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.

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

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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 …..

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

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…..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…..

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

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

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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). 

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An artist’s palette ..

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

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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!) …..

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….  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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