Troopy goes to Queensland 1999. Part 3

Monday, Aug 23, 1999 at 16:02


Next day we drove into Cairns for a look at the foreshore and marina, and to send out postcards. We spent a while checking out the boats in the marina - quite an assortment from charter vessels to luxury yachts. None was quite right though, so we left them all there! Watched a sea plane landing nearby. Then back to the Mareeba turn-off, and up the mountain, stopping at a lookout for views over the city and coastal area, which were helped by clear fine weather. We stopped for lunch down a side track under a road bridge at Kuranda and consulted our maps and brochures to plan what to see on the Atherton tableland. Decided to head for Davis Creek NP, only 20km away. We found it quite easily although the road in was corrugated. There was one picnic area with walk-in camping, so we drove up a track to a waterfall coming over a series of granite steps, and with views down the gorge. Back down the road near the camping area we found a pleasant spot right beside the creek. John had a swim although the water was quite cold. After a lazy afternoon exploring the area along the creek we lit a fire for a BBQ dinner. It is much cooler here than at the coast.

There we spent a pleasant night beside running water. We lit a morning fire and packed up in a leisurely fashion. On the way back to the highway we stopped to take photos of big ant hills – rounded, bright red and often appearing to be built over bushes. Driving into Mareeba we started to come across orchards and sugar cane. In Mareeba we went to the I Centre and the Heritage Museum where we spent some time looking at displays showing the crops and history of the area – tobacco, timber, coffee more recently. Then we went to the Coffee Works for a tasting and tour. There were 6 different coffees to taste and an informative talk about coffee – how it is graded roasted ground, brewed and stored. We both got quite a coffee “hit” from all the sampling. We bought some coffee, especially liking the chocolate and macadamia flavoured varieties. We had lunch in a pleasant park surrounding the Mareeba Bicentennial Lakes that had extensive lawns and a lot of waterbirds.

We had Troopy booked in for a service at the Toyota garage, so while that was happening we walked along the Barron River where an extensive planting of rainforest species had been done in 1988. The planting is in rows, is irrigated and extends for about 2km along the river as it runs through the town. When we went back to the garage we found that unfortunately a bolt in one of Troopy’s brake calipers had broken off and had to be drilled out, so the job was not finished until 6.30. So we spent a couple of hours in the Toyota "lounge" reading their magazines. Rather later than we are used to we headed out to find somewhere to spend the night. We managed to find the Granite Gorge camping area in the dark, despite it being on back roads and marked with home-made signs. Despite it being well publicised, the facilities were basic and quite dilapidated, but the cost was only $4. That at least got us a warm shower. The weather is fine and warm and the nights cool.

Granite Gorge by daylight showed many large granite outcrops and a small number of long-stay occupants in the park. We set out to go to Atherton but somewhere took a wrong turn, which took us SW of Mareeba, half way to Dimbulah. Still, we saw a lot of crops including tobacco, mangoes, avocadoes, and very tall sugar cane. Arriving back in Mareeba we stocked up on groceries and set out again. This time the main road took us to Atherton with no problems, seeing lots more crops along the way. Atherton, like Mareeba looks prosperous with a large shopping centre. We headed up to Halloran’s Lookout for views across extensive irrigated cropping areas, beef and dairying country, volcanic peaks and the Tinnarroo dam.

Then we headed out to Lake Eacham stopping off to see the curtain fig tree. There were plenty of other sightseers there, and the tree is quite spectacular with masses of aerial roots falling down from a long sloping trunk creating the curtain effect. We had lunch at Lake Eacham, and walk around the paths edging the lake, which is a deep crater lake with rainforest coming right down to the water’s edge. We then followed some signs taking us to a remaining large red cedar tree in a nearby patch of rainforest. The tree was without leaves, but had many epiphytes and huge buttress roots. It is a wonder that this tree escaped the cedar getters – was it too big to handle? From there we went on the Lake Barrie for more large trees, this time 2 very large Kauri Pine trees close together by the lake, well protected by a raised walkway. An impressive sight. This lake is similar to Lake Eacham. There was a good display of the local corridor plantings which have been done, particularly to encourage cassowaries back into the area.

From there we headed to camping areas beside Lake Tinnarroo, with a short detour to look at a small pretty creek in a deep crater like hole. We found the first camping area after driving through some dense rainforest. The Fong-On camping area is a forestry area beside a big lake much loved by power boat and water ski enthusiasts, surrounded by large areas of pine plantation. There are large areas and plenty of grass, regeneration areas and reasonable facilities. There were no showers, but fires were permitted – just as well as, although the day was fine and warm, the evening was quite cool.

We woke to a cool morning with a very heavy dew. We got on the road early and headed back towards Atherton. We stopped to look at the Tinnarroo Dam with water cascading over the top of the wall. Then out to Malanda to the Wet Tropics Information Centre, which had some good displays of early days including the early movie theatre. We looked at a very large old pub in the main street – a wooden structure, and also the old cinema, which is still operating – the oldest operating cinema in the country. Many of the buildings here are made of wood with the frame on the outside and clad on the inside, a curious effect. After indifferent F&C for lunch we headed for Ravenshoe travelling through incredibly green rolling country, with small pockets of rainforest left only here and there. There is an excellent lookout on the way to Ravenshoe with 200 degree views from Atherton in the north well away to the south, although it was cloudy so we couldn't see to the coast. Ravenshoe is a small town beyond which are the Millstream Falls, which we explored briefly. They are not high but quite wide. The country here is much drier and the air is cooler.

We went to spend the night at Innot Hot Springs, a tiny village with a pub and not much else apart from a wonderful camping area with a series of swimming pools and spas fed from a hot spring. The water emerges from the ground beside a little creek and is quite hot immediately downstream. There are about 6 constructed swimming pools of varying sizes with temperatures ranging from cold to about 42 degrees C. This was a most relaxing and enjoyable experience – free to campers, who in any case are only charged a few dollars per night. Our camp beside the creek was very pleasant.

We left Innot Hot Springs reluctantly after another session in the pools. Last night we learned that one of our sons has landed a job in Melbourne and plans to move there in a weeks time. So we need to get home a bit earlier than planned. So we headed south west to Lynd Junction along a single strip of bitumen, and passed the first road train of the trip so far. Then heading towards Hughenden on a good gravel road without much traffic – we passed 5 vehicles in 150km. The country here is fairly flat with vegetation ranging from open scrub to almost a dry forest. The soil is a rich red and looks like it would grow anything, given water. There are lots of big rounded termite hills matching the colour of the soil, and also some big mobs of cattle.

We stopped for the night at Porcupine Gorge NP, which is a large gorge cut into flat country and exposing some colourful rock formations. We walked down to the bottom of the gorge and explored some of the pools and water worn rocks, and were surprised by a scrubber bull checking us out. It seemed prudent to withdraw from his territory. The climb back to the top was quite steep. The camping area is fairly basic, with a small number of sites separated by fences and patches of prickly scrub. There are a couple of pit toilets at some distance from the camp sites, and a water tank. There were only a few other campers. Our sleep was broken by a very small “kangaroo” investigating the stove and billy which we had put under Troopy. A very large kangaroo was close by.

In the morning we stopped off at the Porcupine Gorge lookout for some dramatic views down the gorge, which is about 100km long – spectacular in otherwise flat country. Then on towards Hughenden where the Information Centre is also the dinosaur museum with a replica Muttaburrasaurus and some other local fossils. The I centre also displayed some local crafts so we were able to some suede kangaroo skins at a very reasonable price. Hughenden is quite small but has made a feature of its garbage bins, turning then into giant dinosaur feet.

We sought advice on the road south to Muttaburra, and got some conflicting reports. We decided to give it a go anyway, and found that it had been recently graded so was in good condition, though during or after rain it might be a different story. It was probably a better road than the one we were on yesterday. In about 250km we passed 5 vehicles. The country is generally very flat and at times there are very few trees, so the road just disappeared into the horizon. We saw some kangaroos and emus but very few stock – mostly cattle. Muttaburra was a very small and rather sad looking town so we passed through without stopping. Onto bitumen for the run into Barcaldine where we had a quick look at the Tree of Knowledge in the main street – a rather tumble down white trunked eucalypt, and a quick chat with some friendly locals. Then on to Blackall for the night. Both towns were very friendly and welcoming as well as clean and tidy. The Blackall van park was quite good, with hot bore water in the cold taps. It is obviously a standard stopping off point for grey nomads on their trek north. We had a stroll down the main street to find a local pizza for dinner, checked out the impressive town hall and surrounding gardens. This is Jackie Howe country and given more time it would have been interesting to look through the local museum.

Blackall in the morning was quite cool, but no frost. This helped get an early start. Coming into Tambo we were puzzled by road signs warning of Teddy Bears crossing. The Teddy bear shop was not too hard to find so we called in to see locally produced bears made from sheepskin – a local success story that started about 10 years earlier. Some local women came up with the idea in an attempt to build diversity into the wool industry. Teddy production now employs several people and the teddies are sold worldwide. They are very attractive bears with several “characters” with lots of accessories. But they are quite expensive, so we bought a T shirt our granddaughter instead.

Then on to Charleville through country that was more or less flat with vegetation varying from trees along the creek lines to open grass or saltbush areas. We went past Auguthella and through Charleville. Just past Charleville we collected a kangaroo that decided to cross the road at the wrong moment. Kangaroo RIP, Troopy slightly dented behind the back wheel. From then on we saw quite a few roos and a lot of emus in flocks of up to about 20. There were some sheep and a few cattle.

Then into Cunamulla for lunch – rather a depressed looking town but a regular stopping off point for tourists and coaches at the Information Centre. I walked around one block of the town looking for bread and was surprised to see the number of young people - young men mostly - hanging around the pubs. The main street boasts an impressive baroque style fountain without any water in it.

Then on for another 260km to Bourke where we arrived about 5pm, a total of about 700km for the day. Coming into Bourke we passed thorough new irrigation developments with grapes and fruit being grown, also large areas of cotton. We found a caravan park and a takeaway, with advice from the van park owner not to walk around the streets after dark. On our brief walk of a couple of blocks in the town we saw several houses with broken walls and windows boarded up, and most houses have heavy security grilles.

We left Bourke early with the aim of getting home today, so we didn’t explore the town or see the Darling River. The road to Nyngan is long and straight, and goes through thick scrub most of the way so it was necessary to watch carefully for kangaroos. The road verges had been mown for considerable distances, perhaps to reduce cover and keep the kangaroos back from the road. The straight roads continued almost to Narromine. As we approached Narromine we came into intensive cotton growing country. There was a very big cotton gin near Narromine where we took some photos of the bales lined up under their polytarp covers. All the roads have white fluffy edges.

From then it was into familiar territory through Parkes, then Forbes where we saw huge areas planted to grapes. Then through Grenfell, Young, Harden and home by about sunset. We covered 730km in the day, and a total of 6,512km for the trip that lasted for just over 3 weeks. Its been a quick but enjoyable trip to give us a taste of an area that we will return to and explore more thoroughly.

But why did we have to come back home in mid winter - its very cold!
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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