QLD 2023, 19-25 May: Atherton Tablelands (1)

Friday morning we once again work our way north, and we pass a sugarcane museum, where we stop, as this is what we had been looking for in Ingham, to find answers to some of our outstanding questions about the process of sugar making.  We enjoy the old machinery, but mostly the video’s explaining the entire growth, harvest, and process to the ‘raw’ (ie milled) sugar that is then sold to the refineries to make syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, raw (aka ‘coffee’) sugar etc.  And of course we come across the by-product molasses again, which we learnt about in Bundaberg as it’s one of the 3 ingredients of the rum. The lady at the museum explains that the cane plant has a lifespan of around 5 years, and then the sugar content drops off too much to re-use.  Cane pieces (billets) are just re-planted, and new plants form from the little knobs on the sides.  It is remarkably interesting, and we should be around long enough this winter to see some of the harvesting starting next month, which will run to November.

Happy with all this new-found knowledge, we move on to Innisfail (where we stopped a week ago after Babinda) to once again top up on the groceries, and then head inland once more, passing the Millaa Millaa Falls we admired last week, on our way to our next basecamp, called Bonadio, . This camp came highly recommended by Phil and Deb,and is located in the Atherton Tablelands; a few km west of a tiny town Yungaburra and about 10km east of Atherton. It is indeed the perfect place to settle; a large family run property where they grow & dry maize (for cattle feed) on the Barron River, complete with resident platypuses.  There are possums, tiny Wallabies, as well as a big communal, undercover firepit, supplied with logs of hardwood and chairs all around. 

We set up, Jen does a bit of work, and Arno goes for a walk.  We notice ants and recall Phil ferociously spraying for these pests, having had to deal with ant infestation, so we decide to do this to all surfaces touching the ground.  At least there are no other insects that we notice.  The temperature is also a little lower than the coast, a pleasant 22 degrees, which promises to drop to around 12 tonight!  In fact the temperature drops so low that the extra blankets come out around 4am!

Saturday we discover Yungaburra, a quant, beautiful tiny town, with some history, some heritage listed buildings, lovely walking tracks along Peterson’s Creek, flowering impatiens hanging from streetlight poles and all awnings, and again, plenty of well-manicured gardens and parks.

We drive around the town and its surrounds, and we visit the Avenue of Honours, a memorial dedicated to the fallen Australian soldiers in Afghanistan (2001-2011) and also to the 5 Explosive Detection Dogs killed in the line of duty.  This memorial is beautifully positioned on the edge of Lake Tinaroo.  We have a delicious fish for lunch at one of the understated, but amazingly beautiful little restaurants with a terrace.  We decide to do the Peterson’s Creek walk, all the while on the lookout for those elusive little platypuses.  We thoroughly enjoy the beautiful temperature, the rainforest, and the friendly ambiance of the town and its people.  We visit nearby Lake Eacham, a stunningly blue-green coloured tranquil water surrounded by a lovely walking track, unfortuately not suitable for bikes so we have to put them back on the car rack.

A fantastic day, and we close it off by having a chat with several of the other campers, exchanging our experiences around the mighty communal fire Arno gets going.

Sunday is a day of driving around sightseeing; we visit the Curtain Fig Tree and make our way on the unsealed road around the significant Lake Tinaroo, stopping and enjoying the wonderful natural or man-made attractions along the way, some photos below.  There are various camping sites along the lake’s edge (well-hidden by the dense forest) and numerous walking tracks – we do some of them.

The dam is at the most northern end of the lake, and we stop to watch the spill, which has an impressive spray forcing its way out with a drop of around 30 meters (couldn’t find any statistics posted there) and some mindless idiot climbing over the fence so his friend could take his photo.  We drive through Atherton, but being Sunday, it is devoid of any life, and every shop (other than Woolworths and Bunnings) is shut.  No matter, we have had a wonderful day with blue sky, nice temperature, and some attractive sights.

Monday is the day we visit Malanda, a town a little further south.  As in every other Visitor Information Centre, the Malanda staff are super helpful and chatty and explain everything about the wildlife and the area.  We buy a postcard to increase our caravan wall collection as well as DVD documentary of the platypus.  The Malanda waterfall is so close to the main road, that it sits under the bridge that carries the main road traffic, a little like Mena Falls beside Paronella Park, except that this is a much busier road, and the falls wider.  The falls drop into a huge pool, with concrete surrounds and a little beach area before it runs into the North Johnstone River.   We are guessing this may be the town’s public swimming pool (in the summer, nobody is there now!).  We cover the lovely short walk along the river, where we attempt so spot (unsuccessfully) an exceptionally long tail attached to the Lumholtz ‘s Tree Kangaroo.  We move on, and drive a little further south to take in the view from the Millaa Millaa lookout (not at the falls) which is beautiful, before returning to base.

Although we have booked 5 nights here in Bonadio RV camping, we add another three, as we feel this is such a central and beautiful location with, great amenities, and lovely surroundings, for one of the cheapest places we’ve been.

On our must-see list, we have Herberton.  Many people we’ve talked to have advised us to go early, as it will take a full day at least to see all there is to see in ‘Historic Herberton Village’.  So Tuesday we set off around 9am.  It’s less than half an hour’s drive, and when we arrive, we buy our entry tickets which remain valid for 3 days, as there is so much to see!  The show schedule states that from 11am right up till 3pm are activities all around the ‘village’.  We wander around to see as much as we can before the first show.  We love this place.  Every dwelling has been built to the minutest detail, be it the pub, school, toy shop, garage, butcher, hotel or all the others.  The village is separated by the Wild River from the ‘farm’, which, with all its related machinery is on one side and connected by a suspension bridge on one end, and a lower bridge with a massive (Comet or Southern Cross) windmill on the other end.  We chat (or are being chatted to!) the car/motorcycle expert staff member who starts up a few of the perfectly tuned vintage cars and motorcycles and is happy to share his extensive knowledge of these collectibles.  Apart from this hobby, he recently converted to being a gin lover, as he also suggests we visit the (modern) town of Herberton just down the road and visit his mate at the pub for some ‘Wild River’ tastings as they have their own distillery of gin and rum.  We learn how Darryl, the blacksmith (and an ex-schoolteacher), fashions all sorts of interesting and useful tools out of iron, and the names of his tools and their purpose.  He is an entertaining blacksmith who works a few hours, and we stick around for quite a while.  We watch a movie on the birth of Herberton when tin was discovered, and how the town survived even after the ‘rush’ was over.  We thoroughly enjoy our time here.  We manage to see all the buildings (we think) and leave in time for a visit to Herberton.  We stop (of course) at the hardware shop (with attached café) and we get talking to the owner (Christian) who has the best sourdough bread for sale, which he picks up weekly in his own plane from a station called Pinnarendi.  We are planning to go there, as Phil and Deb also highly recommended it (along with many others on our camp app). They are famous for their bread, and pizza as well as a fantastic campsite.  We mention to Christian we are on our way to the Royal to do a bit of Wild River tasting, and he says that his mate Rick or Wes there will look after us.  Off we go to a deserted pub, and enjoy the feel of it, as Rick is a great guy and has a bit of time to chat (not for long as more people come in).  He is not the distiller but certainly ensures we get the important information that Wes provides.  We chat, and he confirms that Christian is the ‘mad pilot’ who flies his own plane out to Pinnarendi and also confirms the fantastic reputation that the owners of the Pinnarendi station have built.  We cannot skip this place.  We get home late in the afternoon, after another really cool day.

Wild River Gin tasting

Wednesday we have wind and rain, and this is on a day that the clothes are washed and hanging under the awning to (not) dry.  This day gives Jen the chance to alter our home-made side privacy screen.  The privacy screen hangs on the side of the awning and is made from shade-cloth that provides some shelter from rain, and it filters the breeze.  But it was made with a cord to fit the track of our previous caravan and its diameter is too thin to fit our new van’s awning track.  So a fatter cord needs to be attached.  This has become a bit urgent as the rain is coming in from the side and the clean clothes were getting wetter instead of drier under the awning.  The last-minute purchase before leaving home was a little (lightweight) portable sewing machine, which serves its purpose for the first time today. When it is finished we hang it in the track, and it works.  And so the day passes with Arno also finally capturing one of the platypuses on camera.

Thursday it is still raining, and we go into Atherton to pick up an online order at the post office, Arno to wash the car and visit Bunnings, Jen to have a mani and pedi.  We also look at the things we still want to do in this area before moving on, and decide that we haven’t done any of the bike trail rides that we intended, and the rain won’t let up until Friday when we’ve planned for Arno to play golf and Jen to do some art galleries and other things in Atherton.  Our intended leaving day is Saturday, and as we feel we should then do our bike ride, we extend our stay here are at Bonadio by another night!  I don’t think we have ever stayed in one place for 9 nights, but as a base it has been fantastic.  It is Thursday night as this post is being written, and once the pictures are added, it will be published. The next post will cover the last few days of Atherton Tablelands, and a few more days further north and a side trip to the West.

This post’s trip (zoom out to see distance to Sydney): https://goo.gl/maps/fpJvqZxpkaJam7te7

Area explored in this post:

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7 thoughts on “QLD 2023, 19-25 May: Atherton Tablelands (1)

    1. Had het opschrift op de foto van dat beest niet moeten.zijn ” vogelbekdier op zoek naar Arno en Jen”?
      Leuk verslag en informatief!
      Wat zijn vliegende vossen?

      Vinden jullie het goed als ik jullie blog deel met mijn Australische vrienden Peter en Wil?
      Groetjes Ton

      1. Hoi Ton, vliegende vossen is de Google vertaling van flying foxes, oftewel vleermuizen;-)

        Natuurlijk kun je de blog delen met je Australische vrienden.

        Groet Arno&Jen

  1. Weer een fantastisch verslag. Jullie maken de tijd wel vol. Hebben jullie ook een rustdag?? Ook leuk om te lezen het gebruik van ansichtkaarten om de wand van de caravan te versieren. Dat doen wij ook met het resultaat dat als we weer thuis zijn we een ansichtkaarten winkeltje kunnen beginnen.

    Veel liefs. Knuffel

    Ellen en Henk

  2. P.S. Ik weet niet waar het woord toverstaf ineens te voorschijn is getoverd maar de bedoeling is hopelijk wel duidelijk. Ik bedenk me ineens dat toverstaf in het engels “wand of want”betekent. Dank U mijnheer Google. ( Zie Harry Potter).


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