04 October 2006

Canberra Floriade

On the 19th of September we returned back to Canberra in order to go for another ultrasound scan of our baby - all ok (see the baby blog)! Secondly, we needed to recollect the heap of luggage that we had stored in the office of one of Daniel's colleagues at the ANU. As it happened, we were quite lucky with our planning, as the 20th was the first day of the Canberra floriade. The floriade is Canberra's main festival and bolsters the towns image as "Australias garden capital". The festival features hundreds of flower beds with millions of flowers of all kinds, sizes and colours. The flowers were planted so that the different colours would form various patterns related to the theme Carnivale - the world on show. Unfortunately, the patterns were very hard to discern, and a possibility to view the flowers from above would have been very welcome. Amnyway, the flowers were phenomenal.

One of the flower beds, this one with Turkey as the theme. As is apparent, the weather was sunny and warm (something you forget to appreciate while you're there).

A beautiful Tulip-looking flower.

Outback Undara

A trip to Australia is nowhere near complete without at least a short encounter with the outback. On our journey inland to the lavatubes at Undara we got our dose of outback ambience. First one must get to whatever destination one has picked and this includes a loooooong drive on single lane road where one has bear the constant risk of not managing in time to avoid a massive aproaching roadtrain. On the other hand there's an unmistakeable air of liberty when one takes off into the horzon on an endlessly long stretch of tarmack. At around 19:00 we arrived at Undara Experience, which is a large tourist complex right in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Only thing around is cattle and wildlife. We cooked a bit of dinner in the campsite kitchen and then cuddled into our tent for a night in the wild. On the following day we had bush-brekky and then headed on a half day tour of the place's attraction, the lava tubes.

Our little tent containing two beds, a light and that's it. Temperatures do creep down to only a couple of degrees at night, so you'd better tuck yourself well under the blanket.

In the morning we were honoured with the company of these Northern Nailtail Wallabies. Notice the length of its tail!

This is what the outback brekky is all about, you pay a heap of money to toast your bread over a pile of embers. To be fair the toast did actually turn out to be quite tasty and eggs, bacon and toms were provided by the bush-chef.

When having bush brekky you had better watch your bacon! If you clear your plate to far from your body (maybe only half an arm's lenght) you might have a kookaburra air-raiding your food.

On the way to the lava tubes we passed a very funny looking bird. Unlike the emu and casowaries this Brolga can actually fly.

Finaly a lava tube. This is the second out of three sites three that we visited. As can be seen the tubes are not complete as many sections of them have collapsed during earthquakes. The tubes at Undara are the oldest remaining lava tubes in the world, thanks mainly to the dry weather, which has kept erosion low. In its entirety the tube is around 100 km's long. The floor of the tube is covered with fine dust generated from the erosion of the volcaning rock. The walls of the tube are full of cracks, but like a roman bridge the individual peices of the ceiling keep it up.

On the third site on the tour we got to enter a longer intact segment of the tubes. Here the walls were covered with signs of the volcanic origin of the caves. One could see how lava had flown at different levels, how the walls had re-melted and started dripping and on several places gas-explosions had melted huge hollows in to the ceiling.

The tubes are not without life. Small bats like this fella like to "hang out" in the tubes.


The time has come to leave the coast and go straight up into the highland plateau, which is called the Atherton Tableland. The first part of the journey is a step ascent on a winding road. After an hour of driving uphill one reaches the flat tablelands. The climate changes slightly to more dry but most places also very fertile because of the volcanic soil.

On the way to Youngaburra on the first day we experienced this wonderful sunset over lake ??.

We stopped in Mareeba to have a bite at a Chinese reastaurant. Apparently many Chinese immigrated here to work in the mines, hence there's even a Chinese temple in a small town like Mareeba. On the main street was also this loud tree! The racket was created by a flock of rainbow lorikeets, which you may also be able to see if you zoom in on this picture.

We stayed overnigh in Yungaburra which is strategically located in close vacinity to a heap of nice places on the tablelands. Here a freshwater turtle poses for the tourists in the crater lake Echam.

The famous curtain fig.

Mossman Gorge

On our way southwards again we passed by Mossman gorge.

The first activity was a short one-hour walk with an aboriginal of the kuku-yalanji tribe. He told some stories of his relationship with the rainforest and traditions of his tribe. Somehow, when one talks with an aboriginal one really understands how dificult it can be to understand one another across cultural divides. It is as if one speaks a different language even though it is all spoken in english. On the picture our guide illustrates how traditional body paints are derived from different colours of ochre (iron rich soil) together with black charcoal.

After the walk and some tea with dampers we went further into the Gorge where it is possible to follow a path through the beautiful rainforest.

Emma sits at a small creek. A very idyllic spot.

A pool and a small stream.

Cape Tribulation - Rainforest meets the Reef

Now we pushed even further north beyond the Daintree river and into the the Cape Tribulation area, which features pristine rainforest and milelong almost deserted sand beaches. The Cape was named by Captain Cook on the voyage where he discovered Australia for the Europeans. Off shore lies the reef that was named after Cook's ship Endavour, which ran aground on it. Cooktown about 100 km north of Cape Tribulation is where the expedition were moored for several months in order to repair the damages to the ship. So, there's quite a bit of history to the place.
We settled into a small B&B called Rainforest Hideway and remained in the place for three nights.

Cape tribulation at dusk.

An excellent way to get a view of the coast is from one of these small sea-kayaks. Besides the view and a good exercise we also spoted several green turtles that live among the corals. It's quite fantastic that there's a coral reef right at the coast, and as we paddled we could peep down and see it.

Here we're on Noah Beach with the Noah Range in the background. Beautiful water, empty beach and a stunning backdrop.

Cape tribulation beach looking absolutely irresistable, but only a few people venture into the waves. The reason is that a crock had been spotted off-shore a few days earlier. Even though crocks have never before attacked on beaches like this one and the crock has not been seen for a couple of days people still chose to remain on land.

Yep, Australia is a dangerous place. Crock warnings are put up when one the fellas is spotted and the stinger (stinging jelly-fish) warnings are there all year round, but fortunately it wasn't season for them when we were there.

This the cabin we stayed in at Rainforest Hideaway B&B. The place featured complete rainforest immersion in the sense that there were no windows in the cabin but only a net to keep insects out. Remarkably there were no mosquitoes and because the cabin is inside the rainforest there was hardly any wind. During the night we could hear all the animal sounds including bandicoots hopping around on the forest floor and shrub-fowl screeching loudly for hours!
The breakfast was served on the large porch and while having yummy fruits and gas toasted bread, birds would come and sit of the fence to have a bit of breadcrumbs or fruitpeels. To our great disappointment the cassowary that regularly comes by the place did not carfe to show up any of the 3 mornings that we stayed.

Here's the rainforest of Cape Trib. We came across this lovely blue swimming hole on a guided rainforest walk. This pool is a sacred 'birth-pool' to the local aboriginals.

On the rainforest walk we also saw several of this flowering Bumpy Satinash. The tree trunk is actually partly hollow in order for it to provide shelter for a collony of ants. The ants take care of the tree which in turn secreets a sweet nectar for the ants to feed on.