Undara and Onward

This will be my final post for our north Queensland adventure.

As previously mentioned, we arrived at our overnight accommodation at Undara Experience by mid-afternoon. Then it was off on a guided tour of the lava tubes.

Looking back to the entrance of one the caves formed from a collapsed tube.

The images of the interior really do not them justice.

The next morning we were back at Mt Surprise bright and early and ready to rejoin the Savannahlander for the final day back to Cairns and the end of our tour.

We experienced a diverse range of landscapes and vegetation as well as coming face to face with some of the locals.

Watercourse soon after leaving Mt Surprise.

The train stopped for a photo opportunity with the surrounding geology.

A local – black-headed python.

A stop at Almaden for lunch at the Railway Hotel.

The train slowed to allow these guys to make their way off the tracks.

As we crossed the Great Dividing Range and made our way closer to the coast the landscape changed significantly. We stopped at the Barron Falls.

The UNESCO World Heritage Wet Tropics virgin rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. In fact, we were told that 1 hectare of this rainforest contains more biodiversity than the entirety of Europe and the UK. It is so important that we protect these special places.

The bridge over the Stoney Creek Falls was a highlight as we made our descent to the outer suburbs of Cairns.

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Back on the Tracks

The next stage of our tour was on the Savannahlander train which runs between Cairns and Forsayth. Our first day was from Forsayth to Mt Surprise where we transferred to a small coach to reach our overnight destination at the Undara Experience, adjacent to Undara Volcanic National Park.

All aboard.

A morning tea stop.

Local flora – Grevillea Decora.

Lunch was at Einsleigh and the spectacular Copperfield Gorge.

Undara Lava Tubes will be another post.

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Cruising Cobbold Gorge

We spent 2 nights at Forsayth, another former mining town, where the current population is 56. While there is not a great deal there, it is the nearest town to the spectacular Cobbold Gorge 45km away.

Our tour included a full day at Cobbold Gorge.

Our first stop was the stunning infinity pool which overlooks the lagoon.

The Eastern Great Egret didn’t hang around for long.

After lunch it was off to the gorge.

Some reflections.

A walk to the top and a glass bridge.

Then it was time to make our way back to the bottom of the gorge and a cruise in the electric flat-bottomed boats. These silent boats allow for easy viewing of the the wildlife with minimal disturbance.

Silently cruising through the majestic gorge.

A final view of the glass bridge high above us.

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The Train and Beyond

As I mentioned in my previous post, we left Normanton via the Gulflander train to Croydon.

Prior to boarding at Normanton.

In the past the Gulflander delivered mail to various properties along the route. Now there is only one property that receives its mail this way.

The last mailbox.

After lunch in Croydon we boarded our bus to Forsayth where we were staying for the next 2 nights.

We stopped en route at the Cumberland Chimney which is all that remains of the Cumberland Battery and the thriving gold-mining town which was once here.

The man-made lagoon is a haven for local birdlife.

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North to Normanton

In the past most of my blog posts have been relatively contemporaneous. However, this time we are now at home after a short break in north Queensland.

We flew to Cairns where we spent 2 nights relaxing before the real adventure began. It is 41 years since I last visited the area so there was plenty to see.

The first day of our tour was a long one and we made an early start to catch the bus from Cairns to Normanton – a distance of well over 700km. Normanton is located about 35km south of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

We spent 2 nights there and on our free day we joined forces with another couple from the tour, hired a vehicle and drove to Karumba which is located on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The drive is much more than 35km as the road skirts around the meandering mouth of the Norman River.

Here we are with the Gulf of Carpentaria in the background. We kept away from the water’s edge as you never know what is lurking.

We also checked out this life-sized replica of the largest saltwater crocodile ever killed.

The Normanton railway station is beautifully restored and was the point of our departure the next morning on the Gulflander train to Croydon. More about that in the next post.

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The Far South West

In my last post I mentioned that we were in Eromanga. From there we went to Thargomindah via the pub at Noccundra for lunch.

If you are not sure where these places are, you are not alone. My knowledge was hazy at best until we started planning this trip.

Here is a map to give a bit of context.

The population of Noccundra appears to be 3 – the people who run the pub. It is a beautiful old sandstone building which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Then it was on to Thargomindah, the administrative centre of Bulloo Shire. Don’t let that fancy description fool you into thinking it is anything other than a small country town. The population of 270 makes up the majority of the population of the entire shire which is 350. The area of the shire is 73,724 square km and is only slightly smaller than Scotland.

In terms of interest to the tourist, Thargomindah definitely punches well above its weight. We bought a pass to visit the 3 main attractions – the old hospital, old jail and hydro power plant. These are well-maintained and have displays as well as audio-visual presentations to tell their stories.

Inside what was the main (8 bed) ward of the hospital.

The jail.

The hydro power plant which was the third in the world (after London and Paris) to produce electricity for street lighting began in 1898 and continued until 1951.

It was powered from bore water from the Great Artesian Basin.

Thargomindah lies beside the Bulloo River and the Pelican Point picnic area features some spectacular trees.

As you can see from the map we have now turned eastward and are on our way home.

There will be a couple more posts as we visit more of south-west Queensland.

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Uncharted Territory

Once we left Charleville we were definitely in uncharted territory.

After a stop for lunch in Quilpie, we headed to Baldy Top lookout which is just west of Quilpie. After a short climb to the top we had a spectacular view from some of the highest ground in south-west Queensland.

Then it was on to Eromanga.

The sign says it all.

With an official population of 119 (2016 census) it is not exactly a booming metropolis. However, its latest claim to fame is as the home of Australia’s largest dinosaur – Australotitan cooperensis, aka Cooper.

The Eromanga Natural History Museum is doing an amazing job of preserving and displaying Cooper and friends – other sauropod and megafauna which have been discovered in the surrounding areas. The first stage of the development is open.

Part of Cooper’s pelvis and femur preserved and diplayed.

A replica of Cooper’s front and hind limbs. GMan and I for comparison.

This installation in the main street of Cooper riding a surfboard is a quirky statement about the local ‘hero’ and the distance of the town from the ocean.

Finally, a sunset view.

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Heading West

As we did at much the same time last year, we are on a road trip in our home state of Queensland. The trip began in the same direction, however, it will take an entirely different route after the first day or two.

Our first stop was Roma but we deviated slightly from the Warrego Highway once we got to Dalby. We went via Tara and Surat and saw some different scenery.

We stopped at the picnic area by the lagoon in Tara to have lunch.

A bit further on at Glenmorgan. You probably wouldn’t buy a used car here.

Then it was off to Roma for an overnight stop.

On our way to Charleville we called in to the hotel at Muckadilla, otherwise known as the Mucka Pub, about 40km west of Roma. We had seen a snippet on the television recently about the reopening after a fire 2 years ago. Naturally, it was important to support this business.

Taking a look around.

The welcome committee.

Part of the garden and front verandah.

Plenty of cool spots both inside and out.

Accommodation options will be added soon so we are definitely planning a return visit with an overnight stay in 2022.

Then it was off to Charleville for the night.

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Travel in 2021

I have vacillated for some time over writing this blog post as I do not not want it to come across as insensitive or gloating when so many in this country are struggling with lockdowns in order to limit the spread of the Delta variant of Covid19.

Of course, overseas travel is off the agenda for the time being and the first half of 2021 was very much focused on family matters as my mother was seriously ill and subsequently passed away at the end of April.

We did have trips planned and postponed due to family reasons and border closures but we managed to do some rescheduling and sneak in a couple of short trips.

First up was 4 nights in Canberra. The purpose was a family wedding but we did include a bit of sightseeing, too.

The layout of Canberra means that there is bushland reserves closely interspersed with suburbia and this was a short walk from where we were staying. The view from The Pinnacle Nature Reserve.

A visit to the Australian War Memorial was a must.

Thankfully, the border was open in May and we were able to visit friends and family in South Australia. A friend’s milestone birthday was the catalyst for the trip and we also had a short break in the Clare Valley.

A much-awaited trip to Central Australia for 8 days in June was fantastic and rivalled anything we have seen overseas.

View from the Rim Walk at Kings Canyon.

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A late afternoon view at Kings Canyon.

Reflection at Walpa Gorge, Kata Tjuta.

A full moon, sunset and Uluru.

Last week we spent 2 nights at Dundowran Beach near Hervey Bay. This was a new kind of adventure as we found some pet-friendly accommodation and took our small puppy. She travelled well and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Looking forward, we have 2 trips planned.

Next week we are heading west to Eromanga to the Natural History Museum to acquaint ourselves with Cooper, the new dinosaur. It will be a round trip of 9 nights and while we have been as far as Charleville, the remainder of the trip will all be new territory for us.

At the end of November we are off to Town of 1770, between Bundaberg and Gladstone for a week. We will be sharing our beach holiday with friends.

The flight credits with Jetstar, visit to our daughter in Melbourne as well as a planned camping trip to Ballina, NSW are all on hold and in the ‘one day’ basket.

I hope to get back to posting every couple of days during our trip out west so watch this space for some updates before too long.

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How Much?

As with each of our trips, I kept a tally of what we spent in various categories.

We were away for 22 days and nights and spent a grand total of $3627.07 which included accommodation, petrol, groceries and eating out as well as admission to various sites.

By far the largest chunk was the accommodation which accounted for more than 2/3 of the total. Fuel was less than $500 and we minimised our grocery spending by taking most of our own requirements. There was plenty of space in the car so we had the camp fridge which we actually ran as a freezer, an Esky for chilled food and several small cartons containing pantry items.

So, it is farewell until next time.

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