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Published: April 10th 2016
Qantas did themselves proud, I’d never had a fried egg on an in-flight meal before but there in front of us was a proper egg, bacon, and sautéed potatoes breakfast (shame about the side of spinach but Alison liked it).
Our main reason for coming to Cairns, it is one of the main stopping off points to visit the Great Barrier reef, that’s stretches for 1300 miles off the coast of Australia.
Prior to our visit to the reef we thought we would visit the Queensland rainforest, that predates the Amazon one by 50 millions years. We took a ride on the very scenic but touristy Kuranda railway, that winds its way into the mountains, passing stunning views and waterfalls eventually reaching Kuranda. Originally a mining town the railway was built in 1891 to support the very vulnerable tracks that wash away in heavy rains. Now there are mainly tourist markets and some small wildlife parks. We visited Kuranda gardens which had many animals, Kangaroo’s wallabies, lizards, snakes, crocodile’s, amongst others - but Alison wanted to hold a Koala, and she got her wish, it made her day, if not her whole trip to Australia.
The way down from Kuranda was more direct. We had been on many cableways in Austria and Switzerland, but the Skyrail went straight over the rainforest canopy, for 8 kilometres. We stopped off on the way down for the viewing platforms and accompanying boardwalks, to take in more of the rainforest. We were to be confronted with some huge Golden Orb spiders but it was a great day.
When you see brochures promoting the Barrier reef you see calm azure water, colourful coral teeming with fish. On our outward boat journey, the sea state must have been force 4-5 Alison and I were Ok but many of our fellow passengers were ill on the hour and a half voyage. On jumping in to snorkel, it was a bit daunting, the swell was slightly better but we still felt we were jumping into the middle of the ocean, and the best of the reef was a good 80 meters’ paddle from the boat. The reef was all we expected with colourful coral and wildlife. Alison’s and a lot of people’s hope is to see a turtle, and as we were one of the first in we were lucky,
it swam right by us, but I think a boat arriving with a load of people scared it off. The second snorkelling site was much better the boat was much closer to the coral and we could have a good explore. The crew of our boat were excellent and friendly, they kept us fed, strong on safety, and even helped non-swimmers so they could have a good look at the reef.
Our journey, after Cairns, was to head south taking the Greyhound hop on hop off bus. We had popped in to a tourist information office as we were struggling for ideas on what to explore- there were a lot of activities to do, surfing, skydiving, sleeping with a crocodile’s and so on but some things weren’t us and doing too many, well… the expense just builds up. We had been feeling we wanted to see a bit more away from the tourist seaside resorts anyway. The lady in tourist info suggested a tour of the Atherton tablelands, and us hiring a car. It seemed inspired, we could go up deep into the Daintree rainforest and do a circular tour around the Tablelands, I presume they are
called Tablelands because they are on a plateau.
In our very small Hyundai we drove along the coast, then deeper into the forest crossing the crocodile infested Daintree river (by ferry I might add, we’re not that daft) and ended up at Cape Tribulation, a lovely name, and a wonderful tropical beach, perfect you’d think for swim, or even a paddle. Except for the notices, saying beware of the crocodile’s and jellyfish. A sign had been hastily put up warning of the Irukandji. These I later found out were one of the most venomous jellyfish in the world. One scientist put the pain level of a sting on a scale of 1-10 at twelve. This area is also the home to the shy ostrich like bird the Cassowary, a coach driver had told us about them, ‘but don’t get too near them’, in his broad Australian accent ‘they’ll unzip yer’. Together with his warning about taking a stroll on the trekking trails, about the deadly Taipan (they have named their local basketball side after this snake) you can understand the slight relief to leave the rainforest in one piece. We headed for a night in a motel
(one of the best accommodation so far) in the nice town of Port Douglas.
The following day we continued our drive around the Tableland’s, stopping firstly at a wildfowl conservancy, which overlooked the wetlands-if only there was some birds! - although they did seem to have some resident emus. We continued on through some savannah land that had numerous and large termite mounds. But the Tablelands are mainly agricultural. When Alison said we should pop into local heritage museum, I groaned at first, but it was really interesting and told of the early pioneers of this area. It must have been really difficult to establish this area in the early days. But it was worth it, it is very picturesque now.
We returned to Cairns to hop on the Greyhound bus, southwards to the Whitsundays - to do a bit of sailing…
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