6th May 2018–Charters Towers (again)

Distance: 525 km
Fuel: 58 L

I had seriously thought about returning south via the coast ie Innisfail to Townsville but the combination of possible rain and the coastal traffic on a public holiday made me rethink the idea.

At the moment I am several days ahead of my schedule because I had allowed two stops between Charters Towers and Atherton in each direction. On previous journeys I have stopped at Undara Lava Tubes but on this occasion, while I did take a break at Mt Garnet on the way north and Greenvale on the way south, neither places have any great interest or reason to stop overnight.

Today’s trip was a long drive but I was listening to an audio book “The Handmaids Tale” which passed the time pleasantly enough and I always enjoy the bush winding passed.

Ravenshoe and its wind farm was its usual windy, soggy self:


…but the weather improved no end past Mt Garnet.


There are probably less than 10km of single lane road now on the whole of the Great Inland Way.


1st May 2918–Mareeba

Distance: 561 km
Fuel: 60 L

Today was to be a long drive. There are really no stops until Mt Garnet unless you go to the Undara Lava Tubes but I have visited them twice in the last 5 years, including last year  so that was not practical. ,There are virtually no rest areas on this road either – the only place.s are left over sites from past roadbuilding/repair.

>>>Click Here to Revisit Lava Tubes<<< 

The drive from Charters Towers was fairly uneventful except for occasional encounters with the local wild life.

[googlemaps https://www.youtube.com/embed/amqj8s-PkNo&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allow=”autoplay; encrypted-media” allowfullscreen>

When I first visited the Undara Lava Tubes over five years ago the road north of Charters Towers was mostly single lane.

180501 101 Road to Atherton

Now there are only a few km of single lane road left.

180501 102 Road to Atherton180501 100 Road to Atherton

The weather was beautiful until I reached Mt Garnet where I stopped for fuel – ironically the cheapest since leaving home – from then on it was getting noticeably cloudier as I drove.

By the time I arrived at Ravenshoe it was pouring with rain, I stopped and had a look at the forecast; not good! This is almost exactly what happened when I drove from Undara to Cairns five years ago – the weather was appalling all the way to Atherton where it continued raining.

BTW I think Ravenshoe is the highest town in Queensland.

Decided to push on to Mareeba where the forecast was not so bad. Arrived at the Tropical (?) Tableland Caravan Park at 3pm. It had been a long drive and the skies where still threatening.

In the event it did rain for a while when I was getting fuel but as sunset approached small patches of blue sky appeared – I hope this is an omen for tomorrow and my drive to Cooktown.

16th June 2017–Undara to Charters Towers

Distance: 408 km
Fuel: 57 L

At 8am I was at the Undara Lodge buying ice having all ready packed up to leave, by quarter past I was on the road.

170616 002 Undara

The road has improved a lot since I was last on it over 5 years ago then it was mostly single lane whereas now is is mostly two lanes with probably less that 10 km of single lane road.

There were very few parking areas on the road other than trucks bays adjacent to the road. The rare parking areas seemed crowded so I didn’t stop, even the roadhouses were a detour off the main road so I just kept going.

Because of this I arrived at the caravan park just before 1pm, checked in and found my site. The lady in the office gave me a map of the town and pointed out the Tourist Information Office and Towers Hill which she said should not be missed.

There was also some shopping I had to do so once settled in I was off first to the tourist office to get a self guided walk of the town centre most of which I saw while I parked and had a quick look round.

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I then drove to the Towers Hill which over looks the town. Not only is it a lookout it also has a lot of historical significance it is where gold was first discovered which lead to the town becoming one of the richest in the country even having its own stock market. This wealth is reflected in some of its old buildings seen above.

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During WWII Charters Towers was the base for US and Australian bombers taking part in the Battle of the Coral Sea just off nearby Townsville. The flight path for the heavily laden bombers taking off was over Towers Hill which necessitated the demolition of the tall chimney of the Pyrites Works on the hill. The rubble is still there, as are many bunkers used to store armaments.

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15th June 2017–Undara Lava Tubes

I was booked on the 8am trip to the lava tubes and was ready in plenty of time after shower, breakfast, laundry etc. to meet the guide outside the lodge reception.

There was a big crowd but it turned out they had two parties so in fact when we left my bus was not even full. As we neared the tubes you could see the Savannah grassland which stretches across northern Queensland interspersed with patches of remnant rainforest.

170615 002 Undara170615 004 Undara

Plus examples of the Queensland Bottle Tree (not to be confused with the Boab).

170615 006 Undara

The rainforest was clinging on in the cooler spots where the lava tube roofs had collapsed providing shelter and moisture.

The lava tubes are the result of a ‘shield’ volcano which oozed lava over the landscape 190million years ago to form the lave tubes. The tubes only exist about 30km from the Undara Volcano because only there were conditions right. The lava field stretches for something like 140km from the volcano and is the largest of its type in the world though the lava tubes are not unique they are some of the biggest. (That’s how I remember the guide’s tale anyway).

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The roof is a mass of colour from the many minerals in the rock, brown – iron, white – calcium, dark brown – basalt. There were others but I forget them.

170615 016 Undara Stephenson Cave

The local aborigines have no stories about the lava tubes and there are no rock paintings in any of them. The theory is that because the last eruption of a volcano in the area was less than 20000 years ago aboriginal history regards them as something bad and to be feared so they kept away from them.

They are truly spectacular only exposed because millions of years ago the roof collapsed in places where it was too thin to support its own weight.

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Because of the early start I was back at my caravan by about 11am when I was able to upload yesterday’s blog. I tried last night but the internet wasn’t working even at its best Telstra only has one or two bars signal strength even though I can see the tower. There is no Optus signal at all.

Decided to go on another of the signposted walks; a 4km one called the Pioneer Walk which followed the route of the early telegraph line to an old slab hut. I think with my two visits I have now done all the walks except the very long all day ones (well, 6hr).

170615 065 Undara Pioneer Walk170615 068 Undara Pioneer Walk

See the original Telegraph Pole? Made of Cypress Pine which termites don’t like and is resistant to bush fires. It has been there since the 1890s.

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When I returned I was buggered, even worse my feet hurt! To ease the pain I ordered an Undara Burger and a beer at the bistro for lunch; both of which went down very well.

170615 082 Undara Dinning Area

The Kookaburras wait for someone to leave their food unattended.

170615 083 Undara Dinning Area

However I think that is enough food for the day and also the end of my outings – an afternoon of rest!

Actually the afternoon proved to be quite busy with people arriving and setting up near me – not busy for me obviously, I just watched. Last night there was just me and a mobile home in this set of seven sites, today I have people either side of me and the place is filling up.

14th June 2017–Georgetown to Undara

Distance: 178 km

With only about 140km to travel to reach Undara today there was definitely no rush. The only fly in the ointment was the intermittent closure of the bridge but even that seemed unlikely.

Once again the road was a mixture of single and two lane carriageway with no particular problems until I caught up with two identical caravans who at stayed in Georgetown overnight next to me, the first one I passed with no problem but his mate suddenly sped up at every passing opportunity to block me from getting past. When I eventually did get past he tailgated me for a few km before dropping back to his original speed of about 80 to 90kph. Unbelievable!

When I arrived at Undara it was too early to check in (their checkout time is later than normal at 10.30am) so I made use of their free coffee and wandered around the site and read up on the lava tubes. Actually only had to wait about 25 minutes but finally was given my site and I also paid for tomorrow’s tour that I had booked over the phone.

Once I was settled in I went for a drive to Kalkani Crater a trip I couldn’t do when I was here 5 years ago in my little car. At that time the road was in an appalling state and I was forced to turn back, ironically that car would have easily coped with it today because the road must have been recently graded because it was as smooth as.

The crater looks more impressive from the air so I will include an on line photo here (see above). I climbed the path to the crater rim and looked inside it was just a bowl filled with normal bush vegetation. I took some photos but frankly you can hardly see that it is a crater. Walked around the rim for a while but it didn’t get more exciting so strolled back down to the car park.

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Returned to the Undara Caravan Park had another coffee and then took the Atkinson’s Lookout Walk it is only about a 4 km round trip but over rocky terrain so takes about an hour an a half. There must have been bushfires through the area recently (or burning off) because quite large swathes were blackened however in places regrowth had just started.

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It was getting to late afternoon by now and I decided to have dinner in the bistro so I booked (you have to) then went for a shower.

Went to the bistro a bit early so I could have a beer first, by the time I was ready for my second beer (bottled only) it was time to order the meal. Spoilt for choice I fell back on my old favourite beer battered fish, even managed to refuse the salad or veggies. It was ready surprisingly quickly and I ate it in one of the old railway carriages (they’re not that old I travelled in them in the mid/late 60s – the fine for pulling the communication cord was in dollars).

170614 045  Undara Carriages