KURANDA :: QUEENSLAND :: 16.6 S 145.4 EWhen I was a little kid living on the Central Coast of New South Wales we would sometimes go on a family trip to a place called OLD SYDNEY TOWN, which was a theme park simulation of the early Sydney colony complete with muskets fired by imperial soldiers, and convicts being flogged. Kids being kids, we used to think it was the real Sydney... Kuranda is kind of Then again, they say accidental encounters are always the most enchanting. It had been an anxious week in Tokyo prior to my escape: constant aftershocks and radioactive spikes.
A guy flicking a stock whip meets you at the station, promising oldtime pleasures. (8.30am and 9.30am) head out through the warming suburbs of Cairns, bound for Kuranda. It is pretty much a tourist service these days, and the fares reflect this. I was scheduled to spend a few hours here, in this popular North Queensland resort, from 5am to around 9am the following morn. I might have caught the sunrise if I was lucky. However, the aftershocks and nuclear meltdown fears in Japan necessitated a change to the flight plan, and I received an even luckier break. On the way home we dumped our cabin crew at Kansai Airport, safe from the crisis in eastern Japan, and picked up a new crew. It was my first visit to Kansai and I thought it looked kind of cool from the air, built as it is on an artifical island off the shore of Kobe and Osaka and connected to the mainland by causeway. We had to wait about two hours on the tarmac while a new crew came on board, but I was just happy to be away from Tokyo... at least there weren't any aftershocks here! Eventually we were off on the long leg south, but all this mucking about had put us four hours behind schedule. By the time we sailed down into Cairns International Airport it was about 8.30am. The sun was already up and doing its thing, burning through the humidity. The view on landing, suffice to say, was amazing. It was the perfect balm to a week spent in disaster-stricken Japan. I didn't care how late I was.
I should try to make a visit here when I am in Cairns... a lot of Aboriginal culture in town, as this website attests.
Thanks to the 4-hour delay in Japan and the long, long outdoor walkway connecting the international and domestic terminals in Cairns, I missed my morning connection to Sydney. This might have been bad news for my Mum and Dad down on the NSW Central Coast who were dying to meet me, but it was an opportunity for me. In the spirit of One Mile at a Time, I scented freebies. Unlike the bearded guys in the queue behind me, who had missed their flights out of general tardiness, I had a valid excuse... the Great Tohoku Earthquake. To be fair, I had kind of ambled my way along the long walkway from the international to domestic terminals, weighed down by my luggage, and ogling at all the flowers. I suppose if I had run, I would have made it, but I was now on tropical time. I didn't care if I was late! By the time I made it to departures and waited in line for my serve, the plane was already out on the runway. D'oh! I hadn't slept properly in at least a week, due to all the aftershocks and radiation fears in Tokyo, and I hadn't really eaten either. But at least I was safe, on Australian soil, and in one of the most beautiful cities in the southern hemisphere. As Lucky at One Mile at a Time would say, being bumped can be a blessing.
Most people get the Scenic Train from Cairns up to Kuranda, and then return to the coast by Skyrail cablecar. The idea being that at the end of the day you might be a little tired, and the cablecar ride is bound to perk you up, and you get to see the view front on as you slide on down. It is the old travelling maxim: save the best to last! But my Dad is not the most patient man, so we had to deal the whole thing the wrong way round... skyrail up, then train back down at the end. A bus took us from our hotel (Bohemia Resort) to Freshwater Station, where you board the cablecar. Rustic houses on stilts to protect themselves from floods, but plenty of foreigners around with their foreign ways. It seemed like every taxi driver in town was an Indian. There was some Indian looking architecture as well.
. For a moment I thought he had brought me to the wrong place; the street looked so sleepy to eyes accustomed to Japanese bustle and hustle. Granted, it was a Sunday and a warm day in the off season, but still. A small group of Aborigines sat around in the shade on the edge of the mall, chilling. A scattering of tourists -- Australian, British, Japanese, Korean -- milled up and down the street buying souvenirs, while others enjoyed coffee and cake on the footpath. From time to time a plane fell from orbit to cut across the bright blue sky, on its approach to the airport. This being Queensland, there had to be at least one establishment in spitting range called the School of Arts Hotel. But it was too early for a beer.
Cheered by this unexpected detour on my return to Sydney, I took a right turn hoping to catch the sea. What I found was the wide river and the place they call Trinity Wharf. I passed the Barrier Reef Hotel on the way.
Down at the wharf, a P&O cruise ship sat berthed.
There were a lot of boats berthed at Trinity Wharf, as a matter of fact.
Fronting the wharf are the luxury hotels...
Departing Kuranda terminal, the train makes its leisurely way down the mountains, the wide windows offering spectacular views of waterfalls, ravines and inpenetrable bush. A 10-minute long stop is made at Barron Falls Station, and everyone can scramble out, and take photos of the gorge.
Kuranda is known by the local Bama as Ngunbay, the place of platypus.
Bird avairies are kind of dime a dozen these days, but the Butterfly Sanctuary is truly something...
The Nando's revolution has reached Cairns...
...as has the Asian food invasion. A Japanese friend of mine, Ken Anazawa, reckons this food court looks just like those in Singapore. "Australia is becoming more like Asia all the time," he said. Ken-san was right... Cairns is a little slice of Asia amidst the cane fields and wide verandahs. For Australians it is a gateway to Asia, and jets from its airport fly to exotic destinations such as Singapore and Papua New Guinea. I would never have known that, if I hadn't spent a few lunch hours walking around the place. And like the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor meltdown which threw me out of Japan, my discovery here was totally an accident!