We managed to grab a few hours of broken sleep and woke with the daylight around 6am. Vic had a look around outside and saw some other vehicles parked not far away, so we followed the road round that we came in on, and found a huge free campground! Well, not really a campground, as you are only permitted a 24 hour stay, one day a week. It was more like a large carpark with trees around it. But it had a toilet block, picnic tables and barbecues. We told ourselves it wouldn’t have improved our sleep any, other than the streetlights wouldn’t have been in our eyes, so we checked out the facilities and were back on the road by 6.30, looking for breakfast.
This is lovely countryside round here, with rolling hills covered in bush, and the fields on both sides of the road packed with sugar cane, so that the road appears to wind it’s way through the cane fields. The cane is so tall you can’t see over the top from inside the car, and every few yards a railway line appears from the cane plants on one side of the road and disappears through the cane on the opposite side. Signs along the way warn us to look out for sugar cane trains as we drive, but it’s not cane harvesting season now, so the trains aren’t likely to bother us.
We found our breakfast stop, at a Driver Reviver place. The Driver Reviver program was established in 1989 and is supported by the Government and the community. It provides a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits (all free, although donations are welcome), at some 220 locations around Australia. The idea is to combat driver fatigue by encouraging motorists to “stop, revive – survive”. It is run by volunteers during holidays and long weekends. Similar programs operate in other countries. We downed our very welcome coffee and bikkies while chatting to another driver who was heading South. She told us she lived in Mossman, about 70kms north of Cairns, and had left home with her three children to go to Townsville. They were going to watch the North QLD Cowboys play the Newcastle Knights that night in Rugby League. For the record, the Cowboys won that game convincingly.
As we said our goodbyes and moved off again, the landscape changed from sugar cane to trees and bushes right down to the road edge, as we wound our way up and through some hills. The scenery was actually reminiscent of New Zealand with the bush covered hills, and very green as well. Back down out of the hills again and in amongst the gum trees, but now the ground is green beneath the trees, unlike further south where the gums grow sparsely on a dry brown land.
A bit further along the road past pine forests on one side and gums on the other, we come to a tiny town called Cardwell. What a delightful place for a holiday, with Hinchinbrook Island right opposite. Unfortunately we have no time to stop here, so we promise ourselves we’ll come back. One day.
Another 30kms along the road the sugar cane fields have reappeared, but with an added attraction of banana palms. A little bit south of Cairns, just as we came through a gap at the top of a hill with bananas on both sides of the road, a small plane shot across the road in front of us and disappeared. He was so close to the ground, he was actually below us. He was topdressing the banana plants. We haven’t seen that method of fertilizing since we lived in New Zealand.
We drove through Cairns and out the other side, following the signs to Kuranda. It was just on mid-day when we parked outside the information centre in Kuranda.
We went in and inquired about camp grounds. We knew of one commercial place, but wanted to see if there were any others. The lady behind the counter looked at us and told us she knew of a place that would suit us. She showed us the map and pointed to a National Park about another half an hour up the road. We must have looked like we had been driving for a day and a half, and therefore not respectable enough for the commercial camp ground. We passed on the offer of the National Park, and settled for Kuranda Rain-forest Park.
The couple who ran the place were very nice, he even offered us a free mandarin off his own tree, he seemed to be trying to impress us with the fact that he’d grown them himself. We didn’t tell him we had a kazillion ripe ones hanging on our own tree at home.
So we put the tent up and had lunch while we looked over a few pamphlets of things to see and do in the area.
We were told of a quick way into the town from the campground. Apparently you go out the back of the grounds and down to the railway line, where you walk along the tracks for a short distance til it comes out at the station.
So after lunch, and booking a ride on the Skyrail for the next day, we headed to the town for a look around. But we failed to see the steps down to the river from the railway, and ended up walking through a tunnel to come out on one of the platforms. Not quite the recommended route, we should have walked along the river bank to the railway footbridge.
In the town we wandered up and down the main street, it’s not very big, we took a few photos and decided to do a pub crawl. As there were only two pubs, we had to have a couple of drinks in each one, or walk back and forth between them. In one pub we had a chat to a couple of locals for a while, who had actually not lived here long, but come from the UK and liked it enough to stay here. By 3pm the shops had started closing and the streets were almost empty. It turns out that most of the tourists stay in Cairns, and just pop up to Kuranda on the train for a day, and the last train back to Cairns was about to leave. At about 5 o’clock we made our way back to the tent. The correct way. Well, along the river anyway. By now it was time to cook our gourmet camp dinner and then head to bed.