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Beautiful Cairns

To Kuranda on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and back on the scenic rail

Cairns, named after William Wellington Cairns who was the governor of Queensland from 1875 to 1877, greeted us with grey skies and rain. However, wet or not, the city is situated in a truly spectacular setting with rugged mountains clad in dense rainforest rising around three sides of it. On the fourth side is the South Pacific Ocean with the Trinity Bay beaches and the Great Barrier Reef. The centre of Cairns was nice enough with all the major chain stores represented but we found nothing special to distinguish it from many other city centres.

Cairns

A glimpse of Cairns through the trees on a not-so-clear day.

The Cool Waters Caravan Park was lovely, seemingly carved out of virgin rainforest with high palms, dense foliage and the Freshwater Creek where we threw bread into the water and watched fish, turtles and eels compete to reach it first. At times there would be ten or more turtles at the bank, some climbing over others, chasing the food.

The park sometimes provided free Devonshire teas and every week there was a concert and sausage sizzle which only cost a donation to Leukaemia research. Even better still, this park offered a laptop internet connection. Hooray, at last a park which knows we're in the twenty first century! Click HERE to visit their website.

Cairns has the wonderful, modern 'Skyrail Rainforest Cableway' which carries tourists high over the tree canopy from a terminal just north of Cairns to Kuranda, the 'Village in the Rainforest'. It ascends over a thousand feet as it does so. There is also an absolutely amazing Scenic Railway that runs to the same destination, passing through tunnels, over high bridges, across the face of a high mountain waterfall and along the rim of the Barron Gorge. When visiting Kuranda, most people opt to travel up by one method and return by the other, which was exactly what we did.

Skyrail

Left:The Skyrail terminal. Right: Looking back over the coastal plain as the Skyrail gondola climbed.

More Skyrail

Left: The Barron Falls from Gondola 83. Above the falls can be seen
the railway track running along the almost-sheer wall of the canyon.

Right: Our Gondola approaching Tower 18 high over the rainforest canopy.
Each tower was lifted into place by helicopter to safeguard the rainforest.

When we alighted from the Skyrail at Kuranda we found a free bus service available to take us to various attractions but we decided to take a walk through the centre of the nearby village. Kuranda was definitely aimed very firmly at the tourist trade and we were soon aware that there were at least ten Japanese people to every one of 'us'. Qantas runs a direct service between Cairns and Tokyo.

T-Shirt

There must have been a trillion T-shirts on sale and Mrs. Bucket purchased one for me. I'm taking this opportunity to show you the slogan on the chest. Now, is that nice? After all I've done for that woman! I let her be our navigator when we drive around places to boost her self esteem. I say nothing when she directs me the wrong way because I realise that to some people, left and right are wholly interchangeable - she is one of those people. As a result we have driven every foot of every road in Cairns . . . several times. We never go home the same way. I should appreciate her more, she says, at least travelling never gets boring! What thanks do I get? A T-shirt like that! But there's no point in getting upset, is there? So back to Kuranda . . .

This little village had so many eating and drinking places that we were spoiled for choice, so we decided on the nearest. The waitress was the same age as my grandchildren. She addressed Pam as 'Darl' and myself as 'Mate'. Pam quickly wrote off her first glass of wine and was soon in conversation with the people at the next table. My God, can that woman talk when she's had a glass or two. They soon gave up trying to get a word in and resigned themselves to smiling and nodding. Having a train to catch (they claimed), they eventually escaped. They did manage to tell us where they came from, however - just a few kilometres from us in the south eastern suburbs of Perth. Small world.

Sign and Bench

Left: No shortage of places to spend money in Kuranda.
Right: A bench made from bent sections of railway track welded to two railway wheels. More clever than comfortable.

Signs

Left: Translation: Plenty of time to spend more money.
Right: Something free in Kuranda! Not so, the computer was out of order.

On Kuranda's main street were many trees that appeared to have multiple small trunks instead of a single thick one. Intrigued, we enquired what it was. An old Aborigine man told us it was a fig tree. It started off as a parasite on a host tree, he said. The host eventually died leaving the fig tree with all its tentacles reaching down into the earth. But this was more than a tree, it was a whole garden in the air. He pointed out orchids growing high in the branches, and large ferns and other varieties too. We noticed that the leaves on adjacent branches were entirely different, not even from the same plant. Later we were to see far better specimens. They are pictured on the next page.

Fig

A whole garden in the sky. How many different plants does this fig tree support?

All too soon it was time to make our way to the station for the 3:30 train back to Freshwater Station and home (our caravan). We were really looking forward to this ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway as we'd heard so much about it. The train stopped ten minutes into the journey to allow passengers to disembark at the Barron River Falls railway station from where there was a terrific view of the falls from the platform. The roar of the water greeted us as we left the train. We found some foreign tourists wanting a group photograph with the falls in the background so we reached a reciprocal agreement with them, the result of which is shown here. I don't know if they could understand anything we said - we certainly didn't understand them - but sign language and lots of smiling did the trick.

Us at Barron Falls

The spectacular Barron Falls. If Pam looks nervous it's because we were on the edge of a l-o-n-g drop.
And the wording on my T-shirt? My Wife Says I Never Listen To Her - At Least, I Think That's What She Says.
Is it my fault if she always talks when I'm not listening?

Falls

The railway line was originally built to service the gold mines of remote Herberton where the miners were sometimes in imminent danger of starvation, having had their food supply cut off by floods. Construction was commenced in 1886 and completed in 1891 but not without a high cost in human lives. All the work, including fifteen tunnels and fifty five bridges, was carried out with fortitude, dynamite and bare hands.

Barron Falls from the station platform.

Not long after completion, parts of the line were washed out by heavy rain and once a tunnel mouth collapsed. More recently, in 1973, another hazard struck in the form of the daring armed hold up of a railcar carrying wages. A boulder was rolled onto a remote section of track, forcing the train to stop. Two men with sawn-off shotguns then boarded the train, relieved the staff of two cases of money, then disappeared into the forest never to be caught.

According to an article in the local paper, this railway is regarded as something of an engineering wonder on a par with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Snowy Mountain Hydroelectric Scheme. I certainly would not disagree. The line, which has 98 bends, never runs straight for more than a few metres at a time. Even the bridges are curved, as the picture below clearly shows. The track frequently runs along precarious ledges with a cliff face on one side and a sheer drop on the other. Pretty damned scary!

Bridge

The view from the carriage window as the train slowly negotiated a curved bridge which looked awfully flimsy. Remember Meccano?

Tunnel and Boy

                 Left: Entering one of the 15 tunnels.                                        Right: Pull your head in, little man.

View of train forward and back

Lookin' forward, lookin' back. Not far to Freshwater Station and the end of a fabulous day.

I haven't finished with Cairns yet but the photographs on this page now exceed one megabyte and downloading will take too long on a slow connection if I add any more. So to continue with Cairns, please click below.

By the way, how many eagle-eyes spotted the 'deliberate' error on this page? (I'm assuming you haven't spotted dozens more that I don't know about.) The answer is that Pam is wearing one outfit in the picture of the bench made of railway parts at Kuranda but a different outfit half an hour later standing by the Barron Falls. Truth is, the picture at the falls was taken on a different day - we went there twice.


Footnote: This re-working of Page 12 was completed on 16 March 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.





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