173. Bundaberg

While in Gladstone we realised it was almost our last chance to visit a Great Barrier Reef island. Previously we’d turned down Green Island out of Cairns in favour of the Kuranda Railway. At Bowen we decided not to visit touristy Airlie with its numerous sightseeing boats around the Whitsundays. We skirted Mackay so missed the boats to the Northumberlands and Percy Isles. From Rockhampton we could have visited the Keppels but preferred to see family. Then at Gladstone we learned the only business with boats to Lady Musgrave Island (operating out of the Town of Seventeen Seventy) had two boats but one had sunk and the other was in Brisbane for servicing! That left Lady Elliot island at the very bottom of the Great Barrier Reef but it is now a high-priced eco-tourist resort and we only wanted a day trip.

I was particularly disappointed about Lady Musgrave island. Twice in the late seventies-early eighties I visited it on board “Cornelius”. Both times it took great care to negotiate the narrow dog-leg channel through the coral and into a large lagoon where we anchored and snorkelled and dived to our hearts’ content. It is still uninhabited although camping is permitted.

Oh well – onwards. Approaching Bundaberg we stopped at Lake Monduran for a cuppa and met a lovely couple heading in the opposite direction. (So sorry, if you are reading this, we didn’t even catch your names). Too often we meet like-minded people but plans to meet up again somewhere else seldom seem to materialise.



We didn’t have any plans for Bundaberg but on the drive there one of the roadside ‘fatigue zone’ quiz signs was about Bert Hinkler the famous aviator from Bundaberg so we determined to visit the Museum. It turned out to be an interesting treasure-trove located within the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens, where we had a reasonable cafe lunch and then set off to explore.



I thought I was museumed-out but this last one was good, particularly because it had several hands-on flight simulators. Here I am piloting one of Bert’s early gliders (this is the way he “sat” in the cockpit) …


… a model of it on the beach … (you can see the pilot’s position)….


.. plus an amazing story about a fragment from that glider ……


…. us taking turns in the cockpit of another very early plane ….


…. and Dave piloting a Cessna Cub (?) which I also loved. Luckily there were few other visitors so I had several goes. I  ALMOST made it to the next airfield before running out of fuel and crashing. I now have a much better understanding of flying small planes!


More planes … (hard to see in the dim light).


Another unusual sign …. (what has happened to Cathy Freeman? – https://www.wyza.com.au/entertainment/where-are-they-now-cathy-freeman.aspx)


Bert flew from Sydney to Bundaberg in 1921 in a Baby Avro. There was much excitement when he arrived ….



Bert lived in England for many years at a house in Southampton called Mon Repos.  In 1982 the house was listed for demolition but a long-time Bundaberg resident and Hinkler admirer organised the relocation of the house to Bundaberg as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. A three-man dismantling team from Bundaberg pulled down the house brick by brick and shipped it to Australia in two 20 tonne containers. It was successfully rebuilt and furnished with some of Bert’s furniture which had been saved plus other from the same time period. 


We did not stay in Bundaberg but continued towards Maryborough, spending the night at a free camp well guarded by Wicked Banksia-Men. Anyone who read the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books when young will know what I mean! The dried seed pods used to fascinate me as a child.







Wallum (Banksia) obviously has strong powers of regeneration.


About to leave next morning, we noticed someone must have bashed into our rear bumper bar some time the previous few days. So disappointing – we have come this far without a scratch and now this. Fortunately all the lights still work.


172. Heading Downhill – Rockhampton/Yeppoon & Gladstone

We chose a camp at Yeppoon rather than Rockhampton, to be closer to family. First – a burst hot water pipe had to be fixed. After visiting various caravan supply stores and plumbing supplies Dave finally found what he needed; then it was a fairly simple matter to make repairs although it did involve dismantling part of the shower.

We didn’t stay very long, just a couple of visits and some lovely meals with two separate families This roo and baby were at the Yeppoon Adventist Retirement village, which I blogged about at some length last year ….


… and my other family, when  some of them visited the caravan….


…… a quick drive along the waterfront where a flotilla of little boats were getting ready for a regatta ….


…… and a cemetery search to locate a couple of Darchys. For once the search was fast, aided by an excellent locator provided by the Rockhampton Council. My mother and aunt knew Blanche. We also looked for the house where they once lived, but it has been rebuilt. These are the houses on either side .. lovely old Queenslanders.


Then it was over one of the two bridges and down the coast to Gladstone.


I wanted to visit Gladstone port, where we had tied up Cornelius all those years ago in early 1977 and where I first realised I was pregnant when the “seasickness’ which had mysteriously appeared on the sail from Sydney to  Lord Howe Island onwards refused to disappear. There is now a large children’s playground/park in the area, complete with a wonderful water feature which almost had me wishing I was five years old again!


HMAS Gladstone II was also on display, somewhat incongruously hoisted a little way above the water.

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I loved the signal flags, they reminded me that I once sewed a whole set for Cornelius. They were kept in a multiple-pigeonhole cabinet above the gimballed saloon table, and a couple of times we “dressed ship’ for special occasions such as when we towed the engineless Ahodori II down Sydney harbour and out to sea, at the start of the second (or third?) leg of Yoh Aoki’s single-handed voyage around the world.

Feeling famished we stopped at the Black Duck cafe near the waterfront and both had an eyewateringly spicy calamari and prawn salad – wonderful.


Then back to the caravan. About 50 km south when we stopped for diesel I realised I had left my handbag at the Black Duck. Readers may remember that Dave left his keys behind when we were at Eungella and we had to retrace our steps up and down the range and  then north for 80 km. So when I went up to Dave at the bowser and said “My Turn” he knew immediately what I meant …!!

A phone call ascertained that the bag was indeed there, and off we went. About two thirds of the way to Gladstone we stopped at a roadside caravan park and left Westy there, so the rest of the journey was accomplished quickly. Collected the bag, back to Westy, and another conversation with Johnny Walker while admiring the sunset.




That caravan park was more semi-permanent caravan-cabins than travelling caravans/motorhomes. Here’s one that looks like getting an upper floor.


We left next morning heading south for Bundaberg.

171. Eungella & the Broken River

We decided not to wait any longer in Bowen for the parcel, which of course arrived the Monday after we left and has now been redirected to Nic’s to arrive hopefully about the same time we do (!). Australia Post said it would take up to five working days to arrive from Melbourne. It took over two weeks.

Leaving Bowen we decided to avoid the tourist trap called Airlie Beach and instead visit the platypus at Eungella National Park west of Mackay. One of the caravan forums Dave subscribes to said the Broken River free camp was a great place so we headed that way, eventually to be confronted by several warning signs about a VERY steep climb up the Range.



Foolhardy or not, we ventured up – and up. These are the views from the ‘Sky View’ area at the top.



At Eungella we decided not to go further on the narrow twisty road to Broken River but instead sought a caravan park in the Eungella township. The GPS directed us up a steep narrow road. At the bottom we passed a large sign covered over with canvas. We should have known! At the very top instead of the expected caravan park there was a dead end with no place to turn around, so Dave reversed down the whole hillside; luckily it was in a very quiet part of the town. Near the bottom we saw the reverse side of the canvas-covered board, it was facing away from the road and was the sign for the caravan park with a large CLOSED at the bottom.

So back down the Range we went with its 20 kph hairpin bends …..


…. and back towards Mackay, through Netherdale with its purple house …..


…..until we came to the Finch Hatton Showgrounds, a lovely flat safe haven.

I trotted off to inspect the amenities and returned to find Dave with an odd look on his face – his caravan keys were missing. On the same keyring was a controller device for his cochlear implants and a near-irreplaceable battery holder for the same. Nothing for it but to retrace our steps. The possibilities were:

  1. At the information sign at Eungella, ie at the top of the Range, a mere near-vertical 25 km or so away.

2. At the BP service station at Kolijo some 80 km north.

3. At the Bowen dump site, 185 or so km north.

Leaving Westie to enjoy the Showgrounds, and hoping the contents of the fridge would stay cool, we headed back up to Eungella. No luck so down again and north to Kolijo. Success!! The keys must have fallen out of Dave’s back pocket at the pump. Oh the relief. The return 80 km flew by and we were back in Westie as the sun went down, enjoying a much-needed close encounter with Johnnie Walker.

Next morning (Sunday)  it was up the Range again sans Westie, to try and see the elusive platypus (plural – opinion is divided on the correct term – platypi, platypuses, or just platypus). But we got there too late, a sign told us the best viewing times are before 8 am and after 3 pm.

We had a look around anyway – these are the two main viewing habitats, with good viewing platforms.  Upriver from the bridge…..


… and downriver. There’s also often good viewing from the bridge itself.



A large number of little turtles were visible; apparently they can breathe through their bottoms! 



We noted that the Broken River cafe served what sounded like an excellent breakfast, so planned to go there again much earlier next morning, see some platypus and  breakfast in style.

Which we did, the very first part that is – but no platypus and the cafe was closed! Luckily the Platypus Cafe nearby was not, and served an excellent Eggs Benedict. Highly recommended.

The walks around the Broken River area are delightful and also well signposted, with illustrations by local schoolchildren who are obviously proud of and care for their environment (and have an excellent teacher). 




An artist’s palette ..



There were quite a number of trees adorned with fig lacework.



And lots of enchanting little birds.

Down the Range again (that was the fourth return trip, we were beginning to know the Range very well!) …..


….  we stopped off at Westie for lunch then feeling adventurous we headed for the Finch Hatton Gorge. We knew there was a waterfall, the Araluen Cascades, but not the amount of up-and-down walking involved to reach it. Lizards and fungi watched us go by.



finch-hatton05Eventually we reached ground zero to find a couple of teenagers daring each other to jump into the pool below. Further on were some popular swimming holes judging by the number of people we passed on the track wearing togs and carrying towels.




Back up the range again that evening on our fifth return trip, to arrive about 4 pm. At long last the platypus made their appearance. The first one I spotted was just a splash but after that we could see from a track of bubbles which way they were heading underwater, then a surge indicated they were about to surface.




They only stayed on the surface for about ten seconds while masticating their food, then it was another duck dive … We never tired of watching them. There are several viewing points from the bridge and along tracks on either side. It was an awesome, privileged time and the faces of other people watching told the same story.


Next morning we packed up and headed for outer Mackay where there was a Jayco dealer, but no luck there so we continued towards Rockhampton, finally arriving late afternoon. It was just as well we decided not to stop for the night at a roadside free camp as the hot water pipe burst that evening. 

170. Bowen

I blogged about Bowen at some length  last year, or was it the year before – time goes so quickly these days. I lived here on board “Cornelius” between 1977 and 1985 and found the town much changed when we last visited. This time it has been mainly catching up with old friends and trying to stay cool! It’s only early Spring but already the days are very humid.

Just before reaching Bowen we passed over the Burdekin River again … rather nearer the sea this time.



With a rather large Westie in tow, we elected to stay at the Rose Bay caravan park, right on the beach, well almost.

img_2749 There is a rather intriguing “outside bathroom”  in one corner for those who are a little far from the main amenities.  I wonder if they provide an umbrella during the Wet.



Patrick and Sylvie gave us a wonderful welcome which included a scrumptious meal of Bouillabaise; it was so good to be back at their beautiful  little home with its strong French atmosphere.


We paid a visit to the Harbour (Port Denison), the tide was well out, and this time we noticed the old Catalina flying boat base, or what’s left of it, just a large concrete apron and wide ramp. I don’t recall seeing this ever before – it must have been very overgrown and neglected back in the eighties. There is a new  monument which incorporates a war memorial (which I forgot to photograph in its entirety).




The Cruising Yacht Club which gave Geoff so much angst is still the same as ever – and the same size. Not modernised at all apart from a small marina rather than a hard standing. The harbour itself seemed to be very full of all sorts of boats from small fishing cruisers to large ocean-going yachts….. and a converted Thursday Island lugger, easily recognisable by its rigging.


The Boat Harbour is much the same, the entrance just as narrow as ever. There was what looked like a dredge working there.





We are stuck here actually until a parcel arrives from Melbourne, it should have arrived two days ago. In the meantime, here is Horseshoe Bay, a beautiful little beach. this is actually a good time for a swim, it’s hot but the marine stingers have not yet put in an appearance and I doubt a crocodile would venture  near this popular bay. Actually I haven’t seen any of the usual croc signs (Achtung!!) since Townsville. Have we really left croc territory?


169. Charters Towers

We’ve now been in Townsville almost a week and have done little of interest from a photographic point of view. We did drive up to the top of Castle Hill from which we could see hazy views of the coastline, Magnetic island and the city.



The only other photo of interest is this one, showing the river and inner harbour. In 1973 we tied up “Cornelius” against the north (left) side wall, and during the night the rat which had accompanied us all the way from Bowen finally deserted ship.  We used to see it taking moonlight strolls on the deck when all was quiet, and it avoided all attempts at capture all the way around the top of Australia. I have often wondered what effect it had on the Townsville rat population.


We attended the local Caravan and Motorhome show but could not find any car and caravan covers which we need when they go into storage for some months.  Later Dave did locate a cover for the Jeep at least.

There was more emphasis at this show on outback touring, with a variety of fold-away trailers and slide-on campers and the like. Also some rather nice new outback caravans, all minimalist black and white, I wouldn’t mind one. Our current Westie is comfortable but furnished in a very different, older style.

Dave went off to explore several museums, notably the Maritime Museum, while museum-sated me enjoyed some down time. We are in a camp in an industrial part of Townsville but the facilities are clean and the cost moderate.

We caught up with Dave’s cousin Sarah,  a doctor with Ywam medical ships which go to remote parts of Papua New Guinea giving free and much-needed medical and dental care. This website and video tells more:  https://ywamships.org.au/   Sarah is in it briefly at  3.25 and 3.54. One afternoon we were given a fascinating tour of her ship which is in port at the moment for  repairs and renovations. The organisation has other ships too.


Charters Towers beckoned. I have been there before, may years ago when it was much smaller and dustier although even then the importance of the heritage buildings was recognised.

I thought we had left the outback with its ant hills behind, but once out of Townsville it was like we’d never been in the tropical wetlands.



The surfaced road to Charters Towers is very good. Part of it is a lovely tan colour instead of the usual grey – it goes better with the countryside (!).


We came to the Burdekin River. Years ago I saw this river in full flood, brown frothy water as far as the eye could see with small waves on the surface. That must have been soon after a cyclone. This time the river was rather smaller and slower. That’s the railway bridge in the distance, it’s a little higher than the road bridge.


All the way from Townsville the signs had at least two towns on them – Charters Towers and Mt. Isa. Not far really – only 900 km plus from Townsville. By the time we got to Charters Towers it was much closer (!).


The main street is full of lovely old buildings from gold-rush days.


A must-see – the old Stock Exchange building. last time it was dark and dusty but still beautiful. The restoration is wonderful.  Apparently some old timers remembered the ceiling glass being coloured at intervals but it was not in the original plans so the restorers have kept to clear glass except at one end. Note the delicate wrought-iron trusses.


Another building, once a bank, now a theatre. Beautiful ceiling restoration in soft colours.


Apparently goats were a very important part of Charters Towers life.


Later I found this sign in a museum:




At the museum: The number of gold mines is mind-boggling. Each gold line is a mine shaft!


Two early gambling machines.


A gas mask for use in the mines. Looks like a deep sea diving helmet.


How many spelling mistakes can you spot in this notice??


Then round a corner in a display about the early hospital on a back wall I came upon THIS… I know that surname.


Hoping to find out more about Dr. Robert Huxtable after leaving the museum we went to the Library where there is a Family History association (Correction – Archives) and were lucky to meet the historian (Correction – Archivist) Michael Brumby who knew about Dr. Huxtable and gave me this photo. He also told us where the private hospital Mt. Alma is located – it is now a private home.



Later I was able to confirm that Dr. Robert Huxtable was the brother of the man who married my grandfather’s sister. Better still, not much is known about him among the various Huxtables who I have contacted in the past and who have been very generous in sharing their family history. Now I can really give something in return.

More stuff in the museum. Kerosene soap??


Someone wanted to make sure the importance of horses in early times is recognised.


A very poignant display in the War section – a young man wrote home asking his mother to knit him some socks because his feet were so cold and wet in the trenches. But before they could be finished the news came that he had perished. The socks were never finished.


Driving back to Charters Towers we spotted this sad sight ….


This time we stopped at the Burdekin River to inspect the famous flood  sign.  21.7 metres!

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The start of the new bridge can just be seen to the far left


We drove down to the river bed. Compare the height with the previous photo.


Back on the bridge again.



We will be leaving  for Bowen tomorrow.


168. Ingham

Ingham like Innisfail is very much a sugar-cane town, with the usual refinery emitting clouds of steam and a sickly sweet smell, but Ingham is mostly flat with wide streets whereas Innisfail seemed to be all up and down with narrow streets and parking problems. Also Ingham is some kilometres inland. Both have a number of old buildings as well as many new.



We were heading for Mungalla Station near Forrest Beach, a working property run by the Nywaigi people, who have occupied the lands for thousands of years. It has a proud history with both European and indigenous aspects.


The entrance to the property is marked by a grove of huge mango trees, then the road twists and turns alongside a waterway full of waterlilies, paddocks of horses, Droughtmaster cattle and geese, and finally to the homestead.





We were warmly welcomed and directed to camp anywhere alongside the  fence with views over the surrounding land all the way to the mountains. Curious cattle walked along the fence line several times. Below was a waterway but we were cautioned not to go fishing or swimming – crocodiles!




Mungalla has an interesting history. At one time it was one of the most famous in north Queensland, particularly for its thoroughbred horses bred by the Cassady family. There were formal gardens and tennis courts. James Cassady gave refuge to and actively tried to protect the Aboriginal and Islander people, allowed a number of camps on the property and actively campaigned for better  treatment for these people.

The property was bought by Mont Atkinson in 1944 and he relocated the house to the only spot which had remained above water in the great 1927 floods. The Atkinsons continued the Cassady tradition of breeding racehorses. They also established the famous Droughtmaster breed of cattle, a cross between British breeds and Brahman cattle which proved much more suited to the climate and tick problems of northern Australia.

I’m not sure how it became an Aboriginal property. “Today, the Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation and its parent body the Nywaigi Aboriginal Land Corporation which holds title to Mungalla Station have a  mandate to improve the economic and social position of our people.  We have chosen to achieve these aims by sharing the rich history and culture of Mungalla Station with you through our tours.”

Unfortunately we just missed one of these tours.

We went for a short drive to the coast, criss-crossing numerous sugar cane tramway tracks. They even go right through the town. Forrest Beach and Taylors Beach were pleasant places.

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A river near Lucinda……


… .the port which has the longest sugar loading jetty in the world, 5.7 kms!



 We could see Hinchinbrook Island clearly despite the haze. Apparently the area is notorious for marine stingers, certainly this sign is the largest we have seen so far.



That’s the stinger net in the foreground.


Another day we visited the Tyto Wetlands which form part of the Ingham information Centre, with its extensive interactive displays. There were a number of walking tracks and boardwalks.


There is special emphasis on the local birds and Dave was able to pick up a very useful booklet so now we will be able to identify all the birds he photographs.

A rainbow bee-eater….


Masked lapwing…


Female and male crimson  finch.



We went for a drive up the range to the Wallaman Waterfall, taking our lunch as it was quite a way. There were a couple of traffic hazards – the cattle on this stretch are obvisouly used to cars and also used to getting their own way!


The road became very steep, narrow and winding and there were notices about not only straying stock but about wandering cassowaries.


We were astonished to encounter a large white Brahman-cross bull contentedly munching at the roadside grass. How on earth did he get up so far? It was at least 15 km to the nearest flattish ground, and the road was bordered on both sides by impenetrable bush.

 Half way up we stopped for lunch and to admire the view.  The first photo shows the straight stretch of road with cattle in the previous photo.





And so finally to the waterfall, the highest single drop waterfall in Australia- 268 metres. Quite impressive.


Returning on the narrow mountain road we passed the same white bull – and again I ddn’t have my camera ready. Bother bother!

167. Hinchinbrook

The highway from Innisfail to Ingham goes inland to Tully then back to the coast at Cardwell, at the northernmost end of the Hinchinbrook Channel. Cardwell is a small quiet town.


A little further on we began noticing strange structures straddling the highway. they are overbridges for possums and gliders.



The highway started to climb. At the top there is a great new viewing platform slightly spoilt by intrusive power lines, and many informative signs. TWO World Heritage areas side by side.


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We took lots of photos, then noticed a pathway ….


… which led to absolutely glorious non-powerline impeded views.


It was a hazy day so this is the best magnification I could get of the entrance passage. “Cornelius” came this way in 1980, heading north. There is only a narrow entrance channel which shifts constantly. Heart in mouth, Geoff steered the boat in according to the navigation signs on shore; we were in a relatively calm channel of water with waves breaking on either side. Half way in a huge wave appeared out of nowhere directly behind, overtook us and drenched the helmsman and half the boat. Geoff struggled to hold us straight on course not to mention upright as the boat veered madly; then we were into calmer waters and the worst was over. I have a photo of the event but of course it isn’t on this computer. Bother, bother.


Dave took some wonderful panoramic shots:


undara-lava-tubes01Undara Lava Tubes02.jpgThen down again and on to Ingham and a bush camp we’d been hearing about, on a private cattle property now owned by Aborginals.

166. Innisfail

En route back to the coast from Undara, we turned off to investigate the Millsteam Falls near Ravenshoe, reputedly the widest single-drop falls in Australia. Not very large, but rather pretty.


The area around the Falls is notable for another reason, it was where a large Army camp was set up during WW2.  We did not walk the track but no doubt it was an interesting well-sign-posted site.


We stopped off in Ravenshoe for lunch and also a roadside stall selling fresh local produce. A whole bag of smallish avocadoes, about 15 and all absolutely perfect, were just $3!

After the usual downhill slalom drive we knew when we were approaching Innisfail, there were banana plantations everywhere. Also sugar cane.


We headed for a camp on Flying Fish Point, through the town of innisfail and then a stretch of bush where signs warned us to watch out for cassowaries. And indeed we did spot one, although it was a bit shy.




When I was living in Lismore in northern coastal NSW in the early 1960s , sugar-cane territory, I got used to the sickly sweet smell coming from the sugar refineries and also the frequent cane burn-offs. The defining smell is still the same but nowadays the cane is harvested green. The green tops and leaves are left on the ground to form a “trash blanket” which prevents weed growth, filters water, keeps the soil moist and increases soil carbon status.


I got this information at the Sugar Museum. They were very keen for us to accept several samples of raw sugar and jelly beans, and to promote sugar in general – a losing battle I think.


Here’s an example of an early IBM computer. Yes, I remember them. So does Dave.


After an indifferent lunch we headed for nearby Etty Beach, with more warning signs about cassowaries, which apparently use the beach nonchalantly and frequently.


We didn’t see any but we did enjoy watching the descent of a number of skydivers who all landed precisely on the beach in front of us, although one had to twist and descend very smartly and probably gave the joy-rider an extra possibly unwanted thrill.


The town of Innisfail is built on hilly ground beside a river, with some unusual old buildings and a statue of a cane-cutter.




The Innisfail harbour entrance is quite narrow.



An inventive name for a boat – “Purr-feck”.

Version 2

Here are some more local ‘Signs’…..


… and a partridge in a pear tree (?!)


After two nights there we headed south for Ingham through more sugar cane country.

165. Undara Volcanic National Park

Our destination was the Undara Volcanic National Park and the Undara Lava Caves. The Atherton Tableland was once a very active volcanic area, and the Undara park protects one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world, created about 190,000 years ago. A massive eruption caused lava to flow more than 90 km to the north and over 160 km to the north-west.  It is estimated that 23 cubic km of lava flowed from the volcano; enough to fill Sydney Harbour in six days.

Undara was a shield volcano producing copious amounts of lava but with unspectacular eruptions – “like boiling a saucepan over on a stove”. The lava flowed along a number of old dry watercourses; the outer crust cooled and insulated the inner lava flow which continued for some way – 160 km in fact, much further than it could have if outside the tubes. The Aboriginal word for Undara means ‘long way’.

The ‘Undara Experience’ is a well-organised commercial business, originally established by the Collins family who have lived in the area since 1862. They’ve won many awards for excellence including an Australian Tourism award for unique accommodation and a Queensland Environmental Tourism award. The accommodation ranges from ‘pioneer huts’ with all mod cons to turn of the century railway carriages with en suites (set along the original Cobb & Co coach road and blending nicely with the surrounding bushland) ….


….. to swag tents of various degrees of luxury.


There’s also a motorhome and caravan park of course, and room for ordinary tents. That’s us on the far left. A little wallaby visited us one evening, and there were plenty of cheeky magpies too. But no more apostle birds.



There is a bar and bistro and “bush breakfast” and “around the campfire” experiences on offer to the coach loads of tourists. Somehow we managed to avoid most of them.

Access to the National Park is by guided tour only, and as we had not booked beforehand we had to wait two days to join a 2 hour tour of the lava tubes. However, we were free to go on various bush walks and/or drive to the Kalkani Crater.

The Bluff Walk took us to the top of the Bluff from which there were extensive views of the wooded lava plains.

IMG_2344IMG_2346Undara Lava Tubes02Undara Lava Tubes04

After rather a scramble through the reddish rocks we reached level ground again and returned to camp on the Swamp Track through lightly wooded countryside, spotting a couple of wallabies on the way.



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The crater was something else. We drove 16 km then were faced with a 2.5 km walk on what we were told was a “well-graded track to the top and around the rim…”  It started off well but by the time the rim was reached it was definitely rather rough! Dave elected to go right round the rim and I went in the opposite direction and met him about two-thirds of his way around.




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Returning to the car park was much easier (!).

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The crater itself is so large that it was hard to make it out properly (spotting a group of walkers on the opposite side of the crater helped), but the various volcanoes on the horizon all around were very clear even on a rather foggy day.

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The lava tubes were indeed interesting. Luckily we had asked beforehand if they had a printout of the guide’s spiel, which they did, so I was able to follow everything. We are now far more enlightened about geology in general and that of the Undara region in particular. Far too much to repeat here in the blog- the guide’s notes are 8 pages long. We walked along boardwalks and up and down stairs with handrails. The tubes are very stable, there have been no rock falls since the Lodge started operating.

Just before the entrance to the caves we came upon this Queensland Bottle Tree, similar to the Boab trees of Western Australia. Bottle trees were an important food tree for the Aboriginal people who used to harvest the seed pods from the tops of the trees; the horizontal markings on the trunk are the remains of Aboriginal toe holds carved with a stone axe. Many other bottle trees in the Park are similarly marked.Undara Lava Tubes11IMG_2391

First The Archway. Many of the cornerstones that joined the roof have fallen out … about 190,000 years ago!  The colours are due to a high proportion of silica and iron, also calcium and manganese. Mineral leaching of the calcium gives the white colours.

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Then the Ewamein tube….

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Undara Lava Tubes24

Fish-bone ferns …Undara Lava Tubes17


Then Stephenson’s Tube, where we saw a couple of microbats (Eastern Horseshoe Bat) and long fig tree roots extending from the ceiling; they live on the moisture in the air. It was very dark and difficult to take good photos.


Next day we packed up quickly. A late check-out meant 50% of one night’s accommodation. It was sad to think we were leaving not only the Tableland but the Outback. From now on we will be heading down the coast.

164. Back to the Tablelands

Before starting the long trek south, we decided to make one last visit to the Atherton Tableland and see a few things we missed earlier when we made the dash to Mareeba to get the jeep’s window fixed plus a few other things.

This time we climbed to the tableland via Gordonvale, quite a different experience to the Cairns-Karumba road. Initially we drove through the usual interminable sugar cane fields, inhaling the characteristic sickly-sweet smells coming from the Gordonvale sugar refinery. The mountains loomed ahead.  It is said there are 265 turns in the Gordonvale-Yungaburra road but I lost count.



Mostly the the country was more open and there were some splendid views of the coast. Near the top we turned off at Windy Hill to admire all the wind turbines. Yes it was quite windy!  There are 20 turbines altogether.





From tropical sugarcane lowland through rainforest to undulating green pastures – yet another startling contrast all within a few hours. We stopped at the Ravenshoe (pronounced -hoe not -shoe) i-Centre where an unusual tree stood guard – a Cadagi tree with two quite different types of leaves ‘due to some climatic abnormality’.




The local Aboriginals had a beautiful large display room. These finely woven cane baskets are made from lawyer vine.



Several aboriginal stories are told in detail with beautiful little illustrated panels. Here are the last two in the ‘Fire Story’.



Yungaburra was essentially a logging township. Together with the usual logging museum photos and instruments, there were a number of folders containing newspaper articles detailing the area’s opposition to new logging laws. Here  is a poignant reminder of how ‘for the greater good’ doesn’t always succeed as well as expected  …


We didn’t linger as we wanted to make Undara before nightfall.