Published: June 29th 2011May 23rd 2011
the wet tropics combined with the dry outback charm
The drive from The Daintree National Park to the Atherton area was the longest we did in Queensland. No complaints however as it is a really scenic road with the landscape changing a lot when compared to the coastal tropics. Suddenly the earth starts to look red, trees are no longer tropical palms and you see loads and loads of cattle grazing and kangaroos crossing your path ;-) The Tablelands are covered with lush green patches and they are the site of the recent volcano activity in Australia. Some of the craters and lakes are 'only 10,000' years old so pretty recent ;-). We took the road 44 linking to 81 straight to Atherton town when we were making our base camp for the 2 nights. Atherton is a 'capital' of the tablelands and it was voted Queensland's tidiest town (a lot of voting taking place in this country by the way hahha)
This time we chose the Big 4 Caravan Park as highly recommended by other people and we cannot say we were disappointed. Facilities were brilliant for 33$/night ;-) Atherton itself is a small, quiet town
with wide streets and flat buildings. Just as we imagine American towns would look like ;-) Most importantly it is surrounded by beautiful landscape, mountains, craters, lakes, waterfalls and forests ;-) Perfect location to do a bit of trekking or hiking. Before we reached our camp we decided to drive to the near by Lake Tinaroo and check out the panorama view mentioned on one of the maps. There supposed to be some waterfalls as well but we could not find neither of them ;-( The lake itself is massive but artificial - created on the Barron River for hydroelectric purpose. It was still a nice drive but we felt we wasted an hour of driving around .....We could have followed the route around the lake and check out few other creeks and waterfalls but it was getting late and dark so we headed to the camp-site. We would be doing the same route tomorrow morning as no way we would miss all of these sites while being here;-)
The very next morning we got up really early as there was so much to do this day and we were still adjusting to the time change - so no
from the panorama point - 2,5km down from the road level
late evenings but early mornings were just perfect;-) Just a minute drive from the camp (we really could walk but it was on the way) are the Chinese Hou Wang Temple from 19th century and the Platypus
Park. Not so much interested in paying 15$ to see some odd pagoda, we headed to the park to spot some Platypus in wild environment. We were not lucky I guess or not patient enough to wait few hours for them to show up.... I know loads of people spent some time just sitting there and spotting the family swimming around. In our case - lakes and waterfalls were calling us so we decided to move on ;-)
So we headed towards Lake Tinaroo again but from another side to see some crater lakes. We took a wrong turn at some point and we ended up driving south.... whilst not fighting at all about whose fault was it ... we decided to check Malanda Waterfalls since we were already in the neighbourhood ;-) It was not as impressive as we thought and we got a bit wary of the fact that maybe all of the waterfalls are going to be like that....
all this driving and a bit of water falling down??? We took some photos and we got back on the road. As for the past few days we did quite a lot of driving we were really missing walking and being outside. That is why this day was supposed to be about trekking around the crater lakes. We drove north to see the Mobo Crater as supposed to be really interesting with 600m circuit walk around basalt-pocket river. It took us quite a time to get there as road was more of a forest lane and we had to be really careful with our camper. Soo excited to finally get there the only thing we saw was the sign ' Closed- no way through due to the footpath damage'!!! What a beginning of a day ha? At least we managed to see a giant, enormous and astonishing Cathedral Fig Tree
on the way there. That was impressive and hard to believe it was real ;-) You could actually walk into this colossal structure and see how it slowly killed the originally inhabited tree. Fig is not a parasite but the damage it causes is comparable.
From there it was
only few minutes drive to the first of the crater lakes - Lake Barrine. When we got there we thought it was a private property...it was such a lovely maintained area, clean with carefully planned gardens etc. Just at the lake shore stands Lake Barrine Teahouse - awarded for fabulous scones and tea. It has amazing terrace with a view over the lake. They also organize lake cruises if you don't fancy walking. We of course could not wait to do the 6km (4mile) circuit walk and see some wild life. Lake Barrine is famous for its tall Kauri Pines and Stinging Trees. Couple of Kauri Pines we saw were massive and it would take at least 6 people with extended and joined arms to match its circumference. We were able to spot some wildlife as well before some tourists run in front of us shouting 'snake, snake'..... we were the first ones to see the Red Bellied Black Snake just sunbathing on the footpath, we saw Echidna
looking for food on the forest floor (very relaxed and not scared of us at all), many Ulysses Butterflies, Tomek had couple of encounters with leeches trying to literally walk their way
up his shoes to get to some blood; but far the best one was my encounter with the Dragon Tree Lizard (not sure of the name). As we were used to the fact we had to look down all the time we probably missed a lot of species up the trees. But there was one tree that attracted my attention and I stopped for a while to take a look at a fern growing on a pine. There was something nice about this plant that made me stare at it .... and then when I was admiring the fern I saw a lizard coming onto me!!! .... well not really onto me but in my direction to catch a tree bug. Immediately I whispered 'Tomek, Tomek come here', I didn't want to scare the creature off and we ended up watching it on the tree for a while when it enjoyed it's food . It was no more that a meter distance from us and this very moment kind of made it up for all the disappointments we had so far this day;-)
So few hours, 6km, 1 snake, 1 echidna, 2 leeches and blood stain, 1 tree dragon
and many giant plants later we were ready to chill out at the famous Lake Eachem. I read few blogs and many reviews about this place and we just could not wait. We decided for it to be our late lunch spot as well. Lake Eacham is of a similar size to the Lake Barrine but it has a swimming pontoon and BBQs around for people to enjoy. We prefer wild to the commercial but we could not care less at this point. It was stunning!!! So we already had our swimwear on, we packed some BBQ food, took towels and camera and found the ideal spot at the pontoon itself. Tomek could not resist to jump in to the crystal clear lake but I just could not take the challenge of layers of cold water on me. We had brilliant time there, taking some sun, having great al fresco lunch and just relaxing.
As it was quite early in the morning the next day when we left the camp-site, we decided to drive even further than initially anticipated this day and as a result of this decision Ravenshoe became our first stop. Small town famous for the 'Queensland's
Highest Pub', windmills and many waterfalls. Little Millstream and the impressive 340m-high Millstream were created 3 million years ago. You can still see the volcanic rock formation around them. It was brilliant and there was no one to be seen apart from us there, maybe because the access road was again quite terrain and bumpy. From there we moved on to the biggest and the most famous waterfall - Millaa Millaa. There are two other waterfalls on the way: Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls located in a very beautiful scenery but far less impressive than Millaa Millaa. This was our lunch time spot for the day as well and we had planned to do some swimming if the weather would have been fine. It was !!! It was brilliant and so beautiful. We actually had never swam under the waterfall before - so one more thing to cross of the bucket list hahhaha One of the teenage girls we met there told us that this is the waterfall Peter Andre made his first video in not to mention endless TV commercials etc. Interesting but not the reason why we came there... Did they??? We could see some turtles swimming in
the crystal clear water and we just did not want to leave!!! Unwillingly, we had to move on to get to the coast by dark. The map we had listed many more waterfall on the way to the coast and we ended up stopping few more times to see some nice views etc. Most of the scenic lookouts would require us to walk for miles and we simply did not have time - what a shame.... The one we decided to do was the Crawfords Lookout where you could either take what you see from the road or you could hike a bit down - 2.5km down actually - and have a splendid panorama view on the rainforest. We did not have to think long as again we had almost no walking this day. It took us around 30 min one way. We had to be really careful on the slippery muddy path and sometimes climb over the fallen tree but it was totally worth it - amazing view and one of those experiences that makes you feel like your effort was totally worth it;-)
We approached the coast in no time and we headed towards famous Mission Beach.
Initially we planned to stay in the council run caravan park but when we got there they only accepted cash and we did not have enough on us. Unfortunately, the only ATM in the village was closed;-( The place looked quite ruined to be honest as Mission Beach was badly hit by the Cyclone Yasi. You can actually see the boarder of the rainforest that was affected. You drive and you are surrounded by amazing flora and then suddenly only broken or fallen trees and empty standing trunks are to be seen ;-( I had a quick pick on the beach and it was very empty and black. In this case we decided to drive to the Big4 camp site in the South Mission Beach. We had such a good experience with this camp chain that we were sure we would be happy with it. It was a good choice despite the price being doubled when compared with the council one (19$ vs.36$ per night). South Mission Beach has golden sands and amazing view on the Dunk Island. The receptionist told me the story of a day when cyclone hit them and I just cannot imagine what they went through.
When we arrived they were just at the point of rebuilding their sea front cabins as they were all taken away. The view of broken palm trees was sad. We could only imagine how this place must have looked like before with all its beauty. The next morning we had an early breakfast again and we marched to the beach ;-) Soo long we waited just to set the chair up there and read, read, read.... The beach was empty - there was no one apart from us and it seemed very exclusive hahha I could see one local women walking her dog in a fleece jacket hahah (I was in my bikini) How weird is that - it was 27C ;-) It got quite windy so I ended up at the camp-site’s swimming pool and Tomek took on some more masculine tasks such as cleaning the van and emptying the grey water etc. It was a good ending to the fabulous trip. Next day we would be dropping off the van and flying out of Australia ;-(
The trip was not about to end yet, which for once made leaving easier and made us feel good. We still
had few great days planned in the amazing Singapore ;-)
There are more photos below