Arriving in Cairns, a week after leaving Bali, leads one to make comparisons. The climate is very similar – hot, humid, sunny with cloudy periods and lots of rain – but everything else is different.
Bali plus points.
- Bali is better than Cairns when it comes to exoticism – we haven’t attended a single funeral in Cairns so far!
- Bali looks so very different from what we are used to. Cairns has a dearth of Hindu Temples (although we have spotted a couple of Sikh ones).
- Spirituality does not appear to be high on the Queenslander’s agenda.
- Bali wins on the handicrafts front. Like the rest of the Western World, Queensland makers are either artists or workers, with not much in between.
- Balinese people are much more interested in you as a stranger – they want to find out all about you.
- Bali is very cheap
Cairns plus points
- Cairns wins in the cleanliness stakes – both beaches and streets.
- You can walk down the street and not be pestered every 5 yards by importunate salespeople – “You want transport? Maybe tomorrow?”
- Things look familiar, only (a lot) warmer!
- Things work without special efforts.
- The traffic is free flowing and obeys rules.
- Things start on time.
- People are polite
So which do I prefer? It depends on my mood. If I’m looking for the familiar, I like Cairns; if I crave the exotic, it has to be Bali. I’m glad I have been to both.
But back to what we did in Cairns. We stayed in Trinity Beach , about 12 miles north of Cairns, in an apartment block. Individually owned apartments rented out to visitors, with an on-site manager looking after things.
We booked a single bedroom apartment but got an upgrade to the best apartment in the block, probably because we were staying for 12 nights. So we had three double bedrooms and a huge lounge.
Across the road is the Coral Sea. Beach of golden sand, warm, calm water, lovely views.
And nobody in the water! Forwhy? Jellyfish and the Australian character. There are said to be dangerous jellyfish about. I have seen none and a local said he hadn’t seen any in 30 years. But they could kill you. So every resort worthy of the name has jelly fish and shark proof nets protecting areas of beach, supervised by lifeguards.
Lifeguards are not noted for their retiring nature. If you swim outside their area they will shout at you. If you like ordering people about, become a lifeguard.
And Australians obey. And so does everybody else. Does the preventative effort correlate with the lives saved? Nobody knows and nobody wants to know.
The Great Barrier Reef
The great attraction of Northern Queensland is, of course, The Great Barrier Reef. And of course we visited it. We took a fast catamaran 35 miles out to see and stopped in the middle of nowhere. Just sea all around. When you look on Google Earth there are shadowy features, but the untrained eye sees little at sea.
But when you go snorkelling a whole new world appears. The shadowy bits are coral about one to three metres below the surface. Fish are everywhere. All sizes up to about a metre, and all colours. Being without an underwater camera, I cannot show you any of this, but it was wonderful.
And Christine did some Scuba diving! She was following in the flippers of Alasdair. She quite liked it but decided it was not for her. I KNEW it was not for me!
We also went to Green Island which is very similar to where we went to see the Barrier Reef, except that there is actually an island poking its head above the surface, covered in rainforest.
Here again the sea was lovely with lots of fish, but the large numbers of swimmers were probably damaging the coral.
The beach was rather nice to lie on.
In the Rainforest
Northern Queensland is within the tropics and is wet so you get rainforest. And we had to visit it. Where it is on flat land it has been mostly cleared with only patches left. This is where we found The Curtain Fig.
On steep ground much of the rainforest survives – see below – and around some of the estuaries you still get extensive tracts – the home of the Saltwater Crocodile.
We took a tour on a tourist boat and the eagle eyed guide found this crocodile for us. Without him I doubt whether we would have seen a thing.
The Kuranda Railway
We took a trip on the Kuranda Railway. It was built about a hundred years ago service some local gold mines but soon became more profitable as a scenic railway. It goes up the steep escarpment which faces the Coral Sea in a series of bends, bridges and tunnels.
Essentially it is a normal railway built in an abnormal place. It does not have funicular traction, reverses, long tunnels through the rock and other, expensive, tricks to get up a cliff. It does have very sharp curves, many bridges, track laid on shelves cut in the side of the cliffs, short tunnels through spurs – conventional railway taken to extremes. And as the terrain is very steep and of no agricultural value, it is still covered in rain forest.
The most notable structure of the railway is the bridge at Stony Creek waterfall. It is at the end of a box canyon where a waterfall comes down a cliff face. The railway is on a steeply rising, sharply curving viaduct, perched on the side of a nearly vertical cliff, with foundations in deeply weathered rock. Not the easiest thing to build but it is very picturesque.
Much of the railway is built along the Barron River Gorge and, being a scenic railway, there is now a station at the Barron Falls. Unfortunately these have now been tamed by the construction of a hydro-electric dam and irrigation schemes which restricts the amount of water flowing over them, but even so they are still impressive. The drop is 265 metres and I would love to see them when the Barron River was in spate!
It is a pleasant journey to Kuranda and the little town is a nice place to wander round. Well worth going on even if you are not interested in railways! And the staff will even take your picture for you!
Till the next time
We have a few more days in Cairns so there may be more added to this post. We will be trecking from Alice Springs to Adelaide next and so will probably be out of touch for a week or so.
I have added some snowflakes to this blog to remind my readers that Cairns temperature is in the thirties, while they have the bracing British weather to galvanise them!