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.
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!
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.
Left:The Skyrail terminal. Right: Looking back over the coastal plain as
the Skyrail gondola climbed.
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.
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
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.
Left: No shortage of places to spend money in Kuranda.
A bench made from bent sections of railway track welded to two railway wheels.
More clever than comfortable.
Left: Translation: Plenty of time to spend more
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.
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.
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?
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
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
The view from the carriage window as
the train slowly negotiated a curved bridge which looked awfully flimsy.
Left: Entering one of the 15 tunnels. Right: Pull your head in, little man.
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
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.