Atherton

Jun 9 to 11  Next stop Atherton which is the main town on the Atherton Tablelands, inland from Cairns, famous for its fertile soils, dairy farming and wonderful scenery. On the way we stop at Millstream Falls which claims to be the widest single drop waterfall in Australia. Then we pass a wind farm just off the main highway.

     

After a pleasant round of golf at the local Atherton Golf Club, we head up to Lake Tinaroo, which has a bit of a story as to how it was named : James Mulligan was the first European explorer and prospector to visit the Atherton Tablelands in 1875. The area is named after another explorer, John Atherton who, it is reported, upon discovering alluvial tin deposits in the area, shouted ‘Tin, Harroo’ to his prospecting buddy, hence the name.

On the way we stop at 2 truly amazing and famous fig trees, the Curtain Fig and the Cathedral Fig. The Curtain Fig is one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland, located just out of Yungaburra. It is of the strangler fig species. Normally these figs germinate on top of another tree and try to grow roots into the ground. Once this important step is accomplished, the fig will grow vigorously, finally kill the hosting tree and then grow on independently. In this case, the hosting tree tilted towards the next one; the fig also grows around that one. Its curtain of aerial roots drops 15 metres (49 feet) to the ground. Although these figs kill their hosts, they basically feeds from the ground, unlike a parasitic plant which feeds from the sap of the host plant/tree.

                 

Undara National Park and the Lava Tubes

Jun 5 to 9  A milestone occurred on the road from Charters Towers to Undara National Park : 100,000 Kms on the Toyota Landcruiser. We stopped for a while for it to get its breath back !!

  

For millions of years Undara was an active shield volcano. About 190,000 years ago there was a massive eruption and lava flowed more than 90 km to the north and over 160 km to the north-west. An estimated 23.3 km3 of lava flowed from the volcano at a rate of about 1000 m3 every second. A lava flow this large could fill Sydney Harbour in six days. It is thought that the lava flowed at a temperature of around 1200 °C.

The lava tubes and caves were formed when rivers of lava confined to a valley crusted over and formed a roof. Insulated in its casing of solidified lava, the lava flow carried on for many tens of kilometres before draining out, leaving an empty tube of lava. Weaker sections of the roof of the tubes later collapsed to form caves and depressions. More than 50 caves have been found in the park.

The Undara lava tube system is Australia’s longest, and one of the longest in the world. We explore some of the lava tubes and also meet some of the abundant wildlife. On one 4 hour trip we see 9 separate species of macropods (kangaroos, etc), including, eastern greys. wallaroos, pretty face or whiptail, Mareeba rock wallabies. A small bettong visits our camp fire one evening.

     

Charters Towers

June 2 to 4  Charters Towers is 130 Kms inland west of  Townsville. It was founded in the 1870’s when gold was found by chance at Towers Hill by a 12 year old aboriginal boy, Jupiter Mossman. After becoming uneconomic in the 20th century, profitable mining operations have commenced once again. We really liked the name of a property we came across during a drive outside the town : Drinkastubbie Downs !!

   

Last year we spent a great time at Groper Creek fishing and crabbing. We complete a circle by driving 15 Kms out of town to visit A large weir on the Burdekin River, the same river we were camped beside last year at Groper Creek.

     

Hughenden

June 1  Hughenden is known as the centre for all things dinosaur in Australia. The town was named after Hughenden Manor, the home of former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. It is home to the Hughenden Dinosaur Festival. Take a peek at the cute dinosaur feet rubbish bins that appear all over town.