In the Mountains and Down The Coast – Day 4
It was goodbye to the serene and manicured Port Douglas as the sun was starting to heat up the day at 7.30am. As is the way in these parts the trades were all hard at work trying to get a head start on their jobs before the real heat kicked in. The ‘council’ workers were trimming, mowing and cutting: their work looked terrific.
The drive was slow as we hugged the coast line on a treacherously windy road. The sea was mill pond flat and the sun was glinting off the surface looking alluring and exquisite. The destination was Freshwater Station, on the outskirts of Cairns. We were catching a ‘scenic’ train that ascended 327 metres up to Kuranda. This town was historically important at the top of the mountain for bringing supplies to the many gold mines there. Latterly it was important for the Australian Armed Forces during WW2. The construction of this epic climb started in 1877 and it was initiated because there was starvation in these communities due to being cut off with harsh weather. The access to these settlements otherwise was tortuous. The railway was a solution. The epic feat of engineering came at a price. It resulted in 32 deaths from the construction and many more from disease. The length was 33 kilometres; involved 15 tunnels and 55 bridges.
The workers were mainly Irish or Italian and the days terribly hard. I can’t imagine working in such perilous sheer conditions in over 30°C heat with mosquitos draining you. In fact, despite it being the wrong era and country, it all seemed redolent of ‘Bridge Over The River Kwai’. We wended our way up slowly, and later, down the climb. We were hauled by two diesels from the 1970s.
There were some dramatic sights on the journey.
At the top there were no gold mines but something much better: koalas. I’d long wanted to see these sleepy fellows. There was a sanctuary.
Thrown into this cornucopia of native wildlife were crocodiles, a cassowary, geckos, birds, frogs and some wallabies. A parrot befriended Mrs Ives.
There were lots of arts and crafts on displays and some of it was very pleasing not least the aboriginal art.
The return train ride was a little painful as the open windows of the early 20th Century carriages invited the mosquitos in and they dined royally on my legs. On arrival back at the station we turned the BMW south and hit the Cairns rush hour. We worked our way through that and were soon turning off the Bruce Highway for our B&B at Mission Beach.
The accommodation was fine and run by some Brits who seemed peripatetic judging by their time living in various parts of Oz, Texas and the Middle East. The room was delightful, as were the other facilities, but without air conditioning it was a hot little oven.
After checking in we did a quick turn round and went out to find some food. The B&B recommended a few spots and in the dark they were hard to find. However, we decided by default to go to the Mission Bay Tavern. We had no idea what it was like but from the road it was brightly lit and seemed a bit ordinary. However inside we truly fell on our feet. It was the classic Australian pub. By this time the temperature had plummeted to 27°C.
We had standard pub fayre along with some Castlemaine XXXX. It was grand! Any way after this it was back to sweat off the drink and food at the B&B room (sauna).