Cairns and Kuranda

Trip Start Nov 16, 2008
Trip End Dec 31, 2008

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

i arrived into Cairns via bus at about 7:30pm on Easter night. the bus ride had been over 10 hrs and we had passed through the (now famous) town of Bown. you know, the one from the movie "Australia." i have to admit, i was a bit disappointed about how rundown the town had gotten. Cairns, though much bigger than Bown, was pretty quiet, save for the folks celebrating the holiday by dining at the many outside restaurants. i yanked my bags a couple of blocks to the Cairns Central YHA hostel, checked in, and after claiming a bed (i got a bottom bunk--score!) i headed out to meet Johanna (remember my austrian friend from Hervey?) who had just gotten into town herself. we met for a beer and swaped stories from the latest legs of our trips and made plans to sightsee the town together the following day. 

yesterday started out drizzly and damp, but we were determined to see the "city" anyways. Cairns is only about 130,000 people so it's not too big, but just big enough to not feel bored. the streets are charming with huge lush palms, fig trees and ferns lining the sidewalks and many of the buildings two stories with australian-style verandahs. we decided to book a day trip to the town of Kuranda, which is a popular trip because you can get there by cablecar and leave by scenic train. the town is nestled in among the mountains of the Dividing Range surrounded by lush rainforest. if you zoom in on the map above you will eventually see Kuranda, just northwest of Cairns. after we had set our plans, we walked down to the waterfront where we meandered along the marina, by the man-made lagoon (since you can't swim in the ocean for the majority of the year due to lethal box jellyfish) and to my personal favorite part of the town, the esplanade. the esplanade has a boardwalk and a bikepath that follows the shoreline with the opposite side of the street oozing with tourist shops, restaurants, cafes', hostels, clubs and bars. we even walked through the famous Night Markets which are held every night off the esplanade...very touristy but you go for the experience of it all. marketers telling you half price off all t-shirts, asians trying to get you to sit down in their massage chair and food stalls with all-you-can-eat-for-11-bucks chinese food.  i have to say the latter was amazing. oh... and i did get a t-shirt. what can i say? i am a tourist!

our trip to Kuranda today started out gloomy and rainy again. we were crossing our fingers that it would clear by the afternoon like it did yesterday. but as soon as we got into our cablecar and began to rise above the treetops and up over the mountainside, the weather no longer mattered. what views!!! we could see cairns, the neighboring town of smithfield and all the way to the reef. it only got better as we floated across the rainforest canopy... we even spotted the tropical north icon of the Ulysses Butterfly!

while we were in Kuranda it did finally pour down the rain that the skies had been promising, however most of the shops and markets were covered so it didn't really affect our day. johanna and i shared some nachos (not as good as home though) and a salad, got some homemade ice cream and continued to peruse the shops. at about 3:00 we headed down to the railway station for our hour and a half trainride back to Cairns. the Kuranda Scenic Railway is quite historic and holds much meaning and pride for the locals. it was originally built during the area's Gold Rush of the late 1800's but was later used for transporting goods and timber down the mountain from Kuranda to Cairns and Smithfield. the conditions the workers dealt with to build the track (and the 15 tunnels through the mountain!) were some of the harshest in the world and many men lost their lives during the construction of it. today it is a leisurely and picturesque way to see the Barron Gorge, the Falls and the area's rainforest.

tomorrow i embark on a day tour north to the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest, where i'll travel to the Mossman Gorge, ride down the Daintree River in search of crocs and spend a couple of nights deep in the heart of the oldest surviving rainforest in the world at Cape Tribulation.

it should be an adventure!
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