Cape Tribulation

Wednesday morning the public bus picked me up at the hotel in Port Douglas, and I continued my journey further to the North. After a short coffee break in Mossman, mainly the last large point of civilisation we continued to the ferry across the Daintree River. The Daintree river is famous for it’s salties, but during the short ferry sailing across the other side of the river, I couldn’t spot any of these predators. North of the river is the Daintree national park. It’s the oldest rainforest of the earth which still exists. It’s not as large as the amazonas. But the amazonas is about 50 Mio. years old, whereas the Daintree rainforest is 120 Mio. years old. Homo sapiens are dated back about 100,000 years, so you see it’s about three orders of magnitude older than our species. That might be impressive or not, but anyway nowadays there’s a sealed road all the way to Cape Tribulation, so that even the worst driver can make it’s way to Cape Trib and spent there money there. The only threats along the road are narrow curves and cassowary on the road. And surprisingly there was even one cassowary next to the road, looking for some food. At the moment there’s low season in Cape Trib, and almost all businesses are closed. I thought I could join some kind of tour, but the only option was a night walk through the dungle, which I did in the evening. After I pitched up my tent I had a stroll to the beach. Looks nice, but don’t touch it, except you’re interested to make a body contact with a saltie. After the beach there’s a small creek, pretty depth at it’s mouth. Again looks quite nice, but it was definitely warned of salties. On my way back I walked through some rainforest, but this section seemed to be regrown and it’s tree’s are not that old. For me everything looked green, I only spotted some coloured fruits. In Mason’s water hole I had a nice cooling and relaxing swim. This part of the creek is too far for salties, and probably to rocky to get there. In the evening I got picked to join the night walk. It was ok to walk through the dungle and try to spot some animals. But all we got was a lot of snakes, some kind of grasshopper and fluorescent fungi…well at least our guide told us so. Probably, I only saw the reflection of the moon. Some single trees were pretty old, like about 700 years, and impressive high. But due to the limitation in light, I only barley could see them entirely.

Our 4WD bus during the coffee break in Mossman
Embarking the ferry…
…and silently crossing the Daintree river
That’s probably the only street in Australia, where you get warned of cassowaries
There’s a reason, why the first foreign language at this sign is German
Lovely creek from the rainforest, but also some salties seem to think so
80% of the fruits and seeds in the rainforest can’t be directly digested by humans, but all of them by cassowary. This is why this bird is so essential for the rainforest.

Port Douglas / Agincourt Ribbon Reef

Tuesday morning I got picked up at 6:40 to get a lift to the marina in Port Douglas. After leaving the northern suburbs of Cairns behind us, the road to Port Douglas follows directly the coastline along the mountains, which are steeply sloping down directly into the ocean. The beaches might look nice, but are full of jellyfish (at the moment is main season for them) and potentially salties (haven’t seen one). Port Douglas itself is just the high-price alternative to Cairns. Hence, not much to see in this town at all. But it has a very active marina and I joined a cruise to one of the outer reefs. The outer reefs are located at the continental shelf, and hence function definitely as barrier for the swells of the Pacific ocean. But all the dives and snorkeling activities are done inside the reef, so you don’t have a chance to see the big drop down. The Agincourt Ribbon Reef can be reached from Port Douglas within about 2.5 hours. During this time everybody on board get it’s briefing, either for the introductory divers, certified divers or snorklers. Hence, the crew is pretty busy, and after a while also yourself. During the day I did three dives. As it wasn’t deep dives, and the sea was pretty calm, my dive time was each time more than 45 min. I couldn’t remember that my air lasts that long before. The dives were probably the best dives I’ve done in Australia. I saw lot’s of beautiful corals and different kind of fish, from tiny to small and large. Also one (blacktip?) reef shark was laying at the sand floor. The dive guide slowly guided us through the dive sites. Hence, you’ve had enough time to watch. But as almost the whole boat was diving, there was again a lot of traffic underwater. And two girls in our group made a bit of trouble, as they always wanted to be as close as possible near the dive instructor. Therefore, after they finished their shooting with their gopro they tried to overtake all others again, and then you got once in a while a kick with a fin. On board I met Alex from Düsseldorf. She’s just doing her normal vacation along the East coast, and almost finished with that. We had a nice chat during the sailing back to Port Douglas. In the evening I met with her and her travel partner in Port Douglas for a beer and three rounds of pool.

The road is following along some nice beaches to the North…
…and also along the mountains, which are steeply sloping down directly into the ocean
We sailed further North along the shore with the view to the mountains…
…and some coral islands
Closely passing the Daintree national park…
…as also this cargo ship did.
Clear water at the Agincourt Ribbon Reef, the underwater view was pretty good at this day. The continental shelf is on the other side of the reef.

Kuranda

One week ago I took the railway to Kuranda. This section is only 36 km long but it takes two hours to complete it. So you can imagine how “fast” the train ride is, and in which condition the tracks are at all. I’m not sure if there is still cargo operations at this section. The track is heading mainly into the west, away from the coast, and up the mountains of the Great dividing range in order to overcome the drop of the Barron Falls. After the Barron falls it levels out and follows the Barron river to Kurunda. The gradient of the ascent is about 2%. Hence, there’re 2 bends with 180° radius to allow for enough length of the track. Additional 15 tunnels and numerous bridges support the track. The most famous one, and the icon of the railway line, is the Stoney Creek bridge. The Stoney Creek waterfalls is much more impressive than the later Barron Falls, where the train does a 10 min stop, as the water flow through the latter is restricted due to the water use in the hydropower station. After passing the Stoney Creek the track traverse underneath Glacier rock, before the now famous red bluff. This is a result of continues land slides during construction works. Nowadays this area of red rock is a landmark and already seen from quite a distance. Kuranda itself is now a bloody tourist town with it’s “famous” markets, where you can buy cheap China souvenirs for much money. So I did one of the self-guided walks around town, and as I had time I didn’t hurry up. I even realised that there is another hike from Kuranda down the mountain range. This track follows the railway line and is ending down the valley in one of the suburbs of Cairns. The track itself further extends to the outback town of Forsayth. Once a week a tourist train is operating along this track with a compulsory overnight stop. Unfortunately, since more than 100 years, there’s still a gap of about 150 km between Forsayth and Croyton, which is the final destination of the Gulflander who is supposed to operate from Normanton. I thought about doing this trip, but unfortunately due to recently flooding of the railway track, the Gulflander is not operating. It’s expected to commence operation in April. I wanted also to do this train ride, but I don’t want to wait an additional month in the wet tropics to do so. Hence, I finished my train ride in Kuranda last Monday and returned in the afternoon along the same track to Cairns.

One of the diesel-electric locomotives is painted with Aboriginal art work, and ready for departure
Horseshoe bend is the first 180° curve…
…afterwards the train ascents through the rain forest.
Releasing a view back to Cairns and the sea
Crossing bridges and entering tunnels is just normal on that track
Glacier Rock an the left and Red Bluff to the right, on the other side of Stoney Creek Valley
The former Stoney Creek Station had the only siding of the whole track.
The train crosses…
…directly infront of the Stoney Creek waterfall…
…the iconic Stoney Creek bridge
View while crossing the Red Bluff
The train is now already high up the Barron river
The two monoliths, a remembrance to all the cuttings along the railway track
Due to the hydropower station at the bottom of the Barron Falls, the falls itself are not carrying much water, except during a flood in the wet season, as the river is dammed a few hundred metres infront of the waterfall.
My final destination of my train travels in Queensland…
…the Kuranda railway station, which reminded me with all the flowers to the rail stations in Thailand, which were by the way also narrow gauge railway lines.
The Barron river, directly next to the Kuranda railway station, is nowadays more like a dammed lake
One of the blooming flowers I’ve seen during my hike around Kuranda.
My train ticket

City Tour Cairns

Sunday one week ago I strolled a bit through the CBD of Cairns. Cairns itself has not much to offer, except an artifical lagoon near the wharf for some splashing, and a walk along the wharf. The wharf is just a muddy, and not very appealing, except you’re looking for some wild animals. Most of the CBD is covered with restaurants, bars, “tourist information”, as well as accommodation. There might be a botanical garden a few kilometres out of the centre, but each town has a botanical garden in North Queensland, so I didn’t go there.

Typical street view of Cairns CBD…
…with a few old buildings like the library…
…and the two old post office buildings next to each other.

Cairns

Saturday morning one week ago I woke up at the beach of Balding Bay and went for a short swim during sunrise. Then I pitched down my tent and hiked back via the hill to Horseshoe bay. Even in the morning I was again soaked wet after I arrived at Horseshoe Bay. After I got some groceries from the local store I took the bus at 7:20 to Nelly Bay, from where I catched the ferry back to Townsville. In Townsville I walked from the ferry terminal to the beach for a few minutes in order to have a free shower and a bit of cool down. Afterwards I took the bus directly to the railway station. The train was as you can imagine again late by 40 min. So I had plenty of time for a second breakfast. The distance from Townsville to Cairns is only 340 km, but the travel time is more 6:40 hours. Hence, the average speed is with about 50 km/h only leisurely. Surprisingly the train arrived on time in Cairns Potentially as except for one stop in Innisfail all other stations are just stopped on-demand. Therefore, we passed a lot of stations without stopping, which saved some time. The journey along the coast was mainly featured by sugar cane in the plains, and the mountains of the Great dividing range to the west. The railway track was always a few kilometres inland, and the sea wasn’t visible for most of the time. The region around Innisfail has the highest average annual rainfall of complete Queensland with 2000-3000 mm per year. Therefore all creeks were full of water and even the plains were easily flooded.

Calm Balding Bay shortly after sunrise
Back in the old CBD of Townsville
Leaving Townsville along the Ingham Road
Sugarcane is predominant in the plain fields, and the sugarcane railway is parallel to the ordinary rail
The lower plains are flooded due to the recent rain
The Spirit of Queensland is heading north to it’s final destination
Several mountains emerging left and right of the railway track
North of Innisfail also banana plantations arising
Locals having a refreshing bath in one of the creeks, and the kids greeting the train…it’s like back in the old days, when then train was still something special
Finally made my way all along the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns by train.
My train ticket