WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE ROLLINGSTONE
Weather-wise, a good clear day.
We left the park about 10am, for a sightseeing day. But first, to the PO – and the parcel was finally there!
Took the Mt Spec Road, that climbs up the range to the village of Paluma.
Stopped first at Little Crystal Creek ,where a lovely old arched bridge carried the road over the creek.
The bridge was built in the 1930’s. It seemed too grand for the location, but was picturesque in its rainforest setting.
The creek there was a series of small waterfalls and rock pools.
We spent about an hour, rock hopping up and down the creek.
It was a lovely spot and would have been quite worthwhile as an outing destination all by itself. But we were headed further afield.
The 11kms of road from Little Crystal Creek up to Paluma was the stuff of my nightmares. It was narrow – barely wide enough for two vehicles, in most parts. It was steep, and had long, vertical drops, right off the road verge, mostly with no guard rails at all. There was no shortage of right-angles and hairpin bends. Also, a sign warned of possible rock falls. It had the lot!
At one point, we encountered a Campbells Coaches bus, coming the other way and we both slowed and squeezed past. He was on the side with the steep drop, at least we had a rock wall beside us. I wouldn’t want to be a bus driver on that road. Hell – I didn’t even want to be in our car on that road! There was also someone towing a fair-sized caravan down the mountain, and a couple of camper trailer rigs. I was really surprised that towing anything on that road was allowed.
As we climbed, there were some spectacular views across the coastal plains to the ocean.
I was very relieved when we reached the top of the range and there began to be solid ground on both sides of the road again. But, at the back of my mind was the thought that what goes up…….and down was the side with the abyss beside it. I had already quietly consulted the Road Atlas to see if there was an alternative route. Without taking unsealed minor back roads and a detour of a couple of hundred kms, there wasn’t!
We turned off the Mt Spec Road just before Paluma village to go to McClellands Lookout, at the top of the range. It was a pleasant place, with great views out over the coastal plains to the ocean. It was a bit hazy, though.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the place was marred by three Ugly Yank backpacker types, who were sitting in the middle of the grassed picnic area. This was not large enough for us to get far enough away from them and the loud and raucous music they were playing on a portable player, which drowned out the plentiful bird noises. Still, it provided an interesting behavioural study for us, as we ate our sandwiches. There was one man and two females – all in their 20’s. The two females were notably overweight and – to me – very unattractive – but both very much in competition for his interest. One of the girls was particularly loud and raucous and her “conversation” incredibly vacuous – and we could hear it all, too clearly. For all the notice they took of the beautiful surroundings, and the views, they might as well have been lunching in the centre of Townsville!
We were also amused by the antics of a couple of “bush chookies” – our term for scrub turkeys. Much more attractive than our human company.
On in Truck, to Paluma village. John spotted a sign “Pottery”, so detoured up to it, despite my warning that it was dangerous to take me near a pottery. All I can say is that I didn’t spend as much as I would have liked to.
Len Cook, the potter, had an impressive exhibiting and collections resume. His wall plaques were of particular note. He used an anagama oven to achieve some very unusual glazed effects. He and John talked pottery kilns and wood fired pizza ovens for a while. That gave me time to browse the items for sale. I decided it was an absolute must to buy one of the unique wall plaques, that had designs on them inspired by the Great Barrier Reef environment. The one I chose had a coral-like pattern on it. A highly glazed small blue vase, with a pattern of small birds in flight, just jumped out at me, too.
The rainforest environment around the pottery was superb, with much bird life. Len put some banana pieces in tree forks and we watched birds come in for a feed on them – Satin Bowerbird, catbird, honeyeaters. There was a bower in his garden; this one had a collection of blue items.
After rather reluctantly leaving the pottery, with our treasures, we drove on through the village, which was really just a small collection of older cottage style houses, and a couple of community facilities. We debated whether to drive on another 12kms or so, to have a look at Lake Paluma and its camping area, but decided that – as there was no way we would venture up here with the van – there was not much point. We would be better served by going walking.
The Rainforest Walk appealed – it started in the village and was only about 650kms loop.
It was very dim in there and definitely rainforest.
Apparently Paluma, at 1000 metres, is the highest altitude rainforest village in Australia. Len had told us that it was really damp up there in the wet season. I could certainly imagine it being in the clouds for extended periods.
Then it was time to face the descent to sea level. I did not enjoy the drive down the mountain, at all. The vertiginous drops were on my side – very close on my side! There was, mostly, not even a flimsy rail at the edge. It was very high on the short list of the scariest rides I’d ever had. Being on the outside of the road, I kept fearing we’d meet someone taking a corner too wide, coming the other way. But of course, obviously, we made it down.
I loved Paluma and would really like to explore around up there some more, but was very doubtful I could do that road again. Not even for more of Len’s pottery. The road aside, it was an excellent day’s outing.
I made a squid based stir fry, with rice, for tea. More of the produce from the Townsville fish co-op shop, that I’d frozen.
John had to phone our house sitters, after tea, about something or other. They had lived for many years in Townsville and told him that fatal accidents involving the drops along that Mt Spec Road were fairly common!