...heading towards our most northern point thus far
01.11.2017 - 03.11.2017 40 °C
From Undara, we followed the Savannah Way, roughly north, towards Yungaburra (the name comes from the Aboriginal name for the Queensland silver ash, janggaburru). This journey proved to be quite slow as we had not gone far before we found 40 Mile Scrub National Park where there was a fascinating short walk through some dry rainforest. Although we saw a few birds, none of them would co-operate for photographic purposes so we had to be satisfied with butterflies and red termite mounds!
As we travelled on, we came across more termite mounds (greyish this time) and then, following the advice of volunteer tourist guides in Mount Garnet (I suppose that is better than Mount Tin, tin being the other main mineral found in the area), we headed for Millstream Falls which proved well worth the hot walk down (and back up!).
We had gradually been leaving behind the harsher countryside and moving into gentler, greener areas. Gladys (our satnav) lead us astray for a while before condescending to direct us to the Nerada tea plantation where we had an excellent lunch but didn't manage to find their resident tree kangaroo. Strangely, I can not find the origin of the name Nerada, other than that the plantation was started in the Nerada Valley. I presume it has its origins in an Aboriginal word. When looking for this, I came across the Nerada story and this is so typical of many Australian enterprises and makes quite interesting reading. While having our lunch, we had the company of our first brush turkeys, swamp hens on top of the tea bushes (adding flavour?) and, nearby, some beautiful little mannikins as well as egrets and herons. Near Yungaburra, we detoured to Lake Eacham, one of several crater lakes in the area, and were able to have a quick look around, spotting a turtle en route, before a downpour hurried us on to our motel. Yungaburra is a very pretty little town and, we felt, a very 'liveable' place. We waited for the rain to clear then took a walk down to a nearby creek where we were lucky enough to see two platypuses (platypi?!) before getting lost and having a rather long walk through the suburbs.
It would have been good to have at least one more day in Yungaburra but we had to travel on but first stopped on the outskirts of the town to look at the Curtain Fig - a massive array of aerial roots tumbling down from what had been a large tree before the fig effectively strangled it and it partly fell, allowing the fig to send down many aerial roots, creating the curtain effect. Many birds made their homes in the curtain, we caught a glimpse of a small marsupial in the forest and heard some very strange sounds from the upper storey. We were very curious but eventually the mossies hastened our departure! We aimed towards Atherton (named after a pastoralist who settled in the area in 1875) but stopped at Hasties Swamp which proved to be very good for a number of first-seen birds - brown pigeon and pheasant coucal being highlights for us.
As we travelled on we came across our first banana plantations.
One thing that I have not mentioned is that our taste in liquor has swung very much towards gin - a long gin and tonic on a hot day is nectar! This all started at Perth Airport where we found some Margaret River gin which we thought would be a novel addition to out travelling booze cupboard. It is one of the nicest gins either of us has ever tasted but very hard to find. We enquired in Margaret River only to find that it is not distilled there but that Margaret River water is used! We have tried one or two other brands but then, just after leaving Atherton, we found the Mount Uncle Distillery. We tasted the gin they produce and although it is raw in neat form, we liked the flavour and rate this as up there with the Margaret River gin (the name escapes me). We still have some left but will soon need to find a new supply - or try another local brew - I wonder if the Hunter Valley would sully themselves with the production of spirits?!
We would like to have stopped at Mareeba but did not have time so continued on to Mount Carbine. There was some quite striking scenery as we drove along, with changes in vegetation types and geology being very evident. Around this time, I had taken over the driving and had my legs tested when two cattle decided to cross the road - it was a close thing but my reactions were good enough to avoid damaging us or the cattle. Just short of Cooktown, we stopped at Black Mountain which is a fascinating geological mass. Rather than try to copy all of the description of its origins into this blog, I have included a photograph of an information board which I hope will be legible! The bird life was good there but the mountain really was the centrepiece. We had been told (and one of the noticeboards mentioned) that sometimes people standing there hear cracking sounds as the rock mass moves! On arrival at our caravan park cabin, we saw our first ever, very striking, pied imperial pigeon.
In Cooktown (named after Captain James Cook, of course), we stayed at our first Big 4 park and were very pleased with the accommodation and environment. We only had one full day here and drove up to Grassy Hiil from which we had magnificent 360 degree views over the Coral Sea, the town, coastline, and the Endeavour River. We nearly came away with a little dog but a bloke came along and recognised it and called its owner to let him know that 'two Pommie Sandgropers' had found his dog! We had a brief look in the Botanic Gardens but were driven out by hordes of ravenous mossies! We had a quick visit to Finch Bay where people were swimming in spite of warnings of saltwater crocs in the area!
We then went back into the town and had lunch - I wanted coral trout but grilled and this came with rice and salad, a very nice combination. However, I did help Judith with some of the chips that she had with her barra - both fishes were delicious. We were struck here and elsewhere in north Queensland by how many mango trees had fruit dropping with nobody bothering to pick them up or even take them from the tree. This isn't new as we recalled this from our time living in Brisbane. After refuelling ourselves we continued to cover the Heritage Trail which included the spot where Cook careened the Endeavour for repairs, a monument to those involved in the Palmer River gold rush (Mick the Miner), a statue of Cook and several beautifully preserved (and well-used) buildings. It had been a very hot day so a dip in the saltwater pool in the caravan park was a great relief. It was under shade sails and for about 10 minutes we had it to ourselves before a couple of other folk joined in. Yet again, at least one more day would have been good to be able to explore Cooktown and visit some other places of interest nearby.