Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Bird World

This amazing piece of engineering travels over the Barron Gorge National Park, an area added to the  World Heritage list in 1988.  The 7.5km of cableway was completed in 1995, a mammoth task as the contractors were not allowed to build road or take machinery into the rain forest.  The 33 pylons were helicoptered into place to avoid disturbances, using natural clearings.  The top soil and and any seedlings were carefully removed, labeled, and returned when each pylon was in place, enabling the bush to continue growing as before.

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Off on the Skyrail

Joining the queue of others just as eager to experience this trip, we slowly moved forward and finally climbed aboard with a young couple and were whisked away, quietly gliding over the tree top canopy.  As we left the rolling farmland behind, the vast area of the rainforest lay beneath us.

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Riding the Skyrail

There are two stops along the way, and we decided to take advantage of both, although some other passengers, we noticed, stayed aboard the whole trip.  We exited at Red Peak Station and walked through the forest along a boardwalk, passing by a huge 400 year old Kauri Pine, looking remarkably like our NZ Kauri tree, and ending our walk at the lookout point.

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At Red Peak Station in the rainforest

The next stop on the journey was Barron Falls Station, where the main attraction was of course, the falls.  Although quite pretty, these falls really come into their own during the wet season, where the water roars down the bare rocks in a fierce display of Mother Nature at her best.  The falls were named for Thomas Henry Bowman Barron, the Chief Clerk of Police in Brisbane in the 1860s.

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Barron Falls

Boarding the Skyrail once more, we glided the short distance into the pretty little town of Kuranda.  We took advantage of the free shuttle bus taking passengers up the steep hill, passing this delightful old pub, built in 1890 on the way up to the top of the village.  A great place for lunch, our friendly bus driver informed us.

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Kuranda Hotel

What to do once we arrived?   There was a choice of visits to The Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld, or Koala Gardens – and the birds won. Birdworld has both exotic species, and native birds, so we paid our entry fees and walked inside to see people and parrots getting up close and personal with each other.  And it wasn’t too long before they decided to jump on our shoulders too.  Nibble, nibble, they went, as they tried to get their beaks around earrings,  cords for glasses, necklaces, and they especially loved chewing the buttons off men’s caps, we were told.  That’s why Robin has removed his cap and put it out of their reach.

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Help, trapped with the birds

Robin especially loves the glamourous Macaw parrots and there were plenty of these beauties sitting quietly, or flying around, as the fancy took them.

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Majestic Macaws

I was thrilled to finally see a cassowary up close.  These magnificent birds are covered in a thick “mane” of silky black hair, which doesn’t really look like feathers at all.  With their striking “horn” on top, swinging wattles, strong beak and those dangerous clawed feet, they are certainly an imposing bird.  We were carefully snapping photos, hoping that the large bird didn’t rear up to the top of the fence wire, or peck our fingers through the wire.  Luckily, we came away uninjured and unscathed, but have read that these birds, although shy,  can disembowel a person if surprised.  Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

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Cassowary

Lunch was next, and we enjoyed a BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato in a bread roll), plus a nice cool milkshake and iced coffee at the Frog Café.  Then I heard the man at the next table order crocodile curry – why didn’t I think to give that a try?  Everyone was most interested when a large lizard appeared in the café and all the children ran over to have a look.  Just look at those claws!

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Lizard at large

We had a quick look around the markets then slowly made our way down to the station.  After arriving on the Skyrail, our return journey was to be by train, on the Kuranda Scenic railway.  Part two of our big day out tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Barnacle Bill’s and Cairns City Tour

With a name like Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Inn – how can it not be a great place to eat?  After a lazy day on Monday following our epic Daintree coach trip, we walked down town in the early evening to dine al fresco.  After reading all the holiday brochures and glossy mags, this restaurant was on my list of places to visit.  And for the Early Bird Diner there was a discount of 20% off the total bill, so that really suited a couple of OAPs.

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Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Inn

It was always going to be fish for me, and Robin toyed with the idea of pork belly.  But then we both ordered the same, Karumba, which was “Bill's famous combination of baked fillet of barramundi, topped with prawns, avocado puree and Hollandaise sauce, served with vegetables and potatoes.”  Doesn’t that sound nice, and it tasted great too.

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Dining at Barnacle Bill’s

We had sensibly decided “no dessert” but that idea went out the window when the young waitress brought over a tray of desserts, all looking gorgeous,  to temp us with.  So we ordered boysenberry cheesecake for him and chocolate profiteroles for her, with coffee to follow.  Just as well we were getting 20% off the total account!  And for those diners with unlimited funds, I discovered just the thing, a whole tank of these just waiting to be called up for dinner. 

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Australian crayfish

Although Tuesday was an allocated spare day, we decided to fill it instead and  booked ourselves on the Half Day Cairns City Sights Tour.

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First stop was a whistle-stop tour of the Cairns Museum where our group was split into two groups and shown around, starting with the history and stories if the indigenous people.  The settlers arrived, and various ventures to support themselves followed.  Gold mining brought many into the region, and later on, sugar cane plantations thrived, as they do to this day.  This was hard work indeed, all done by hand back in the early days.

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Examples of cane cutting machetes, and single room accommodation for workers

Then we went to view the amazing stained glass windows at St Monica’s Cathedral.   The Peace Windows are in the front of the building and were designed and made by Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn celebrate the fifty years of peace in the Pacific region since the end of World War Two.  The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first in naval history in which ships did not fire at each other. It was a battle of aircraft carriers and aircraft. As such it became the precursor to modern-day missile warfare.

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The Creation Windows by the same artists run down the main part of the building, with twelve panels each side, telling the story of creation and evolution.  Amazing indeed, and need to be seen to be fully appreciated, the photos do not do them justice.

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Creation and Evolution

On next to the Botanic Gardens where we enjoyed a Devonshire Tea. Being on a bus tour, we only had time to see a tiny bit.

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Cairns Botanic Gardens

Then we headed off to look through the Conservatory.  Lots of lovely lush plants and trees there to admire, along with the butterflies fluttering by.

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Seen inside the Conservatory

Back in the coach we went to get driven up a windy hill to “Cairn’s best scenic lookout”.  We weren’t the only ones on the road – local cyclists use this road as a training ground, biking slowly up the hill with muscles screaming, then whizzing down again, as quick as lightning.

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From the scenic lookout

Once down off the hill we drove up the busy road, up another hill and Lower Barron Gorge National Park.  Here we saw, away in the distance, Cairn’s underground power station, as we walked across the long bridge.

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River looking downstream, and waterfall running down the side of the gorge

We stopped at looked as a bunch of young kayakers jumped in the water and started paddling ferociously.  One of the elderly passengers from the bus remarked that the last time she visited the gorge, her and her husband went white water rafting.  That must have been many years ago, I imagine.

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Young kayakers on the water

Our final stop of the day was at Palm Cove, a very trendy holiday destination Palm Cove, full of hotels, cafes, restaurants and shops.  Rather like Cairns, really, on a much smaller scale.

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Palm Cove Jetty

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The beach, and island off shore

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Robin found the rather crowded  motor camp just over the road

That was our last stop of the trip, then it was time to head back to Cairns and drop everyone back at their various hotels.  And what a great afternoon it was – our informative driver Coral took us to all sorts of places we wouldn’t have discovered on our own.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Daintree Trip–Part 2

After our delicious “tropical lunch set in the rainforest” as it was described, we boarded our coach again and drove through the forest, heading down to Cape Tribulation.  The Daintree National Park rainforest is ancient, over 130 million years old and teems with life.  It is home to one third of Australia's reptile, frog and marsupial species, 65% of the country’s bat and butterfly species, 40% of the birds, and 30% of the country’s mammals.  An amazing place indeed.

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On the way to Cape Tribulation

The road through the rain forest ended at a beach, we had arrived at Cape Tribulation.  So named by Captain James Cook Cape 10 June 1770 (log date) after his ship scraped a reef north east of the cape, then later ran aground, on what is now named Endeavour Reef. The ship stuck fast and was badly damaged, desperate measures being needed to prevent it foundering until it was refloated the next day. Cook recorded "...the north point was named Cape Tribulation because "here begun all our troubles".  Obviously not the only danger around, as this sign at the beach warned all and sundry.  We were amazed to see a group of people in the water, especially as one was an expectant young woman.

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No paddling in the sea for us.

Our group walked up a short track to get a good view over the bay.  It truly is a special place, where two spectacular World Heritage sites meet, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.

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Enjoying the views at Cape Tribulation

Driving back to the Daintree River, we just missed the Daintree Cable Ferry and watched as it carried a load of cars across to the other side.  This is the only cable ferry operating within tropical Australia, and gives access to the northern section of the Daintree National Park and to Cape Tribulation and north.   It is just a short 5 minute trip so the ferry was soon back to collect our coach, and all the other vehicles waiting behind us.  Being first on board we had a great view through the window of our coach.

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The Daintree River Cable Ferry

Our final stop of the day was at the Mossman Gorge Centre, and we were ushered inside the café for a Devonshire Tea with a difference.  These were Damper Scones, we were told, served with jam and cream, and a choice of plunger coffee or billy tea – very nice indeed.

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Damper scones for afternoon tea

We had a bush walk through the forest, and gathered around an indigenous guide as he welcomed us with a traditional smoking ceremony.  We were asked to walk in a circle around the fire, as a cleansing ritual.

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Smoking ceremony

Walking along an elevated walkway, we stopped here and there as the guide, our friendly bus driver, pointed out interesting facts and figures.

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On the elevated walkway
We soon arrived at the Mossman River, full of huge boulders, and people frolicking about in the water.

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The Mossman River

Then for the brave, we were invited to walk across the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge.  Not everyone took up the challenge, and were no doubt pleased that they had stayed on terra firma when some people started jumping up and down in the middle of the bridge!
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Rex Creek Suspension Bridge

After such a busy day, we climbed onto our coach for the last time and began the long journey back to Cairns.  Passing by the many cane fields along the way – it’s harvest time.  And we saw the Sugar Cane Train chugging along the narrow gauge tracks taking the cut cane to be processed, and snapped a photo through the windows of the coach.

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Fields of cane and the Sugar Cane Train

It was a great day out with Down Under Tours, and a trip we would certainly recommend, if anyone is planning a trip to sunny Cairns.