Sunday, April 27, 2008

DAY 185: Undara Lodge to Mt Surprise

Sat 26th April 2008
54 km @ 20.0 km/hr
Sunny intervals, 26 deg C
Elevation of destination 459 m
Distance to date 10831 km (6769 miles)

I was up early and ready for the Lava Tube tour well before the meeting time of 0755. Our guide was called Mac, and he really knew his stuff, introducing us first to the general principles of how the tubes formed. We were taken by minibus some 6km to the site of one of the many accessible sections of the tubes, then down into a kind of valley which led into a huge round tunnel some 40m diameter, part of a 250km total known length. I’d never seen anything like it before, and tried to imagine molten lava flowing quickly through such a huge conduit, at the start of the tubes’ 10 years of activity some 280,000 years ago. It really was something very special, enhanced greatly by Mac’s excellent commentary and ready answers to most of our questions. It’s no use me trying to describe it in detail since I wouldn’t be able to do it justice; it’s something most people would find fascinating given the chance to see it - I’ll post a few pics to give the gist. There were large numbers of ‘microbats’ in there too - 5 different species, and tree roots weirdly hung straight down from the ceiling. I considered it $45 well spent, and I don't know anywhere else in the world where you can see this phenomenon.
I could see better in daylight after the tour that the whole Undara complex had much to offer and in a way wish I’d stayed another day - walking tracks, nice bar and cafe, complimentary tea and coffee, pool, lots of birds (feathered and female lol) - but it was a bit too busy for my taste. I also feel this constant compulsion to keep getting miles in - I do get a kick out of eating the distance up. Nice place Undara Village though - there are 20-odd restored Queensland Railways carriages used for accomodation, bar, staff quarters and so on, and a lot of thought has gone into it. This morning it seemed like everyone here knew I was cycling around Oz and everyone was coming up to it asking me about it, even people I hadn’t seen before. I gave quite a few business cards away and people seemed genuinely pleased to be able to check the website out. I have learnt not to go on too much about the trip though; just to answer the questions and then ask about them in return - it has the effect of belittling what they're doing if I'm not careful.
I hit the road then at around 1030 with a bit of a headwind until I reached the highway, then on turning west the SW-er was behind me, and I was coasting along gayly at 25 km/hr. And the road was very, very quiet indeed - I doubt that 20 vehicles passed me in the next 39km. It’s about as busy, today at least, as the North of Scotland coastal road, the A836 between Tongue and Durness, if you know it, so perfectly relaxed cycling in slightly overcast conditions - warm rather than hot. Plenty of avian entertainment too from the Black Cockatoos, Honeyeaters and a few crows that are reappearing lately. Once again the landscape is Savannah thin forest with Brahmin cattle grazing everywhere. They don’t seem to damage the trees though, which look healthy enough. Around half of the highway fron the Undara turn toMount Surprise is single-track with wide dirt verges, but mostly I had it all to myself. Once again I deliberately slowed up a little to extend the pleasure (lol). I stopped for half an hour at one of many places where I could lean the bike and sit down as well, and just enjoyed the perfect stillness and silence whilst nibbling cachews and sipping water.
I rolled into Mt Surprise at 1330-ish and bought a litre of milk and the Weekend Australian from the roadhouse and drank most of it whilst reading. There are 2 caravan parks and I chose Bedrock Village (toilets are marked Fred and Wilma etc.) - $12 - and one of the cleanest and best-equipped I’ve ever stayed at - well done guys. I particularly like the convenience of a toaster and electric kettle, and also electric hob. The sign outside said there was internet access but this was not the case - they were waiting for Broadband or something.
After a cuppa and more newspaper-browsing I showered, had a dip in the (rather cool) pool, and went for a beer or three. I got chatting there to 2 caravanners who knew the Outback pretty well, so once again picked up some useful tips. When I left the pub there was a fantastic Outback sunset - bands of light and dark orange with a blue background - beautiful, amazing. I’m going to enjoy the next few months even more methinks!!
I tried something new for dinner - ready-cooked Hokkein Noodles which come in a sealed packet with a sachet of black bean sauce, stir fried with spicy salami, tomatoes, red onion and chopped green beans - it was very good, and I’ll get some more of this stuff. I watched some TV whilst eating (bloody Clarkson - enough to kill the appetite) until one of the caravanners, Dave, came into the kitchen for a chat. It’s so nice here I fancy staying another day.

When I got back to the tent, having to be careful not to step on the ubiquitous cane toads in the dark (they's make a horrible squelch), this Green Tree Frog was parked on my tent. feel free man, no charge! Another excellent day full of interest and variety...

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