Lets hope that the mechanical issues that we’ve had this past week are as bad as we’ll get for the rest of the journey. We pulled into a campsite just north of Mount Carbine last Friday and as we were setting up I noticed that one trailer wheel looked a bit odd… on further inspection (not by me!) Ben realised that the wheel bearings were totally disintegrated. SOOOO lucky we happened to stop where we did or we may have been trying to continue on with just one wheel on the trailer, not a good look! Ben replaced the bearings and we were on our way again the next morning with all wheels intact!
The handbrake on the car hasn’t been working for a while now so we booked it in to Landrover in Cairns to have it repaired. In true Landrover style we had to wait over a week from the time we called to have it serviced, so we had a few days to occupy ourselves in the Atherton Tableland region. We couldn’t have picked a better place to while away the time though, both Ben and I really love this area, both Mareeba and Atherton are really nice towns and there is such a lot to see and do in this general region.
We spent a good part of a morning at Coffee Works in Mareeba – all the coffee, chocolates and liqueur you can consume for as long as you like to stay and one of the biggest museums of coffee and tea vessels in the world. And all the more enjoyable when the lady at the front desk simply forgot to charge us the $58 entry fee!
In Atherton we visited the Crystal Caves which have a massive display of all sorts of gemstones and rocks from around the world. Jake especially is really into this type of thing and usually the rest of us toddle along after him not all that interested, but this time was different. There were some amazing rocks in this collection, everyone’s favourite being a pyrite rock from Spain that is metallic to look at and is found naturally as perfect cube shapes. Really hard to imagine that these are dug out of the ground and are unchanged by human hand.
There are a huge number of national parks in this area with all sorts of things to take a look at, we didn’t have time to get to everything (another place on the ‘must come back to’ list), but the highlights have to be the Curtain Fig Tree and Lake Eucham. The Curtain Fig Tree is an amazing example of a Strangler Fig. These trees start to grow after a bird drops a seed high in the branches of a tree, this tree then become the ‘host’ tree to the strangler fig. As the strangler fig grows it sends down roots to the ground and starts to root itself into the earth. In the process of growing the strangler fig starts to strangle the host tree and the host tree eventually dies, leaving the strangler fig standing alone, supported by all of the roots that it has grown since seeding in the top of the host tree. Very clever! Lake Eucham is a volcanic lake created around 10,000 years ago. The lake has no inflowing or outflowing creeks, with it’s level determined only by the rain or evaporation. It is also home to an endemic turtle (which I can’t remember the name of and I’m sure you don’t care about!), there were lots and lots of turtles to spot, according to Tobey he saw 20 at one time! The kids had a swim here too while I walked the 3kms around the lake, it’s amazing what creatures you get to see without three sirens warning of your approach!
We stayed a couple of nights in Karanda and went to the Butterfly Sanctuary there. We got to see loads of Ulysses butterflies, but still didn’t manage to get a decent photo of one, they are way too fast. Indianna adopted a half dead butterfly, she thought it loved her and wanted to be her friend, the rest of us knew that the poor thing wasn’t able to fly any more!
The area around the Atherton Tablelands is crowded with waterfalls at every turn, but you can get too much of a good thing, so we limited our waterfall viewing quota to just the Barron Gorge Falls out of Kuranda and the Millstream Falls near Ravenshoe which are Australia’s widest waterfalls. Both are definitely worth a look and the rainforest walk to get to the Barron Gorge Falls was really really beautiful, it far surpassed the Mamu Forest Walk that we did a month or so ago and which we paid handsomely for.
We almost didn’t stop at Innot (west of Ravenshoe) at the hot springs because we’d been told that there was not much to see… I’m pleased we ignored that advice! On a cool winter’s morning (that’s 16 degrees for those of you having proper cool winter’s mornings!) we came across Innot. The hot spring feeds into a creek there where previous bathers have dug out a series of pools. As the pools get further from the spring the water gets cooler. The ones right near to the spring are too hot to put your hand in, but a few pools down the water is “just right”.
After all of the dust and dirt of the past month or so we have tried to clean the car and camper a little – it’s a HUGE job! We attacked the inside of the car one day, wiping 4 or 5 bucket loads of mud from the car, then we tried a carwash for the car and camper, but unless we were going to re-mortgage the house filling the machine with $2 coins that barely touched the surface. Then we found a wash-down facility near Georgetown. It’s a free wash-down to help reduce the spread of grass seeds around the country, we took a couple of runs through this one! We’re definitely still not clean, but are no longer getting dirtier if we get into or near the car.
We’ve made it to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpenteria now, famous as a fishing spot. Also renowned as the place where a million oldies migrate to for the winter. I can certainly vouch for the second fact. We arrived fairly late yesterday and managed to get the last camp site in the three caravan parks in the area. The park is full of over-60’s, but also full of fishing boats and the smell of fish, so here’s hoping that the fishing will be good for the Malpass family too. If all else fails the park we are staying at has a free fish barbeque on a Saturday night, so at least we will get to eat some fish! Mind you, we have been warned that the oldies set up their chairs and their ‘reserved’ piece of grass in plenty of time for the fish frying to begin and then once it’s open it’s a race to the food… they hadn’t bet on three starving children to race with though had they! Go kids go!