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Talaroo Hot Springs

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.

When our guide Jimmy calls a halt to our early morning walk while he pays his respects to the “old people”, we know we’re included in something very special. He’s referring to his ancestors, the Ewamian people, whose country we’re learning about at Talaroo Hot Springs.

The land we’re walking on used to be part of Talaroo Station, a 31,500 hectare cattle property in the heart of the Gulf Savannah. In 2012, the property was returned to the Ewamian people and listed as an Indigenous Protected Area and Nature Refuge. The hot springs, prized by countless generations as a spiritual place of healing and relaxation, are now managed by Ewamian rangers like Jimmy, who is passionate about sharing this site and his connection to country with others.

Jimmy leads us on to the boardwalk and up to a shaded platform, from where we look out over the springs and terraces. Over thousands of years, hot mineralised water continually bubbling to the surface and flowing over the ground has built up layers of sedimentary travertine. These mounded terraces are one of just two such formations in the world – the other is in Tasmania. The water rises from reservoirs deep underground, independent of the Great Artesian Basin.

Heated by extreme temperatures underground, the water reaches the earth’s surface at a temperature of up to 68°. Steam from the hot pools hovers in the cool morning air.

Some of the water is channelled into the communal bathing pool, where it’s a more comfortable 34°C. Our walk around the hot springs ends with a swim in the pool and we join our fellow walkers in a long relaxing soak.

Later, taking advantage of one of the four private pools, we sit quietly as the therapeutic water bubbles up around us. Surrounded by Savannah bushland, where the only sounds are those of birds and insects, we’re grateful to Jimmy and his people for sharing this special place.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Living History in Croydon

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. 

The Savannah Way passes right through the centre of Croydon and it would be easy to drive on without stopping. But this little town, isolated in the vastness of the Gulf Country, has a history worth learning about. 

Today Croydon has a population of just 266, but in the late 1880s it was the third largest town in Queensland. The reason for this population boom was, of course, the discovery of gold. People flocked to the area after the first discovery was made in 1885 and, by 1887, the town had a police station, general store, hospital and 36 pubs!

The population may have dwindled over time but the buildings from the gold rush era remain in Croydon, preserved in a Heritage Precinct on Samwell Street. We enjoyed a gentle stroll from one building to the next, going inside each to read their stories and look at the photos of times past. 

The Police Sergeant’s residence (1897)

The Police Station and Old Gaol (1896)

Croydon Court House (1887) 

Croydon Town Hall (1892) 

Club Hotel (1887)

Hospital Male Ward (1887)

In earlier times, kerosene lamps lit the streets of Croydon. Today four original lamps have been joined by several replicas along the length of Samwell Street, adding to its historic character.

After wandering through town on foot, we used our car for the next part of our exploration, to the site where Chinatown and the Chinese Temple once stood. The foundations of the temple are the only remnants left of this once bustling area of Croydon. More than 300 Chinese people lived in Croydon, mostly working in their market gardens growing fruit and vegetables to supply the settlement. 

Plaques telling the stories of some of the Chinese families are set beside the walking track. 

Another couple of kilometres along the road we came to Lake Belmore, an earth walled dam constructed in 1995. The lake may be far more modern than the historic structures in town but its legacy is just as important. It is the largest body of fresh water in the region and supplies the town and surrounding area. The lake is a popular venue for water sports and fishing.

On our way back into Croydon we stopped at Diehm’s Lookout. Its location in the hills behind Croydon gave us just enough elevation to look down on the historic town, isolated by the seemingly limitless expanse of woodlands and savannah of the Gulf Country. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Learning While Walking

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. 

After going on two guided walks in Undara National Park, it was nice the next day to head off on our own. Seven bush walking tracks start from Undara Experience and we selected two of medium length with different themes. 

In the morning we walked to Atkinson’s Lookout. For most of the 3.84 kilometre walk there was no formed track; we followed white arrows pointing the way over huge slabs of pink granite. 

This walk focused on our natural surroundings. We found clumps of white paper daisies and wattle trees just coming into bloom.

We were intrigued by these very large ant nests but thankfully we didn’t meet the inhabitants. 

When we reached the lookout on a rounded dome of granite, we found a rather unusual cairn, perhaps a bush version of travellers’ stones. 

The view over the plain was dominated by Undara, the volcano we’d come to know well. 

Our afternoon walk, on a well worn path through the bush, was a history lesson. Watched by a friendly kookaburra, we headed off on the 3.6 kilometre Pioneer Track following the route of the first telegraph line, built in 1872.

Native Cypress pine trees were used for the telegraph poles. The timber’s termite resistant quality means that 150 years later some of the poles still stand beside the track. 

As we neared the end of the track a small timber cabin came into view. Constructed by hand using pioneering techniques, this slab hut is a replica of the first home built when the Collins family moved to this area in the 1870s.

With so many walks to choose from, we covered everything on offer at Undara – geology, geography, nature and history.

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

The Story 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. 

Around 190,000 years ago a giant shield volcano on the McBride Plateau erupted, forcing 23 cubic kilometres of lava to the earth’s surface. The fast moving lava flowed into a river bed and continued across the plain for 160 kilometres. While the outer layers cooled quickly and solidified, the molten lava inside continued to flow away, leaving huge basalt tunnels behind. The volcano is now known as Undara, which means long way in the local Ewamian language – the lava flow is the longest in the world.

Over time some of the tunnels collapsed, forming sheltering spaces for dry rainforests. The intact lava tubes provide the perfect habitat for dark-dwelling fauna like microbats, insects and small amphibians.

Undara and the lava tubes are now part of Undara Volcanic National Park and the wider McBride Volcanic Province, which contains 164 volcanos. Safety issues mean the lava tubes are only accessible on guided walking tours. Some contain high levels of carbon dioxide and many are difficult to negotiate.

Our guided walk started at Mikoshi Lava Tube, 46 metres long, 14 metres wide and 11 metres high. With a sturdy cable in hand for safety, we clambered down a jumble of fallen rocks to the floor of the tube.

Sunlight streaming in from each end shone across the walls of the tube, highlighting the layers of solidified lava.

At 293 metres, Wind Tunnel was much longer and the light only penetrated a few metres at either end. 

We made our way into the tube by torchlight, carefully following in our guide’s footsteps. 

She explained the geology of the tube system, her torch showing where the lava had moved and settled. In some places streaks of red iron oxide and white silica created beautiful marbling on the walls while elsewhere the stone was pockmarked with burst air bubbles.

A colony of little bent-wing bats lives in the darkest part of Wind Tunnel. We could hear them all the time, rustling and moving about on the ceiling eight metres above, but we only saw them for the briefest of moments. The guide lit up the roof for just three seconds; enough for us to see them but not enough to disturb their daytime rest. 

As we left Wind Tunnel there was time for one last glance back into this natural wonder. It was hard to imagine that not so long ago, in geological terms, this was filled with a river of molten rock. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Up The Hill

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. 

When is a mountain not a mountain? 

When it falls short of the required 300 metres in elevation by a mere 14 metres.

Castle Hill might just miss out on mountain status but at 286 metres it dominates the city of Townsville. The pink granite monolith, also known by its indigenous name of Cootharinga, is popular with both locals and visitors who can either walk up the famous Goat Track with its 758 stairs or drive up the 2.6 kilometre sealed road to the top. On a steamy 33° afternoon we did not walk up the Goat Track. 

Once at the summit we could easily have just stayed at the car park lookout which has spectacular 360° views – Townsville’s sprawling suburbs spread across the coastal plain, Hervey Range in the distance and Magnetic Island 10 kilometres off the coast.

But after avoiding the long walk up the hill we had energy reserved for the short walks at the top. The Radar Hill walk was closed for renovations so we set off on the Summit Walk to Hynes Lookout. 

From here we could see the CBD, where we’d walked the Street Art Trail in the morning, the busy Port of Townsville and Cape Cleveland far away on the horizon. 

Closer to the coast, Magnetic Island was veiled by a humid haze. 

Further round to the north east the Pill Box Walking Trail, which leads to a relic of World War Two, was our next destination.  

This track and lookout gave us a slightly different perspective on the same views. But it was the history connected to the site which made it interesting. 

A 1942 Observation Bunker, once an important part of Australia’s wartime defence system, now stands disused, a silent reminder of a time when the country was under threat of invasion. 

The people who worked here had huge responsibilities. They also had the best view in town!

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Street Art in Townsville

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. 

How often do you find the recommended time to see an attraction is simply not enough?

The Street Art Walking Trail in Townsville’s CBD, featuring 27 works of art commissioned by the City Council, winds its way around six city blocks. The brochure with descriptions of each painting and a map of the trail suggests 45 minutes is sufficient.

Perhaps they didn’t allow for us actually being able to find the paintings and then taking photographs of them. We spent more than two hours wandering through the city seeking out all the spectacular works of art.

Some were tucked away down the sides of buildings or dingy back alleys and sadly, some had rubbish bins and large skips right in front of them or graffiti sprayed across them. Some were on tricky angles, making them hard to photograph. But we did manage to take photos of several fabulous creations. 

This collection of street art continues to grow as new works are added. If you’re in Townsville, pick up a map of the Street Art Walking Trail at the Tourist Information Centre and be sure to allow plenty of time to see them all. 

Croc and Turtle – ROA, 2015

The Barrier – TELLAS, 2017

Sound and Movement Personified – Claire Foxton, 2018

Mother Earth – LEANS, 2017

Girroogul and the Soap Tree – Garth Jankovic and Nicky Bidju Pryor, 2016

L to R:

Concord – James Giddy, 2019

Cat and Mouse – 815K1, 2020

The Smizler – Lee Harnden, 2014

Brolga Dance and Song – Nicky Bidju Pryor, 2018

Under the Sea – HAFLEG, 2020

And this mural of tropical fauna we spotted on a large water tank up on the hill, not in the brochure but still worthy of inclusion. 

Joining Marsha for Photographing Public Art and 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

Namesake

Girraween National Park, Queensland

Do you ever think about how or why places are named? At Girraween National Park in southern Queensland, the reason for some place names is more obvious than others.

The designation of Underground Creek is self-explanatory, as the tannin stained water disappears beneath an ancient rockfall. The creek might be hidden from view, but it can be heard trickling between the granite boulders before it emerges further downhill.

Girraween is an Aboriginal word meaning “place of flowers”. In late summer, drifts of golden paper daisies brighten the bush while delicate fringed lilies bloom close to water.

It’s logical to assume that Dr Roberts’ Waterhole was named for a local personality, but it’s only at the end of the track his story is revealed.

The wide sandy path leading to the waterhole winds through open eucalpyt forest. Huge slabs of granite, laid down as magma 240 million years ago, are revealed where the topsoil has been eroded by wind and rain.

At the end of the track a panel explains the conservation work of Dr Roberts, and the reason for honouring him becomes clear.

After good summer rainfall, the waterhole is full. A light breeze sends ripples across the surface, blurring the sky’s reflection.

I wonder how many times Dr Roberts visited this waterhole in his wanderings. I think he would be delighted that this beautiful place bears his name.

 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

#9 Girraween in Flower

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. 

Girraween National Park, February 2021

Even in heat of summer, wildflowers bloom in Girraween National Park. Most are tiny and grow at ground level, so finding them is an achievement. The nine wildflowers we saw included paper daisies, pincushion daisies and my favourite, the fringed lily.

We were lucky to see dozens of fringed lilies flowering in the bush – the delicate blooms last for just one day.