Alice Springs and the East MacDonnell Ranges

It was the first time we had entered Alice from the north and it was pretty, with the MacDonnell Ranges in the background.

We chose our usual caravan park – Big4 MacDonnell Range and were able to use the afternoon to plan an exploration of the East MacDonnells and then relax.

Our first day took us to N’Dhala Gorge which involved magnificent scenery on the way there and some 4WD work from the main road. It was quite a short hike and although pretty, not worth the tough drive out, with lots of corrugations and sand, unless you planned to camp there. The gorge is the site of a large collection of Aboriginal petroglyphs, but as the track has lots of rocky sections I wouldn’t think a wheelchair would get very far.

Heading back towards Alice, the next stop was Trephina Gorge and this was really beautiful.

We also stopped at the ghost gum, a 300+ yr old tree. The walk was moderate/easy with the climbing at the start and sand at the end. It is quite majestic.

It seemed like a short stop to visit Corroboree Rock, so we took the turnoff. It is a startling structure in the middle of other rock formations, so easy to see why it was used as a meeting place.

We headed back to Alice and registered online for the Parrtjima light show, that another traveller had told us about. A shuttle from near the park took us there in the early evening and, surprisingly, we saw a couple we knew from SA on the shuttle.

Parrtjima is the only Aboriginal lightshow of its kind in the world and started in 2016. It is free to enter and the displays are beautiful, but nothing can describe the stunning projection on the West MacDonnell Ranges, accompanied by a narration that explains the relationship between the people and the land. I don’t think my photos will do it justice and we watched it twice, it was so moving.

I’d definitely recommend the event as it is free, spectacular but quite small, so it’s an early night. There are plenty of activities for children to take part in.

The following day, Ellery Creek Big Hole was gorgeous and had a large body of water suitable for swimming if it had been hot enough. We saw a girl going in and her partner was filming her with a drone. The water was icy cold so sooner her than me.

An easy, short walk.

Next we stopped at Serpentine Gorge which had an easy walk in, with a still pool of water at the end and a demanding, steep lookout walk.

The pool of water in the gorge is so cold that it has kept people and animals from going beyond it, for thousands of years. This has meant the ecology is preserved and both life forms can get a cool drink in summer when they need it.

Close to Alice Springs, we stopped at the original Telegraph Station, which is a well-preserved station with indoor and outdoor displays, showing life from as early as 1871. It is one of the first European settlements in Stuart, later named Alice Springs. There are short walks, bike trails and a walk to/from Alice township. We walked to the top of a nearby hill to take photos of the settlement.

We were back in time to watch the sun set over the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Travel safe. Take water, hats and sunscreen.

Gregory Downs, Barkley Homestead, Tennant Creek and Karlu Karlu.

It’s a sign of the times we live in, that our next stretch was mapped according to where we could get a border pass. Covid-19 had meant that travel in Australia had introduced people to where the State borders actually are, and who could cross them.

From Gregory Downs there are three possible roads, or tracks, but only one is bitumen. We stopped at Burke and Wills Roadhouse for fuel (both the car and us) after encountering those tall grey birds again. I’ll include a zoomed shot, just to give you an idea, but it’s pixelated. Diesel was predictably expensive so we didn’t fill.

It might be worth mentioning that Burke and Wills were explorers who, with John King and Charles Gray, became the first Europeans to cross Australia from south to north. It was on their return journey that Burke, Wills and Gray died of malnutrition.

We took the Cloncurry Road, hoping to get NT border passes before Camooweal, and had to drive about 300km to Mt Isa for printing facilities. The Overlanders Way from Cloncurry to Mt Isa is through the Selwyn Ranges and is very pretty, if winding.

Corella Dam camp was recommended along the way, but reviews on WIKICAMPS suggested that we might have trouble with our van, so we ended up making our way to a free campsite just out of Isa, WW2 Memorial. Its a very spacious site, with many toilets, a BBQ and a shelter. Several other campers were there, mostly within a 20m radius, but some were off in the bush somewhere and I could catch a glimpse of van or hear a distant peel of laughter. The guy in the next car was strumming a guitar before dinner which was very civilized. No phone service and intermittent wifi.

The next morning we crossed the border without incident and made it to Barkley Homestead around midday. We’d stopped here briefly in the past, and this time we thought it was a good way to break up the long, straight drives, and decide what direction we’d take, next. We felt due for a bit of luxury, by way of a pool and a laundry – oh the simple pleasures. More tips were gleaned about where to go next – Banga Banga, Daly Waters, Alice Springs.

Barkley Homestead, like an oasis on the highway.

The Homestead includes some old mining and farming machinery on display out the front, and provides a distraction while you stop.

The facilities are a bit old and tired but there is a restaurant, café, cabins and the break was good. As a last minute decision when we woke we headed along the termite-lined highway the next day to Tennant Creek.

Tennant Creek is a town that you will hear a lot about and generally with warnings and trepidation. We had been through quite a few times and thought it was time we had a tourist view of this large outback town.

The town’s importance probably started in 1874 when the Overland Telegraph Station was built and was an integral part of communication between Barrow Creek and Powell Creek. Mining of gold began in the 1930s and some of the mines later became successful copper mines. The Battery Hill Mining Centre is a good source of information and tours and there is a walk you can do to Battery Hill.

Peko mine from Battery Hill
Telegraph wires

A visit to the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre was remarkable. Some indigenous women were working on their current pieces and we chatted a little with them before walking through the gallery where, we were told, orders are sent through from all over the world. We weren’t surprised.

some of the artwork on display

For lunch, it was a short drive to Lake Mary Ann where there are many facilities, opportunities for water sport, play equipment, but no camping.

Lake Mary Ann

I think the concerns about Tennant Creek are with staying there overnight, but we have stayed in the Outback Caravan Park in the past and been very happy. There are a couple of free camps not far out of town on the Barkley Highway. I wouldn’t walk around at night as there is a bit of drinking in the town and it can get rowdy. We weren’t stopping yet, so made our way to a very exciting spot.

Karlu Karlu, named Devil’s Marbles by Europeans, is definitely a bucket list place to camp.

This was the fourth time we had been there and yet we hadn’t realised it was so expansive or understood how the rocks were formed.

About 1700 million years ago, magma squeezed up from under the Earth’s surface and as it cooled, cracks formed. Over time, water and wind did its work and columns, then boulders formed.

The Day Centre in the distance

We had arrived uncertain whether to stay but quickly made up our mind as there were only 3 others there. We could access free wifi if we were close to the day centre and did 3 of the walks as they were easy.

There were toilets and we paid $3.30 each to camp, using honesty envelopes. We didn’t have the right money so gave a bit extra.

Three hours after we had arrived, at 5.30pm, the place was just about full. Three or four tents went up and the rest were caravans and campers. We were very surprised, but I can’t deny that we were also pretty chuffed that we were part of another great Australian sunset event. As shadows lengthened, it was time to appreciate the colours and textures of this place.

And in the morning, the parade of colour began, again.

first hints
the land washed in light
the horizon darkens
or is it my camera darkening
We all watch in silent wonder

It really is worth the stop if you have your own accommodation. As a sacred site of the Kaytetye, Warumungu and Warlpiri peoples of the area, you are asked to keep to the walking tracks and not photograph in certain areas. It is made pretty clear, with signage.

I hope that I have respected the signs and wishes of the traditional owners and have not included any sensitive sites in my photos. Please let me know if I have and I will remove them.

Travel safe. Take hats, water and sunscreen.

Boodjamulla/Lawn Hill

The first time we came across Lawn Hill was a sign on the Barkley Highway near Camooweal, with pictures of a lush paradise. After that, plenty of travellers were either coming from, or going towards it. So, as our trip unfolded, from the Gulf of Carpentaria we headed west towards Boodjamulla (aka Lawn Hill). The Aboriginal name means Rainbow Serpent Country and it certainly has colours and textures to delight the senses.

The journey can be undertaken a few ways and none are for the faint-hearted. We decided to go on bitumen roads from Karumba, through Normanton, south to the Burke and Wills roadhouse and then west from there to Gregory Downs. As mentioned in another post, there are several stretches where it is a single lane, so you have to move over for oncoming traffic.

We had trouble finding the free campground, so unhitched in the park behind the hotel, where you can get a good meal, fuel and information about the roads nearby. We could choose our unpowered site, had a peaceful sunset and a good night’s sleep.

The road out to Boodjamulla is just around the corner from the hotel. As is the free campsite, with flowing river and plenty of room!! The road is pretty badly corrugated, with a few bone-rattling stretches so we were glad we had unhitched the van. We’d been advised to drop our tyre pressure, so found it quite ok, but didn’t get over 80km/hr very often after maybe 10km of bitumen at the start.

The first place you come to is Adels Grove campground and you can get a variety of accommodation here or continue on to Lawn Hill. I suggest you read the reviews, as new owners have taken over and I think it will take some time for them to get their heads around it.

The last stretch, from Adels Grove to Lawn Hill, is almost worse than the earlier travel, as you have potholes and dips as well as corrugation, but it is short-lived. People do the trip in regular cars, but I think you’d be damaging them and better off in a 4WD if that’s an option.

Information abounds
well-signed trails

Once in the National Park, there is plenty of information and, having arrived early as advised, we decided to do the Duwadarri Lookout walk and continued to the Indarri Falls walk (which was easier, as it was flatter). It took less than 2 hours, including stops to chat to other walkers and a quick dip in the falls before heading back. You won’t be able to resist it, so go prepared.

We began alongside the river
The lookout takes in the red limestone cliffs
And back along the river
Where lower gorge meets upper gorge

Securing a canoe is a fair-priced must, and we had time for lunch before ours was due. There are a few tables and chairs, but if it was very busy, you may want to bring your own or find a spot by the river. Our only company was a buff-sided robin, keen to be photographed (or get scraps).

buff-sided robin

The tandem canoe trip takes you through emerald waters, caused by calcium carbonate, from lower gorge to the upper gorge, between high red limestone cliffs or thick green foliage.

At the junction of the two gorges, there are 2 small waterfalls and you can tie up your canoe and take to the water.

If you stay by the side, you can be entertained by the archerfish, especially if you have some tidbits to feed them.

On our way up we saw whole families, including young children, who were merely floating the extent on their swim rings. At the junction, many people leave the water, carrying their canoe about 20 metres to the upper junction and putting in there to complete the gorge. We were concerned that we’d run out of time and not have much fun under the waterfalls, so we just stayed there until we headed back and then headed home.

We treated ourselves to a drink in the hotel yard after dinner and my husband tried his luck at getting the bar staff to change the sport from Rugby to AFL, with success.

It was a great place to have seen but a very long way from anything to recommend it wholeheartedly. There were a lot of young families doing the National Road Trip. One day was very special, but enough for us, and our trip out of Gregory Downs, the next day, was by bitumen. You’d really need to check the condition of the many dirt tracks leading out, as some are horrendous.

Happy travels. Carry water, hat and sunscreen.

Croydon, Queensland gulf country

One of the great things about meeting people as you travel, is the knowledge they share about where they’ve been, which alters your plans with interesting additions. Croydon was such a place.

As we entered the old gold mining town, we followed the signs to Lake Belmore and wound our way up to the town’s fresh water source and recreation area. It is a huge area, with very good amenities for water sports, picnicking, fishing and bird watching, but you cannot camp there. The obligatory far north croc sign was up, again.

Well-maintained grounds and facilities at Lake Belmore

We returned to town via Diehm’s Lookout and, on advice, went to the True Blue Visitor Information Centre.

Diehm’s Lookout

Apart from having excellent information, The Visitor Centre had strong wifi on the verandah. We spoke to the attendant and watched the short video, to set the scene before heading out to the Heritage Precinct.

The town has done an amazing job of restoring some eight or so of the original buildings and including written information at each, with artefacts at many. In the courthouse, you can hear a recording of a real trial that was held, and stand or sit in one of the areas of the court to imagine what it would have been like. It is definitely worth doing and doesn’t go for too long, if you have young children.

The judge, or magistrate

The court house walls are corrugated iron, as it was originally, and the practice continued in Australia well into the 1900s, because wood was scarce and termites very hungry. I can’t help but imagine, in these buildings, what it was like in 30 – 40C heat, swathed in petticoats, girdles, neck-to-knee close-fitting dresses. It’s a miracle more women didn’t die of asphyxiation and I now understand the fixation historical script writers have with women swooning.

The school dropoff, circa 1890

As you progress to the police station, hospital and schoolroom, you can appreciate the advancements we have made in the 100+ years, especially in medical care, and easily imagine yourself cast back in time.

Each house is next to the other, along the length of one of the main streets, so it’s easy to navigate.

The town surpassed a population of 6500, including 300 Chinese, and the original owners, the Mayi-Kulan Aboriginal people have been scattered, so that it is believed there are no more Mayi-Kulan remaining and the culture is lost. A few photos remain of some original owners and the families they started with European settlers. At the 2016 census the population of Croydon was 258.

To complete your historic tour, visit the Club Hotel, said to be the last pub remaining in town, from the 36 that existed in its heyday, or the train station, where you will see the Gulflander.

The Gulflander travels 4 and a half hours from Normanton to Croydon on a Wednesday, and returns on a Thursday, taking passengers through country that they are unlikely to view otherwise. It is an historic railway, built on steel sleepers to withstand the flooding and termites, both of which devastated previous attempts to move a train. The brainchild of George Phillips, the bridges were also designed to handle submersion.

You might even decide to view the huge display of old mining equipment.

There are shops, service stations and park accommodation, so if you want to stroll at a more leisurely pace or spend longer at lookouts and displays, you can spread it over a couple of days. You never know, this might not be the only nugget you find out here.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last abandoned mining town and there are more to come, as wealthy companies divest Australia of its hidden wealth, setting up huge towns to be left as a reminder no-one heeds.

Undara Lava Tubes

A popular destination from Cairns, taking about 3 and 1/2 hours drive, from Mt Garnet to Undara Volcanic National Park is about an hour. Not realising this, we went on to set up at Mt Surprise, with the intention of returning for our booked afternoon tour. If you find yourself in a similar situation, go directly to Undara, as the Undara Experience Centre has a beautiful bistro, eating area, souvenir selection and waiting space where we could easily have spent the few hours before our tour and then gone on to Mt Surprise later. It would have saved the fuel, at any rate, even if we bought a drink or something. They also offer free tea and coffee, but it’s not of a standard that would have you going back for more.

The lava tubes were explored by one of the Collins family members, who used to take people there when they visited. Later, working with the Queensland government, a National Park was established on the Collins’ land and formal tours and trails have been set up, complete with information about how they formed. The Collins family run the Undara Experience, with whom we took a tour.

So, how did they form? About 200 000 years ago there was a huge volcanic eruption and the lava flow was so fast that, as it travelled along a river bed, the top cooled and formed a crust, while the lava underneath kept flowing on and out, until hollow tunnels were formed. They extend 90km in one direction and 160km in another, making them Australia’s longest lava tunnels and one of the longest in the world.

Over the years, a roof might collapse, forming arches or caves and allowing rare plants and creatures to flourish. Some plants are believed to be relatives of those from Gondwanaland.

Stephenson Cave

Outside the caves, you can see birds and insects unique to the area, including the spider that weaves a net to catch falling prey. I can’t remember what they are called and can’t find the information, so if anyone knows, please send me a message.

Not quite baskets, but an effective series of nets.

We travelled far in to caves and learnt about what lives there and what drips from the ceiling. The formations and surfaces have asuch a fascinating variety of shape, colour and texture.

The Undara Experience has accommodation and there are many walking trails that you can do independently. We chose the only daytime tour available in Covid times, but there are usually several to choose from, including night treks.

If you are staying in Cairns, it’s about a 3 and 1/2 hour drive to Undara, so you might choose to stay there. Be sure to book before you go, as even in these restricted times, the tours filled quickly.

Definitely worth putting on your bucket list.

Safe travels. Take water, hat and insect repellant.

From Cooktown to Mt Garnet

We travelled back to the Tablelands, stopping at The Coffee Works in Mareeba, after a recommendation.

What a lovely set-up with all sorts of nick knacks and plenty of coffee. We had the ‘house’ coffee, Black Mountain, and bought some for us and for a friend.

The drive to Ravenshoe, through the Atherton tablelands was pretty drizzly and foggy, but brought back good memories.

It wasn’t far to Innot Hot Springs in Savannah territory, and we parked beside the caravan park and took 20 steps into the reserve. The creek was very shallow nearby, but sure enough, the water was warm. I ventured a little further and found some warmer spots. Looking up, towards where it was deeper, I could see steam! I went over and carefully felt the water. It was quite hot.

Little islands of sand had formed and as I stepped between them, my foot sunk in and removed my rubber thong. It was VERY hot and I quickly retrieved my foot and footwear, wiser. Im sure I saw fish in there.

The bank was steep enough that you could sit on the side and dangle your feet in or, if you had come prepared as another couple had, go in for a soak. The reviews warned about how hot some patches were and they aren’t exaggerating, so be careful.

The drive to Mt Garnet BP (for free camping for the night) was short and we set up by the side of a deep creek (empty I think) with horses grazing on the steep banks. The camp is free, beside a BP service station, but they ask you to buy something from the shop, so hot chips for dinner it was!

Booked our Undara Experience for the next day and found the archways tour was the only one available and at limited times. This was, after all, the reason for coming this way. Read more about those in my next post, as the lava tubes were better than we expected and I’d ecommend them.

Safe travels. Take hat, water and burn cream.

Cooktown

Cooktown is a pretty town, set on the banks of both the Coral Sea and the Endeavour River. It is in Far North Queensland and seen as one of those ‘last frontier’ places, from where adventurous people head into the wilderness to the north, hoping to make it to ‘The Top of the Cape’ (Cape York Peninsula). We left Port Douglas fairly early, for Cooktown, and so drove on roads that were new to us. We had expected lush rainforest, but instead got dry terrain, much like the Northern Territory. Then, a mountain would loom ahead and we’d have green foliage again, but gum trees for the most part. We met some people at the lookout, who had driven from Cape Tribulation and taken about 2 hours. They said it could be achieved, at that moment, with a 2WD. It pays to ask other travellers as you go, for the opportunity to increase your experiences.

gumtrees, anthills and distant hills

As we got closer to Cooktown, cows appeared on the road more frequently and about 30km out is Black Mountain. If you didn’t know its name, you’d have no trouble remembering it, as there are about 3 moderate-sized hills that are made up of boulders, or rocks, that are jet black. It is a bit like hitting coal mountain. Apparently it is lichen.

Black Mountain

There are few places to stop on this stretch, but Lakeside is worth the stop (not sure where the lake is, though). When we arrived at the campground, our site was backing on to a rainforest and things scuttled in there. There’s a note in the toilets, to turn off lights as lights attract bugs, bugs attract frogs and frogs attract snakes. Yippee.

We made our way in to town where there was a water park, as it isn’t safe to swim in the sea here. First stop the Botanic Gardens, which has examples of the type of plant samples collected by Banks and Cook but is quite small.

pond at Botanic Gardens
the famous Cooktown orchid, in its natural habitat

On to Cook’s Lookout at Grassy Hill, one of the best lookouts we both thought we’d ever seen. It’s probably a good time to mention that the area got it’s name from when Captain Cook beached his ship here for repairs in 1770. The lookout takes in a 360 degree view of the area, which I tried to recreate, taking a small turn each time.

Having awoken early the next day, we set off to find Trevethan Falls, that were supposedly 13.5 km out of town. We drove about 30km to the turnoff and then had a 4WD adventure, trying to get there. When the road/track became very rough and demanding, with no end in sight, we decided to turn around and head to the beach at Mt Amos. We didn’t find that, either, and hit private property, so turned back once more. Locals we asked had never heard of the falls, so…

rough track leading nowhere

Now was the time to hit the markets, which were collections of produce and trash, or fundraising efforts with a strong local feel, and we walked the foreshore, seeing the monuments and Milbi Wall, a mosaic retelling of the history of the area, by the first nations people.

There were also people fishing and everyone keeping well back from the water – crocodile warnings everywhere. Cooktown really established itself on the map when, in 1873, tens of thousands of people from around the world landed here in search of gold and the port became the State’s busiest.

One of those last minute decisions saw us heading for Mount Cook, late in the day to do the 6km return walk up to the lookout. In fact, there are two lookouts, and the first is quite easy to reach, with gently raising paths, lined with trees and shrubs. It is also lined with spider webs, I discovered, or it was until I decided to wear all of them. We made the first section quite easily but the path was littered with leaves and even though we had good trekking sandals, I was anticipating a slippery walk home, when the increased slope would be downward.

The second section was definitely more difficult, with a constant upward climb, although not the steepest I have done. When we finally made it to the main lookout, it was quite a relief and the strong breeze was refreshing. Another traveller at the campground said that he found the really strong winds at the top made him feel like superman. So, either he’s been on the kryptonite or it is windier in the morning (when he went). Definitely do the walk if you visit here, as it is pretty and the view at the end is stunning. But don’t leave it until late in the day. The advice when you get there is to allow 2 hours and that you should be of reasonable fitness. It took us about 1 ¼ hours, but we were moving pretty fast, as walks go.

Isabella Falls was first on our list for the day. It is a short drive from town and very close to the road.

From here the plan was to go to Hope Vale to see some Indigenous art and on the Elim Beach, where there are coloured sands. Hope Vale was poorly sign-posted and the road just ended, leaving us to drive uncertainly around the community. Feeling that this was intrusive, we headed back but saw a sign for Endevour Falls and pulled in to the Tourist park , behind which, after a 2 minute walk we made our way to the small but pretty falls behind the park. It is a very attractive park, 20 minutes out of Cooktown, with shady sites and well-maintained.

the small Endeavour Falls

Why not visit Keating’s Lagoon? Only a short way out of Cooktown, we went to the birdwatchers paradise and spied keenly for the object of our visit.

Mulbabidgee, or Keatings Landing

Cooktown is known as a windy city, so when you hear the ‘waves’ of wind tearing through the park at night, fear not. There is quite a bit to do, so that while you reach for the furthest point you can attempt in Queensland, there are a few spots before you turn around or press on. Usually there are plenty of international tourists, but we met only three while there and a handful of Australians who weren’t in lockdown.

Safe travels. Water, hat and sunscreen (and a jacket for the evenings).

Water, water everywhere

And what else would you expect to find on one of Australia’s iconic drives – The Great Ocean Road?

Popular with surfers and the location of International Surf Carnivals, the region also boasts The Twelve Apostles and other limestone features that are accessible by safe walkways and carparks.

Ridgeback
Arches
Bays

For Jez’s Water Water Everywhere challenge. this 243 km stretch includes World Heritage areas.

Atherton Tabelelands

The Atherton Tablelands, about 90km south west of Cairns, were probably our best-loved destination in 2020. Lush and green and, as they are at a high altitude, they provide Queenslanders in the tropics with a cool destination for steamy summers.

On our way inland from Ingham, we stopped at the Hinchinbrook Lookout which was pretty impressive. Hinchinbrook Island is huge and the waterways snake through the outlets and past the mainland prettily.

Hinchinbrook Island, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Hinchinbrook is the largest island national park in Australia and we noticed some unusual conservation practices in the area, like this over bridge, below, designed to give creatues like koalas a way over the highway and there was an underpass for those unable or unwilling to use the bridge.

overpass/underpass for animals

Our lunch stop was the Tully train station, developed in about 1926 and with all the charm of an old Queenslander.

pineapples, sugar cane, avocados, mangoes and the sugar cane burners

The way from here was winding but so varied that it was very interesting. Banana plantations joined sugar cane and avocadoes are appearing now, with the occasional mango. The Bonadio RV and Nature park (situated on a farm) was well-signed and the hardest part was finding and fitting in to a powered site. It was packed. They’ve set up an area where they feed the wildlife and we saw paddy melon kangaroos (see video below), brush turkeys, birdlife and possums. We went for a walk beside the creek, which is well worn, and enjoyed the cool breeze and platypus sightings. The stone curlews let out their baby-like wails at night.

stone curlews
pademelon

There are so many things to see in Atherton and we packed it in so that we were out each day by 8 and returned about 4. I’ll give a quick photo summary of what we did/saw. Feel free to post any questions.

cathederal fig tree
Mobo Creek Crater Walk
Josephine Falls
roadside cassowary – you have to be on the lookout
curtain fig tree in a mabi forest
Yungaburra
Lake Barrine and bull kauris
Malanda Falls – a good waterhole if it’s hot
Ellinjaa Falls
Zillie Falls
Windy Hill, first wind farm constructed in Queensland
Millstream Falls
Mount Hypipamee Crater
Dinner Falls

The Nerada Tea Company, making Australia’s only tea, has excellent devonshire tea, views of Mt. Bartle Frere (Queensland’s highest mountain) and well-known for easy sightings of tree kangaroos (they’re not everywhere, you know).

There are so many things to see and do and plenty of caravan parks, towns and free/cheap camping, but remember to check if there are conditions such as having your own ensuite, to qualify. The actual town of Atherton is quite large and we were able to get groceries, carparts, camping things, etc., there. We were near Yungaburra, which is a charming town with a supermarket, butcher, cafes, knick-knacks, etc. and many farms sell their goods at the roadside, with an honesty system (you put the money in a tin and they’ll collect it sometime in the day).

It wasn’t until our way out that we stopped at the Mareeba Information Centre and it had good historical displays, cafe and information.

The Mareeba Coffee Works, visited on our return loop, is a must-see and they deliver coffee anywhere in Australia for free. I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos as the place is quirky and delicious.

Undara Lava Tubes are not too far, but we saw them later, too, so you’ll have to wait for my post on that.

We would go to Atherton again, for sure. There were plenty of places we didn’t see or would see again. During late August the days were warm (not quite suitable for shorts) and the nights cold (had the quilt out).

Safe travels! Take hats, water and sunscreen.

The Grampians #1

Tucked in Victoria’s West are a series of sandstone mountains called Gariwerd by the original owners and inhabitants and Grampians National Park by the government. Colloquially, they are called The Grampians.

We made a 4-day visit in October this year and had a pretty busy time doing walks and sight-seeing. I’ll break it into 4 days so that it isn’t too long and will include a summary of the time at the beginning and what we left out, would do again, or didn’t know about at the end.

Where we went, while staying in Halls Gap Gardens Caravan Park , which is a 15 minute walk from Halls Gap and good value. Most of these are walks, so anything NOT a walk I put in italics.

  • Halls Gap
  • Tourist Centre
  • Grand Canyon
  • Silent Street
  • Pinnacles
  • Splitter’s Falls
  • Reed’s Lookout
  • The Balconies
  • McKenzie Falls
  • Lake Wartook
  • Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre
  • Lake Bellfield
  • Dunkeld
  • Victoria Valley
  • Mt William
  • Silverband Falls
  • Venus Baths
  • Halls Gap Botanical Gardens
  • Boroka Lookout

DAY 1

We began at the visitor centre in Halls Gap, where we received excellent advice about walks, drives and 4WD drives for anyone who hasn’t been here before and wants to make sure they’ve seen the sights.

We decided to head to the Wonderland carpark and do a couple of the shorter walks, starting with the Grand Canyon  0.7 km.

This led quite easily to the Pinnacle walk 1km, so we headed there, passing through Bride’s veil falls,

Silent Street

And finally to the Pinnacle. The whole walk took about 100 minutes, and the hardest was the Pinnacle, with steep uphill rises towards the end, for about 10 minutes. The rest was pretty easy but you couldn’t do it if you are in a wheelchair or very large, as the ascent from Silent Street is very narrow.

Why go home before doing the other, short walk you had originally gone there to do? At 0.7km, the walk to Splitters Falls seemed small fry. It did not take long, but was downhill on the way there and, obviously, uphill on return. It’s a pretty walk that passes rock pools, where people sat eating lunch and I imagine in the Summer it would be a great place for a dip. We passed some walkers who said the destination wasn’t worth it, but we disagreed, as Splitters Falls was pretty and you can get up close.

Returning to our site for lunch, we stopped very briefly before heading out again to Reed’s Lookout,

And The Balconies

Deciding to press on, we went to McKenzie Falls and did a couple of ‘side’ lookouts before deciding on the major lookout from the top. There were two reasons for this – the person at the tourist centre had said you can get better photos from there, and it was slightly uphill at first, which was appealing after our rather huge amount of uphill climbing, our ankles and knees protesting at the thought of a steep uphill return.

Accidentally taking a wrong turn on the way home, we ended up at Lake Wartook. An ok sight, perhaps the most useful feature is the anglers club situated here.

Understandably, we were pretty sore the next day and one of us has a plan to include more, lengthy walks, more regularly.

Even though it was around 2 degrees C at night and cool during the day, the sun is at work, so always take hat, water and sunscreen.