2 – Cairns

Rain came down in a steady flow as the day began. A gray day in Sydney. Good time to go. All packed up. Headed for the train to the airport. Decided to walk the few blocks to the direct station. Might have brought the rain cover for my pack and tried to use it on the big rolling bag…but no. It might not have fit anyway. Guess we’ll see if the new bag is waterproof. As it happened, it did a good job keeping dry. The few blocks went quickly. Made it to the train. The ride was surprisingly short. Got to the Jetstar terminal with time to spare. Too much time. At the terminal they said that you cannot check in more than two hours prior to your flight. OK. Waited around for an hour then checked the bag. No problems through security. Got to the gate and chilled for an hour. Boarded and flew. The flight was three hours. It would take the next three weeks of intermittent bus travel to cover the same distance.

At the terminal it was a pleasure not to have to go through customs and immigration for a change. Got a bus to the Tropic Days hostel. It was situated about a twenty minute walk from the major stores and the downtown area. Nice people there. A really laid back non party type of hostel. No bar and no food service. No screens in the windows but not many mosquitoes either. Opted to walk to the grocery store and back. Not in a great mood as hunger had set in. Bought groceries and walked the twenty minutes back with 20lbs of food and drink. Got back, cooked and socialized for a little bit and went to bed early as the departure for the next days activities was 7:30 am. Thought it might be fun to try the sky rail tour. This is a gondola similar to a ski lift but it goes just over the tree tops of the canopy of a national rain forest to a small village of Kuranda.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a 7.5 km scenic cableway running above the Barron Gorge National Park, in the Wet Tropics of Queensland’s World Heritage Area. North of Cairns, it has won more than 25 awards.Wikipedia

On the tram

The views were good. There were a couple of intermediate stops which proved to be interesting. Was just in time for the guided tour of the walkway with a very knowledgeable ranger by the mane of Iain, complete with the typical Australian hat and accent. He spoke of the rain forest flora and fauna. Interesting facts like the melaleuca quinquenervia tree that has paper-like bark which sheds. I has a high acid content which makes the soil more acidic killing other seeds which try to take root. To combat it’s acidity the tree has a mold which thrives on it’s roots raising the ph to tolerable levels for the tree. One could see where strangler vines had attempted to climb the tree but found out the hard way about the acidic content of the shedding bark. It was introduced in Florida in 1787. Due to it’s lack of natural predators it has spread rapidly and is a real threat to the everglades. It is considered a toxic weed in the USA. Many other fact were given to us on the brief tour. The station also had good color photo displays with lots more information. Back to the next station skimming the tree tops in many places. Came to an outstanding view of a series of waterfalls which, while still flowing, were not super dramatic due to the dry season. Pretty enough though.

Kuranda waterfalls

As for the town of Kuranda…interesting. The main town is about a five minute walk from that station. Many aboriginal type fellows playing digerie doo’s along the walks waiting for the tourist tribute. Lots of shops catering to the souviner hunter. A petting zoo, (hug a koala for only $24). Various other shops selling everything from postcards to genuine crock belts. Belts ranging from $180 and up. A little more expensive than the $32 it cost for the one gotten in Thailand years ago. Wages here are good so everything is correspondingly higher in cost. Would have to say that the belts here are different. They use a farm raised croc and make each belt from a whole small croc. Nylon belts still seem to hold my britches up just about as well.

Spent a couple of hot hours waiting for the bus back to town. There is a scenic railway which goes by a waterfall. Since the main one wasn’t flowing so well, thought the other one wouldn’t be either. Saved the $60 for another tour. Bus ride back was scenic enough. Back at the hostel it was another early night. 7 am pick up for the Reef scuba diving trip previously booked in Sydney. No drinking either as that’s a no no for diving the night before. Looking forward to the dive on the fabled Great Barrier Reef.

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