Location: Cairns – Undara, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 395km

Swimming in crisp, chest deep water, I could see nothing ahead of me but black. My hands were invisible even when but a whisker from my face but I swam on, as far as I dared. Above me tiny bats zipped past on fast beating wings and droplets of water seeping through the cracked roof fell periodically. Behind me echoing shrieks of those still to enter the water, complaining of the cold, bounced off the walls. I had raced ahead wanting to have the place to myself, at least for a moment or two. Floating in 190,000 year old lava tubes full of fresh rain water is not something I expected to do everyday, but there I was again, simply because of a spur of the moment decision and a random act of kindness.

Over two weeks ago I had set off from Cairns and just in time too. Although it had been wet with drizzle the last few days the heavens truly opened the day I set off for Yungaburra and were set on drowning the place over the coming days. A quick pit stop at Gordonvale allowed me to lighten my load – there was little chance of snorkeling west of Cairns – before taking the twisted Gilles Highway up some 800m into the Atherton Tablelands. Not a difficult climb by any measure but the relentless rain made it less than enjoyable spoiling any chance of admiring the view back down towards the coast and nearing the plateau I was well aware of the drop in temperature. I had contacted James and Sarah on Warm Showers a few days earlier looking for a place to camp, a shower and somewhere warm to dry off. What I got was something rather different, an upgrade so to speak. Off the highway, along a couple narrow little backroads and finally a down a lush green path I was welcomed and given my own cabin in the countryside above Lake Tinaroo to take over as my own for the weekend. James an Sarah were both lovely, laid back people and had both toured here in Australia and Sarah in Tibet and Mongolia so there was plenty to talk about and learn. The rain was no less intense up here but I could sit under the veranda and watch the lake disappear behind the clouds but it never drowned out the whine of the jet skier’s boats. The climb had taken more out of me than I knew so I had a lazy Saturday but on Sunday morning we visited Lake Eacham – a beautiful freshwater lake formed in a now extinct volcano crater – for breakfast. Even with the rain it was a beautiful place, the water a deep, rich green, turtles and archer fish swimming by the shore in between the pandanus. Cooked a rather good korma for dinner with went down well and finally got around to patching up my holey front pannier properly.

Come Monday morning I discovered the reason for my very stiff rear break, a partially snapped cable housing, probably the result of crashing into a dodgy kerb in Rockhampton. It could stay like that for the time being though, no hills to speak of for the next couple thousand kilometers.. The cloud hadn’t cleared off but they were holding back momentarily so I could enjoy the back roads to the Gallo Dairy where I found some delicious passionfruit yoghurt and feta cheese and then on towards Atheron to stock up on some food and vote in some kind of election; I look forward to getting off the electoral roll. That was about as long as the clouds could hold back the flood and it became a wet, and then very wet and finally flooded road type of ride. Twisting my way south towards the highest road in Queensland at 1143m. A local though I was having trouble when I stopped for a photo, why else would I stop in such weather? By the time I arrived in Ravenshoe I looked a lot like a drowned rat and felt pretty much the same as well but soon dried off in a pub before setting up for the night under the BBQ area at the tourist information centre; they do come in handy sometimes. Innot Hot Springs had been something I was looking forward to but the rain had swollen the creek and almost put the bridge under so the hot springs themselves were well and truly drowned. It was the middle of the following morning that I found myself at the Undara turnoff. I had been undecided about whether to stop by or not but in the end the decision was made for me. Although the road had been excellent I had been fighting a very strong headwind for 15km and I knew the road was cut not so far ahead. I needed somewhere to kill a day or two.

Two weeks later and I’m still here, although I’m finally moving on tomorrow. On my first night as a paying customer I’d seen one other couple walking around I little hope of there being much action around the camp fire but I did discover a few of the staff had a including the manager enjoying a drink or two. The short of it is after realising I couldn’t ride further west with the flooded road Steve (the manager) offered me a bed and food in return for a few hours work each day. So for the past two week I done various things around the resort from cleaning windows and raking paths to housekeeping and picking up rubbish. Made a couple of trips to the Mount Surprise pub for supplies of the alcoholic kind, an 18th birthday and also a made a mad 10 hour road trip to Charters Towers at night (plenty of roos and pigs to dodge along the way). I saw some of the lave tubes a half dozen times, swimming in them just as many time, others once once or twice and climbed Mount Kalkani (an extinct volcano) to see a rather bleak sunrise but it still worth the effort. I also managed to keep the legs in half decent shape by riding some of the walking track. Once through a half meter of water by the 100 Mile Swap (named so because it is 100 miles from Cardwell), at least the bike was clear afterwards.

The second week finished up with the Undara Country Rock and Blues Festival. More rock than blues but still some decent entertainment to be had by the bands who played over the 3 days. Finally there was a staff party on the Sunday night with most of the band members. After a couple of games of darts and pool and few too many beers, the night ended in bit of a blur. Stumbled back to bed sometime around 4am. Haven’t done that in a long time. I’m glad to be getting back on the bike tomorrow. As much fun as I’ve had here, hanging out with some of the long time staff I’m itching to move on. I heard on the grapevine the road is now open all the way to Normanton, some 450km west, so flooded roads shouldn’t be a problem for a while.

4 comments

Sounds like you’ve had great luck with some awesome hosts…swimming in the dark sounds even creepier than dining in the dark! no post office shots in all that time?? 😉 take care out there…

Haha I concur with Cath on lack of post office shots. Otherwise loving the photos as always and sounds like a good few weeks, if not much riding! Stay safe WMG!

Post offices worthy of a photo have been in very short supply. Most have been in grubby little shopping complexes so are nothing more than concrete boxes. I have seen a couple more recently which I’ll probably put in upcoming posts.

Aaron, as always I am truely jealous! Photos are stunning, but I have to agree with the chickies – I did miss the post office shot!

Leave a Reply