Lush and Leafy Green

After months of dusty and dry savannah, the climate and landscape swiftly changed as we climbed through the Great Dividing Range towards the wet tropics.

Our poor, unwell truck struggled up the hills, despite the fuel filter change. We will deal with those issues once we reach a major town. For now, all we can do is enjoy the ride.

One of the first things I have noticed about Queensland is the quality, and quantity of cheap or free camping and rest areas. A short time in, and we have already stayed in 3 rest areas that have been flat and grassy with clean flushing toilets. One of them had hot showers, and for a gold coin donation, we were in camping heaven.

Cathederal Fig TreeMillaa Millaa FallsRavenshoe is the highest town in Queensland, so we had to have a drink at the state’s uppermost pub. The drive through surrounding rolling hills and pockets of old rainforest was so lovely. The area is known for its numerous waterfalls. We also stumbled across the Curtain and Cathedral Figs, two strangling fig trees over 500 years old that have grown into interesting shapes, especially since their host trees are long gone. Walking through these sections of rainforest make you feel like you are in Middle Earth and elves should be close at hand.

Heading back to the campsite after our picturesque day, I made Mike brake to a sudden halt, as I spotted a ‘platypus viewing area’. I have never seen a platypus in the wild, and I find them fascinating. Would you believe it, we actually saw one swimming about in the stream. The kids are now platypus crazy.

Seeing the beauty and isolation of the top end has been wonderful and we have all enjoyed it. But at times it hasn’t been a very kid friendly experience. Now that we are heading back into relative civilisation for a while, we thought it was time to really focus on some fun stuff for the kids, and activities we would all enjoy together.

Kids feed the RoosBoomerangsOur first treat was a fantastic morning at ‘Rainforest Station’ in Kuranda. We arrived early, and spent some time feeding the kangaroos and wallabies in the open area of the wildlife park. This was an enormous hit with the children. One of the park rangers gave us a tour of the park, introducing us to the koalas, crocodiles, lizards, dingos, barramundi and kangaroos. The park is small, but intimate, and you can really get up close to the animals.

After our wildlife tour, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet some people from the local Pamagirri tribe. They showed us their great skills in spear throwing, and playing the didgeridoo. We had a lesson in boomerang throwing, and the kids boldly gave it a go. It was great fun.

We were then entertained with some traditional aboriginal dancing. They showed us some great dances, and invited some of the audience up onto stage. Of course our little performer jumped at the opportunity. We now have some great video of Coby learning some aboriginal dancing, and she was still talking about it days later.

So now we have arrived in the very lovely Cairns and are staying at Coconuts Holiday Resort (BIG4). This is just such an amazing treat for us and the kids. For all the caravan parks we have stayed at this trip (there has to be around 100), this place is certainly the crème de la crème. We have purposely planned our stay to have two free days just to enjoy the parks facilities, as the there is so much here the kids want to do and try. AMAZING. Too read more about our fabulous time at Coconuts, click here.

One of our must do activities on this trip was to see the rainforest and scenery around Cairns So many fellow travellers recommended taking the trip up to Kuranda via the scenic railway or Skyrail, we decided to give both a try.

Onboard Kuranda Scenic RailwayScenic railwayThe Kuranda Scenic Railway is celebrating its 120 year anniversary this year. It departs Cairns twice per morning to Kuranda, via Freshwater station. It takes you on the historic journey, through 15 tunnels and over many bridges up the mountain to Kuranda. There is a station at Barron Falls, to give all passengers an opportunity to take photos and admire the awesome view.

Of course, Rhys is train crazy, and the excitement of it all rendered him speechless for a while. We were able to get some great photos of the train going around bends, over bridges and through the rainforest. The journey ends at Kuranda, where you can easily spend several hours wandering around the village markets and numerous interesting attractions, including Rainforest Station.

Although a return journey of the scenic railway was an option, we decided to take the Skyrail back. The kids spotted the cable cars from the train, and were curious. We didn’t tell them that’s how we were going back.

Skyrail is made up of 33 towers connecting over 7.5 km of cable, to travel through different landscapes of rainforest. It is the ultimate way of seeing this World Heritage Area, and a fantastic opportunity for anyone to get up high into the canopy. It is so much more than a joyride; it is a complete experience, and a fabulous opportunity to really learn something about our precious forest.

Skyrail CarFrom Kuranda, we travelled, armed with our trip guide, through both old growth and regenerating rainforest, eucalypt woodlands, vine-clad forests and over Barron Falls. Station two at the falls has an interactive learning centre, which provides great information and hands-on displays about the rainforests we are seeing. The third station at Red Peak gives you an opportunity to walk around the forest on a boardwalk. There are also frequent tours given by one of the rangers. I really loved seeing the enormous Kauri pine trees, vines and variety of vegetation.

The final descent towards Caravonica station gave views of Cairns and the surrounding fields of sugarcane. The patchworks of fields make great photos, and on a clear day you can see far out into the Pacific Ocean towards the Reef.

I have to say, out of all the experiences we have had on this trip, is one is up there amongst the best. It was fun, breathtakingly beautiful and interesting. The kids really got something out of it too, besides the memory of travelling high over the rainforest in a little glass box. If you would like to read more about Skyrail and the rainforest, click here.

Of course, no trip to Cairns would be complete without a reef trip. It is one of the closest points from the mainland to the reef, hence its popularity with tourists. Coby has been practicing here snorkelling in the pool for the last couple of weeks, so we couldn’t disappoint her.

Ready to get wetCoby on the reefUnfortunately, it was really windy in Cairns, and the trip out to the reef was a bit bumpy. Many were seasick, but the kids managed very well. Saxon reef was our first spot for the day, and Coby couldn’t wait to jump in. But the open ocean is a bit rougher than a swimming pool, and she still needed some practice with the whole breathing thing. Needless to say, her snorkelling attempts were short lived. I was so proud that she gave it a go (three times). She did see some fish underwater, and get her photo taken by the underwater photographer.

The rest of the day, Mike and I played tag team going in and looking after kids. We both got to see heaps, and had a fabulous day. Unfortunately, Rhys caught the seasickness bug towards the end of the trip, and was pretty tuckered out by it all. But we had a great day.

Now we are leaving the caravan behind again, and heading north for our final off road challenge of the trip. This is the big one, the region of Australia we have been looking forward to the most – Cape York.

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