Tag Archive | National Park

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

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

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.

In A Different Light

Minerva Hills National Park

The rugged terrain of Mount Zamia Plateau dominates the landscape surrounding the little town of Springsure. Most striking is Virgin Rock, a massive formation once joined to the plateau but long ago separated by erosion of the softer upper layers of stone.

The rock is named for naturally formed features on the side which appear to resemble the Virgin Mary cradling her new-born baby. At midday, with the sun shining directly on the rock, the figures are clearly visible.

From a different vantage point later in the day the shapes are hidden in the shadows.

As evening comes on, the crimson hues of a vivid sunset cast a rosy glow over the rock.

When nature’s illumination fades into darkness, Virgin Rock is still visible from Springsure. Strategically placed floodlights bring the rock into sharp focus, accentuating its dominance in this ancient landscape.

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.

Minimal Effort, Maximum Reward

Minerva Hills National Park, Central Queensland

In our experience, a vigorous uphill walk is often required to reach the lookouts with the best views.

For two of the lookouts at Minerva Hills National Park, the uphill part of the journey has to be completed by car. This time we’re happy not to be walking; the road up into the park is four wheel drive only and it’s steep, stony and rough.

Springsure Lookout is just a few metres from the first car park.

Perched on the edge of Mount Zamia Plateau, the lookout is aptly named. The little town of Springsure can be seen nestled in the valley below. The craggy cliffs and domed ranges surrounding the town are weatherworn remnants of the Springsure Volcano which erupted 28 to 30 million years ago. 

Further along the road is Eclipse Gap Lookout. While the walk to the viewing platform is even shorter, the view is far more expansive.

This ancient volcanic landscape was formed when liquid basalt flowed over the land before solidifying in thick layers of solid rock. Dillies Knob rises sharply out of the tree-covered plain. It’s one of several volcanic plugs exposed after millions of years of erosion by wind and water. 

The highest peak in the national park is Mount Boorambool, another massive volcanic plug. Rising up beside Eclipse Gap, the mountain takes on a golden glow when the wattle trees are blooming. 

Usually the effort of walking up to a lookout is rewarded by the views but at Minerva Hills there’s little effort needed. With a four wheel drive vehicle these two lookouts are easily reached and the time saved by driving can be spent enjoying the fabulous vistas.

30 Touched By The Sun

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

The setting sun casts a golden glow over the tallest trees in the bush and paints the sky with pastels.

As it dips below the horizon, the sun’s last light sets the sky ablaze.

29 In The Frame

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 magnificent lemon-scented gum frames the view from the lookout at Fred’s Gorge.

The reflected glow of the setting sun highlights the craggy face of Dillies Knob, the weathered remnant of a volcanic plug formed more than 28 million years ago.