Our stay at the Shangri la, Green Island Resort, Best Western and the Novotel.
22.11.2013 - 25.12.2013 28 °C
We are in economy on the Queensland Rail and we think the seats recline more than NSW rail. So good because this is a longish leg. There is lots of green and sugar cane. They burn the cane fields and it is smokey today. Only maybe that is the grassland for grazing that was burning because we are told they no longer burn the sugar cane. Once we are on our way the smokes clears and the land changes. First cattle country, green again, they a really dry grassy area and back to green and more sugar cane.
Just a little further we are back into cattle county. They have set the brush on fire on the right and three sections are burning towards each other. The trees are sparse here. The local trees like the fire and do well, IN fact do better with a good burn.
Soon we are in a boggy area with loads of kangaroos and some very large storks.
One thing they had in the coast are green ants. They are bright and kind of translucent and are aggressive. Their bite hurts...one got me on the ankle, I tried to knock him off and he attached himself to my finger. I did get him off with no permanent damage to me. I read later online that some people find the bites really sting and the sting lasts.
We made it. The economy seats are fine and I watched the Black Balloon and To Kill a Mockingbird over the twelve hours. The hotel is easy to find in the dark even with the warm light rain. We learn we have been upgraded to Horizon Club. What does that mean? It means a nicer room than the one we booked, free breakfast, drinks during happy hour, free canapés which are enough to cover dinner and at a great price. The bathroom is as big as our whole unit in Airlie beach and it has a complete glass wall with a blind that comes down for privacy.
We are too late for drinks, but the girl unlocks the cooler and gets us a soft drink. We meet a couple from England and an Aussie lady who is a tour guide for a group of thirty other Brits. We take advantage of the local eateries for a quick bite before returning to the room to enjoy a good soak in the tub....while watching Harry Potter.
Morning comes way too fast. We make our way to the lounge for a good breakfast. Certainly enough to keep us going. We filled our water bottles and take a muffin and apple for our trip. Today we are picked up by bus...the company is well organized, too bad people taking their tours are not. We have a few more pick ups. The two at our next stop are not there, we go and do two other pickups and there is a group of three missing, we pick up the two who have now appeared, do the last two pick ups and the driver gets a message that his missing group is there now....too late to go back. But then we stop at the Aboriginal centre to drop people off, then we drop more off at the skyride before finally getting to the train.
Our destination is Freshwater where we will catch the train to Kuranda. the train was over an hour late, but since it is only coming from Cairns they could have told us much sooner than they did. The carriages are old, but the seating is unimpressive. If I did it again I would spring for the more expensive coach with refreshments. The seats are like pews that seat four across with four facing so that is a lot of feet is a small space. We are in the front row so we have no one facing us.....however the next carriage is underbooked so we are able to spread out over the two cars. If the train was full it would not have been as much fun. We end up sitting with a girl and her mom from Bombay. They are here for a wedding.
Cairns Kuranda Railway
Desperate calls for a railway to the coast
Cairns win the railway bid
In March 1884, a surveyor named Monk submitted reports from investigations carried out on all the routes marked by Christie Palmerston. This culminated in a decision that would shape the future of North Queensland. The Barron Valley gorge route was chosen. The storm of indignation which followed from Port Douglas and Geraldton was as enormous as the jubilant celebrations from the people in Cairns.
An incredible engineering feat
Construction of the Cairns-Kuranda Railway was, and still is, an engineering feat of tremendous magnitude. This enthralling chapter in the history of North Queensland, stands as testimony to the splendid ambitions, fortitude and suffering of the hundreds of men engaged in its construction. It also stands as a monument to the many men who lost their lives on this amazing project.
The climb began near Redlynch 5.5m above sea level, and continued to the summit at Myola with an altitude of 327.1 m. In all, this section included 15 tunnels, 93 curves and dozens of difficult bridges mounted many meters above ravines and waterfalls.
A railway constructed by hand: Section one of the line ran from Cairns to just beyond Redlynch. The contract won by Mr. P.C. Smith for $40,000. However, work was dogged by bad luck and a possible lack of supervision. Sickness and prevalent amongst the navvies and the working conditions in the swamps and jungles were approaching unbearable.
So the train ride is fun and the views are great. The area is pretty dry so the river is low and the waterfall is meager. It really roars in December and January. At the top we have time to wander around. There are shops and markets of original stuff, supposedly, but when I asked where some small items were made they couldn't tell me. We grabbed a fruit smoothie and did the river walk. We could see some small crocs in the river.
We caught a small river tour with a pretty entertaining guide. Barefoot and casual he was a wealth of knowledge about the river and it's inhabitants. We saw a Johnson croc sunning himself. They are not a threat to people and don't grow very big. They did have the aggressive salt water crocs, but they have been removed. Even those, he said, are not a threat until they get over two metres. Hmmmmm.
We see turtles, but the fish are hidden under some very muddy water. The river is low today because of the dam, but the rainfall up the valley has sent down the mud.
We head over the tracks to pick up the sky rail. Now this is impressive. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience spans 7.5kms over Australia’s pristine tropical rainforests. We glide just metres above the rainforest canopy before descending through the canopy layers and deep into the heart of the forest at Skyrail’s two rainforest mid-stations for the ultimate tropical rainforest experience. This is the end of their tourist season until April. The sky rail can take six people per cable car, but they are allowing private cars for pairs or groups.
After the first few bumps we settle in to enjoy the glide over the tree tops. The last segment of the ride is down the finally mountain face. The wind is kicking up and is swaying us slightly.
The bus picks us up and we swing by the train station to pick up a few who did the day in reverse. Just as the train pulls in the skies open and people are scrambling for their buses. We Are still short a few people, but we go to pull out when a group arrives. They almost missed out because they stopped to use the washroom. It would not be a good time to be stuck there.
Now December is the beginning of the rainy season, but it is coming early much to everyone's delight as it has been so dry. What does this mean? Well, we get rain in the evening and sun and some overcast in the morning and afternoon. The place is humid, but not overly hot. It is quite nice really.
We stop at the Horizon Lounge for a drink and canapés. The Brits from the last night come in and we ask them to join us. We talk until it closes and move down to the bar for a soda and chat some more.
Our last full day starts really slow, but breakfast is great and we manage to get organized. We skyped Edmonton where it is 30 below compared to our 30 above. G and L have been out shopping so we know G. is doing better. We manage to do some geocaching which leads us to some cairns regarding the Olympic torch run in 1956, a scout shack which has a scout Stetson as a roof. It was originally a headquarters for Gen. McArthur in WWII.