2 July: Loving learning about lava tubes

Author: Mrs A

Location: Mount Garnet to Mount Suprise

Monday morning again dawned grey and we wondered whether we would ever see the sun again. Off we took from Pinnarendi Station heading just a short way along the Kennedy Highway to our next destination.Undara is Aboriginal for ‘long way’, and is the name given to Undara Volcanic National Park when it was established in 1993. It’s interesting they chose to give it an Aboriginal name, since there is no evidence of any Aboriginal habitation, visitation or use in the direct vicinity. Still, I’m pleased there some nod of acknowledgement to the traditional custodians of this land, who suffered great losses at the hands of the original settlers.

Undara is famous for its lava tubes, created some 160,000 years ago from the shield crater volcano (a very low profile volcano, just some 20 metres above the land) also in the park. Many of the lava tubes have collapsed, but some of the more spectacular sections are open to the public by private tour. The name ‘Undara’ was selected due to the great distance the lava flowed from the volcano – 160km.

We smuggled Tassie past the ‘no domestic animals’ sign and parked up. She was more than happy to curl up on the bed and have a long overdue nap while we went off exploring. Given we were parked up on a cattle station and not actually National Park we figured it wasn’t too big a crime – that and she didn’t actually step paw on the ground at any stage.The sun soon came out and the dry landscape lit up with the coppery tones of the iron filled granite contrasting with the jet black basalt. It’s all quite different to the rich and green landscape of the past few weeks and we are really noticing the impact of the rain shadow cast by the Great Dividing Range along the coast.

How many kangaroos do you see?

We paid our crazy amount of money and joined a guide to take us on our ‘Active Explorer’ exploration, apparently only suitable for those with moderate fitness level. We boarded a mini bus and were transported to the site, our guide spouting non stop facts and figures about the area and what we were about to see.Before long, we were entering the first tube, clambering down piles of rubble left from a roof collapse. We were all too aware of the many tons of basalt over our heads, held together by little other than the compressive strength of the arch. Should the keystone break, then our travels would have ended right here.Fortunately for us, today was not that day, and we lived to explore another tunnel, this one around 1.3km in length, winding its way along an old watercourse. Bats, moths, cockroaches and cane toads are among the known (and seen) residents of these tunnels, and the colours are fabulous.Memories of my Uni Geography degree came back in troves, with images from text books flashing through my head, not revisited for more than 25 years! We both really enjoyed the visit – yes, it was pricey at nearly $60 a head for two hours, but we felt well educated at the end of it and further immersed in some of the geological history of Australia.

We departed and headed just a 45 minute drive out to Mount Surprise, where we had chosen to spend the night. We’re parked up at Bedrock Village Caravan Park – and yes, you guessed it, a strong Flintstones theme is here, with Fred and Wilma indicating the gender of the amenities and the odd nod to the cartoon to be found elsewhere.We decided to go for a stroll and what did we see? None other than a couple of handsome male cats on leads exploring. See folks – it’s not just us!We continued our walk as the sun lowered in the sky, spotting birds and just enjoying the feeling of sun on our skin. As nostalgic as the rain and drizzle has made us feel, we really do appreciate the warmer weather!Common Crow Butterflies, red winged parrots, whistling kites – there’s plenty of wildlife to be seen here, and topped our day off nicely.Where are we on our Savannah Way journey? Just a short way along, but a world of difference from Cairns. Off to a new destination tomorrow and a whole lot more red dust!The Savannah Way