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carmel’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 25 Jun 2006

Location: Atherton,Qld, Australia

Sunday, 18/6/06

You really know you are in the outback when the Sunday Mail arrives on Tuesday!

We went to the TerrEstrial centre this afternoon. It took us 2 hours to look at all of the mineral specimens and fossils – and we could have stayed longer. It’s amazing to think it is all the collection of only 1 man.

I then went to Mass, it’s only held every 1st and 3rd Sunday evening. There were 2 locals and 13 visitors! The priest is also the Uniting and Anglican Churches minister. He was a character who didn’t have too much time for ‘that top bloke in Rome’. After Mass was over, he invited everyone back to the church house for nibbles and drinks as the ‘sun was over the yardarm’ and he didn’t have to drive anywhere that night. I didn’t stay on as Barrie was expecting me and we were having prawns for tea.

Monday, 19/6/06

Once again, we left about 8.00am and had to cross the Newcastle Range which put a dint in our fuel consumption. The only wild life we saw was a bustard (terrible name) standing like a statue beside the road. (It was alive because it moved away as we got closer.) We’d seen them before but couldn’t remember their name.

We are now at Mt Surprise. There was a population of 63 in the 2006 Cook’s Tours book, but, in the 2007 book, there are 65 – a real population explosion. There are 2 caravan parks, 2 service stations, a hotel, a general store/post office etc, an information centre/café, a gem shop/café, railway station & museum and school, so there shouldn’t be any unemployment. The folk here don’t waste anything, e.g. BBQs made from truck wheels and the windmills at the railway station are made from old ceiling fans (and are very patriotic, with the arms painted red, white and blue). They have the only rail line I’ve ever seen running through perfectly trimmed lawn. They must use a brush cutter to edge the lines. There was also a railway museum there.

We have also had a very educational day with regards to gemstones. Mt Sapphire is a gem fossicking centre and both the service station cum caravan park/motel cum info centre cum cafe and the Mt Surprise Gems cum café had great collections and the people were very informative (and patient). We’ve decided our next trip will be a fossicking one (Barrie can do the hard work).

This is another nice park, it is a miniature horse stud as well, and has a large aviary of birds. I’ve learnt now, so, before we book in, I check out the amenities block. We also noted that the park was almost empty. But when we asked if there were any vacancies, the owner (with a very broad Scottish accent) said ‘no’. We must have both looked stunned because he then told us he was joking. Of course, once we told him we were Campbells, we found out he was a Wallace. I don’t know what side they were on, Barrie reckons it was their own, and only their own. He’s also adopted Mel Gibson as a relative after Braveheart.

Tuesday, 20/6/06

We are just back from the Undara Lodge and a tour of the Undara Volcanic National Park and lava tubes. There are 160 extinct volcanoes there and the tube we toured came from one of them. It initially was 164 kms long (the longest tube in the world from one volcano) but there have been landslides over time so it has broken into smaller parts. The guide was a Savannagh Guide (they do special courses) and the best we have ever had, which, of course, helped, but it was also the best tour we have been on. The tube was really impressive. I was expecting tunnels about 2m high and 2m wide, and all of the rock to be black, but that was certainly not the case. In places the tube would have been 30m high and the same width, and the rocks were a variety of colours and formations because of their mineral composition.

Wednesday, 21/6/06

We hadn’t got far along the way this morning, when we came upon the sign ’66.57km of rough surface’ – nothing like being exact. It wasn’t what we wanted to see either as we reckon the road was pretty bad up until then. (It really turned out to be no worse.)

However, today’s drive has been the hardest to date, what with the 1 lane road and more traffic which means continually getting on and off the road. Also it was very hilly (the highest road in Qld at 1143m above sea level) and, for the first time since we left Melbourne, rain, well really only drizzle, but we are not used to it. We are now also starting to see cyclone damage – not much so far, only 2 unroofed houses (both of which were on ridges), a collapsed shed and lots of trees down. But, once we got to Mt Garnet, the road became 2 lane apart from a couple of short distances – bliss, it was like driving on a freeway. And the weather cleared, back to blue skies.

A bit of useless information - the termite mounds here are a different colour to the ones earlier, light beige instead of dark brown, and they are a different shape – not as regular.

We stayed at a free camp at Archers Creek, there were only toilets there but they were clean and you can afford to miss a shower once in a while. We just don’t get up too close and personal with people. While we were there, the bins were emptied and a woman came to check whether the ladies toilet (there was only 1) had paper. Obviously the men are not expected to use as much toilet paper as she didn’t check it. It was a very pretty park, the grass was like lawn and there was a creek at the rear of it, with rapids. Barrie even put his Boy Scout skills to the test and built a fire. We also had TV for ¾ hour and radio – thanks Sue, the radio is terrific.

Thursday, 22/6/06

We woke again to drizzle, which became quite heavy, and for quite some distance, Barrie was driving in thick fog. The area was called Misty Mountains – and they were right – but we also passed a farm called Clear View. They sure got it wrong. We had intended going to see a windmill farm, but it was so foggy, I doubt we would have seen much. However, once again, it cleared up as the day went on, and it’s now back to what we regard as normal. We drove through rainforest for quite along way, and could see some waterfalls as we drove along. There are a lot around this area, we intend doing a waterfall tour from Atherton.

You see some funny things along the way, for instance a letterbox in the bush in the middle of nowhere. They also have very well trained animals here; we’ve seen crossings for emus, tree kangaroos (I’d like to see one of those) and cassowaries (I’ve seen 2 of them, but not at the crossing). On a, from the look of it, just ploughed paddock, we saw hundreds of cockatoos. There must have been good eating there.

On the way to Atherton, we wanted to see Mt Hypopamee crater and Dinner Falls. The crater was terrific, 70m wide, 58m above the water and 82m below with sheer granite sides, but we couldn’t get down to the Falls as the track was unstable. We could see them through the trees, but it would have been great to get to them.

And now we are in Atherton. Unlike down south, I’m sure, it is all beautifully green and the dams are all full. Because they are still getting so much rain (they have only had six days without rain since Cyclone Larry), cyclone repairs are going very slowly. Cyclone Larry occurred on 20/3, but General Cosgrove reckons the task force will be needed for a year.

Since we’ve arrived, all we’ve done, apart from setting up, was two visits to the information centre, a drive around town and a drive up to Hallorans Hill lookout which was really good. Like Broken Hill, they have these sculptures (by guest sculptors) dotted around, fortunately with interpretive signs as most of them were pretty way out. Also, it was impressive to see the mountain range we had driven over to get here.

(I’ve started putting the day of the week with the date, as we got really muddled today. Until we saw the news, I was sure it was Friday. Lucky we found out as we are going to a market in Yungaburra on Saturday and it would have been a long way to go on the wrong day.)

Friday, 23 June 2006

We spent the morning at Tinaroo Dam, and Barrie tried his hand at catching red claw. Admittedly the man from the National Parks warned us that you can only get them early morning or late afternoon/night – and he was right. Still it was a nice place to have a picnic.

The soil here is a beautiful red/brown colour and very rich because of the volcanic ash – and you actually see farmers out working their land.

We have decided to spend a week here at Atherton, as there is quite a lot to see in the area.

Saturday, 24/6/06

We had a really hectic day today. Our first stop was Yungaburra, about 15kms from Atherton, for their monthly market. It’s the largest market in the area and was well worth a visit. On the way there, we checked out the Curtain Fig Tree. Its 500+ years old and its aerial roots drop 15m to the earth.

After the market, we had Devonshire teas at Lake Barrine. It was once a volcanic crater. The same family have been there since the late 1800s; they are now on their 3rd generation. The main point of interest as far as I was concerned was the twin kauri trees. They were 1000 years old and real giants. The next stop was another volcanic lake, Lake Eacham. It is smaller than Lake Barrine, but I preferred it. There were viewing platforms where you could see fish and turtles (who breathe through their bottoms). The water was so clear; you had no problem seeing them. We also wanted to have a look at a Red Cedar Tree which had escaped the timber cutters of a century ago. After we had gone what seemed like kms from the turnoff, we met a woman in another car and asked her how much further and she said we were nearly there, but the tree wasn’t – Cyclone Larry had claimed it. We went a bit further on (again it seemed kms) then turned back. It turned out we had only gone 4 kms all up.

There are a number of water falls in the area, so they were our next stops. Our first stop was Malanda, both the information centre and the falls. Malanda is a pretty town, with a number of mosaics and statues dotted around. The falls weren’t particularly spectacular, but they had turned the catchment area into a swimming pool – what a great idea. We then did the waterfall circuit – Millaa Millaa, Ellinjaa and Zillie Falls. The Millaa Millaa Falls were by far the most spectacular. They are so high that Barrie couldn’t get them all in a photo. They are the falls on the Qantas ad. There were a lot of brush turkeys at Ellinjaa Falls.

There were also a lot of properties for sale along the way – mainly hobby farms. We wondered if it was because of the cyclone. Millaa Millaa, in particular, had a lot of unroofed buildings, but some of them looked very old and didn’t have tarps over their roofs, so I wonder whether they were wrecked before the cyclone. We also saw a banana plantation and a large orchard where all of the trees had been decimated.

After the waterfall circuit, we had intended going up to McHugh’s lookout, but it was in the Misty Mountains, and they were still exactly that. We wouldn’t have been able to see a thing.

We had intended that being it for the day, but, as we’d been over all the roads to Atherton from this direction, except the Herberton one, we decided to take a detour to Herberton. It was an 1880s tin mining town and had some well cared for buildings from that era. It was also very hilly. Apparently the whole town is riddled with mine shafts, and they will just open up. People are warned not to walk on depressions in the ground just in case. One shaft which just appeared is fenced off in front of the information centre. We just had a quick look around the town then headed back to Atherton.

The whole of the Atherton Tableland was a WW2 staging post, and everywhere you drive, you see site markers for the various divisions camp sites. The only buildings I’ve seen so far are a Quonset hut and some sheds, all in pretty poor repair.

We were home by 4.00pm, which was pretty good going.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

It’s rained for all 4 days we’ve been here so far. Fortunately it isn’t cold, so it hasn’t affected our sightseeing, but it’s sure playing havoc with the washing. We are having a catch up day today.