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August 17th 2009
Published: August 18th 2009
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The Rufus BettongThe Rufus BettongThe Rufus Bettong

Our little visitor
DAY 284

An early start this morning is required as we are booked onto a tour into the Lava Tubes, we were both awake at 6.30, Andy got out of bed earlier to put the kettle on and I followed a few minutes later. I grabbed my wash things and headed to the showers straight away so that I was going to be ready in good time.

Once breakfast was done, we were on with the hiking boots, water at the ready and off we set to reception to await our tour guide. We are doing the 2 hour Lava Tube tour this morning despite everyone’s objections “No, the 4 hour tour is much better, the 2 hour one is not so good.”

Well, we did consider it, however thinking about our budget and how much it costs for the four hour tour combined with our anniversary treat then it all adds up, so we are doing the 2 hour tour, which at least gives us an overview into the lava tubes existence and we will see 3 parts of the tubes.

It is 8.00 and 3 tour guides turn up, Malcolm, he is doing the 4
Kevin The GuideKevin The GuideKevin The Guide

At Undara Lava Tubes, Its the only place in Australia that you can see them
hour tour, followed by Steve and Kevin, we are briefed by them both and then told to go and get into one of the buses, fortunately we were in the less busy bus so there was plenty of room to stretch out.

Kevin jumps in and starts the bus, but before he drives off tells us that if anything happens to him, i.e. a rock falling on his head then someone should come back to the bus and follow the written instructions to contact Undara via the UHF. We hope that no rock is going to fall on his head. He does seem to have a pretty good sense of humour so we know we are in good hands.

We are soon on the track that is off limits to the public, we are driving past 100 mile swamp, so named because it is 100 miles from Cargill, the nearest port. Unusually this swamp has water in it, normally at this time of year it should be dry with plenty of lush green grass. Apparently the last couple of years they have had such heavy rain the water has stayed thus forming a small lake, this is because

Savannah at Undara
of the high rainfall, approximately 58 inches has fallen, they don’t know when it will drain away and indeed if it will drain away by the end of this dry season.

This area is rich in Granite and Basalt. When we first arrived I was incorrectly informed, by someone whom I cannot remember, that there should be no Quartz in this area, however I was surprised when we were out bush walking to find that there is plenty of quartz lying around the ground. Whoever told me this said that if any quartz is here then it would have been introduced to the area, however today I find confirmation from Kevin while he tells us about the rock at Undara that this area is rich in granite and in granite quartz is formed thus as the granite breaks down with erosion the quartz is released in pieces into the landscape.

The bus is parked, Kevin gives us a talk, including some safety information, he tells us that the first tube we are entering although is fine to enter the air is not so fresh and in the past it has contained a high count of Carbon Dioxide, as part of the safety side of things they do not open the tube to the public unless the air is ok.

Kevin tells us about a German tourist that went wandering, did not sign onto any of the walks in reception and he never returned, I believe that he was also never found. They believe that he may have gone into a tube that contained carbon dioxide and if no one knew he was there then no help would have arrived.

On our way into the first Lava Tube we see a Mareeba Rock Wallaby, she is obviously shy, when she realises that there is a load of people she stands very still, blending into the landscape around her and hoping that she has not been seen, she is so small.

We carry on down the steps and along the boardwalk to the tube, we stand at a platform at the top, while Kevin tells us about this particular tube, the air is stale, until recently this tube was also under floodwater there is still some water present and it covers the boardwalk as it goes further into the tube.

We move onto the second, this is a huge archway the formation is pretty impressive, we walk through patches of Remnant Rain Forest, this grows in the places where the lava tube ceilings have collapsed, thus marking cave entrances, it cannot sustain any grass life in these areas as there is no soil, however if you look at an aerial picture you can see patches of bright green which is the Remnant Rain Forest, in amongst the burnt offerings of the Savannah that surround the lava tubes.

We move into a third tube Kevin tells us a little bit more about the history of the Lava Tubes and how they were formed.

There are 9 lava tubes that are open to the public but there are two stretches of lava tubes one at 100km’s and the other at about 60km in length, but they have plenty of roof collapses, which give us the 9 tubes to look at, although there are plenty more sections. Our guide Kevin tells us that the scientists are not really interested in studying anymore except that they do study the ones open to the public, they look for shifts and cracks in the rock to ensure safety, each season the tubes can fill with water from the rain, some of them were closed earlier this season as the water was so high.

All in all the tubes are impressive, worth a look, but they stretch for kilometres beyond Undara. Incidentally the Volcano Undara and the other volcanoes in the region lie dormant, (I am no geologist so I will try to explain) Australia used to sit on two plates and over time Australia has been moving at about an inch North per year and thus has shifted from its original position and no longer sits over the volcanic bit, in a roundabout kind of explanation, which now means the plates are in the Southern Ocean. Feel free to offer some more technical explanation.

Despite others trying to put us off and do the 4 hour tour instead we did find it enjoyable and very informative, Kevin said we are not really seeing anything different than the people on the other tours just different tubes, probably a little more information combined with food.

This area is abundant with kangaroos, when we are back on the bus and heading back to Undara Lodge Kevin stops to show us
The first lava tubeThe first lava tubeThe first lava tube

This is Saregent Tunnel
a group of Antilopine Kangaroo, a Kangaroo identified by its antelope like face. We have seen plenty of Eastern Greys hanging around and an Agile Wallaby hanging around our campsite.

Back at the lodge we get off the bus and head to the Bistro where we can find a cup of complimentary coffee waiting for us, we sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the open but covered restaurant area, it is beautifully cool under here, we chat to a few people including the Head Chef who we met last night, he is a happy soul and just loves his job.

We get back to camp for a nice relax, what more relaxation I hear you cry, don’t you get enough? No we don’t, it’s another hot day (I’m not complaining!) when we are on the road it is all usually rush here and rush there, plus breakdown camp and put up in a new place, so we are enjoying our time here at Undara.

Although it is hot today there is a cool breeze, which we both find refreshing. I sit and do my brain training, good news my age is at 35 so things are looking
Not one of Caroline's Best Photo'sNot one of Caroline's Best Photo'sNot one of Caroline's Best Photo's

But it shows you what we saw
up, I do some Sudoku but one of them beats me so I delete everything to start it again. At some point in the afternoon a huge gust of wind rushes through camp almost disrupting everything, it has soon gone over and everything is back to normal.

We watch the abundant bird life around us, the Pied Currawong, the Pied Butcherbird and the Red Tailed Black Cockatoos, who incidentally can be a nuisance to farmers because of their destructive nature, if you see small otherwise healthy tree branches and lots of healthy leaves lying around then that will be the Cockatoo’s. I do believe it is illegal to kill birds in Australia (unless of course you accidentally hit them when you are driving).

I typed up the blog while Andy unwraps the Swag to give it an air and make sure it survived the dust and the river crossings on the Savannah Way, we have not used it since the Warrumbungle National Park, so once it is up we both come up with the idea of sleeping in it tonight. I know we have a perfectly good trailer to sleep in, but what a place to lie and look up at the stars.

The Swag is set up just on the other side of the camp fire (which for a change we have not used), making sure the zips were done up tight as we did not want a Death Adder or the like cuddling up to us while we were in bed, I spray the inside with Mortein to ensure that anything with more than 2 legs is not going to survive and therefore cause us harm or pain in the night.

We put the sleeping bags and blankets in the Swag to ensure that we are snug,cosy and warm in the night. It looks good enough to get into now.

We had intended on a short walk late afternoon to look for some wildlife but we end up having an early tea instead. I Skype our niece Lily as it is her tenth birthday, she is pleased to hear from us, she tells us what presents she had and what they are doing for the rest of the day.

It is soon dark, I put on long trousers and a fleece just to keep any evening chill out, I have my nose in Sudoku and Andy looks at the internet, has a few Skype chats, one with Kahlia from the Travelin Trueys (who are long since back at home and have resumed their normal busy routine of life) but of course a game of cards is not far off our plans, the funny thing is that we see the Rufus Bettong hop straight through our camp without batting a single eyelid, we both watch as it bounds through.

While we play cards, she bounds back, but instead of passing through, she loiters with us and sits comfortably between our 2 chairs as if she wants to get involved with our conversation and game, I would love to reach out and touch her, but it is not a good idea, it may scare her and she may also bite, but it is also not wise to tame wildlife out here. Andy wanted to give it something to eat, but again we must not human food is harmful to wildlife.

Incidentally just as I turn around and look into the sky I see a shooting star, what a thrill on this huge black backdrop.

We did not finish our cards, the
Fallen RocksFallen RocksFallen Rocks

This is where some of the ceiling has fallen in
time ticked on and we were both tired, I can hear you all say “how come you are so tired when you have not done much all day?” it is true we have had a fairly lazy day with an early start, but this fresh air is a real knockout potion.

We are soon snuggled down and zipped up, we gaze at the stars and try and work out some of the constellations we learnt of a few nights ago on Malcolm’s talk.

The wind has dropped to an easy breeze, which washes over the top of the swag, we are warm and comfortable and soon sleep comes.

Good night bloggers, we will communicate tomorrow as long as we have no Death Adders join us in the Swag.

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Back for a well earned cup of tea

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