Vintage train ride through the tropics, Cairns, Australia- Travel #60
Dear friends, let me take you on a scenic journey through the tropical mountain ranges of Cairns, on a vintage train. Cairns is located in Northern Queensland on the Eastern coast of Australia. Cairns is famous for being the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. However, the Great Barrier Reef is not the only natural wonder that Cairns has to offer, it has national parks and wildlife galore. Cairns is technically considered a city, to me, it's a small seaside town. I was born and raised in Singapore, so that's a city to me. Unfortunately, not many "cities" measure up when compared to Singapore. To be honest, when I want to get away and relax, a small seaside town surrounded with some of the best rainforests and tropical wildlife is my kind of place. Cairns should be on everyone's travel list, it is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in our natural world.
To find me, look for my Chihuahua's face
Due to Australia being in the southern-hemisphere, the hottest months are around Christmas and New Year. I lived in Australia for 14 years. Cairns stays pretty hot all year round. It is very humid. The best time of year to visit Australia in my opinion, is the winter months. The weather during winter is just beautiful and perfect for exploring and hiking. When most people think of Australia, they don't imagine snow. Well, let me tell you, it snows a lot in the mountains down around New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. Although I wouldn't recommend living in Australia, it should definitely be high on your list of places to visit. I was very lucky to have worked as a Flight attendant for 3 years. During this time, my airline sent me to Cairns for a familiarity visit. At the time, my airline was thinking of expanding and opening a base up north in Cairns. Ironically, as I write this blog for you in 2020, the airline is no longer in service due to collapsing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though I was only in Carins for a couple of days, I had a wonderful time. I stayed in a hotel along the main promenade in downtown Cairns.
What a view to wake up to
I absolutely love rainforests, markets, vintage trains and cable cars. I couldn't have been happier to find out that there was an experience in Carins that incorporated all four. My brother Wayne actually recommended it to me as he had experienced it a few years earlier. The vintage train takes you through the dense heritage-listed rainforest, stopping once for photographs and ending up in your final destination at the top of the mountains, Kuranda village. The journey begins at Freshwater railway station in Cairns. This is where you board the vintage train. Construction of the railway began in 1886 and was completed as far as Kuranda in 1891.
Freshwater railway Station in Cairns to catch the train to Kuranda
There are several packages to choose between to suit your budget and preference. You can customize your experience by just enjoying the train ride or by combining it with a cable car ride. There are even options to include attractions in Kuranda itself, like the butterfly sanctuary. I decided to take the train ride up the mountain to Kuranda and ride back down to Cairns by cable car. Once you arrive at Freshwater station, there is a ticket office for anyone who wants to make last minute reservations. I headed to the check-in desk about 20 minutes prior to departure. I had plenty of time to explore the old station and inspect the out-of-service carriages. The fine detail in the hand-craved wood is just exquisite. It is beautiful craftsmanship like this that I miss in today's modern designs.
Once everyone had boarded the train, we got on our way to Kuranda. The journey to Kuranda takes about 2 hours, which includes a stop at Barron Falls for a stunning view of several waterfalls and Barron Gorge. During the ride you go across 37 bridges, pass through 15 tunnels and will be completely surrounded by beautiful, untouched scenery. Shortly after departure from Freshwater station, a service will be provided just like on a plane. You can get yourself some coffee and biscuits as you gaze out the window. There is no better way to appreciate the beauty of nature than to completely surround yourself with it. The fact that you are travelling on a railway track well over a hundred years old and sitting in a carriage just as old is incredible. You feel like you are a part of history.
My favourite part of the train journey was crossing in front of Barron Falls and peering over Barron Gorge. It offers some of the most stunning views that I've ever seen. It is almost like gazing directly into a magazine. The train stops briefly at Barron Falls so that you can take some of those Instagram photos. I was actually really surprised at how few people were enjoying the opportunity to get off the train. I found the same thing in Alaska, people don't seem to want to get up off their seat even for a few minutes to actually take in the wonder of a place. It's a shame really.
The train ride ends once you make it into Kuranda. Kuranda is a very small village at the top of the mountains. It is a village with a lot of cultural history from the native Aboriginal people. It is very disappointing that Australia doesn't celebrate the Aboriginal culture. They are the only true Australians and they are treated incredibly badly by the government and the public in general. So if you do get the chance to visit Kuranda, or any other cultural place in Australia, if you see an Aboriginal person, please be kind to them. The village is full of market stalls that sell hand-crafted goods. My favourite was the freshly squeezed juices. If you want to enjoy some produce that is hand grown, non-GMO and fresh, this is the place to find it. Some of the clothes and jewelry for sale is exquisite.
After enjoying my juice and taking in the beauty of Kuranda. I decided to go on one of the hiking trails. There is a butterfly sanctuary in Kuranda that you can visit if hiking isn't for you. I enjoyed the hike as it wasn't strenuous and offered some peaceful views. There wasn't anyone else on the hiking trail. I was able to take in the beauty and breathe the fresh air slowly without feeling as though I have to move on.
After spending quite a few hours exploring, I decided to make my journey back down to Cairns. I decided to take the cable car down. Growing up in Singapore meant that I took cable car rides all the time across to Sentosa Island. I am very fond of cable car rides, I would not recommend it for anyone that is afraid of heights. The view is stunning and there isn't any other way to enjoy these particular views. The cableway, which journeys over the McAlister Range between Freshwater and Kuranda, takes about 1.5 hours. It is really relaxing gazing across the range as you glide above the treetops.
As you can see from my photographs, all the other cable cars were empty. It really is sad to see that not many people are choosing to experience these incredible views. I am not sure what the reason for this is, maybe people just don't realize that it exists. I am hoping by sharing my experience that a lot more people will enjoy this experience. It truly was one of the highlights of Australia.
When you get off the cable car, you exit through a gift shop and cafe. This really is an entire day out. By the time I was back in Cairns, I was pretty exhausted. I went back to my hotel, had a shower then headed out into the city for some dinner. Naturally, I found an Asian restaurant and got myself a big bowl of vegan ramen and a glass of fresh juice. It was the perfect way to unwind from an incredible day. We live in a truly beautiful world, all you have to do is get out there and enjoy it.
I hope you have enjoyed my blog on my vintage train ride through the tropics, thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more adventures with you, until next time, Vegoutt Everybody!