TUESDAY 6 OCTOBER CAIRNS TO MT SURPRISE 320kms
It was a slow pack up, with lots of fiddling about, not helped by us stopping to chat with some nearby campers who came from Dennington in Victoria.
We got away at 10am, which wasn’t too bad, apart from the fact we had a fair drive ahead.
Going up the range to Kuranda with the van was fine, and John was quite relaxed.
We travelled the Kennedy Highway, through Mareeba, Atherton, Ravenshoe and south, then the Gulf Development Road west to Mt Surprise.
The farming and grazing country of the Tablelands is so pretty, though what we travelled through today was not as spectacularly so as the south eastern parts we’d seen on our earlier day trip up here. The way was hillier than I’d expected, south of Atherton. There were some patches of rainforest still, but we moved more into the savanna woodland type of country as we went.
Crossed what seemed to be a mini range between Ravenshoe and Mount Garnet – the last of the Great Divide, I guess.
We lunched just out of Ravenshoe, at the Millstream Falls National Park. We took a short side track from the highway to reach the parking area. From here we walked down to the falls and along the Millstream Creek a little. There were plenty of birds along the way and, of course, we’d left the binoculars and bird books back in Truck. The track to the falls, which had some stairs too, was about 350 metres each way, which was enough in the heat. The Millstream Falls are supposed to be the widest single drop falls in Australia – but they did not seem particularly wide to us. Maybe when they are in full flood? Anyway, it was a very pleasant spot, and a pretty valley.
As we continued on the main highway, noticed some side tracks going off towards the Millstream. If one was camped around there, they could be worth exploring.
We had planned to stop and look at the Innot Hot Springs, and maybe stay a night there, but they were shut.
By the early afternoon, the travel was rather hot and dry – we were well into the dry grass and woodland country now. The road was sealed, but often just a single width strip of bitumen, and John had to pull off onto the shoulder to let oncoming traffic past.
Passed through Mt Garnet township – small – but didn’t stop.
We took a drink break at the Forty Mile Scrub National Park – just in a gravelled pull-over section beside the road. Some remnant dry rainforest and semi evergreen vine thicket is preserved in this park. The latter is an ancient type of vegetation, similar to other ancient remanants in Asia and Africa. There was a short walk track we could take from the parking area, but it did not look all that attractive and we couldn’t be bothered. There is a pleasant, new-ish, picnic area there, with composting toilets, tables, seats and shelters. It could even be an overnight stop, for those so inclined, though it is right by the highway.
Just south of Forty Mile Scrub, turned off the highway, to the west. We intended to stay at Mt Surprise, rather than at Undara. I’d heard somewhere that the camp area at Undara was not very pleasant, being rough, dusty and overpriced. As we came into Mt Surprise township, saw an eye catching and different sign for a Bedrock Village Caravan Park, so turned right to go have a look.
It is a new park, only opened this year, developed by a young couple, Jo and Joe, who have two young children. Jo is originally from Bendigo. In the course of our finding out about the place, and deciding to check in, John did much talking with Jo about computer matters. She is interested to see what our scanner does. She is a part time admin assistant at the local school, which has eight students, from three families! As the nearest proper commercial centre is Atherton, there are some challenges involved in business activities out here.
The park is open and hot; there is not much shade yet, although lots of trees have been planted in strip beds that divide the sites. We booked in for a week, anyway, to use this as a base to explore the area. The park also has a very nice looking, new, inground pool. The amenities are in a pre-fab donga type building – adequate but not fancy.
We were charged $14 a night, with the seventh night free. Still under our budget.
Setting up camp was a hot exercise. I thought Cairns was hot, but there is a big increase in heat away from the coast!
The park will be lovely when the trees and shrubs have grown up. We really like the concept of one rig per pull through bay – saves a lot of backing issues, for starters!
There are hardly any other guests here. The tourist season is definitely over. Jo told us that tourist places further west, like in Karumba, would be mostly shut down now. We had begun to wonder about that, after seeing the Innot Hot Springs closed. Guess we may have to revise our plans.
We collected information about Undara and its tours from Joe, who used to be a Savanna Guide there.
Tea was the last of the corn soup, then fettucine with my best pasta sauce.
We sat outside at dusk, putting on insect deterrent because there were some mozzies – that surprised me! Looked at a superb sunset in the west and then a lovely moonrise in the east.
John found he can only get one TV channel – 10 – and that is not very good quality. Fine by me!
John got out the scanner and scanned the map of the Cape to use in a letter he is writing.
It was a hot evening, so we turned the air-con on for a while. However, the night cooled down enough for us to sleep comfortably.
It is wonderful to be away from urban Cairns and out in the bush again. It is so quiet.