Thursday, February 13, 2014

February 12th – The Scenic Railway From Cairns to Kuranda

The humid weather was looking a lot more murky today for our second day in tropical Cairns, but if you're doing a trip into the rainforest, you can hardly complain that it's raining. In fact, although there were a number of showers throughout the day, luckily enough, the rain mostly held off whenever we were walking around.

Our trip into the rainforest was being done the old-fashioned way, taking a 19th century train line up into the mountains to the town of Kuranda, onboard a charming sightseeing locomotive. This being Silversea, we were of course travelling "Gold Class" in big armchairs with plenty of space, while we were constantly being fed and watered by the attentive staff.

The train slowly made its way up through the dense rainforest, passing by a series of spectacular waterfalls and gorges, while our commentary told us of the incredible amount of hard manual labour it took to carve out this trainline through the incredibly inhospitable terrain. It was a relaxing and atmospheric ride climbing over 1,000 feet into the mist-covered mountains, with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.

At the top, we visited the attractive town of Kuranda, which started off its life as a pioneer town during the days of gold prospecting and timber logging, but has now morphed into a thoroughly touristy town of galleries and souvenir shops – if you wanted to buy a didgeridoo, then this was the place to do it.

After some time browsing the shops and resisting the urge to buy souvenirs made from every possible body part of the kangaroo, we then took the alternative route down, catching the Skyrail – a cable car that travels just over the level of the canopy of the huge rainforest below. This was another tremendous feat of engineering – no roads were allowed to be cut through the forest, so the bases of the pylons were all created without the use of heavy machinery, while the huge pylons themselves were helicoptered in.

From our vantage point above the soaring forest, it was amazing to see how incredibly dense it was – you rarely saw any ground whatsoever, the cover was that thick. We got off a couple of times to do a quick walk at ground level through the dripping foliage, with vines, greenery and ferns hanging everywhere. Aside from seeing a lone kangaroo by the side of the railway line below us, and hearing the odd bird cry in the distance, we didn't see any wildlife, although we could only imagine what creepy crawlies were hanging around in the undergrowth.

The trip was excellent fun and showed us a side of Cairns that many people forget to explore when they're concentrating on just the Great Barrier Reef – the magnificent rainforests of the Wet Tropics.