On the way to Malanda – wind farm at aptly named Windy Hill. Green in the extreme thanks to daily rain for the past four weeks – only sun for us though – yeah!
There is a dramatic change in landscape driving towards the coast after leaving Undarra. Climbing up onto the Atherton tableland, the rolling hills become greener and higher and are more cultivated as you move into lush farming land. We were undecided on a destination, or even what to do in this area, finally settling on the little township of Malanda, which turned out to be a good central choice. The CP was lovely and green, and we chose a spot up high close to the road rather than down by the river to maximise our chance of mobile reception. The only downside was traffic, with the occasional thundering roar of exhaust brakes shattering dreams in the wee hours.
Our first day was busy; after some confusion at the Tourist Info (friendly staff who you wouldn’t trust to count paper clips), we did a tour with Andrew, a local aboriginal ranger who was able to share his vast knowledge of the local rainforest having grown up here. After lunch were visits to several local falls, including Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa. This area is famous for waterfalls, and they were certainly spectacular. One significant difference is that the water here is cold (K – about 18-19 degrees), much colder than WA or the NT. Some brave souls were swimming – but I think this was so they could grab a ‘selfie’ then get straight out! Ahh tourists!
Next day we visited Atherton. A pretty town with a busy and bustling main street, just what country town should feel like. Kris took our super keen boys to see another mineral collection at the Crystal Cave (which is full of South American geode amethyst) whilst I picked up some suspension bushes at Toyota.
We visited the spectacular Curtain Fig tree, and also stopped in at Yungaburra to spot several elusive platypus along Peterson Creek, a real highlight (despite Sam’s impatience – “we’ve seen one, can’t we GO now!!”).
We also caught up with Oliver and Jeanine, a delightful Swiss couple we met camping near Pemberton in southern WA in March. They have imported their very groovy left hand drive Bremach truck ‘Kasbah’ from Switzerland and are off to South America once their year down under is over. They joined us for dinner and a chilly chat around the campfire. It has been really cold in Malanda – the thermals are back out for PJ’s with lows of 8 or 9. The days luckily remained a lush 25 – 26 degrees.
After a much-needed rest day, we chooffed off to Herberton to visit the Historic Village. After seeing Flagstaff Hill in Warnambool, as well as places like Swan Hill and Old Sydney Town, this place was top-notch. The collections here are first class, and many of the steam engines or other machinery gets started at various times of the day. The boys did a school group work sheet, and they ended up being there for six hours!
K – this was my favourite – the pharmacy. It was immaculate and so beautiful, but also a grim reminder of what pharmacists used to peddle. Teething solution containing morphine or sanitized tape worms for weight loss anyone??
I nicked off for the last hour to visit the Herberton Spy Camera Museum. An eclectic collection of photographic memorabilia spanning 150 years, including what he claims is the very first 35 mm Leica, serial number 001, and lots of spy cameras, including a soviet button-hole camera from the 50’s. The owner, one Michael Petersen, gives you a 45 minute guided tour, with back stories to all the cameras. His knowledge was exhaustive, and he intersperses his nonstop commentary with conspiracy theories as well as his thoughts on climate change. Just a little wacky, and a little creepy. I was the only customer – it reminded me of the shop in Stephen Kings ‘Needful Things’ where very odd and sometimes evil things happen to everyday people.
We spent our last day in Malanda having a delightful Devonshire Tea at Nerada tea plantation – which gave us a chance to spot a few tree Kangaroos, or ‘Mupees’ way up in the canopy. Then it was a tour of the local Dairy Farmers dairy, then the usual routine of shopping, fuel, home. By this time, I’d contacted a friendly German couple, Robert and Katie, whom we’d met just once along the Gibb River Road in June. They suggested we camp in their yard with them in Cooktown, our next destination.
K – The landscape being so green and hilly on the tableland had a very familiar feel to it reminding us both of the south coast of NSW (except for the palm trees). Now we are back on the east coast it feels like we are very close to home and it is an unwelcome reminder that the trip will indeed be over before we realise. Luckily for us it is not just a case of running down the coast to home as our plans take us only as far down as Rockhampton before we head inland again towards Alice and then south to the Flinders Ranges. We are going the long way home!