Our Travel Stories, Tours and Excursion, Travel Reviews

Rain, Rails and Rainforest

Excursion on the Kuranda Sky Rail.

Once again the weather put a little bit of a dampener on our latest excursion, but not on our spirits.

Yesterday were due to travel by train to the village of Kuranda and return on the sky rail. Having somewhat of a phobia of heights I was secretly hoping that the weather would mean that the skyrail was cancelled and we would have to go both ways by train…WRONG, the heavy rain meant that it was in fact the train which got cancelled meaning that we had to go both directions on the sky rail!!

Strangely I had watched a video on youtube just recently which included the Kuranda train amongst the top 10 most dangerous rail journeys in the world, stating that if the waterfall gets to heavy then the excess force of the water on the rails could cause the train to de-rail and it is at a point where the train crosses a pretty high bridge. According to our coach driver yesterday the train is automatically cancelled of more than 100mm of rain falls overnight the night before, and we had most definitely had that!

Kuranda Train passing under the waterfall

Our excursion was booked months in advance as part of a travel package with Freedom Australia. What I would question now is that having arranged us accommodation in both Cairns and Port Douglas I wonder why they booked us this excursion from Port Douglas as the bus has to pick you up and drive you all the way back to the train station in Cairns??!

Anyway, we were duly picked up at 8.00am by a lovely driver by the name of Ricky on behalf of Down Under Tours. Before we even boarded the bus Ricky explained that the train had been cancelled and we had the option to a) cancel completely and get a full refund or b) take a partial refund but travel both ways to Kuranda on the skyrail?

After a brief consultation Cameron and I opted for the return skyrail, although naturally he was disappointed to miss out on the train ride.

We made several more pick ups from various hotels in the area but Ricky made it fun and informative by giving an interesting commentary about the area and the properties as we went. Finally we were on the road down to the Skyrail and boarded just after 9.45am.

I don’t mind admitting that I was having 2nd thoughts about the Skyrail as we stood in the queue but I wasn’t going to back out at this stage and let Cameron down as he was pretty excited. So I bravely boarded our gondola and within just a few seconds we were soaring skywards.

The skyrail is actually made up of 3 separate cableways travelling a total distance from the Smithfield Terminal to Kuranda of 7km and takes a total travel time of 40 minutes, although you need to allow around an hour and a half in total to explore the two rainforest stops at Red Peak and the spectacular Barron Falls on the way.

The spectacular (and noisy) Barron Falls

I admit that the skyrail was longer, higher and steeper than I imagined, a few years ago there is absolutely no way you would have got me on it, but I have to say that I really did enjoy it. It truly is a magical and magnificent experience to be gliding above the canopy of the worlds oldest tropical rainforest. (If you have seen the movie ‘Avatar’ I also discovered that much of the scenery in Pandora was also filmed from the skyrail!)

Soaring above the Daintree Rainforest in the rain

If like me you are considering this journey but are also scared of heights you may be asking yourself, is it better to take the journey to Kuranda or return from? Well it really doesn’t matter because as the skyrail makes its way the 7km across the rainforest you will go up and down across many peaks, it’s not a simple ‘up or down’ as many cable cars are.

Being a wet and overcast day there were a few occasions where the gondolas simply disappeared into the cloud and then the next moment you were looking down on them again.

Journey into the clouds!!

Despite the weather we did get some spectacular views, the only problem was that with all the rain on the windows the photos didn’t come out brilliantly.

The rainforest village of Kuranda was a wonderful place in itself to visit, full of art, markets, craft shops as well as numerous cafes & restaurants. Thankfully most is undercover too, so despite the torrential rain when we were there it didn’t really hamper us from having fun (that said we still got soaked!!)

We didn’t spend that long looking round the shops anyway, but instead made our way to the 3 wildlife attractions: The Butterfly Sanctuary, Bird World and Koala Park. You can either buy tickets to visit just one or do what we did and buy the pass to visit all three as neither take all that long and they are virtually next door to one another.

After a few very enjoyable hours in Kuranda it was time to make our way back to the skyrail for our return 7km journey. I have to say that it was a bit more breezy on the return journey and a couple of times our gondola started swaying quite a bit in the wind which I admit did un-nerve me somewhat, however I managed not to have a full blown panic attack!!!

I have worked really hard this trip to overcome my fear of heights, mainly to ensure Cameron does not inherit them. He has done amazingly and really enjoyed himself. I am pretty darned proud of myself because I have come a long way in forcing myself to go up very high buildings and working my way up from coming down a relatively small cable car at Toronga Zoo in Sydney, to the various rides at Scenic World in the Blue Mountains yo yesterdays epic journey swinging across the top of the Daintree Rainforest. I am really pleased I managed it though as these once in a lifetime magnificent views have truly been worth it and I know Cameron will remember them forever.

I did make a video of yesterday’s journey, however we have exceptionally poor wifi where we are in Port Douglas at the moment, so I shall have to wait until we move in to our next destination before I can upload it to Youtube…so watch this space!

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