Sunday, April 27, 2008

DAY 184: Innot Hot Springs to Undara Lodge

Fri 25th April 2008
114 km @ 15.5 km/hr
Sunny intervals, 24 deg C
Elevation of destination 774 m
Distance to date 10777 km (6736 miles)

My very close neighbours were up well before 7 and so was I - it was all quiet from the other campers overnight though, meaning a good night’s sleep again. I have made a bit of a habit of wearing the eye mask and foam ear plugs to create my own little 'microworld'and isolate myself from outside interference, which helps! I collected my $10 shower key deposit (the door is constantly propped open so I didn’t need it anyway - weird) and gratefully accepted a little bag of jelly beans from the lady manager “to give me some energy” and off I went at 0740 for a longish day.
Any thoughts of being whisked along by the wind were quickly dashed with the realisation that it was blowing sideways onto my left side; in fact there was very little wind at all; also the road is pretty hilly - nothing very steep but long drags on 2 to 4%-ers. There were quite a few descents too, so a fair bit of net climbing to do. I was feeling good though, the trots have just about cleared up - just the saddle sores that are pretty sore at the moment; I may have to take pain killers for the first time if it continues. Weather was perfect during the morning - low 20’s, slightly overcast. The road was very quiet too so it felt very relaxed.
Parts of the road reduce to one lane for several km at a time, however there’s a good wide dirt verge either side. The few occasions anything passed me coming the other way on these stretches I usually pulled onto the verge because if I didn’t some drivers pulled over onto the opposite verge and threw loads of dust up, cough.... There were a few 4-trailer road trains (see pic) hauling copper ore I think, and obviously I got well out of their way!
There were lots of birds everywhere - all the usual ones and a few brown ones, probably some kind of Honeyeater, that I couldn’t name, and a lot of roadkill - mostly ‘roos but a few Possums too. And many dead butterflies of all colours; their bright patterns seem to suggest life rather than death. I often got ‘clipped’ gently by live specimens of these winged angels - there are thousands flying around, all adding to the entertainment.
I had passed through MT Garnet (MT confusingly stands for Mining Town rather than Mount) after just 15km, but it was too early to stop - in any case most places were closed for Anzac Day (remembering the war victims of Oz and NZ). This also appears to be the start of an Oz long hoilday weekend.
I pulled away fairly happily and after 80km stopped at 40 Mile Scrub NP rest area, where I got the billy on in the nice picnic area, settled down to enjoy my tea and biscuits, which was cue for a family of five with 3 noisy young sons to sit next to me and spoil the peace lol. Anyway they were a nice couple from Cairns heading for Undara Lave Tubes Lodge as I was. We had a good natter despite the kids screaming away - I could just about hear what was said.
Another 2km down from here the road bears sharp right and heads west, so what wind there was was more in my favour now, plus the road was pancake flat, and my speed improved dramatically, which gave me a lift for the last 30km to Undara LTL. The lodge / camping area lies 15km off the highway, and I can now confirm that this road was metalled last year - I had been told it was poor quality gravel. This road is gently hilly but I was still feeling energetic so no problem. There were cows all over the unfenced road though, and I had to be careful not to get inadvertently caught in the inevitable stampede that seemed to happen most times they saw me.
When I checked in I could see the place was very busy, and most of tommorow’s 2-hour tours were getting booked up, so I signed up for the 0800 tour straight away. I’ll need to be on the ball in the morning to get all packed up by that time, as on my return I will set straight off for Mt Surprise, which is only about 50km away, and I hope to find internet there. The camping fee at Undara is a reasonable $10 for quite good facilities, including an evening sing-song around the campfire.
NB/ Briefly, the lava tubes were formed millions of years ago when molten lava flowed long distances underground from a volcano. It is estimated that 23 cu km of lava flowed 160km to the north west of the volcano at a temperature of 1200 deg C at about 1000 cubic metres per second. Some of this solidified around the outside to form a permanent tunnel for tyhe still-molten stuff, which one is now able to walk through - up to several metres diameter in places. So now ye know!
I met the couple again whom I’d seen on the road today and had a chat, before showering, cooking pasta and salami, starting today’s blog, then it was 1930 - just time for a pint in the bar before the sing-song. One of the tour guides, Levi, was playing guitar and leading the activities, and he was very good. He managed to get what was a bit of a dour group at first to do and sing all kinds of silly things, mostly involving mime and animal noises - it was great fun! During one song he dragged me out to compete against a lady to see who was the best at miming one particular song - The Gum Tree Song - why me I don’t know ‘cos I’d never done it before, whereas the lady was an old pro (at the miming lol), and got more claps than me so I got bombed out and she got a free drink at the bar. One particularly funny item was when he sang the Proclaimer’s ’500 Miles’ and we were invited to go in around the fire and do our own version of Scottish dancing - what a hoot! We all did very silly things indeed like a bunch of silly kids. Aussies seem to love that song, which was also played at Gareth and Jen’s wedding to good effect after 'Down Under''. It seems to get everyone going! If I get this guy on my tour in the morning it should be good...

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