Today was scheduled to be a drive up onto the Atherton Tableland and a steam train ride from Ravenshoe to Tumoulin and return. We were told right at the beginning of the trip that the steam train had been taken out of service only a couple of days earlier, to until at least the end of the year. The tour company, instead, organised a bus tour around the Tableland and a cruise on Lake Barrine, a crater lake I’d visited before. On that occasion I walked the 5.6km trail so it was really interesting to see it from the water and to get a totally different feel for the place. The flat bottomed boat was driven by batteries so it was lovely and peaceful to boot.
As an added bonus, an attempt to dampen the disappointment of not having the steam experience, we travelled from Kuranda to Cairns down the 7.5km long Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. It took 12 months to construct and was opened in 1995. This was after the 7 years it took to get the necessary planning and approval processes dealt with.
All the towers, there are 33 of them, were lifted into place by a heavy-lift Russian helicopter. The highest tower is 40.6m high and there are 114 gondola cabins. There are two stopping points on the cableway, an opportunity to leave the gondolas and take short walks to viewing platforms, a couple of which look over Barron Falls. It was a fascinating ride over the top of the tropical rain forest.
In Cairns we stayed in The Hotel Cairns. It was a very nice hotel, centrally located, one parallel street off the Promenade, so it was easy to get anywhere but not noisy. The remarkable thing about the hotel was that it had Smart cars for free! Free as long as you paid $30 insurance and had the vehicle back by 11pm. I’ve never come across this sort of deal before.
This brings me to the end of my Queensland Outback Railway Adventure. See you in Africa a little later on this month.