Our next destination was another targeted stop, meaning we specifically picked it so we could visit the town of Kuranda via the historical railway the next day. Lake Placid, just to the north of Cairns, is a bit of a misnomer. It is a well-known white water rafting destination, and has several ‘snapping handbags’ as our shuttle bus driver referred to the resident croc population, making it anything but placid.
Next morning we were at Freshwater train station to jump in a 1930’s train carriage for the train trip up to Kuranda, a delightful little hippie-filled tourist-centric village nestled in the rainforest 330m above sea level on the banks of the Barron River.
The train trip was a delight. The one and a half hour trip traverses some very narrow cuttings, 15 tunnels and a few waterfalls as the train grinds slowly upwards. It used to be pulled by steam engines, but these have been replaced with diesel loco’s, painted in local Djabugay aboriginal rainbow serpent Dreamtime livery.
Kuranda was lovely. Lots of little markets, great coffee from a grinning toothless barista, and plenty of souvenir shopping opportunities. We bought a kangaroo hat for James for his upcoming birthday, Sam bought a new plaited kangaroo hide belt, and Kris bought a very hypnotic stainless steel mobile – groovy!
K – While sitting and enjoying our coffee we were spotted by a HSPS family – What are the odds!! They live in the same block as the only other Newcastle family we have run into so far on our trip (back at El Questro gorge, WA) and just around the corner from home! Oscar M has been in a number of Sam’s classes over the years and it was lovely to hear news from home and catch up with Karinne and Andrew. As we were heading in the same direction we all called in to the ‘Butterfly Sanctuary’ together – finally getting to see the spectacular iridescent electric blue Ulysees butterfly. Sam confessed later that it was a bit freaky seeing Oscar, I guess it was a surreal for him – his school life popping unexpectedly into his new travelling life!
After a picnic lunch on the banks of the Barron River, we caught the ‘Skyrail’ cable car back down the mountain. Our witty bus driver said it took 5 years to build: 1 year to construct and 4 years of approvals required from local council right through to federal parliament and even Greenpeace, all because this extensive gondola system traverses 7.5 km of world heritage listed rainforest and was not allowed to have any impact on the forest below. Apparently it was the longest gondola run in the world when built in 1993. The view was stunning and it was quite magical to glide over the rainforest canopy and take in the distant views of Cairns and the coast.