The Scenic Railway is a big tourist attraction, and tickets are usually sold in joint connection with the Skyrail, costing around $112 for the basic package. This gives you the 2 hour train ride up, and the Skyrail down (or the other way around if you so desire) as well as a bus transfer back into the city.
The biggest draw to the train is by far the scenery. The railway was built on a particularly harsh part of terrain, and done in three parts, nearly getting abandoned several times. As such its pretty much built on the edge of a mountain, going through tight tunnels and against sheer drops. Its rather astonishing to think how it could have been built without the modern technology of today. One section even goes past a waterfall, and the digging created two large rock formations that have become landmarks today.
Kuranda I’d visited before while I was in Yungaburra, but by the time I got there it had been almost completely closed. Unfortunately, I’d chosen to visit not long after the summer holidays, and apparently a lot of people had chosen the lull to close and take a break, so a lot of shops were still closed again. Did manage to find the alternative fashion store I liked the first time, but the clothing had changed significantly and wasn’t nearly as impressive as it was the first time.
Instead, I headed towards the animal parks I’d spotted the first time. I’m still pining for Parrots in Paradise, so decided to go see Kuranda’s Birdworld first. It costs just under $20 to get in, and an additional $3 for food (which you definitely need). Its a giant free flight aviary, with central feeding area at the entrance, and a circular pathway that leads to the cassowary pen and a few small feeding sections. To be honest, you don’t really need to leave the first area, as most of the birds interested in interacting seem to gravitate there. Make sure to leave anything shiny, because they’ll got for it first (had to leave my bag at the front desk as one Alexandrian was desperate to get the metal logo off of it) and food second. Most of the birds I recognised, with Eclectus, Alexandrians, Macaws, Lorikeets and conure’s being most prominent. In the trees I spotted a few Major Mitchell and Black Cockatoos, and a few smaller birds, but outside of the central area, most birds pretty much stayed out of the way. The only main critter of note was the two cassowary’s held in pens at the bottom of the aviary. All things considered, it was rather expensive for such a small area.
My next stop was the Butterfly Sanctuary, which is the largest self sustaining sanctuary in Australia. It’s got a similar price, although I discovered after the fact that you can get a joint ticket for Bird and Butterfly worlds if you want to see both. It however becomes much better value for money if you can arrange to visit when a tour is happening.
They offer free tours around ever hour give or take, and the guide takes you around the sanctuary, showing you the feeding areas, the sections behind the scenes, where most of the butterflies are hatched, and identifying all the species inside. The biggest draws are their moths (which they only have on occasion due to their very short life spans and seasonal births) and their beautiful blue Ulysses butterflies, who have beautiful colourations, but almost never stop flying. As such, its almost impossible to get a good photo unless you come across one close to death, and instead have to just enjoy them flitting around dancing with the ladies. The butterfly sanctuary was by far the better draw of the day.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d done both parks and some shopping, I had to head back to the Skyrail if I wanted to get to my connecting bus. Even though you get a reserved time, you still need to wait in line to get a seat, and for me, the queue was nearly half an hour. I kept getting scuppered by people in front or behind me rushing forward when the guy asked for ‘two people’ to fill seats.
The Skyrail is a basic cable car that runs above the rainforest and down the mountain. There are 2 stops along the way, and I had enough time to make a quick stop at each. Thankfully most people skip them, so there’s almost no queue to get back on. The first one is a stop at Barron Falls, which I’d seen before on my last trip to Kuranda, and again on the Railway (the train stops along the route). This however is the only spot you can really see the falls from this side though.
The second stop is a quick walk through the rainforest, but also has tours around ever 20 minutes. I was cutting my time close, but decided to do it as the guide came as I was reading the sign. The tour was similar to the one I had in Daintree, where he would identify certain plants and explain their uses and value in the rainforest. The ‘wait-a-while’ vine’s I definitely knew, but the ferns on branches, and the mast-like tree’s (whose name escapes me) were one’s I didn’t remember. Also spotted a few more fig tree’s, one that can only be spotted when you’re back in the Skyrail, which will be very impressive in another few years.
Made it down to the bottom with about 5 minutes before my bus, only to discover my rush was unnecessary. There were dozens of people all waiting, and it was about 15 minutes before they finally arranged a bus heading to the city centre.
By the time I got back, I had a few hours of shopping time left, so grabbed my wallet and went to buy some food – mainly things I couldn’t get at the Roadhouse or needed to do some baking, and then hit up the food court again for one last belt of hideously-bad-for-you Chinese food before heading back to the hostel and packing up before turning on my computer, and going nuts with the Internet.
See, I have access to Roaming Wifi at the Roadhouse, but it costs a fortune. So I can’t really download or buy additional music, or keep up with any streaming. With one final evening of Global Gossip, spent my night catching up on all my shows and downloading some new music that will keep me happy for another few months. Although my choices are a little weird – 2 months of listening to the Country Music Channel has given me an appreciation for the genre I honestly didn’t think I had…