Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Atherton to Cardwell

Palmerston Highway
Ever vigilant of weather forecasts, it became apparent if we stayed for a third night in Atherton we would be sitting under two inches of rain and packing up in same. Our first option was to head to Undara Lava Tubes early but as we tried to book accommodation we discovered that we should have booked four days in advance. We hadn't struck this before on this trip and it forced our hand somewhat, so that we rearranged our itinerary and headed for the coast. Along the way, we managed to take in much of what we had planned for the southern part of the Atherton Tableland.

We went north first, to keep an appointment with Bill from the Tolga Historical Society. He had taken our cause to find out more about Sue's dad John Gibbens and his time on the Atherton Tableland from 1943-45 very seriously. He had pages photocopied from the internet, photos from the records he held and a variety of other information, including the very map which helped us locate the spot where John's unit was camped. We couldn't thank him enough.

After a coffee at an art gallery across the road from Bill and the purchase of a locally written book about the field hospital, we were finally heading south for some attractions near Malanda.

The first of these was the Curtain Fig, a huge example of a strangler fig which has formed a large screen of smaller roots which resemble a curtain. Strangler figs start as seed high up in the top canopy of the rainforest, usually placed there by birds. From here, they extends roots to the ground which grow over hundreds of years into a web which closes in around the host tree, gradually surrounding and killing it so that a new strong life form remains in place of the original tree. After this we went into Malanda and had lunch at the falls on the North Johnstone River which are right in town, beside the information centre. We had our photo taken five or six times because we were sitting in a public picnic space which had the level of the 1967 flood painted on it.

After lunch we drove out to the Nerada Tea Plantation. Rain was now falling. As you would expect, there were no tours this afternoon so we had the choice of having a pot of tea, buying some murch or moving on. We moved on.

The drive off the Atherton Tableland through Millaa Millaa and Palmerston was a very pretty one, especially after we made several stops to see waterfalls and lookouts along the way but the rain kept falling and as the afternoon ran on, the steep winding roads and the rain started to make it hard work. As we reached the coast again, the weather improved and it was straight run down to Cardwell.

Tomorrow is our first rest day of the tour with nothing planned.

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