Tropical Far North Queensland by BlossomFlowerGirl

Queensland Time

Floriade of Flowers

Tropical Far North Queensland

This is about my holiday from Cairns to
Laura, on the lower Cape York Peninsula from
September 2008 to October 2008. Going from Melbourne to Cairns to Port Douglas, to Cooktown and Laura, Cape Tribulation and all the bits in between, and finally back to Cairns for my flight home.

Drive The Daintree

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19. Atherton Tablelands - Lake Barrine

Tuesday 23 September

After seeing the Cathedral Strangler Fig, I made my way to the Lake Barrine Tea House for my (second) morning tea stop. Their Devonshire teas are legendary and the view from the outdoor balcony was magnificent.

Lake Barrine Tea House

Devonshire Tea
The scones were freshly baked - still warm - and you get a proper pot of tea.

Views over Lake Barrine
The lake is a vivid deep blue and it was just perfect - heavenly!
The gardens were magnificent and I couldn't get over how wonderful and colourful it all was.

Twin Palms over the lake

Lake Barrine is on the eastern part of the Atherton Tablelands and is a volcanic maar surrounded by rainforest. The lake is in Crater Lakes National Park,

Lake Barrine

Lake cruises operate from the privately-owned Lake Barrine teahouse. The gentle boat trip gives a different perspective and more insights into the lake and its wildlife. The privately- owned teahouse offers meals with relaxed views over the water.

Looking South
Lake Barrine is actually the crater left by a volcanic eruption approximately 10,000 years ago.

There are three crater lakes in the Atherton Tablelands - Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham and Lake Euramoo. According to the Ngadjonji, when two men broke a taboo and angered the rainbow serpent, the earth roared like thunder and the winds blew like a cyclone. The ground began to move and crack and in the sky there appeared red clouds that had never before been see. The people were frightened and ran but were swallowed by a crack which opened in the earth.

18. Atherton Tablelands - Gillies Highway and Strangler Figs

Tuesday 23 September

Today I'm off to the Atherton Tablelands, and I'm going via the Gillies Highway. There are easier roads, but as soon as I heard of this twisting, winding road, I just knew I had to take it - I love winding roads. The Gillies HIghway is famous for its 200+ corners in 20 kms of road!
Below is a map showing the route I took.

Atherton Tablelands map

I drove down to Gordonvale then turned on to the Gillies Highway, from there I started the gradual climb through the luscious rainforest. The Gillies Highway ascends the mountain ranges starting at the small town of Gordonvale (30km south of Cairns). Over the next 30 kilometres you climb some 600-1000 metres to the Atherton Tablelands encountering spectacular lookouts along the way which enable you to take in the view of the valleys deep in the Great Dividing Range.

View from the Gillies Highway

The temperature drops and the air becomes fresher. This route offers spectracular views, especially from Heales Lookout.

Morning Tea Stop

This is one of the places I pulled over the side of the road where I had morning tea - I always bring along my Thermos flask.

Atherton Tablelands Hills

When you reach the top of the range, the rolling green hills of the Atherton Tablelands stretch out before you. After driving through Gadgarra, you take the right turn off through the Danbulla State Forest to get to the Cathedral Strangler Fig.

Cathedral Strangler Fig

The Cathedral Fig is a massive strangler fig tree - one of the most impressive sights in the rainforest along the Danbulla Forest Drive which runs around Lake Tinaroo, and is about 5 kms from the Gillies Highway. It is the same species of tree as the Curtain Fig Tree (Ficus virens), but through different growing pressure has evolved to display a different habit of the commonly called strangler fig.

Its massive system of buttress roots is surrounded by a boardwalk, and it is over 500 years old. It has the reputation of being the best place to hear an early morning bird 'singing' in the Atherton Tablelands.

Cathedral close-up

Many species of animal can be seen seeking shelter in and around the Cathedral Fig Tree including: Papuan Frog Mouth, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Emerald Fruit Dove, Pale-yellow and Grey-headed Robin, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, many species of reptile, Possums and Tree Kangaroo.

Click on the blue marker for a photo. You can also enlarge the map.

View Cathedral Strangler Fig in a larger map

17. Cairns - Wobble Board Fun and the Hokey Pokey

Monday 22 September

Volunteers were called to use the "Wobble Boards" to help with the entertainment and yours truly put her hand up. It was great fun but we all said how our arms ached - it's harder than it looks, but none of us wanted to be the one to give in, or give up as the case may be so we all carried on 'wobbling.'

Wobble Boards

The grand master of the wobble board was Rolf Harris, a well-known Australian singer and entertainer. In the clip below, the "bwoop bwoop" noise you hear is the wobble board.

Our EmCee and Musician

Do the Hokey Pokey

You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out,
You put your left foot in
And you shake it all about
You do the Hokey-Pokey
And you turn around
That's what it's all about...

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in
And shake it all about...........

All too soon it was time to leave and after 3 hours of fun and entertainment we wished it could go on forever.

I was the only Australian on this tour apart from a lady who worked for a travel agent who was there as part of her job, and I would recommend to anyone when up in Cairns whether you're an Australian or an overseas visitor to do this tour. It's fun, entertaining and a wonderful night out.

16. Cairns - Bush Dancing

Monday 22 September

Back after our night walk and the campfire with the resident swagman, it's time for a spot of dancing - bush dancing. The old time stuff that our ancestors used to do. The "Swagman" called for volunteers to show how the Heel and Toe was done, and me having learnt, and done, a fair bit of dancig in my time, volunteered. And great fun it was too. Below are some photos, the first being the "Demonstration"!

Heel and Toe

So, let's start - and it's heel and toe, heel and toe...

Slide, slide, slide, slide....

Heel and toe, heel and toe
Slide, slide, slide, slide....

Right hand clap, left hand clap
Both hands clap, clap on lap...
And... swing your partner 'round.

Below:Listen to (and watch) some bush dancing

15. Cairns - Koalas and Kangaroos

Monday 22 September

Cairns Tropical Zoo has the largest Koala colony in Tropical North Queensland. Koalas sleep for 18-21 hours a day due to the low energy content of their only food source – eucalyptus leaves. Koalas are marsupials, females having a pouch in which their young first develop. Their pouch faces the rear and has a drawstring-like muscle that the mother can tighten.
There are three subspeies:
P.c. victor (Victoria)
P.c. cinereus (New South Wales)
P.c. adustus (Queensland).
For further information about Koalas click here.

In the Koala House

Our guide took us through the Koala House where we spent quite some time. If you're lucky, they'll be awake, and you can have your photo taken with them - you can't hold them, (although you can cuddle a koala during the day) but you are allowed to (gently) pat them. I was so pleased to get 'up close and personal' with this little fellow.
Isn't he cute?

The Mumma and the Pappa

The koala on the left is the female, the male is on the right. The above photo is from Wikipedia - I have included it to show the differences between the male and the female.

Around the Campfire - Billy Tea and Damper

After seeing the animals we all sat around the campfire and had billy tea and damper. The tea is fragrant with Eucalyptus and is served in small baked enamel mugs and the damper is dipped in Cocky's Joy - Mmm...mmm... delicious! Hanging around the campfire took me back to the days when we'd go up to Emu Bottom (in Sunbury) for billy tea and damper and bush dancing.

The kangaroos are very partial to sharing your food and will hop over to you and wait in the hope that you will share some with them - of course everybody did. They must be the best fed kangaroos in Australia!

After everyone had had their fill, it was time to wash our hands and head back to the undercover area for a spot of music and bush dancing.

14. Cairns - Tropical Night Zoo

Monday 22 September

When the sun goes down come along and see what the local indigenous folk of the animal world get up to. For a touch of "Australiana", you can't go past the Cairns Tropical Night Zoo. They do pick-ups and drop-offs (good if you want more than one drink!) and you leave at 7.30pm.

First you start off with an Aussie barbie - steak, chook (chicken), fish, roast spuds, and tomato and salads. There's champagne, beers, wines and soft drinks. For dessert I had Pavlova and cream (2 helpings). After this the guide took us around (with a torch) to see some of the animals - lots of alligators and crocodiles. I took heaps of photos, but unfortunately deleted them. (Well, you live and learn eh?)


Ring Tail Possum

Meet "Blossom", the ring tail possum. All the people there were in raptures over this cute, furry little creature.

Barn Owl

13. Mossman Gorge - The Suspension Bridge

Monday 22 September

The Rex Creek Suspension Bridge is a real treat and was one of the highlights of my trip to Mossman Gorge. I waited for several minutes to get a photo without people on the bridge. The best part of crossing this bridge is when you're sort of in the middle, jump up and down making the bridge "swing" - doesn't half scare some of the tourists.

I am ashamed to say I was guilty of this and derived the greatest pleasure from it - childish I know, but lots of fun!

Rex Creek Suspension Bridge

Swimming anyone?

One of the popular water holes for swimming and just general water play.

Rock Pool

Australian Bush Turkey

The Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami, also frequently called the Scrub Turkey or Bush Turkey, is a common, widespread species found in Eastern Australia from FNQ to the Illawarra in NSW and grows 60–75 cm and has a wingspan of about 85 cm. This fellow was running about at quite a fast pace. You can read more information about these birds here.

12. Mossman Gorge - Car Hire and the Gorge

Monday 22 September

Today I pick up the hire car and it's off to Mossman Gorge, I caught the local bus up to Sheridan Street - about a 15 to 20 minute ride to Cairns Older Car Hire - I'd booked the "Backpacker" with aircon @ $30 a day, (without aircon it's $25) but they'd stuffed up somehow with a double booking. Mind you, I booked the car over six months in advance, anyway, they organised another one and upgraded me to a $45 vehicle for free. I waited for what seemed an age - then discovered the car was a manual.

Back to the office. They were going to give me a Sirion - problem was it was not there. Eventually I was given a red mazda and was out of there by 10.00am.

In spite of their error, I would recommend them to anyone wanting a car whilst up in Cairns - they had the cheapest prices and were very good to deal with.

Below: A map showing Mossman Gorge. If you click on the blue marker you will see a photo. You can also enlarge the map.

View Mossman Gorge in a larger map

Below: A Wicked Camper.
There are many "Wicked Camper" hire vehicles and all are brightly coloured. This one was parked near where I parked at Mossman Gorge.

Below: Crystal clear waters.

I drove to Mossman Gorge and had my trusty Thermos and morning tea with me at one of the picnic tables there. I found Mossman Gorge rather disappointing because it looked just like Victoria (my home state). I met a Melbourne couple who said the same thing. Later I drove to Daintree Village expecting to see a "village". It was a nice drive though even if there wasn't any village in evidence.

Big Boulders
This is the picture you see in all the travel brochures for Mossman Gorge.

11. Kuranda - Gold Class

Sunday 21 September

The Kuranda Scenic Railway offer Gold Class service for those who wish to travel First Class in comfort and luxury and I chose this option for the return journey.

For the extra $43 it was well worth it - no screaming, yelling children running wild, very comfortable club lounge chairs and your own Gold Class attendant serving champagne and other alocoholic beverages, orange juice and plates of delicious finger foods. Stopping at Barron Falls, I went to take my bag with me but the attendant said it was quite safe to leave it on the train - he would be standing guard and nobody travelling on the regular service would be permitted to enter.

Funny thing, the ride going up became boring after a while, but the return journey wasn't boring at all - perhaps the number of champagne glasses consumed had something to do with this...

Gold Class Carriage

The Free Gift

When you travel Gold Class you receive a free gift. It comprises a postcard, badge and biro. The hand towel I saved as a nice momento.


Window View

The Bar

The Blue Engine

The blue engine has been hand-painted with larger than life Murals of Buda-Dji (The Carpet Snake), by local Aboriginal artist George Riley and tells the legend of Buda Dji who carved out the Barron Gorge, and the Barron River. It is part of the storywater dreaming, a legend which is symbolised on locomotive 1771D, the "Spirit of Buda-Dji". It is believed the train follows along the rim of this geological marvel following the path of Buda-Dji.

KSR Gold Class Logo

10. Kuranda - Butterfly House

Sunday 21 September

I went to the Butterfly Sanctuary - the entrance fee was $14.40 (had a YHA discount) and it seemed I had no sooner entered the door when the exit was looming ahead. I was very disappointed with it because it was very small and there were not many butterflies at all.

Ordhard Butterfly

Red Lacewing

Ulysses Butterfly

The Ulysses is very noticeable by their bright blue colour but are very difficult to photograph as they flutter their wings at an amazingly fast rate and are never still. I have included this even though it is blurry.

Cairns Birdwing

Things of Interest.

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