Saturday, April 05, 2008

DAY 162: Day 1 off Lake Eacham

50 km at 14.0 km/hr

Thurs 3rd April 2008

Distance to date 9788 km (6117 miles)

Last night was perfectly peaceful yet I couldn’t get to sleep easily. Probably too much coffee; must cut back, none today. I had breakfast of bread and the delicious Buderim’s Mango and Ginger Jam and set off for Malanda to raid the ATM. On the way I stopped at Winfield Park where Platypuses are regularly seen in a particular spot where the river runs smoothly, as reported in a local guide. I lurked in the bushes for a while (they are very shy creatures) but didn’t see any - I think dawn and dusk are the best times as with birds.

ATM duly relieved of money I did some shopping in the Spar then wolfed down a pie at the excellent bakery, before riding down to the waterfall area where there is a 1km rainforest walking track. It started at the turtle viewing platform and there were indeed half a dozen turtles swimming about and, it appeared to me, looking up at me in expectation of food. The resident Catbird (it really does sound like a cat yowling) gave voice too, probably for the same reason - the guide says it likes to be fed! Whatever happened to hunting for your own food guys? The rainforest walk was very good; many trees were named although there are SO many varieties that I have given up trying to learn them, and the Eastern Whip Birds were whipcracking away - the male whipcracks and if the female is interested she immediately gives two rapid return cries, and it sounded like several boys were getting lucky! I had a good look for Tree Kangaroos but no joy. The walk was predictably ‘jungly’ with twisted vines and roots filling every available space. The big cyclone in March 2006 destroyed a lot of the biggest trees but new ones are shooting up to take their place; competition for light is so hot. The main trees have bare trunks with all the leaves at the top grabbing the sun. And it was getting sunny after early morning showers - hooray!

I’d probably bought too much shopping having disregarded the fact that I had 13km to haul it back, and it was very hilly as usual. There is no flat land in the Atherton Tablelands. Back at camp I disgorged my load into the fridge, had a leisurely cuppa and then set off again in the other direction for Lake Barrine.

Lake Barrine is another volcanic crater lake similar to Lake Eacham and around 12km away. These lakes are similar to the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier in South Australia that I visited what seems like ages ago, and were formed when molten rock rose up into the groundwater which causes an explosion, hurling rock all over the place. The effect of this happening time and time again is to create a huge hole at this point - the crater lake. Both these ones are around 80m deep. There were more very steep hills on the way but traffic was light. On arrival I couldn’t resist a Devonshire Tea at the nice cafe, and I quizzed the lady who made them about where I might be going wrong with my efforts at scones, and the only thing we could think of was that I’d be better using gas than electric. But I digress again.

There is a tourist boat that sails around the lake a few times a day and it was just leaving at 3 as I was setting off on the 5km circular walking track. Early on there are two huge Kauri Pines side by side (pic) - these are such solid and massive trees, and photographs don’t do them justice; you can’t fit them all in the frame of course. These ones must have been 65m high. A few 100m further on there was suddenly movement all around me as I passed over a short boardwalk - dozens of little animals something like fat rats with Pinnochio noses - and I believe these are Musky Kangaroo Rats, marsupials of course. They repeatedly ran to and fro in apparent confusion, much to my delight. I think I managed a pic of one at a distance. The whole 5km of track was excellent for cycling on, although one is not supposed to, however I only saw 3 other people and I took great care at bends etc. - And in fact it continually wound around and dipped and rose, through darker and then lighter corridors in the dense forest. The sun dappled the path giving rise to infinite combinations and shades of green and brown, utterly delightful. Rides such as this are so enjoyable to me; I really love being in this dense rainforest environment. I stopped regularly and just watched and listened for a few minutes - there were several more bird calls I didn’t recognise. Occasionally the lake glimmered and shimmered through a gap in the trees. I surprisingly came upon a Scottish couple on holiday from Loch Katrine who were walking around the lake, and we had a blather for a while. They had just been watching a snake which I just missed.

I continued on rolling through the green tunnel via a few more Curtain Figs and their thousands of rooty tentacles until I finally arrived back at the cafe and public road, and reluctantly left this beautiful place.

I took a longer route back to the CP taking in some single-track roads through still-hilly countryside on the edge of the (Crater Lakes) National Park, and was surprised that I had clocked 50km on a supposed rest day!

.....To more mundane things like doing a pile of washing and getting it out on the line - a sunny day is forecast again for tomorrow so it will dry OK. I feel quite tired after lack of sleep last night so after dinner (bacon and zuchini rolls with rolls fried in olive oil) and a couple of phone calls it’ll be an early night. I’m staying here a third night - don’t wanna leave lol, and will upload in the morning - internet at the CP is only $2 for as long as you like; everything here is such good value.

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