Cairns, AU – Sunday, Mar 16th, 2014

I get picked up at 7:25am by Brett from Northern Experience Eco Tours for Rainforest, Waterfalls and Paronella Park Tour. We leave Cairns in a bigger mini bus and drive over Gillies Range to Lake Barrine. Lake Barrine as a 10,000 year old freshwater volcanic crater lake only a 1 hour drive from Cairns. We first have tea/coffee and a light snack at Lake Barrine Teahouse before boarding for a 45 minute cruise of the lake. We park at the lower parking lot and Brett helps me up the big hill to the upper parking lot. Once to the upper parking lot the teahouse entrance is down a long ramp that I’m able to do myself. I have coffee with my parents overlooking the lake.

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It’s time for the cruise and Brett helps up the ramp to the upper parking lot. I am able to go down the driveway to the lower parking myself but it is very steep. The boat is pretty easy to get on by myself with a ramped walkway and one small lip to bump up. There are 2 levels on the boat. 2 steps to the lower seating area and 8 steps at the stern of the boat to the upper level. I sit outside on the bow of the boat.

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The cruise takes you around the brim of the crater for a close up view of the rain forest. The cruise was very enjoyable.

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After the cruise, I take a short wheel to see the 1,000 year old Kauri Pines. The paved walkway is steep and mom pushes me up. The boardwalk is pretty flat and easy to wheel on. The dirt trail continues around the lake for 5k, about an 1-1/2 hour walk, not wheelchair accessible.

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It’s about a 15 minute ride to see the curtain fig tree. The tree is estimated at 600-800 years old. The curtain fig tree finds a host tree then the seed germinates and eventually strangles the host tree. The walkway is very accessible and easy to wheel.

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Millaa Millaa waterfall is our next stop. The parking lot is blacktop but very bumpy. The lookout deck is accessible with a small lip up. There are steps down to the swimming area. There is an accessible bathroom at Millaa Millaa waterfall.

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We stop in Innisfail for lunch at Roscoe’s. It has a very short steep ramp in the back of the restaurant that I need help up. This takes me to the lower eating area. There is another eating area up one step and where the buffet lunch is. Dad helps me up the one step. The buffet is good with pizza, pasta and salad. The bathroom is located on the upper eating area and is not accessible. Our first stop after lunch is Paronella Park. Jose Paronella’s dream was to build a castle, this is the place he picked(history). Cameron is our guide for the tour. Paronella Park is not very accessible. The tour starts down several uneven steps and loose gravel at Jose’s house. Then we stop at the ballroom/movie viewing building. It’s then down the Grand Staircase to the fountain. No way to make it down the steps the only way for a wheelchair to make it down is via the gravel road in a 4×4 truck. I transfer into the truck, with help, because it is a high transfer. The hill down is very steep. The area around the fountain is loose gravel and not too bad to wheel on. The pathway down Lovers Lane to the Tunnel of Love is much more difficult. I wheel past Palm Groove to Kauri Avenue. This is difficult with loose gravel a tree roots to maneuver around and over. The tour was about 45 minutes and Cameron lets the group go explore Paronella Park alone. Me and a couple of the ladies on our tour go to the Turtle Nesting Area which is very difficult to get to. Cameron goes with us to help me through the gravel, over the roots and sand. We make our war back by the fountain so the truck can take me back to the top.

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Cameron commented to me how impressed he is with me trying to get around to see as much as I could. He’s never had anyone in a wheelchair do the tour. I meet Mark, the owner of Paronella Park, and we discuss my website and the traveling I’ve been doing. He gives everyone on our tour a piece of the wall from the ballroom that collapsed during Cyclone Larry in March 2006. My cost of Paronella Park was in the cost of the entire day tour. I saw maybe 1/3 of the park because of it not being accessible. I enjoyed what I was able to see but it would not be worth a wheelchair user spending $42 entrance fee. Our last stop is near Babinda, Queensland at the Boulders and Devil’s Pool. It’s paved about 50 yards to the Boulders then there are steps and a very steep uphill. I go as far as the steps. Some of pavement to the steps is very uneven with a few steep hills that I need help with. Devil’s Pool is a swimming area that is not accessible with several steps to get to the water. There is an accessible bathroom at the Boulders and Devil’s Pool stop.

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We get dropped off at 6:35pm and head to Rattle n Hum for dinner and drinks. I make a stop at Gilligan’s for a drink before heading to bed.

The trip with Northern Experience Tours was very good.  Brett was very helpful when I needed it and informative about our stops during the tour. The highlight for me was the boat ride around Lake Barrine. Paronella Park would have been the highlight but only seeing 1/3 was disappointing. I did enjoy what I was able to see. The entrance fee to the park was included in the entire tour cost. If you are a wheelchair user and just go to visit the park I would ask about a discount since you cannot see the entire park. I would have needed help down/up the steps to the boulders but it had been a long day already. I was told I did not miss much. If you are able to get on/off the mini bus the rest of the tour was pretty easy with some help up/down hills. Just like all the tours I’ve done people are willing to help.

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