It’s 8:27 AM. We’re sitting on a bench outside our hotel, talking with a guy from California. He’s been complaining that his wife tends to wander off without telling him, right before they have to go somewhere. We’ve all booked the train-gondola combo trip to Kuranda, including free bus pickup at 8:35 sharp.
Two minutes later, a pleasant older lady in a Mexico soccer supporter shirt saunters over and joins us. “This is my wife. She’s from Mexico you know.” We sorta guessed that. “We’ve been married for forty-four years.” Smiles, then back to the “I told you, we have to be …….”
Freshwater Station – departure point for the Kuranda Express. Nanette has done her investigative magic, and we have special Gold Class tickets, so we get to sit on nice timber benches in the reserved section of the old platform. All eyes are glued expectantly on the empty tracks, waiting for the huge black loco. Ah, it’s a diesel, but at least the old wooden carriages look authentic. Our tickets say carriage 8. We board and find the allotted comfy seats. Then. Train lady. “Excuse me, but would you both follow me please.” But, I thought we paid when we booked! “Oh no, we just have more space in the other deluxe carriage, so we can give you seats with a better view.”
What a great trip. Chugging (do diesels chug?) slowly up the mountain through tunnels and across ravines. Stopping to admire waterfalls, and enjoying special perks like two cups of coffee and a selection of eats. I’m feeling quite euphoric, right up until three minutes before we reach Kuranda. The announcer is droning away, lots to see and do when we stop, “…and a wonderful selection of tourist shops to browse.” Aaaaaaagh!
Kuranda is a pretty little place. We booked a self-directed option that basically sorts out train and gondola, then leaves you do your own thing. Our thing is to wander casually around the town and its new and old markets, and of course the dreaded shops. When we finally amble back down the hill from the town to the station, we realise we have over half an hour to spare. Plenty of time to grab one of those short riverboat trips we saw nearby. Then, it’s time to head to the gondola station. I groan when I see the line of people snaking away from the boarding spot. “Don’t worry dear. I booked the Diamond upgrade for us.”
We try to ignore the “looks” from the people in the big line as we walk up to the empty spot reserved for Diamond boarding. “We get special gondolas with glass bottoms, and it only costs twelve dollars extra.” Twelve bucks? I look at the big lines. What a clever little girl I have.
It’s 5:27 PM. We’re sitting on our balcony looking out over the bay. We’ve trained, boated and gondoled (is that a word?) through, beside and over some beautiful and ancient rainforest. The app on my phone says we’ve walked about a million steps. All is good. Let’s go find some dinner.