Cairns, AU – Monday, Mar 10th, 2014

I get picked up at 8:30am by Rob from Downunder Tours. I am very surprised to see a big 48 passenger bus to pick me up after I was told a small mini bus. Rob offers to help but I don’t know how much he can do. The bus has 5 steps up then 1 step to the seating area floor then I have to transfer to the seat. It is not too bad to get on and I only have to get on and off the bus twice. There would be no way I could this if I had to get on and off 10 times like some of the tours I did on the mini bus.

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It’s only about a 10 minute drive to the Freshwater Railway Station. The railway station is accessible with an accessible bathroom. The railway museum is not accessible. Loading area 6 has a ramp to the train platform. They use a safety cage and hand forklift to get wheelchairs on the train.

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Car 6 is accessible with an accessible bathroom. I transfer to regular seat on the left side of the train and my chair gets strapped down so it does not roll around.

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The train leaves from Freshwater Station through Red Lynch. The railway climbs from sea level up the Macalister Range 328 meters to Kuranda and has 15 hand-made tunnels and 37 bridges. 32 people died during the construction of the railway. The train makes it way past Stoney Creek Gorge, Barron Gorge, Rob’s Monument and makes a stop to view Barron Falls. The stop to view Barron Falls is not accessible. I realized about 30 minutes into the train ride the left side is not the side to sit. All but one view was from the right side of the train.

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The train ride is about 1-1/2 long and we arrive in Kuranda at 11:30am. I get off the train the same way as at Freshwater Station. There is an elevator from the train platform to the street level. The street is very steep and the ramp next to the street is very long and steep with 3 switch backs. There is a notice posted on the ramp “this ramped walkway may be unsuitable for some people with mobility impairments or other medical conditions due to moderately steep gradient”. I had to stop two times on the way up to rest but I made it by myself. Once to the top there is slight grade but after going up that ramp it’s barely noticeable.

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We have about 4 hours in Kuranda before we have to take the Skyrail to Caravonica. We first make our way to the butterfly sanctuary. The sanctuary surface is very uneven and difficult to wheel through. There is a public accessible bathroom outside the butterfly sanctuary. We spend about 1-1/2 hours at the sanctuary before grabbing lunch.

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We have lunch outside at Cafe Kuranda. It is accessible in the Kuranda Village Center. After lunch we stroll around Kuranda for bit the grab a beer at Kuranda Rainforest View Restaurant. It is accessible on Coondoo Street but does not have an accessible bathroom. We make it to the Skyrail down the same ramp I struggled coming up earlier. I get on the Skyrail with the car stopping and having help pushing the back of my chair up a 5” step to the car. Our first stop on the way to Caravonica is Barron Falls. I go backward out of the car with a Skyrail staff holding the back of my chair down the step. There is a slight grade down to the first lookout. The second lookout has a slight grade down until you get to the lookout then a steep ramp. I was able to wheel up with good momentum. Lookout number 3 is a steeper grade down with several steeps down to the lookout. There is an accessible bathroom by the Skyrail.

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The second stop is Red Peak. I get on and off the Skyrail the same way. There is a boardwalk through the rainforest with a few steep up hills to wheel. There is also an accessible bathroom at this stop.

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Our last stop is the end of our trip, Caravonica, before taking the same 48 passenger bus back to Cairns. The Skyrail Visitor Center at Caravonica is accessible with an accessible bathroom.

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After being dropped off at the hotel around 4:30pm we stop by the TUSA dive shop to check on the weather for Tuesday. The weather is going to be good but they have no openings for Tuesday now so we book for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. After a long day we have dinner and beers once again at Rattle n Hum. Since we are not diving tomorrow, I hit Gilligan’s on my way back to The Northern Greenhouse for a few beers.

This tour would not be good for some people in wheelchairs. I should have taken Natalie up on the cab to the railway station. They do have accessible cabs in Cairns that would have made getting to the station easier. The train is accessible but the Skyrail is only accessible to wheelchairs less than 24” wide and 37” long. If your chair is bigger you might be able to take the train up to Kuranda and back from Kuranda. Kuranda is pretty hilly to wheel around. The butterfly sanctuary was the easiest attraction to get to but difficult to wheel through. Most other attractions bird world, the markets and reptile park are up or down hills. The train was the best part of the trip. Kuranda is very touristy with a bunch of souvenir shops.

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