|We drove along the Palmerston highway, past acres and acres of sugar cane fields and their associated cane train railways, past papaya and banana plantations, stalls selling each of these, climbing higher and higher. We stopped at Ma Mu Rainforest Walk, part of the Wooroonooran National Park. It has a rainforest walk, elevated to the canopy in part and with a tower above the canopy. We spent a great hour or two wandering along the walks, not many birds, but we did see more brilliant blue butterflies, including the Ulysses. The growth was very green and lush and it was quiet. It was great to see the height of the rainforest, the very tall trees, mostly very thin and defying gravity, host to creepers and epiphytes. The park had been devastate by cyclones in the past, but whilst the re growth of the forest was rapid it was possible to tell where the cyclones had been. We saw huge trees lying on the forest floor, knocked down by the cyclone and other trees having had their tops snapped off, air coppiced, re grown at the broken points. A great visit!
On and up the road even higher, we were at about 1,000 metres altitude, it was cooler and less humid, though it was still 27 degrees. The Misty Mountains on our left and the highest mountain in North Queensland, Bartle Frere in front of us, it was lovely, lovely scenery. We stopped for lunch overlooking the vast landscape, absolutely wonderful, so green and very healthy looking. We had stopped by a disused cattle ramp, all the old timbers covered in mosses and fungi and overgrown by the tall grasses. Some beautiful flowers on the opposite bank.
Just up the road was the waterfall loop, three waterfalls, Ellinja, Zillie and Millaa Millaa, all about 70 feet or so high, very pretty, but the last one had been invaded by a bus load of girls. All in the water, screaming at each other; we are just too old!
Ok, so it was getting late in the afternoon, time to find a campsite. We tried what we thought might be a site alongside Lake Eacham but when we arrived there were 'no camping' signs everywhere. So, on to Yungaburro and Lake Tinaroo where we did find a lovely site in open countryside above the lake. The sun was getting lower and as this was the first chance we had for some while to view the sunset, we set up our chairs, cracked a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, sat and watched the sun go down. It was absolutely wonderful as the sun set over the fields and lake. We hadn't been in such open countryside at this time of day and it was amazing. A beautiful evening, we had dinner out under the stars in the warm breeze; no mossies, a real bonus. We did see several bats swooping around hopefully keeping the insect population in check.
Wow, what a beautiful morning, not a cloud in sight. We had a very lazy morning, just enjoying the sunshine, doing a bit of laundry and hair colouring, you know, the usual Sunday morning sort of thing. There was an Avenue of Remembrance opposite for the Australian special forces personnel who did in the Afghanistan conflict. Only opened last year, it was still new but the planting was superb and a garden beautifully laid out. There were a lot of visitors while we camped opposite, it obviously struck a chord with them. We too, we quite taken by the whole thing.
We headed off to Atherton, right in the Tablelands, more sugar cane fields, banana plantations, avocado trees, macadamia nut trees and a tea plantation. Atherton was a nice town, we stopped and wandered around and topped up on food supplies. It started off as a base for 'timber getters' and tin miners, but is more tale breezebroad-based now. On, north along the Kennedy Highway we were looking for a place to stop and have lunch when we came upon a road sign pointing to Granite Gorge, so we followed the road. It lead through quite different countryside, almost 'outback' country. It was dry, red soil with sparse vegetation, the temperature climbed to 35 degrees, but it was a lovely dry heat. This is what we imagined Northern Queensland would be like.
We arrived at the Gorge which seemed to be privately owned, there were a few huts, some picnic tables, and huge granite outcrops and boulders. We asked the girls at reception about the site but they were willing but not very helpful. So, we decided to eat our lunch at one of the picnic spots, it was still 33 degrees but there was a gentle breeze, and it was a lovely setting. Afterwards we walked down into what was called the Granite Gorge to look for the Rock Wallabies, but I guess it was too hot for them too, they were nowhere to be seen. A very pretty, if rugged scenery, it was just too hot to do much exploring, so we re-boarded the camper and drove back out of the area. There were some beautiful Grevillias along the roadside,which required a photo!
On to Mareeba, which we mostly missed as the road on swerved around the centre, still on the Kennedy Highway towards Kuranda. Ruth complained we had missed the opportunity to buy an ice cream in Mareeba, but shortly afterwards, and while she was looking at our campsite app, we came upon Emerald Creek Ice Cream Parlour, so I swerved off the Highway into their car park before she realised. Joy! Ice cream. She had the Lilly Pilly with a scoop of Elderberry, I had chocolate and ginger with a scoop of banana and coconut. All good! (As they say in Australia!)
We passed coffee plantations and eventually arrived at Kuranda. A lovely village set in the rainforest, but as it was after five o'clock on Sunday, everything was closed. On the face of it the shops looked interesting enough to wander around, so that's tomorrow planned! On to the campsite, again, set in the rainforest, where we were given a lovely site amid tropical trees and plants. A short walk along their rainforest walk then a splash in the pool to cool down, it was lovely. We opened another Sauvignon Blanc and enjoyed the sunset, listening to all the birds calling and as it got darker the cicadas doing their thing. Fantastic to be able to sit out, not harassed by mosquitos, though we did apply liberal amounts of insect repellent, and enjoy the tropical sounds and ambience.
The past few days or so had been what we expected, weather-wise and whilst we had been a little unlucky with the cyclone that never was, in some ways, as it had brought dull weather, but on the other hand we did not have to experience a cyclone! All in all, we enjoyed the area and did get some good weather. The air conditioning in the camper was very helpful at times, though we preferred not to use it at night.
Awake a little later today as the birds weren't so noisy, breakfast outside in the shade of the rainforest trees, listening to the birds. I discovered a small brown snake just by the door to the shower lock, after I had had my shower. Fortunately it was asleep in the mop used to clean the block, at least it was till I disturbed it! It coiled itself and threw a few strikes in my direction but I was far enough away, and stayed that way.
We drove back into Kuranda for a bit of souvenir shopping, but Ruth spent most of her time looking at opal shops, eventually buying some very nice earrings. We also bought some aboriginal artworks before driving the short distance to the Barron River Falls where we stopped for lunch. The Falls are really impressive, beautiful cascades some 260 metres high, overall. The National Park had built a Rainforest Walkway part the way down the gorge to several lookout points, one of which was at a railway station (serving Cairns to Kuranda and climbing from sea level to 380 metres elevation).
So, now it was time to head for Cairns and find a campsite for our last night in the camper. The drive down from Kuranda was steep and winding with great views across the plain below to Cairns and the ocean, quite spectacular. We found the site, very friendly staff and lovely grounds. Many trees for shade which also meant we weren't camped on top of each other. Time to catch up on emails, write blogs and sort out our stuff which was in just about every cupboard in the camper.