Exploring Queensland: Cairns and Kuranda

Thursday (6 August) we did a few boat jobs and Steve (from SV Tamanu) popped in for a quick visit. Was nice to catch up with him. Then it was on with some printing and computer stuff while Richard popped out to get a gas (propane) refill. Later on Greg (from SV Liberty) popped in for a cup of tea. So it was a nice and social day.

Friday morning we got our cases out and spent the day just packing and sheltering down below away from the heavy rain.

Saturday morning we were up very early to get organised for our 8am Uber pick up to Brisbane Airport. On arrival, we couldn’t get the airport machine to print out our luggage tags (which was the same for most people) so ended up in the queue with everyone else to drop the bags off. But it all went smoothly and then we went through security quickly although I had to have the usual pat down.

So we made ourselves comfortable and watched the world go by at the departure gate. Lots of security for the arriving passengers now that the Queensland border has been closed again.

We boarded the Virgin Australia flight and were given ‘wellbeing’ packs with sanitiser cloths and facemasks which we were encouraged to wear. So we masked up and got ready to enjoy the flight. We enjoyed the couple of hours flying north enjoying spectacular views of the Great Barrier Reef along the way.

We arrived into Cairns and, because we are not Queensland residents, we were taken to one side and given a grilling about how we had got there (especially as we did not have a border pass). We explained that we hadn’t left Queensland since our arrival in March and they then wanted documentation to prove that. Luckily they accepted our marina bills as evidence on the iPad. Phew!

We collected our luggage and left the terminal. There was a phone at the taxi rank so I called them with our online booking number to be told that they had cancelled it and we would have to wait in line. Why?!? Anyway, luckily it didn’t take too long before we were picked up.

We arrived at our ‘fake’ Italian apartment building Il Palazzo and checked into our one-bedroomed unit. It was clean although pretty compact with very little drawer space so we ended up with having to live out of one of our suitcases. The kitchen was reasonably equipped and we did have laundry facilities so not all bad. But the disappointing thing was that we were on the pool / BBQ / courtyard level area so everyone who used this space would walk past our patio doors and could look straight in. So we ended up with curtains closed and living in a cave LOL although to be fair we were hardly in our room during the day anyway.

We headed out for a walk to pick up some provisions. Then we wandered the area checking out the lagoon (a free picnic / BBQ / pool area for everyone to use) and the promenade round to the marina. We returned back to the main drag and had dinner in the Rattle and Hum pub before returning to our apartment.

Sunday morning we awoke to a very cloudy and muggy day which threatened showers. So after breakfast we headed to the Cairns Aquarium and enjoyed checking out some of the fish and various other beasties. I know you are wondering why we would do this as scuba divers but Richard hasn’t got the all clear to dive and this was the closest we were going to get to the Great Barrier Reef right now! Was a fun way to spend the morning anyway.

After lunch the sun was trying to come out so we headed to the lagoon and enjoyed a lazy afternoon relaxing. On the way back to our apartment we had a couple of sundowners in the pub and then went back to our apartment via the night market where we had a cheap dinner in the food court.

Monday morning and we awoke to a brilliant sunny day. So we packed up a picnic and headed to the lagoon and worked on our tans. Was lovely and relaxing. We then went back to the apartment to get cleaned up, went to the street market again for dinner (the food was cheaper than cooking!) and then onto the casino for a quick flutter on the pokies. Afterwards we finished off in the pub and back to the apartment for the night.

Tuesday morning and we were booked for a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This was a tremendous feat of engineering when construction started in 1887 to link the rich gold mining belt to the sea as reliable supply routes needed to be found. This railway has 37km of track and ascends 327 metres above sea level incorporting 106 cuttings, 15 hand-carved tunnels, 55 bridges and 98 curves. The carriages are originally made from Silky Oak timber and date back to the early 1900s. We travelled Gold Class so had lovely comfortable seats combined with cabin service and complimentary food/drink throughout the two-hour journey into the rainforest. A real treat!

So enjoy the trip…….

Arriving at Kurunda we got the shuttle bus to the RainForestStation Nature Park and checked in for the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience with a dance performance, digeridoo playing, spear and boomerang throwing. Was great fun as well as being quite educational about their traditions and culture.

They demonstrated their spear throwing skills by piercing a post, about 50m away, which represented hunting a kangaroo. Amazing!

Afterwards we were wandering through the cafe and souvenir shop to get the shuttle bus back to the village and spotted the ‘cuddle a koala’ sign. So went to explore and, before you know it, we were the only ones being led through to meet and cuddle Ollie who weighed about 8kgs. He must have thought I was a tree as he clung on tightly and I did wonder if he was going to kiss me at one stage LOL. Amazing experience which was made very special by the fact that we weren’t in line with loads of other tourists being hurried along…. Oh yes, interesting fact, did you know that baby koalas eat their mum’s poo to get their digestive system used to the poisonous eucalyptus leaves that is their staple diet.

Oh yes and Richard just can’t pass up the opportunity to wear a silly hat!

We then got the shuttle back to the village expecting to tour the artisan market only to find it is shut on a Tuesday. None of the promotional literature tells you that. Never mind there were a few stores open and we wiled away the time checking out some of the unusual snack items and artwork available before heading back to the train station for the return journey.

We enjoyed the train ride back just as much as the trip up. So here we go again….

Back into Cairns we walked into town, had a couple of drinks in the pub, before returning to the night markets for a takeaway dinner. Had been a long and tiring day.

Wednesday morning (12 August) was another relaxing day around the lagoon. It was very peaceful and quiet until around noon when the foreign students and backpackers get out of bed and descend on the place loaded down with BBQ supplies and bluetooth speakers. We heard German, English, Italian and Spanish being spoken in one big group. We managed to continue to socially distance even if that meant moving away a little….must be getting old LOL.

Late afternoon we got cleaned up and headed over to Prawn Stars trawlers for tea. Massive tiger prawns were the treat and it was lovely to sit on the deck of the fishing boat with local prawns and a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc as the sun went down. Smashing!

On the way back to our apartment we walked through the pretty illuminated trees along the wharf and enjoyed the night view of the lagoon before we stopped in for a final drink in Cairns (well at least for me, Richard is still on the wagon) at the pub and then headed back to the apartment as this was our last night in Cairns.

Thursday (13 August) we left Cairns to head north to Port Douglas so will do another blog shortly to bring you up to date. Bye for now.