Alluring Undara Lava Tubes

Undara Lava Tubes

Regretfully we had to leave behind the brolgas and wallabies in Karumba and make our way to our next destination, Undara Volcanic National Park, to witness the remarkable Undara Lava Tubes.

We had to cover a distance of approximately 520 km, with not much to see on the way except for a few small towns

Saying goodbye to brolgas

On our way out from Karumba, we stopped a few more times and admired the birds gathered in small reservoirs of freshwater, which had not yet dried up. 

We spotted an entire squadron of pelicans flying over the water looking for a convenient landing spot in between brolgas, egrets, and ibises.

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Brolgas flying away

Narrow Gulf Developmental Road

After passing Normanton, we resumed our journey on the Savannah Way, which connects Cairns to Broome and spans across three states. The road, officially named Gulf Developmental Road, was surprisingly narrow. I’ve expected a wider road, but it turned out to be a narrow strip of asphalt, at times only allowing for one car to pass through, with occasional expansions into two lane

Gulf Developmental Road
Gulf Developmental Road

The most challenging part of the journey was encountering the road trains. These massive vehicles would not yield, and we had to quickly brake and pull over to the side of the road to make way. Other drivers resorted to driving with one wheel on the roadside, hoping to avoid having stones hit and break their rear windows.

Overall, the landscape was monotonous and flat, with the exception of the Newcastle Ranges we passed by. However, as we approached Undara, the road became more winding, and the views grew more captivating.

Arriving at Undara Experience

In the afternoon, we finally arrived at the Undara Caravan Park, which is also known as the Undara Experience. The park is beautifully situated on the edge of the Undara Volcanic National Park and boasts a fantastic atmosphere.

The park features several old, historic train cars that have been repurposed as reception areas, restaurants, sleeping rooms, and more. All of this is nestled in a fragrant eucalyptus forest, which added to the charm of the place. We were even greeted by a kookaburra perched on a tree near our car.

Undara Experience - Kookaburra
Undara Experience – Kookaburra

Later on, we even had a visit from some kangaroos who crossed our campsite, and Nell went to greet them. We immediately felt at home. The air was still hot but less humid, making it much easier to breathe.

Undara sits on a plateau that is 760 meters above sea level, which contributes to the lower humidity levels in the area. AWe were actually lucky as we found out that the resort would be closing until April of next year due to the approaching wet season. We managed to make it there just in time.

Undara Experience - Kangaroos
Undara Experience – Kangaroos

Undara Lava Tubes

We were up early the next day, already seated in a small bus by 8 am, ready to visit the Undara lava tubes. These massive tunnels were formed by lava flow that occurred 190 million years ago. It was difficult to believe that the hills surrounding us contained over 120 inactive volcanoes.

On the other hand, the Undara lava tubes created by the same eruption extend over 160 km and are the longest in the world!

Undara Lava Tubes
Undara Lava Tubes

Some of the tubes had collapsed or become clogged with soil, but the fragments that we visited were nonetheless impressive. We couldn’t help but wonder what had occurred in this region millions of years ago.

Although the volcanoes themselves do not seem dangerous, we knew that they had once erupted and spewed out vast quantities of lava. Now, the Undara lava tubes are no more than rolling hills that are simply a part of the landscape.

Kalkani Crater Rim Walk

After exploring the Undara lava tubes in the morning, we drove a short distance to do the Kalkani Crater rim walk in the afternoon. The climb to the top of the Kalkani Crater rim was our first task, followed by a walk around the volcano’s rim.

The area around Kalkani Crater was overgrown with trees and vegetation, but we could still see many small volcanic rocks on the ground that reminded us of the volcanic activity that had occurred in the past.

Kalkani Crater rim walk
Kalkani Crater rim walk

Fortunately, the panoramic view from Kalkani Crater was breathtaking, and we could see for miles around. Marius and Nell even collected two small lava rocks to serve as keepsakes of their visit.

Kalkani Crater rim walk - our trophies
Kalkani Crater rim walk – our trophies

Undara Experience is truly a remarkable place, and we wished we could have stayed longer. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the resort and caravan park were getting ready to close for the wet season, so we had to continue our journey.

Undara Experience - car trains
Undara Experience – car trains

From there, our plan was to head to the east coast, more specifically to Daintree National Park. As it was already late in the year (beginning of December), we didn’t want to risk getting stuck anywhere if heavy rains came.

Undara Caves
Undara Caves

Driving through Atherton Tableland

After departing from Undara the next day, we continued on Kennedy Highway. The landscape remained dry and temperatures were still high until we began ascending to Atherton Tableland.

Ravenshoe – what a change of climate

Then, everything changed and we found ourselves in a moderate climate. This microclimate was particularly amazing in Ravenshoe, a small and very picturesque town that sits at an altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level.

It was hard to believe that this was still tropical Queensland. The temperatures were moderate, the air was moist, and clouds were enveloping the mountaintops.

Ravenshoes - change of the climate
Ravenshoes – change of the climate from dry and hot to cool and humid

Change in scenery was quite dramatic and unexpected after traveling through dry vegetation for so long.

The lush greenery and colorful flowers have been a refreshing sight. The fog and drizzling rain also added to the ambiance, creating a mysterious and enchanting atmosphere.

Ravenshoe reminded us about the man who shared his gemstone stories with us at Barradale Campground, right before we travelled to Exmouth (maybe because he was from Ravenshoe).

Ravenshoe
Ravenshoe

As we continued driving, we passed by Atherton, a charming town nestled at the foot of small hills. We stopped to do some shopping near the old sugar cane processing plant, where an impressive steam engine from its operational days was still on display.

We enjoyed lunch surrounded by old photos and the huge machinery.

What surprised us most were the short distances between towns, which averaged around 30 km, and the high number of cars on the roads.

After weeks of driving through sparsely populated areas, encountering only one or two cars per day, we finally arrived in a bustling civilization.

Descending from the Atherton Tableland, we entered the tropical climate of Queensland. It was the beginning of December, and the heat and humidity were intense, with large clouds hanging in the sky.

Driving down to Atherton Tableland
Driving down to Atherton Tableland

Wonga Beach Caravan Park

We stayed for the night at Wonga Beach Caravan Park located on the beach. Unfortunately, a few days ago there was a storm somewhere nearby and the waves were throwing a lot of mess ashore so Wonga Beach looked like a garbage dump. 

Wonga Beach
Wonga Beach

In addition to broken boards, seagrass and a bottle in which there can be a genie that fulfils your wishes (I know, I know too many fairy tales), you can also put together a new pair of shoes and a set of dishes, etc.

Wonga Beach debris
Wonga Beach debris

Marius hoped to catch a fish at Wonga Beach, but all he ended up with were pieces of seagrass, and he quickly became discouraged. We fell asleep listening to the waves gently hitting the sand. It was warm and small coconuts hit our trailer roof with quite a noise. It was fortunate that we did not install a solar battery on the roof!

The following day, we were heading to Daintree village and Daintree National Park. Perhaps we would spot some cassowaries?

Sunset at Wonga Beach Caravan Park
Sunset at Wonga Beach Caravan Park

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