up by the cable car and down by the train – different views from each and a different pace. One so modern and the other a step back in time.
It took two hours to go down by train. We got off at Freshwater Connection, rather than go all the way into Cairns city. However, our bus transport driver decided to drop some other travellers off in the city, first, so we had a very round-about way back to the caravan park. It was dark by the time we got back, so it had been a long and full day.
I think that, for new visitors to Cairns, I would list this at the top as a “must do”.
I was really pleased that my stomach had behaved all day, but John did not feel well. However, he thought he’d like me to make some fried rice for tea. It was quite late by the time that was done.