Australian Travels 2010: Cruising in Queensland


Part 3, wherein we complete our loop North and return to Bowen on our way South, stopping along the way to visit many little gems. No we didn't go gem prospecting, that's further inland. Our gems tend to be natural environments and the local flora and fauna.

Click on the Bowen photo to check out that water tank which says "BOWENWOOD" in more detail. I mentioned it in part 1 (especially since there was some daft idea of putting up a WELLYWOOD sign in Wellington). I don't know if that scheme has gone away now, I think the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce sent a lawyer's letter. SSSShhhhh. They may not know about Bowen.

NOTE: Click on each picture to see larger version.
Click the Back button to return to this page.

One of our favorite places to visit is the Atherton Tableland. And on the Tableland we like to stay at Kingfisher Park Birdwatching Lodge . This time we got to go on a night walk and a morning walk with Keith and Lindsay Fisher, and saw lots of interesting things...not all of them birds as you will see. We missed out on a repeat visit to Mt Lewis because of a flat battery, but we've been there before so we weren't too put out. And it was a great place to break down. We were able to stay in comfort while a new battery was brought out from Mt Molloy.

On the night walk we were fortunate to see several rare creatures in a flowering Sapote tree. This isn't a native, it comes from South America. But the day shift (honeyeater birds) and the night shift (fruit bats, possums, and other mammals) don't care. They love it. We caught this striped possum, although with our red spotting torch the colours aren't quite right. These little guys are just black and white...and would fit in your hand. Might fix the colour in fancy software when we get home. In this photo the striped possum is upside down. They seem to be just as happy upside down and downside up. If you can't make out this picture have a look at the bigger version (click on it), and/or look at the next picture which should give you more reference points for the face and what it looks like. Striped 70
Striped 72 For those of you in Australia this is a lovely sight. For those of you in New Zealand: this is not a scruffy brushtail possum eating our forests and bringing tuburculosis and other diseases to our dairy cattle. Kiwis need to adjust their feelings when in Australia because we generally treat possums the way Aussies treat the dreaded Cane Toad . Possums are lovely in their own environment where they belong. In addition to this rare striped possum we saw a green ringtail possum and the rarely seen and a prehensile tailed rat. (now called a tree mouse in our reference book). Don't know if tree mouse sounded better for P.R. purposes than rat. But I'm no taxonomist.
One of the must see places for birds on the tableland is Hasties Swamp. There is a fine quality bird hide (two stories!), and always something to see out on the water. Here are some whistling ducks taking a break. There were also lots of magpie geese further along, and we watched them head off to the nearby farm fields to eat each day. At least we think that's what they were after. When they aren't over in the fields they are at a more grassy end of the swamp eating something else. We didn't stop to ask them. Hasties Swamp
Bromfield Swamp Another lot of daily commuters are the Brolgas. They return at night to Bromfield Swamp which is down the road from Hasties. Bromfield is an easy recognizable volcano crater shape (especially if you are used to this sort of countryside from New Zealand). We went to the edge several evenings to enjoy flights of Brolgas trumpeting to one another as they come in low over the edge. Then it's landing gear down and a sort run on the ground before they come to rest. Big crane, needing a bit of runway. You can't get a close up of them at Bromfield, so good old Wikipedia can help Brolga up your day.
The other big thing around Kingfisher Park is the frogs in the showers. These are giant tree frogs, but they seem to like to live in the shower and toilet blocks as well. They tuck themselves into corners during the drier times and come out when it is moist. Which is why they like to be right in the shower cubicles like this one. They are a bit bigger than your hand when they stretch out their limbs. It hasn't happened to us, but you just hope that they don't decide to leap on you while you are in the middle of your shower. There are enough bitey things around that one doesn't want anything jumping on one's person! During the latter part of our time up North the snakes are waking up and for a time we were seeing one a day. Jan got quite surprised by one which leapt out and caught a frog right behind her chair while we were sitting outside. I looked up to see the head slowing withdrawing into the bushes with a squirming frog in its mouth. Keith assured us this was a tree snake which is not poisonous and only eats frogs. We've never really had a chance to learn the poisonous ones from the harmless ones -- neither they nor we stay close enough long enough. Frog
Fast Moving Water We also had a one day outing down off the tableland to Mossman and vicinity. We called in at Port Douglas (not our scene)and Mossman Gorge (overrun with tourists)and went up into a less populated hinterland area where we ate lunch at a great place called High Falls Riverside Restaurant . We also called in at a glassworks which look awfully familiar: Hoglund Glass which exists like us as migrants between New Zealand and Australia. You may have noticed by now that most of the North Tropical Queensland business only operate part of the year. This sign on the road to the glass gallery should give you a hint why. Sometimes nobody can get in or out for months in the wet season.
The grounds at High Falls are old demonstration gardens for various tropical fruits which the Queensland Government was thinking might be taken up by growers. There are still lots of interesting things there, some of which come back in the food. Jan and I each had a fantastic Sour Sop cheesecake. I was first introduced to these fruits in the Solomon Islands in 1978 and haven't had one since. We found a tree with some small ones on it, but Jan was more taken with the Jak Fruit. We had our famous rainbow umbrellas for strolling about because there were showers. The notebook in her hand is the guide to the demonstration garden which has numbers on the sample trees. It has photos of all the different fruiting trees and gives information about them. They even had a Jaboticaba (Myrciara Cauliflora) which is the tree we have in our garden in Auckland. Lake Mitchell
jak fruit One of the things which we found hard to come by at Kingfisher was mobile phone coverage or internet connectivity. This doesn't usually cause a problem, but we had a few things we needed to check up on, so we decided to head to someplace with coverage. We guessed that if we headed South to Lake Mitchell and drove out on the causeway that would do the trick. So we combined a bit of bird watching with signal gathering. Here is Steve communicating with the rest of the world.
We headed off from Kingfisher and went camping for a few days around the back of Lake Tinaroo. We left Kingfisher packing up in the rain, and arrived in Atherton to dry out in a cabin. Then we packed up our dry things and camped at Lake Tinaroo, until we...packed up in the rain and headed off. They don't call this place Wet Tropics for nothing. This time we dried out a bit further inland. You only have to go 60-70km inland here and the climate changes dramatically. Dry and hot. On the way we passed this amusing bit of witty banter via signs. Part of Steve's ever growing collection of amusing Australian signs. We dried out at Innot Hot Springs for a night (although we only had to put the tent up for a couple of hours and it was bone dry). Nice to have a soak in hot springs. The next morning we packed up and headed off for a bit of inland back road adventure. poor bugger
blencoe falls First we headed to remote Blencoe Falls, which is down a dirt farm road heading South out of Mt Garnett. We had been down this way before but didn't check out the falls which are on an even smaller side road. This time we did and were rewarded by some spectacular views and great camping by Blencoe Creek. This view of the falls was the first we had and it was up a 5 km 4WD track just before the actual camping. We didn't actually see the sign warning that this was a full blown 4WD track because it was placed for traffic coming from the campground. I guess you are supposed to call in there first. Fortunately, our trusty Trev didn't mind at all. That's what he is built for.
Also up at the lookout were hoop pines. We are familiar with them from many other areas because they seem to be used quite a bit in Queensland Government Forestry plantations. But these ones also had very interesting orchids growing on them. We think these are called "pencil orchids" but we're not sure. Given they are hanging out of trees which are themselves hanging over a big cliff which goes down to the falls we weren't going to get a whole lot closer to them! orchids
bridge Just to give you an idea of the remote nature of this road, this is one of the bridges you cross. There are a couple of these with the planks going longitudinally. We're used to ones with the planks going the other way and you make a "boodle-oo boodle-oo" sound as you cross. With these longitudinal ones you just go very slowly and try and keep your wheels from following the wrong set of tracks. We seemed to be the only people at the campgrounds despite our guide book saying it was a very popular place. That may have to do with the uncertain state of the shorter road in from Kennedy down on the coast. Various authorities say it is officially unmaintained, used by locals, fixed up since cyclone Larry, or still closed. We were advised to bring a chainsaw if we went that way in case another tree had fallen over it.
Another sign of being pretty remote is a lack of signs. Well, at least the one you want. Here is the fork in the road where you have to go left to get to the falls or right to get further South. No hints about where Blencoe Falls is at this point. The signing for Blencoe Falls was pretty good earlier on when you left Mt Garnett, but they seem to have run dry by the time they got down here. signs
emu The other thing you need to watch out for along the roads here is critters of various sorts. We came across a pretty big goanna crossing the road and he took off at a great speed as soon as he saw us and shot into a hollow log by the side of the road. We also saw a dingo (we usually see at least one on every trip) which might have been a half breed. We didn't get a close look because like the goanna it was off as soon as it spotted us. On the other hand, this emu sauntered into the road and spent some time cruising along. We went very slowly (Trev is our portable bird hide) and the emu paced us along the side. Not running from us, but just strolling in the same direction we were going.
The first emu joined his mates, so we stopped for a time and watched them off the side of the road in longer grass. This sort of travelling is great, but it is one of the reasons we don't go very far in a day. More things hide in the long grass than just emu, which is another reason to drive slowly. But this is also the reason we prefer to travel on little unsealed side roads rather than up the main highway -- you get to see more wildlife and you can stop safely to have a closer look. emus
prettyface You never know when something is going to zoom out on the road just ahead of you, and kangaroos are notorious for having little "road sense". We wouldn't to run over one of these little cuties. This is a "Prettyface" or Whiptail Wallaby. Jan was delighted because she remembers these from her childhood growing up in Southern Queensland.
First one popped up. Then there were two. Eventually a third popped up as all three headed away from the road for the hills behind. So this was a one dingo, one goanna, three emu and many whiptails sort of a day. Of course we have seen lots of other kangaroos and wallabies in our travels, but the whiptails stand out. But you only get a photograph of 1 out of 100 you actually see. Usually they take of before you can even think about getting the camera pointed at them. prettyfaces
reedy cows We rang ahead from Mt Garnett to get permission to camp at Reedy Brook Station. The owners George and Audrey Harriman very kindly allow people to camp there but we wanted to check in and be sure it was ok. This is all part of good manners on station properties, and unfortunately sometimes people assume they can just camp anywhere and don't take all their rubbish with them. When we arrived we found some very contented looking cows, and chose a site shaded by some paperbark trees.
Here is our campsite right by the brook. The water flows at considerable pace, and eventually ends up as the Burdekin River which comes out on the coast between Ayr and Home Hill. We've been to the Burdekin dam downstream, and looked at the area of the river mouth, so it was great to discover what the source looks like. Jan found a nice low level area of this area on the web which shows the complex channel structure in this area, but we failed to bookmark it and I can't place it here yet. It may be here if you check back another time. Serious internet searchers are welcome to find it and email me the link. reedy camp
Striped 72 It turns out we were a week late for a charity cricket event called The Ashes which is held at Reedy Brook. There were still some pieces of infrastructure around (long drops and covered seating) but the cows had alread moved back in to the area of the pitch. If you enlarge the photo and look carefully you will see a monument mentioning Valley of Lagoons. This is nothing to do with the cricket, it commemorates a place where the early European explorer Ludwig Leichhardt camped. It is also the name of the next property along, which has several large lagoons and is a haven for water birds just like Reedy Brook. We passed Valley of the Lagoons (the station not the locality) on our way out to the coast. We popped out from this back road diversion and found ourselves back in Ingham. We had planned to camp at Broadwater, but when we started going in that direction there were big black clouds and rain. Since we have been to Broadwater twice before, we chickened out and decided to head South instead which was out from under the clouds.
So we returned to Crystal Creek for more camping and swimming in Paradise Pool. We didn't get rained on, and the weather was good. Ingham must have been at the junction of two weather systems because we are only talking 80-100 km one way or the other. We didn't manage to get a photo last time so we took special care to get one for you this time! paradise
goanna We met up with a more friendly (well, less scared) goanna who visited our camp. He seemed to live in a hole in a tree which was next to us. We saw him climb up a few times and he seemed to stay in the hole overnight. Also in that tree a brown backed honeyeater nest was being built, but it was out on a very thin branch and probably safe from a goanna looking for eggs. We've seen a few nests this year and are catching on to how they are built and located to avoid snakes and goannas.
Up the creek from Paradise Pool is another area called the Rock Slides. We made a trek up there. Lots of youngsters go there for the thrill. Steve tried one of the slides out to good effect. Jan took photos. While Steve was sliding there was a young German tourist who joked with Jan saying: "There are slides like this all over Europe. Except that they are made of plastic and indoors". That says a lot about why there are so many young Europeans travelling in Australia and New Zealand to enjoy the raw natural environment. rockslide
Striped 72 On the way to Bowen we stopped at a fruit and vegetable roadside stall and stocked up. This is in Gumlu, which is a small community North of Bowen. They are fairly close together and the Growers associations straddle the two areas. The Gumlu/Bowen area produces most of the tomatoes and capsicums in Australia, I believe. You may have heard about them in the news because somebody put herbacide into the feed lines at the nursery facilites and took out much of next years tomato crop at the seedling stage. Farmers have to put up with all sorts of environmental challenges (floods, droughts, cyclones, insects) without people doing damage as well. But they are a resiliant lot and they will keep on. On a happier note, there was a great watermelon where kids could get their picture taken at the roadside stall. I love watermelon. Enough said.

This update is being posted from Bowen where we have been for several nights. We are currently waiting for our vehicle to come back to us from being serviced. Then after a few more days we bid farewell to Bowen and make our way back South.

      back to home page

      back to part 2

back to part 1