Saturday, June 23, 2007

Up to Kuranda by train

Hello again. First, a small apology. I write this blog in IE7, and I'm finding that despite trying to arrange the pix and text to correlate on Explorer - it comes out different on other browsers such as Firefox and Opera. I'll see how I go with the next one (SkyRail) in Firefox - but for the moment my apologies if it looks a bit disjointed on your browser. Also, this template's gremlins insert a "Read more" at the foot that never works. Ah, well, ces't la vie.

OK, back to Cairns:-)

The trip up to Kuranda, and back again, is not to be missed when you are in the far North Coast. We went up by the train and I came back by the SkyRail while Lorraine returned on the train.

There are booking offices and information centres all over downtown Cairns - but I recommend that anyone booking go to the Rail Statipn at Cairns Central. You get immediate confirmation of your booking and no extra charges. If any concessions apply that's also the best place to make sure of a discount.

Some of the cars are set up for luxury customers, who watch the scenery slip past as they sip on a glass of wine. I was unaware of that option when I booked, it's certainly worth considering next time. Note that the chairs face right, towards the window; that's a tip for anyone booking. By far the best seat of the four-across bench seats for viewing on the way up is the window seat on the right when facing forward. The seats are reserved in advance. At this stage, in Cairns, it looked like we almost had a carriage to ourselves. But, when we stopped at Freshwater the train filled from the tour buses and suddenly there were no spare seats at all.

Steam Engines were used on the line until about 20 years ago. Steam would have made the trip more romantic - but it used to take 4 1/2 hours then instead of an hour and threequarters with the present two strong diesel/electrics hauling 16 carriages. The train still moved sedately over the winding steep line, so I was happy to be travelling a little faster than the steam days.

There is a history of the line here: Cairns Kuranda Railway
After reading the history, it's a sobering experience travelling on that line as you see the rugged terrain and the incredible conditions those workers laboured under.

One of the first points of interest passed as we left Cairns was the old cemetary as the narrator commented on the railway construction workers buried there. It's now called a "scenic" railway with good reason.

It was a grey day as we climbed, but hopefully the pictures will give some idea of the scenery.

Kuranda, the village, was a bit disappointing to me. Like the waterfront at Cairns, all tourist traps and souvenirs. The parks were nice, and I was impressed by this tree; later it looked insignificant after seeing the Curtain Fig on the Atherton Tableland. So, after a pleasant interlude at the village over a large beer and bratwurst at the German Sausage cafe, and an interesting few minutes watching the confectioners at work making a peppermint log, my wife waited for the train again as I departed on the SkyRail.

Cheers, Alan

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