Thursday, 22 October 2015

From tourist to trekker!

By this stage Cameron and I had finished up work as the tourism season had almost finished for the year. We decided to become tourists ourselves one last time in far north Queensland and visit the popular destination Kuranda, 25km north-west of Cairns. It is known for being a rainforest village with many markets.

There are a few options to get to Kuranda. The first is the normal, and least expensive way by car on the road, which is how we got to Kuranda the first time when we briefly visited in June to see Barron Gorge. The second and third are the fun, but penny pincher ways, Kuranda Scenic Railway, and the Skyrail Gondola. The view that you get from both is beautiful as you go either up or down the mountain side.

The railway was fairly slow going, but the commentary of the history was interesting to listen to. It also stops at the Barron Gorge Railway Station for 10 minutes to allow for guests on board to get out and take a look at Barron Falls.

We took the Skyrail back down to Cairns after our day of adventuring, and although a little tired we could still appreciate the spectacular view that could be seen from the Skyrail. There are two stops on the Skyrail at Barron Falls Station, and Red Peak Station. You must disembark the pod you are in at both of these stations. The Skyrail is not one continual conveyor system, but rather 3 sections. You may then enter a new pod for the next section of your journey. At these stations you also have the option of going for a short walk to see the beauty of the rainforest surrounding you and see Barron Falls. Unlike the railway, your stop at each of these sections is not timed as the Skyrail pods come and go continuously, so one can stay for as long or little as you like.

The first thing we saw when we got to Kuranda was the old faithful pub, Kuranda Hotel Motel. Back in the day many a worker would have been greatly relieved to take a visit and have a coldie here. During construction of the railway working conditions were shocking and we certainly take our privileges for granted. Search for a suitable route began in 1882, and eventually it was completed and opened in June of 1891. A 75.1km slow journey up the mountain. While our journey seemed long, it was nothing compared to what it would have been back in the day. We went in, had a drink in honour of the workers. The beer was also in honour of Cam's father who had previously visited Kuranda with his wife and friends. He stayed at the pub while the ladies went shopping for the day at the markets!

After our honorary beer, off we went exploring. Neither of us think much of shopping so it was decided that if we have time at the end of the day on our way back to the Skyrail we would do some browsing in the markets, but priorities first and it was off to visit Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. There were so many butterflies to be seen. The Ulysses butterfly is my favourite and the Birdwing is Cameron's. Both are a stunning variety of butterfly with beautiful colours. During our time at Paronella Park we had seen many of the varieties that were here at Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, but to see so many of them was incredible. They also run tours which is included in admission. These go about once every 20 minutes or so lasting about 30 minutes each. You will learn how they feed all of the butterflies and hungry caterpillars, the lifespan of differing butterflies, how the eggs are collected in the sanctuary then taken to the lab to be cared for until it is time to release the butterflies. We happened to be there at the time some new butterflies were released which was cool to see. Some butterflies even landed on Cam!

Our next place to visit was Birdworld Kuranda. I am sure the birds knew the reason I never wanted a pet bird was because I didn't want them to poop on me. I am also sure they were out to get me as there were a few times I looked up only to see a bird preparing to do its business, narrowly missing me as I dodged the bullet. Once again though as with the butterflies, Cameron was the favourite as the birds landed on his shoulder a couple of times. Perhaps blue shirts are better than yellow, or they may have been looking at his beard though thinking it would make a nice rug for their nest and young ones. All that aside, at Birdworld Kuranda there was a large variety of birds, and upon entrance you are given a sheet that tells you the bird species you will find here which was good for identification.

The last attraction we visited was Kuranda Koala Gardens. This is what I would call a miniature zoo. For those interested you can have the opportunity to cuddle a koala and get a photo taken with one. We also saw the freshwater crocs being fed, and the squirrel gliders which are oh so cute! As a skydiver like Johnny Jump Bear, the Li'l Aussie Monsters character on Cam's shirt, my mind often reverts to always thinking about it, and I wondered if the design of a wingsuit was based off these gliders.

All three of the above attractions, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld Kuranda, and Kuranda Koala can be bought as a combo deal. It is called “Kuranda Wildlife Experience”.

Although our time was almost over, we still had one thing we wanted to achieve here up north, a hill climb and bush walk that many of our colleagues had talked about. Not knowing the name of it, we did drive past it back in 2013 and I dubbed it Mount Pointy Pointy due to the look of it but its actual name is Walsh's Pyramid and is located about a 30 minute drive south of Cairns. The closest town is called Gordonvale. We decided to climb Walsh's Pyramid as the last thing we did up north. We did it the day after we visited Kuranda.

Walsh's Pyramid looks like an Egyptian pyramid but made of bushland and mountain instead of sandstone, and at a height of 922m. In comparison the tallest Egyptian pyramid is 147m, Uluru in Central Australia is 348m tall, the top of the antenna on the Empire State Building in New York City is 443m, and the tallest building in the world called Burj Khalifa inDubbai reaches a staggering 828m! Therefore achieving the hike of Walsh's Pyramid which is over 100m taller than the tallest building in the world was no easy feat. The walk to the top is a steep 4km up, and then 4km back down. Not wanting to do it alone we convinced 2 of our work mates to join us as they had both done it before. Having only read the above information after we climbed as I trusted the info from our work mates (my mistake for not researching it myself), it was certainly more of a challenge than we were expecting, but we can say we survived climbing the Pyramid. According to the internet, an experienced hiker will take between 4-6 hours. We left the car park and base of the pyramid at 6.30am and returning to the car by 11:45am. We must be experienced hikers... I am glad though that we brought a few litres of water, and a few snacks for a morning tea break.
Our recovery from the Pyramid has been down in Townsville, catching up with mates, and downing some Dos Equis which is a Mexican beer that Cam and I discovered when in the States in 2014 and found that it is now sold at BWS. It may be a few years until we are back in far north Queensland so for now we are just taking it easy.

Happy travels.

- Jeni