QLD 2023, 2 – 10 June: Inland

Friday 2 June

We drive south via Atherton to the most south western edge of the Tablelands, where we land in Ravenshoe, which is situated around 1100m high and boasts having the ‘highest hotel in Queensland’.

We’ve booked (thank goodness) in the only camp in town, at the old train station. The waiting room is converted into amenities, and the old ticket counter into the volunteers’ (who run it) office. The platform with seats also doubles stage for a live performance (2 nights a week).
We set up and still have enough time left to have a chat with the visitors’ information volunteers and get the lay of the land. We drive out to Millstream national park, and walk to the ‘Little Millstream Falls’ . These are best viewed from a bit of height and not too close. The best photos therefore were taken on the hike back.

Saturday 5 June

We set off to explore the real Millstream Falls, which are quite beautiful. Friend Scott had posted last year how impressive he found them, and we concur. We move on to Innot Springs…. hot springs into a creek right beside the main road. We pull over, and change into swimmers and join a few other people (after first burning toes in one part of the water). To enjoy the perfect temperature, the trick is to dig a little pit to lie in, and then use the coarse sand to build dykes around you with a channel into the creek. The hot water will build up from the bottom into the shallow pit, and the creek will feed cool water to get the temperature just right. We have a lot of fun here for an hour or so with the other people. We drive on a bit further to Mount Garnet, but that’s as far west as we go, as we’ll be coming through here again on Monday.

As it is Saturday night, there is live entertainment, and we have a great old sing-along with the 6 member band. All older than us, but certainly a talented bunch of volunteers, and we enjoy it thoroughly.

Sunday 4 June (Ravenshoe to Pinnarendi)

It is quite wet when we wake up and are happy to have packed up last night. We now continue our trip west, from Ravenshoe to Pinnarendi.  This is a cattle station where, like our campsite in Yungaburra, the owners set aside an area for campers.  It also has its own airstrip, which supports a pretty neat way to get around these parts of the country when you’re not exactly close to any big town.  It comes highly recommended by several people; it is very popular, and we are very glad we booked a bit in advance. The owner Nadine is a fun and attentive host, and the coffee and food in their supercool café perfect.

We have nice weather, a bit windy, and Arno does the 3km walk around the dams on the property, and Jen publishes the last blog post. At dusk the wind settles, and we enjoy a fire in front of the site with a stunning sunset and a huge, slowly rising full moon.

Monday 5 June

Great temperature again, and we start off with Arno having his favourite breakfast (eggs Benedict) at the café. We then proceed to cover the half hour drive to join booked Undara Lavatubes Experience

The tour is very interesting, and our guide Kevin very knowledgeable.  He takes us on a bus to some different tubes and explains how the formation has taken place over the tens/hundreds of thousands of years. Layers and layers of basalt rolling out on top of granite.

The various types of soil also result in different vegetation, sometimes even on either side of the track.

The area is classified as a ‘refuge’ rather than a national park.  This means it is managed by a family but owned by the state.

We also hear that over the past 150 years or so, the first couple of owners who settled on this huge property suffered big losses as neither sheep nor most cattle survived due to the spear grass native to the savannah.  This grass has big burs that stick to the wool or coat to subsequently burrow into the skin and create infections so bad that the animals perish.  Eventually one (the Collins) family introduced the species that is immune to the ‘spears’ and thrive, and the same family still manage the property today, though it is now owned by the government.  The first lava tube was discovered in the 1960s.

The tubes (like caves) are spectacular, and boardwalks have been built to walk in and admire the colours and patterns of the rock. One of the caves is still flooded from recent rains, but the water has receded enough to allow a barefoot paddle over the boardwalk to the end. Arno does this to take pictures.  Another can’t be accessed but can be viewed from the wide-open entry.  The ‘Archway’ is the highlight of this tour, but we enjoy all 5 of them.

The following explanatory extract is from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (Parks and Forests):

“The lava tubes and caves were formed when rivers of lava confined to a valley crusted over and formed a roof. Insulated in its casing of solidified lava, the lava flow carried on for tens of kilometres before draining out, leaving an empty tube of lava.”

After the tour we stop at Karzahni volcano and climb and walk around the crater along the walking track.  The views from here are quite amazing, and the mounts of some old volcanoes can be seen.

Kevin the guide, had also mentioned that we might see wallaroos (bigger than wallaby, smaller than kangaroo), which we do.

We get back late in the afternoon to once again enjoy a perfect sunset, followed by the famous Pinnarendi lasagne at the amazing big table, and enjoy the company and conversation of the other campers.

Tuesday 6 (Pinnarendi to Talaroo)

We take our time in the morning, as we don’t have far to go, and there won’t be a lot to see along the way.  Jen wants to also do the walk on site, and we see grass that looks like it has been woven together.  We assume this is the spear grass that Kevin in Undara had also told us about.

While having coffee, Nadine confirms this, and shows us a picture of her partner’s recently completely swollen and infected toe, and the 2cm bur that was removed!

We say goodbye and head on over to our next destination about 125km further west.

Located about 10km from the main road via a red gravel (DUST), we arrive in a beautiful campground widely spread across the red soil. The reception has a gorgeous terrace and café, with an almost completed swimming pool.  We have opted for a non-powered site this time, and have the pick of them, and as it is lovely and quiet, our nearest neighbour is about 30m away. There is a beautiful camp kitchen and amenities. Everything looks new, but it is likely to have undergone a big facelift.  It is built on sacred land and run by indigenous people. 

We order a lovely lunch from the café (delicious chicken wings and Kiev).

We walk 5 minutes to the Einasleigh (pronounced Aynesleigh) River, which is stunning and not cold, which we find out is due to having a feed from the hot springs further along. It is full of fish and seems deep enough to have a nice swim.  The thought of crocodiles is still uppermost in mind, and Jen passes….

We have pre-booked our private 40-minute hot spring soak at the end of the day and enjoy both the lovely surrounds and sunset.  There is also a possibility of joining tour with a soak at the end in the big hot springs pool, but we enjoy our little pool made of rocks and large enough for 3 (or 4 small) people and temperature set to our preference by friendly Michelle.

After this we enjoy another sensational sunset, and we notice the nighttime temperature drops less with each more westerly trip.

Wednesday 7 (Talaroo to Forsayth)

We set off early again in the western direction on a beautiful hot day.

We aim to quickly do some shopping on our way through Georgetown as we are not likely to see many towns for the next 5 days or so.  That turns out to be a bit of wishful thinking, there is a supermarket and veg/fruit shop both don’t really have much to choose from, and Jen must forego the frozen berries that normally go into her morning smoothie!

The road between Georgetown and Forsayth (pronounced Forsythe) has several unsealed sections, with plenty of steers beside as well as on the road.  They are mostly smart enough to get off the road, and we are fortunately not in any hurry.

The ant hills are now shaped more like obelisks, or spears, though not as large as we’ve recently encountered.

We arrive in Forsayth to a lovely 29 degrees, and we plan on dropping the van, and continuing our way to Cobbold Gorge, where we are scheduled to be on a tour around lunch time.

There is actually a queue, but everyone makes sure we are looked after first, and the owner allocates a nice spot to us and assists backing in with every guests, so it all moves smoothly.  We level and power-connect the van, pack a lunch, and jump in the car for our trip to the gorge.

Once we arrive at Cobbold after an hour of red dust road for our tour, there is simply an oasis in this nowhere land. There is a lovely café and a terrace overlooking an infinity pool in front of a large dam, surrounded by greenery. Everything is green here. We have a drink with our packed lunch here. It looks like an awesome place to camp; we just didn’t want to take our new (not an off-road) van over the bumpy gravel road for that distance and back.

The Gorge tour turns out to be the highlight of our trip to date.  

Our South African guide Glen is great and explains the interesting native flora and fauna on our walk to the Gorge.  We find ourselves on top of a glass bottom bridge (with shoe covers) that crosses the stunning gorge and water below.  The bridge was completed a few weeks before the pandemic hit, and it was one of the biggest disappointments and worries that it may have all been for naught if not sustainable throughout that period.  At one point there was only a staff of 4.  Luckily somehow they managed to pull through financially, and what a treat this is.

We learn that the ant hills we’ve seen are in fact termite hills, and rock solid (like concrete).  There are around 700 different species of termites (and very few are the timber eating ones found in homes).  The hills are integral to the eco system, (and there surely are millions of them) as the termites build complex tunnel networks, which is what aerates the soil, and keeps it healthy for the flora.

Each mound has one queen who lays around 3200 eggs A DAY! Not sure if she lays eggs every one of her 17 (!!) years alive, or only part, but that equates to around a million eggs a year.  The termites are a great food source for echidnas and who knows what other animals and insects. Arno read up on them and found that the hills are built in such a clever way to regulate the air temperature, that the method is now being adopted for buildings somewhere in south America.  Humans learning from termites!

Once we are down at the bottom of the gorge, we get into a (silent electric) boat and have a 45-minute ride up and down the narrow gorge which presents us with the most stunning colours of walls and water; the weather could not be more perfect with not a breath of moving air and a clear blue sky.  We see a few small crocodiles contentedly sunning; moss of amazing green hues on the walls, and ferns and other plants sprouting out of the rockface.  The colours of the rock layers are truly amazing, and we absolutely love this tour.

We return to Forsayth exhilarated and decide to walk over to the pub next door (which also doubles as post office, and the ‘supermarket’).

We meet the friendly couple who let us check into the caravan park this morning and we have a great chat. Their name is also Turner (like our other friends), and we discuss all the places they and we have been to (including Pinnarendi) and the train trip to Einasleigh the next day.  We also book this trip (at the pub of course!); a one-hour coach trip and 2-hour return on the historic last stretch of the ‘Cairns-to-Forsayth’ train.

Thursday 8 June

Another hot, dry day, and Jen does a bit of laundry hanging it out hoping for no wind carrying red dust!

We catch the coach to Einasleigh, an interesting ride over the range, and end in a town comprising a few houses, a pub and a caravan park.  Einasleigh also has the Copperfield Gorge’s claim to fame which is a few minutes’ walk from the pub.  We decide we will do that tomorrow as we plan to come through here again on the shortcut to Townsville.

We spend an hour in the pub awaiting the train that arrives at 2pm, and leaves at 2.30pm.  We see it coming, and the driver and his sidekick come to pub for some lunch and then round up everyone who plans on either getting on board or continuing their trip (from Cairns (or any other station on the route since).

The train ride back to Forsayth through the ranges is quite spectacular.  We first stop just outside of Einasleigh at a locked signal box where we are following the symbolic tradition removing the ‘baton’ that is taken along; the now empty box alerting any following trains that the single track is already occupied….

Any passenger is allowed to take the seat beside the driver for 5 minutes each to get a feel for and view of the vastness and attractive landscape.  Both Einasleigh and Forsayth are around 2500 feet high, and the drop in between about half of that, so it makes for an interesting ride.

Another fun and different day.

Friday 9 June

We set off to Einasleigh again direction Townsville and stop for a bit of walk over the boulders along the Copperfield Gorge and watch the fast-streaming water create some small but noisy waterfalls.

We continue but soon find that the road condition for the next 75km is more suited to an off-or semi off-road van, not so great for our new one, so we return the way we came via Georgetown, and passing Talaroo again. This time we stop a little further east at Mount Surprise where we stay at a cute, very simple caravan park with a fantastic swimming pool, and a huge aviary with plenty of birds.

Jen has a swim in the cool pool, and chats there with our camp neighbours.  The family of 4 is travelling around the country for a year, which we are seeing more and more of, and they have been on the road for 3 months so far. Big coincidence: they are in fact also almost neighbours back at home, hailing no further than 5 km from us, and they know our house and have various friends in our ‘hood’!

It’s interesting how only a few hours east from Forsayth it is so much cooler at night (explains the pool temperature).

Saturday 10 June

A little further east is the turnoff south which will take us through a fairly quiet backroad. We spend the night at Bluewaters Springs Roadhouse camp, which is nice and simple, but they prepare a tasty meal for us!

We check out the blue waters springs just behind the camp, which are a bit milky due to the minerals in the water, but it’s pretty.

This post’s route: https://goo.gl/maps/tLYEyVUf1oRWWgxX6

Related Post

2 thoughts on “QLD 2023, 2 – 10 June: Inland

  1. Wat een interessant verslag, indrukwekkendcdie basaltformaties,
    dat hete water en natuurlijk voorzien van schitterende foto’s.
    Ik heb het laat in de nacht zitten lezen zal het later op mijn gemak nog eens nalezen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *