Archives

Gold and Silver

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.   

Welcome to Karumba! 

Located at the mouth of the Norman River, Karumba is famous for fishing and sunsets. While we were there, the sunsets lived up to their reputation and we got up close to every fisherman’s dream catch, the barramundi. 

We stayed out of town at Karumba Point, where the Norman River flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria. The beach where the river meets the sea is a popular spot for those hoping to catch a barra or a king salmon.

Salt water crocodiles also favour this area. We didn’t see any but we heard stories in town about a very large croc who had recently been coming closer than he should. 

Karumba is one of just a few places in Queensland where the sun sets over the ocean so, on our first night, we joined the crowd on the beach. Staying well away from the water’s edge in case that crocodile was lurking, we watched as the setting sun burnished the sky.

The golden glow lingered long after the sun had slipped below the horizon.

The next morning we learned about Karumba’s other claim to fame, at the Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre. Originally established as a venture to restock the waterways around Karumba with barramundi fingerlings, the centre now houses an interactive educational display focussing on the barramundi and its environment. 

Entry to the centre is free but we chose to buy tickets for a behind the scenes tour of the barramundi hatchery. We learned how the breeding stock is kept strong and healthy, and followed the process from gathering fertilised spawn to caring for fingerlings before releasing them into the waterways around Karumba and elsewhere in northern Queensland.

We also had the chance to hand feed the huge silver fish. Glen found out that big fish make a big splash when they’re focussed on snatching their dinner. 

In the afternoon we joined a Ferryman Gulf Sunset and Wildlife Cruise to see Karumba from a different perspective. First we sailed upriver towards the town, passing buildings constructed as part of northern Australia’s defence system during World War Two.  

At the wharf a ship was preparing to carry freight to islands in the Gulf.

Further along lay an another boat, long ago abandoned to the elements.

White egrets perched on overhanging branches, intent on catching a late afternoon snack.

Just before sunset the boat turned, sailing back downstream and into the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

The sun set as quickly as it had the day before, slipping below the horizon in a matter of minutes. 

Everyone sat in silence, watching the play of colour in the west. Behind us in the east, the moon rose in a dusky sky.

Back on land after our cruise, we went in search once more for barramundi – at the local fish and chips shop!

Rain in the Gorge

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

It’s not supposed to rain in May in far north Queensland. Normally the dry season starts in May, with warm sunny days and mild nights right through till November. The exception is when La Niña comes visiting. 

While the weather pattern known as El Niño creates hot dry conditions resulting in prolonged drought, La Niña brings cooler temperatures and increased rainfall. This year Australia’s eastern states experienced their second La Niña in a row, with heavy rain and serious flooding in many areas. 

As we headed west into savannah country it seemed the dry season had finally started. But La Niña had other ideas and delivered another deluge across north Queensland. Luckily we were on the edge of the broad band of rain, so our plans were hardly affected. But we did experience a rare phenomenon – we were rained on in Cobbold Gorge. 

The gorge and nearby Cobbold Village are only open from April to October when the dry season allows access. While the Robertson River shrinks to a small stream, boat tours of the gorge are possible because Cobbold Creek is fed by natural springs. 

Our tour began where a pontoon bridge crosses the creek. After heavy rain the previous afternoon, the water was higher than usual and flowing fast. Flat bottomed boats were tied up alongside the bridge, but we had somewhere else to visit first. We followed our guide over the bridge and up the hill between large sandstone formations.

Our destination was this 11 metre long glass bridge which crosses the gorge at a height of 17 metres. From here we could see the creek and the sheer walls of sandstone up to 30 metres high on either side. 

We looked down through the glass floor onto the sandstone beside the creek, deeply grooved where it had been shaped by the moving water.  

Continuing on past the bridge, we walked back down to the creek and the waiting boats. 

Once we were all safely seated our little boat set off, powered by a silent electric motor. We glided along the widest section of the creek, under the glass bridge and into the gorge. 

The residents of Cobbold Gorge include a population of freshwater Johnstone River crocodiles. With increased storm water in the creek, our guide wasn’t expecting to see any but just as we entered the gorge a single croc was spotted up ahead. The boat slowed and we watched as she drifted ahead of us for several minutes before turning and disappearing beneath the surface. 

Further on the gorge narrowed until the boat was almost touching the sandstone walls. One saw-shelled turtle, no bigger than the palm of a hand, rested on the stone just above the water. 

As we reached the end of the gorge we could hear the sound of running water. Tiny streams fed by yesterday’s storm cascaded over the top of the walls. The water in the creek, usually dammed at this point during the dry season by a natural wall of stone, tumbled over the rocks. And it was here that it started to rain. 

The rain continued unabated on our return journey through the gorge. By the end we were all very wet but our spirits weren’t dampened. Instead we were buoyed by the privilege of visiting this special place in such unusual circumstances. 

Bush Camping at Undara Experience

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

While camping is not permitted in Undara Volcanic National Park, there’s a fabulous campsite nearby which had everything we needed and more. 

Undara Experience, just outside the national park, offers a range of options from unpowered bush camping and large powered sites to tents, cabins and luxury converted railway carriages. Our powered site was perfect – shaded in the afternoon, close to the amenities and a short walk to the bistro.   

We visited the bistro at Undara Central every day. It was the ideal location to enjoy an invigorating morning coffee, a tasty lunch or a refreshing ice cream after a long walk. 

Seven bush walks, ranging from 1.5 to 12 kilometres, all begin from Undara Central and there’s plenty of wildlife around the camp ground and on the tracks. While we loved seeing the pretty face wallabies, kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets, I was less than excited when I came face to face with a huge goanna sunning himself outside the toilets one morning!

Even in May the afternoon temperatures rose to the high 20s C. The swimming pool was a popular spot. 

Best of all was the delicious dinner we enjoyed at Undara Experience: macadamia crusted barramundi with chips and salad followed by a chocolate lava cake for dessert. It was bush camping with a touch of luxury!

On the Edge of a Volcano

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

While the lava tubes at Undara are only accessible by guided walks, there is another way to get up close and personal with a volcano on your own. The Kalkani circuit track goes around the rim of a volcano even older than Undara.

Unlike Undara, Kalkani erupted in a violent explosion of magma, gases and volcanic rocks which formed a cone with a deep crater inside. 

The rim of the crater is only a couple of metres wide. This is one of those times when staying on the track is a very good idea.

On the right hand side, the ground drops away into the centre of the crater before rising up again to the opposite edge. 

To the left, the steep outer side of the crater falls away just as sharply. From this elevated spot it’s easy to make out some of the other 163 volcanos in the region. Sections of darker green dry rainforest growing in collapsed lava tubes contrast with the rest of the forest.

A family of pretty face wallabies rests in the shade, surrounded by large volcanic boulders. They watch cautiously as walkers pass by. It’s as if they are surprised to see other living things in this vast landscape. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

An Evening To Remember

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

Our second guided walk at Undara Volcanic National Park took place late in the afternoon. The Sunset Wildlife walk promised fabulous sunset views over the park and the chance to see little bent-wing bats emerging from a lava tube ready for a night’s hunting. We weren’t disappointed. 

A short walk uphill ended on a ridge with 360° views of the plains. Most prominent were the volcanos which helped form this landscape. Undara, with Racecourse Knob to its left, were clearly visible on the horizon. 

Eventually we turned our backs on Undara, because it was the sunset we’d come to see. 

With champagne and a little tray of treats in hand, we watched as the setting sun burnished the sky in an ever changing display of colour. 

As nature’s light show ended, we walked back to the bus which took us to Barkers Tube.  Here, on a platform just outside the entrance to the tube, we stood silently in the dark listening as hundreds of bats flew out into the bush. We could also feel the movement of the air as they passed just overhead. 

Just as she had in Wind Tunnel earlier in the day, our guide turned on her torch for a few seconds. It was long enough for us to see the bats without disturbing them or sending them back inside the lava tube. The privilege of being able to see these tiny creatures in their natural habitat wasn’t lost on any of us. 

It was truly an evening to remember.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Beauty at Low Tide

Golden Beach, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

The esplanade at Golden Beach is perfect for walking. On one side of the street, private homes look out over the calm waters of Pumicestone Passage while on the other, the path follows the contours of the sandy beach…

until you come to the mangrove boardwalk.

As the boardwalk winds into the mangrove the houses disappear from view, hidden by a dense forest of trees, vines and undergrowth. Along the way two paths leading to viewing platforms over the channel branch off the main walkway.

The word mangrove refers both to an area of coastal vegetation and also to the particular types of trees which grow there.

Other native plants flourish in the forest too.

The mangrove is home to animals as well as plants. Golden Orb spiders build large communal webs, filling in the gaps between the trees.

When they feel the vibrations of footsteps on the boardwalk, small crabs suddenly stop their sideways scuttling. Once still, they’re hard to distinguish from the pebbles embedded in the sand.

At high tide the ocean reaches almost to the road, covering much of the vegetation on the ground. But when the tide is low and the water has receded, the true beauty of the mangrove is revealed.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

#17 Ducks in a Row

I’m joining Becky in her February Square Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules of the challenge are simple: most photos must be square and fit the theme word Odd, referencing one of these definitions: different to what is usual or expected, or strange; a number of items, with one left over as a remainder when divided by two; happening or occurring infrequently and irregularly, or occasionally; separated from a usual pair or set and therefore out of place or mismatched. Look for #SquareOdds.

While we didn’t travel as much as usual in 2021, we were fortunate to enjoy several holidays in our home state of Queensland and one short trip over the border in New South Wales. Join me this month in a retrospective look at the very odd year of 2021. 

 Pioneer Valley QLD, May 2021

As we drove through the Pioneer Valley to Eungella National Park, we came across a puzzling sight. This large group of birds, all lined up beside a large dam, stood like statues in the morning sun. There was no movement nor any sound.

We wondered if they’d heard of the expression “getting your ducks in a row”.

In the midst of all these silent, sunbathing birds one lone white egret stood head and shoulders above the rest.

#5 On the Lookout

I’m joining Becky in her February Square Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules of the challenge are simple: most photos must be square and fit the theme word Odd, referencing one of these definitions: different to what is usual or expected, or strange; a number of items, with one left over as a remainder when divided by two; happening or occurring infrequently and irregularly, or occasionally; separated from a usual pair or set and therefore out of place or mismatched. Look for #OddSquare.

While we didn’t travel as much as usual in 2021, we were fortunate to enjoy several holidays in our home state of Queensland and one short trip over the border in New South Wales. Join me this month in a retrospective look at the very odd year of 2021. 

Goomburra Valley, February 2021

One cheeky kookaburra decided his new favourite spot was the end of our caravan awning. He came every morning, perhaps in search of a tasty morsel or two at the camp breakfast table. If that’s what he was thinking, he would have been disappointed!

Keep to the Left…Mostly!

Minerva Hills National Park

In Australia we drive on the left and usually we walk on the left. At the start of the walk to the Skyline Lookout, I automatically walked on the left. It’s the natural thing to do!

Not far from the start this sign caught my attention and, as the track narrowed on its uphill climb, I instinctively moved to the right.

The loose gravel on the path meant I needed to concentrate on where I was stepping. I didn’t want to stumble and fall here – it was a long way down.

Wattle trees in full bloom covered the hills while closer to the track wiry tufts of spinifex dotted the stony slopes.

The track followed the curve of the hill, passing from open grassland into acacia forest where the trees were adorned with dozens of spider webs. Some of the large sticky webs were suspended across the track and I forgot about which side I wanted to walk on. Instead it was a case of dodging from one side to the other to avoid coming face to face with one of the golden orb weavers who built them.

The last section of the track wound around the peak of Mount Zamia to two viewing platforms. One faced south towards Virgin Rock and the little town of Springsure and the other looked out over the fertile farmland to the north.

The track to Skyline Lookout was 800 metres out and back and the return walk was a little easier. I just stayed on the left – except for the part where the spiders live.

28 Spot the Wallaby

I’m joining Becky in her July Square Photo Challenge over at The Life of B.  The rules of the challenge are simple: most photos must be square and fit the theme word tree. Look for #treesquare. Come with me on a Central Queensland road trip starring trees and the beautiful landscapes of my home state.

Minerva Hills National Park

A pretty-faced wallaby rests in the shade of a cycad.

For a few moments she’s curious, carefully watching us watching her.

But she soon returns to more important tasks.