Kuranda day trip
Monday 19th June 2017
One of our first jobs here in Cairns was to collect our passports and rally packs from the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron, some three and a half kilometres away from the marina, with no bus service. The journey appeared to be shorter by river, so on Friday we dropped the dinghy and went for a ride up the river to collect them. They had arrived there safely, and now sported very nice whole-page social visas for Indonesia.
We also needed to plan our time here in Cairns, so as well as checking out the town for supermarkets, chandleries and eateries, we visited one of the many tourist information centres to gather information and set about organising some trips to explore this area of Australia. The first of these was a day out to Kuranda in the Daintree Rainforest.
We checked in at Cairns Railway Station at 0900 this morning and were shown to our seats in Gold Class carriage 7. It has become somewhat of a habit of ours, if we can afford it, to pay extra for more comfortable seats in less crowded conditions than cattle class, and when we saw the crowd arriving by coach, we were glad we had done so.
Comfy armchair seats in the posh carriage. The first selfie-stick pic of the day!
The train journey up to Kuranda took about two hours and was very enjoyable indeed. A commentary told us all about the history of the line as we passed through 15 hand-carved tunnels, 106 cuttings, round 98 curves and across 55 bridges. Throughout this time, we enjoyed fantastic views over the rainforest while our carriage hostess served us morning tea.
Our first glimpse of the engines and the carriages in front of us as we went round Horseshoe Bend, a 180 degree bend with 100m radius curve.
Our first waterfall was Stoney Creek Falls, where the train passed across Stoney Creek Bridge, the iron lattice construction of which was completed in the mid 1890’s. It has a tight 80m radius and stands on three trestle piers.
Crossing Stoney Creek Bridge – to the front of the train... ...and to the end. 14 carriages, built in the early 1900’s of Silky Oak.
Stoney Creek Falls.
The train stopped at Barron Falls so that we could all get out and have a good look at the falls, and shortly after arrived at the town of Kuranda. The railway line was built to service the mining area to the west, and the site of Kuranda was chosen because of the availability of huge amounts of good quality timber for building. The railway opened in 1891, transporting supplies from the mining belts to the sea, and tourism in Kuranda began some forty years later as people rode the train on a Sunday.
Barron Gorge and Falls. Second selfie-stick pic of the day!
Posing beside our carriage.
A closer look up front – two 1720 class locomotives built 1966-70
to replace the remaining steam engines in Brisbane. They moved to
rural branch lines in the late 1970’s after the system was electrified.
Today Kuranda appears to cater entirely for tourists, with the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail between them taking hundreds of tourists a day up and down the mountain. The main street is lined with tourist shops and eateries. We walked through them to the Tourist Information office where we collected a map of the town, and then set off on a walk around the edge of the village through the rainforest and down beside the river. It was a very pleasant stroll, but we saw very little in the way of wildlife.
A splash of colour amongst the shades of green. This black bean pod narrowly missed Steve’s head as it fell to the ground.
Sadly no platypus, but fortunately no crocs in this river. The original timbers hold up this bridge, we suspect.
Old and new technology – a cable car above a wooden bridge.
Back at the village, we wandered through the Heritage Markets and found a cafe where Steve tried crocodile curry for lunch. Despite being told that the curry was mild, he is unable to say what the crocodile was like as he couldn’t taste it through the spices!
A colourful mural outside the Visitor Information Centre in Kuranda. This little chap joined us in the cafe at lunchtime.
We arrived at the Skyrail terminal on time to find a very long queue, and waited 45 minutes to board for our descent. We made two stops on the way down – the first at Barron Falls, this time on the opposite side from earlier, and where we spent ten minutes browsing in the interpretation centre, and then at Red Peak station where we joined a Ranger-led walk along the boardwalk through the rainforest. The ride down was both impressive and interesting as we travelled along above the canopy and looked down at a forest that has been there since ancient Gondwana separated. And of course the views were wonderful.
At the Skyrail terminal, ready for the ride down.
We could see for miles. The cable cars glided above the canopy – sometimes quite close.
Looking back at Barron Gorge from cable car no.108. Looking down on the rainforest canopy.
Another look at Barron Falls – from the other side. And selfie-stick pic number 3!
Barron Falls is partially dammed as part of hydro-electicity system. A Flying Fox cage that used to carry people across the gorge.
Once back on the ground we found our shuttle bus back to the City and eventually got off by the night market to walk back to the boat. Our day as tourists had gone remarkably smoothly (apart from the Skyrail delay) and was a very enjoyable way to see some of the rainforest.