Now this is starting to feel like a travel journal! It seems like years ago that I was wading through the snow in Tasmania as I sit beachside in Far North Queensland.
After drying out back in Melbourne from my jaunt to Tasmania I flew north to Cairns, tourist and adventure mecca of Far North Queensland for a dose of the tropics before I leave Australia.
Cairns is a great town to visit although the locals must tire of the transient nature of the hoards of backpackers and better heeled tourists that pack its streets, cafes and bars. Still the energy is high and my own stay there was a highlight of my travels in Australia.
On arriving I checked in at Hostel 89 right on the humming Eslpande and spent a couple of days roaming the streets and trying to absorb the myriad of tours and cafes to sample. A Swiss traveller Johann befriended me and together we took in some great Cairns bar culture including the not-to-be missed Toad Races at Johnnos Blues Bar. We took our hangovers over to Green Island for an afternoon of snorkelling along with what felt like the entire population of a small Japanese city. Despite the overly-commercial nature of the island once in the water it gave a taste of what the Great Barrier Reef is like and I made up my mind to try diving while I was staying in Cairns.
Returning to Cairns we were treated to the opening performances of Festival Cairns a three week performing arts festival that was an excellent addition to my stay here.
I booked a dive course through the hostel reception desk (a move that cut $5 a night off my stays there) and made plans to take the scenic and historic train ride up to the jungle hamlet of Kuranda in the hills above Cairns. There was double motivation for visiting Kuranda, not only is the train ride fantastic even if, like me you don't usually go for the tourist trap type tours, but there was also a day long reggae festival in a stunning jungle venue 'the Ampitheatre'.
I shouldn't rush through the train ride too quick because it was pretty cool. The p.a. along with the historical photographs and brochures on the train give a good overview of the hardship endured by the crews of labourers that spent four long years hewing a short 30-something kilometre length of track switchbacking up the hillside to gain the Atherton Tableland plateau and put Cairns on the map. There are a number of tunnels and lookouts along the way including a spectacluar view over the Barron River Gorge and falls.
Once in Kuranda I checked in at the hostel and wandered over to the Ampitheatre for an awesome day of rockin' reggae. The music was wicked! even the interval music kept people dancing through the whole day. The only thing wrong was that it had to end all too early.
Still that made the next day easy to handle and I took the SkyRail back down to sea level. The SkyRail is a treetop gondola that parallels th etrain ride over the rainforest. There are a couple of stops enroute allowing you chances to wander the carefully manicured boardwalk trails and read more about the lush forest.
The views of the forest and back in to the Tablelands are better than the train ride but the atmosphere a little less characterful I thought. A real tourist trap if ever there was one, complete with souvenir photos etc.. anyway glad I did it for the perspective on the jungle.
Next - Diving the Great Barrier Reef.