WEEK 9 : KURANDA
We were collected by coach at 7.30am outside the park reception on our second morning in Cairns. As we were the second on the list for pick up, we were given a tour to many hotels in town such as the Shangrila, Hilton, Rydges etc where other people were waiting to be collected.
About 18 of us were dropped off at the Railway Station and told our carriage on the Scenic Railway would be number 8 with seats between one and twenty four allocated to us.
Old memories were brought back with this delightful trip on the old train with carriages that had wood panelled walls and ceiling, as well as red leather bench seats. The scenery was lovely with blooming flame trees among thick heavy green vegetation on the hillsides as we clackety clacked through the beautiful countryside. There was a commentary over the loudspeaker telling us that we would be going through 15 tunnels, around 93 curves, and over 1900 metres of wooden bridges.
The longest tunnel is 490 metres long and was constructed with escape culverts to prevent anyone being trapped by oncoming trains. Despite all the safety precautions being taken this tunnel did in fact collapse with 7 lives being lost and after Tunnel 10 had just been completed in 1911 there was a downpour and the area had 72 inches of rain in 72 hours resulting in it being washed completely away and had to be rebuilt. The project engineer in charge was Mr. John Rock and the entire project was completed by labour using only picks, shovels and dynamite. The builders of the railway worked in shocking conditions in the humid rain forest resulting in many becoming very ill and some even perished for us to enjoy this wonderful scenic railway trip.
As the train climbed we had great views over the rural towns, rivers, oceans and islands. The countryside is so green and lush along the wide Barron River that meanders its way through the Barron Gorge.
We had a ten minute stop on the bridge near Barron Falls where we could take in the view in the sunshine from the wood bridge and lean on the warm wooden balustrade while enjoying the cool sea breeze channelled up by the gorge.
Unfortunately there was very little water flowing so the full effect wasn’t evident but by using ones imagination it was easy to picture what it would normally be like.
At 10.15am we arrived at Kuranda railway station, which stands 334 metres above sea level. We had plenty of time to wander around this interesting little village as we only had to be back at the Skyrail station at 3pm for our descent to the base station at Caravonica. It was from there that the coach would meet us to deliver us back to our caravan park at Cairns and the others to their respective hotels.
Our first stop in Kuranda was the Kuranda Coffee Republic where they use only the locally grown coffee. A bonus was the entertainment, watching and listening to the Greek man making the ‘best cappuccino in the world’. On top of the froth he put chocolate powder, then a smaller circle of froth with again more chocolate powder. This he repeated with smaller circles each time and finally coming up into a peak. We were surprised how hot the coffee still was after all that…..and very delicious. This gave us the energy we needed to wander around the various shops and markets until lunch time. We chose to have lunch at the ‘German Tucker’ where we ordered the ‘Koenigsplatte mit Stein biere’. This consisted of a large Weisse Wuerst (sausage) mit kartoffeln Salat (potato salad) und Sauerkraut accompanied by a large glass of beer.
For the last half an hour in Kuranda we relaxed on the metal bench constructed out of old railway lines, in the rainforest, till it was time to catch the Skyrail down again.
We had a relaxing quiet ride down in our own cabin on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway taking in the different shades of green of the forests below. It is hard to imagine how many different species of tree and ferns that are here.
Throughout the two weeks we were in the rainforest coastal areas, we only had a couple of short showers while in the Daintree. This is quite unusual as rainforests need rain all year to flourish. After seeing the lush vegetation up here we now understand why many Queenslanders travel all the way to Broome in WA to enjoy beach holidays in the winter. There they are guaranteed good weather where the countryside quickly dries up after the summer rains in that more barren landscape. Although there are beautiful beaches in northern Queensland, they are very close to the lush rainforests so though the winter is warm, it is also humid and can receive a fair bit of rain.
Tomorrow we are on the move once more. This time we go inland again to visit more places in the Atherton Tableland that we missed on our way through the first time. We will be climbing the range of hills to Kuranda but this time by road which will be a bit more challenging than sitting in a train. Looking at the map there will be many curves, turns and steep inclines to negotiate which should be fun. We have booked into a site at Lake Tinaroo for a few days from where we will make short trips to the sites in that area.