Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Happy hour at Alan and Margaret's

A view of Red Bluff from the train

The train crossing one of the bridges

The carriages crossing the bridge

Surprise Creek upper falls

View over the Baron River towards Cairns

The Baron Falls from the train stop lookout

Our engine

Women's lib Australian style

A view at the start of the Karunda rainforest walk

A view on the rainforest walk

The spectacle bat

The micro bat

The spectacular view from the Sky Rail gondaler

Sylvia's Comments.

Alan had given us some good directions as to how to find his house but both the navigator and driver interpreted them wrongly, the result being we got lost. We did not realise at first we had gone wrong as part of the instructions was to cross the Barron Bridge, which we did. How where we to know there were two Barron Bridges? It was when we got to the airport and Alan had not mentioned passing this we realised that we were wrong so a quick call to Alan and we were on our way. We didn't know at the time but this mistake in direction was too prove valuable to us during our stay.

We arrived at their home late on Saturday afternoon and were instructed to pull up on the lawn behind 'Maggie', Alan and Margaret's motorhome, and were soon plugged in to the electric. We then joined them on the patio for our 'happy hour' drink and were soon joined by their neighbours, also CMCA members and people we had met at the rally.

After a really nice meal we went to bed on Alan and Margaret's lawn, some people have fairies at the bottom of their garden, Alan and Margaret had the Brewer's.

Sunday morning we decided to take a trip on the famous Cairns to Kuranda Scenic Train. Margaret had phoned for the times and we needed to be at the station for 9 am. As it was now 8.20 am we needed to get moving as we had to get to the station, find a parking place and buy our tickets. Jeff did not appreciate the urgency and whilst he and Alan continued to talk about many things, Margaret and I got the van ready to move off. At last we got Jeff to move and we set off for the station and managed to find a parking place on some waste ground along the road. This left quite a run to the station and the train beat us quite handsomely; however it did wait for us. We got our tickets and jumped into the nearest carriage of the fifteen on the train. Once in our seats we realised we had been assigned to carriage 2 and seats 35 and 36. The train was not busy so we decided to stay where we were rather than go and look for the correct seats. We were surprised to find later we actually were in the correct seats.

The train journey to Kuranda, in the Tablelands, takes one and a quarter hours and climbs to 328 meters above the Coral Sea in just 34 kilometres of track. On our way we crossed some awesome gorges, passed some lovely waterfalls and journeyed through the rain forest. The railway was built in the 19th Century and is a tribute to the men who designed and worked on it. It passes over 42 bridges and through 15 tunnels, all hand carved and through dense rainforest. As it twists and turns it passes across cliff faces and we were often treated to some spectacular views back over to Cairns. Today it was rainy, we have had rain for most days since arriving in the Tablelands, but we were still able to get some views although they were a little limited. The train pauses for 10 minutes at the Baron Falls to allow us to disembark for a photo shop opportunity.

We arrived in Kuranda and treated ourselves to a Devonshire Tea at the station. It was here that a notice caught my eye and I thought it was a strike for the women of the world.(see the photo). From here there are 3 ways to reach the village, on the free shuttle bus, the short walk down to the main street or the longer walk through the rain forest. We chose the latter option even though it was raining, there is nothing like walking through the rain forest with the rain dripping down the back of your neck. At least it is warm and I made the comment that it makes a change to get wet from the outside rather than getting wet from the inside (due to sweating) with the high humidity.

We arrived in the town and visited the local markets and looked around the shops. This is a popular village with tourists who come up either in the train or on the Sky Rail cable cars so it was quite busy. The village is surrounded by the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rain Forest, and has a number of tourist attractions such as the Butterfly Sanctuary and Birdworld. I was told it had been a 'hippy' town in the 60's and I could understand that when you walked around the markets and shops. They were selling all new age products, lots of hippy type clothes and jewellery. We had some lunch then decided to take the forest walk back to the Sky Rail terminus, which is along side the railway station.

As we were starting the walk we came across a bat rescue shelter and for the cost of a donation to the work, you could enter and see the bats. The lady running it is a nurse by profession but this is voluntary work or something as a hobby. She had a cage of spectacled bats, some on the inside and others on the outside and brought one across for a closer look. I was surprised at what a lovely little face it had, this one put on a demonstration for the tourists and was rewarded with a piece of biscuit. She also brought out a micro bat but this was not as interested in tourists preferring to try and keep warm keeping close to the lady. Our walk back to the Sky Rail Station was just as wet as our first one.

We had decided to return by the Sky Rail a 4.7 mile cableway traversing over the rain forest and the Barron Gorge National Park. The cableway was completed in 1995 after one year of construction. The towers were lifted in by helicopter and the tallest is 133 feet, and with the two stops it takes one and a quarter hours to travel from top to bottom. We were told that the best trip is to come down on the Sky rail as when you come over Red Peak you get a fantastic view over the city of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef in the distance. Ever since I went on the cable car in Singapore and it stopped at the highest point I have not felt too safe in these things, but I conquered my fears and set off. The cable cars take you over the rain forest canopy and the literature tells you to look for birds and butterflies feeding on the fruits and nectar in the tree tops.

By the time we set off the rain had set in and we were lucky to see the cable car in front of us. We could see down into the trees below and believe me they were a long way down. We seemed to be going good when after a little stutter it stopped with us between two towers. I was just thinking "oh no" or words to that effect when Jeff came out with one of his silly comments. I would have hit him but I needed both hands to hang on, but after a couple of seconds (or a life time) we set off again. Was I glad to reach the Barron Falls Station, here you get out and follow the board walk to the three viewing platforms to see these falls. This time we were looking at the falls from the opposite side of the gorge than from this morning. They looked good to us today but close by there was a photograph of the falls taken in 2000 after a heavy tropical storm and what a sight they were.

We returned to the cable car and went down to the Red Peak Station, here you have to change cars on to a different cableway, and you also get a chance to descend to the forest floor and look at the different trees, fern's and vines. As we had spent a lot of time in the Daintree Forest and as it was raining heavy now we had a quick run around and back to the Sky Rail. We now came over the top of Red Peak and all we saw was the mist, we could not even see the cable car in front of us, we just had to imagine the views. When we did come below the cloud level we got some good views over the city of Cairns, but not the Barrier Reef. The Sky Rail ends at the Carvonica Terminal right by the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Centre, where we visited yesterday. We then took the bus back to the rail station to collect our van.

We returned to Alan and Margaret's and Jeff pulled onto the lawn, this was a mistake as with all the rain it had become very wet and we were stuck. Before we made too much of a mess I was sent in ahead of Jeff in to confess our sin. Alan and his son-in-law, who was visiting with their daughter, went out to help and after a bit of manoeuvring the van was finally got off the lawn and onto their drive, but not before the lawn was made a mess of.

Our home was now requiring its 30,000 kilometre service and there was a Fiat Dealer in Cairns so we gave them a call on Monday morning and they asked us to bring it in tomorrow morning. Margaret had some errands to do in town so they took us with them and showed us the best way into town and where the garage was. Returning home they took us a different way and pointed out a huge statue of Captain Cook, at a guess it must stand at least 22 feet. It used to stand outside a restaurant which has now gone but no one knows what to do with Captain Cook. We passed the airport, and we recognised where we were, then turned off and went the shortcut.

Margaret had commented that she was not sure on using the internet for finding things out, so this afternoon I dredged my memory of my recent computer training for my ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) and we spent the time surfing the net. Margaret was then able to complete a renewal application for both her and Alan for passports.

This evening we took Margaret and Alan out for a meal and we went to Cazalys, the local Australian Rules Football Club. It was a nice place and we had a lovely meal, shame we did not win the meat raffle for the 'Barbie' we were planning tomorrow night. The club overlooked the playing ground which was flood lit, but no match in process. We would like to go to watch a game if just to try and understand it, but not tonight.

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