Travelling Australia
Wayne & Pam BENTLEY

Friday 1st September 2006 to Sunday 3rd September 2006

Friday 1st September 2006

That well known rattler - The Gulflander
That well known rattler - The Gulflander
On the inside of the Gulflander
On the inside of the Gulflander
Sunset from the Gulflander
Sunset from the Gulflander

At about 3:30 yesterday afternoon we packed the backpack and drove off down to the rail station where the Gulflander rail car and carriages were waiting for us. There were also 17 other passengers waiting to make the short 25 kilometre journey out the line and back again just to experience this 'famous' train ride.

After paying our $40 each for the ride and a BBQ out at the Norman River, we all boarded the rail car itself as there were enough seats for us all in behind the driver and at 4:pm we shuddered our way out of the station. This train, or rail car is powered by a 6 cylinder diesel motor and is driven in much the same way as a truck would be, with a clutch and gearbox that has four forward gears and one reverse. The clutch appears to be very much like many old trucks that some of us older drivers may have experienced many years ago. A smooth start off does not seem possible. However after the shuddering start off, we settled down to a very different train journey, as the rail car may have bogey front wheels but it only has single axle rear wheels and although when boarding the train all wheels looked round, we soon discovered that the rear wheels really must have been very flat in one spot because we seemed to bounce our way along the track at a maximum speed at any time of 25 miles per hour.

The driver gave a commentary along the way and was able to tell us everything about everything... Each tree type was explained and the rail type, when and why it was constructed and what repairs had been completed since it was put down in 1907. We were taken through cattle properties, natural lagoons, over the Norman River and out as far as a turn around place that they called Critters Camp, named so because the people constructing the turn around thought they had seen every type of animal, snake, insect and anything else that moves when they were building the turn around.

Once we had turned around we came back and crossed the Norman River, then stopped and were able to get off and take some photographs of the train etc, where we were provided with a BBQ dinner. The dinner consisted of a sausage, bun, a piece of steak and a little salad, however it was difficult to eat as 'One of Us' reckoned her steak was that small she couldn't find it so the 'Other One' had to protect his very carefully or he would have lost his. At the opening of a bottle of wine it did help to settle 'One of Us' down while the 'Other One' was very responsible and only had a couple of cans of soft drink that he ended up losing part of to her anyway.

We changed to the second cariage for the return journey and found that this one had wheels that were mostly round and the trip was quite comfortable. Along the way we saw kangaroos, cows, various types of birds and even a dog chasing the train at one stage. Not sure if he has a good vet because his teeth might be a bit chipped if he bit the wheels of this train. Along with all that we saw the sun set below the horizon. We returned to the caravan for the night feeling that it was a great experience riding on the famous Gulflander and it topped off our time in the outback of Queensland but we both felt ready now to head for the coast and enjoy a little more civilization for a time.

This morning was another one of those 'moving' days and we were packed up and on our way out of the caravan park by about 8:15am. The days journey took us through Blackbull Siding, Croyden, across the Gilbert River Bridge, passed historic Cumberland Chimney and into Georgetown where we decided we would travel on to Mount Surprise before stopping for the night. On the way to Mount Surprise we passed through the Newcastle Range which was quite a change from so much of the flat plain country we have traversed over the past few weeks.

On arrival at Mount Surprise we booked into the local caravan park for two nights and also booked a two hour tour of the Lava Tubes which are located about an hours drive away. Mount Surprise is a little bit of a surprise to us as it is quite small and one could say very quaint, or maybe rustic would be a better description, does that say it all?

On the way to Mt Surprise and a change of scenery
On the way to Mt Surprise - a change of scenery

Rivers may run deep, but not right now
Rivers may run deep, but not right now

A brief stop in the hills
A brief stop in the hills

Saturday 2nd September 2006

The welcome party at Undara Resert
The welcome party at Undara Resert
Pammy's welcome to the park
Pammy is welcomed back to the park

The Undara Lava Tubes

Lava Tube 2

This morning we woke up to a very pleasant morning, although there was a little cloud in the sky and it may have been more humid than we have experience over the past few weeks. There was no hurry for us to get organised as we didn't have to leave the caravan park until about 9am as our tour of the Undara Lava Tubes was scheduled for 10:30am and we were told it was about ninety kilometres to get there.We did get away on time and found that it was really only about 53 kilometres so we arrived at Undara Resort well before the tour start, so we had a stroll around the complex and we thought it was quite impressive. It has been constructed with a rail carriage theme and provides all facilities that anyone could need. Everything from cabins, rail carriage accommodation, caravan powered sites, tent sites and even tents provided on site and there is a resort style covered outdoor restaurant.

It was a bit of a battle to get 'One of Us' away from the smell of the food around the restaurant, but we eventually joined the tour guide (Tim) at 10:30am and were given our boarding instructions. As it turned out, there were only five of us on the tour so it was really seemed like a personal tour and Tim was extremely well versed in the area and the history of the Lava Tubes. We had to board a bus and travel a few kilometres to the Lava Tubes we were visiting and along the way there was a continuous commentary on the flora, fauna and the origin of the Lava Tubes.

On arrival at the Lava Tubes we had a short walk to the boardwalk that took us down to the first Tube which was very short but quite an amazing sight to just walk off the savannah plain and find this huge hole in the earth and a dry rainforest growing in it. At this point Tim our guide used an aerial photograph on site to provide a full explanation of how the tubes were formed, where they are and how far they run, which is quite amazing as it is about 175 kilometres, although it is not continuous and there is a lot of it that has caved in, and there are areas that are not cleared.

From here we were taken into the Tubes along boardwalks and had points of interest shown and explained along the way. Although the tubes look a lot like normal caves, they are more cylindrical in shape with the bottom filled with silt, and the tube we were in, the roof would have been about 20 metres above our heads. Once we had completed our walk into the first tube we entered a second tube in which there were a number of 'micro' bats hanging from the roof, and also a string of tree roots hanging down into thin air. It was then time to make our way back to the bus and return to Undara Resort, arriving there at about 12:40pm. It is not possible to show the Lava Tubes off to their true appearance as photographs just can not do them justice, but it is a site that we would recommend anyone to visit if they get the chance.

Although 'One of Us' was clawing her way toward the resort restaurant, the 'Other One' managed to get her into the Patrol and away on our way back toward Mount Surprise. We stopped at one spot on the way to take a photograph of an old truck rusting away in the paddock but made it into the caravan park by about 1:30pm. By this time 'One of Us' was just about to start on the upolstery of the Patrol so in desperation, the 'Other One' took her to the cafe at the front of the caravan park and bought her a steak burger with the lot. It was almost enough for her but she wouldn't leave the cafe until she had an ice cream in her hand as well.

'One of Us' then used the rest of the day studying pages with typing on them, checking the springs in the mattress on the bed and similar exhausting pursuits whilst the 'Other One' refueled the Patrol and exercised his fingers on a keyboard.

Tomorrow we will be heading off along the last of the Savannah Way to the Atherton Tablelands, possibly to Millaa Millaa as there are lots of waterfalls in the area, however at this time we are not sure exactley where we will be stopping. We will have to discuss it over a drink or two during happy hour.

Lave Tube 3

Lava Tube 5

Lava Tube


Sunday 3rd September 2006

Happy Birthday to our Darling Asha... Happy 9th Birthday to you... We hope you have a really good day. We are thinking of you even if we are a long way away.

Quite a shock this morning as we woke to skies that were not blue, it was this grey colour and every now and then it showed bad manners by spitting at us. It took us a while to get over the shock of this new phenomenon but eventually Henny Penny realised it was not the sky falling down so we went about our morning activities in preparation for our move to the Atherton Tablelands. In the process of packing up, a small wing nut was dropped on the ground of the satelite dish stand, and this ended up delaying our departure somewhat until 'One of Us' found it some distance from where the 'Other One' was looking for it. Needless to say there was a little 'one upwomanship' expressed and the 'Other One' seems to recall the words 'blind as a bat' and other phrases with similar meanings, some not repeatable.

We managed to pull out of the caravan park by about 9am and set off traveling east on our days journey. This took us past the turn off to the Lava Tubes again, then on to the Kennedy Development Road which turned us in a north easterly direction to Mount Garnet. Not long after starting out this wet stuff started falling from the sky and for quite some time was fairly heavy. This made the 'developmental road' even worse to drive on, as for most of this part of the drive the sealed section of the road was only one lane wide and the edges had quite a drop off into what at this time could only be described as mud. However it appears that it is not appropriate to mention 'bad roads' to some Queenslanders though, as when we reached our destination we offended a QLD caravanner who had just traveled that same section of road and claimed they were good roads. He stated that they were developmental roads, so we figure that they use the term 'developmental' when they don't want to spend any money to upgrade them. These same roads carry road trains, or at least prime movers and two trailers on them as they supply the Gulf area with provisions. We think being parochial about your own state is great, but being blind may not be such a great asset when your driving these roads. (Oops... a bit catty but that same caravanner washed the mud off his caravan on the powered caravan site when there was a sign saying this was not permitted???... I rest my case.)

After passing through Mount Garnet then Hot Springs and Ravenshoe we started getting into some very hilly country and saw a sign that stated it was the start of the Atherton Tableland. From here we found the hills progressively steeper and the countryside became greener and very scenic. About 30 kilometres from Atherton we took a right turn onto the road to Millaa Millaa, we had considered staying in the caravan park there for a couple of days but when we saw that the park was quite small and not really suitable for us, we continued on through Tarzali and Milanda before pulling into Atherton at about 12:20pm. The Big4 caravan park has a very lush setting and has very high peaks (or mountains) close by. Unfortunately 'One of Us' was devastated when she discovered that there is not a Coles Store in Atherton, however the 'Other One' managed to calm her a little by promising he will take her to the Woolworths Store whilst we are here and we can visit a Coles Store in Cairns if she behaves herself (a brave statement but fortunately she wasn't within hearing distance).

An arrival in Atherton we received a call from daughter Kym to wish a happy Fathers Day to her Daddy and then we received a call from son Travis to also wish the old bugger a happy Fathers Day. A little later other daughter Jay also rang with best wishes for Fathers Day. Although we had forgotten it was Fathers Day until well into the days drive, it was great to hear from them, as it always is, and their thoughts and wishes were appreciated.

Just resting up after a life of work
Just resting up after a hard life at work

The caravan park swimming pool area
The Atherton caravan park swimming pool area


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