Leaving Emerald for Charters Towers involved a long trek through the outback on fortuitously quiet roads. Irrespective of the lack of stopping places or services and the utter tedium of driving such long distances the biggest hazard is the road trains defined as trucks with 2 or more trailers 36.5 metres or more in length. These monsters can’t stop quickly and are very difficult to overtake so the advice is to get out of the way if one comes up behind you and don’t try and overtake. They are very impressive beasts, but best seen at a distance.
Charters Towers was a convenient stop-off in that there was accommodation available and things to do, being the main goldrush town in Queensland. At its peak the town was known as “The World” as everything you ever needed could be found there, so there was never any reason to leave. As with all such places, fortunes were made, fortunes were lost and the history is full of wonderful stories of the characters who lived and died there. The weather was incredibly hot so our sightseeing was brief but we did see many of the old buildings
Plus a hint at a conflict between man and beast…
Our original route was to have taken us further inland to the Undara National Park, but the lodge they have to accommodate visitors is closed in the summer leaving us with no choice but to head to the coast again, this time to Mission Beach, a laidback, unspoilt stretch of beach which backs onto wet tropical rainforest, perfect habitat for the endangered Southern cassowary as well as many other birds found nowhere else on the planet. As we approached the coast we passed through a unique area where 2 world heritage areas meet (apparently this is the only place where this happens)
The scenery was stunning
Arriving in Mission Beach we were again assaulted by the heat and, mornings aside, spent much time doing very little except cool off in the pool. Luckily our place looked right onto the beach so it wasn’t too bad
One morning I made an effort to spot a cassowary, visiting the 2 public areas which provide pathways through the forest and are supposedly good for cassowary spotting…
But it was not to be…instead, driving back, one decided to cross the road
Helen was now so concerned by all the dangers to her life that she devised a suit of armour to protect her from the sun, insects, ticks and snakes…
But not heat stroke or crocs
Mission Beach was also the location where one of our favourite netflix series, Irreverent, was filmed. The storyline is a highly plausible one of an American gangster arriving in the fictional North Queensland town of Clump and being confused for the new priest, the old one having become saltie food…it’s well worth a watch, if only for the first scene on the beach. Property prices in Mission Beach have never been the same since.
Before leaving the coast we stopped at Etty Bay, yet another beautiful, unspoilt beach well-known for Cassowary sightings. The beach has a stinger net to aid safe swimming, although it is not guaranteed as smaller ones are able to get through. Every beach in Queensland has a first aid box complete with bottles of vinegar to be used as a first response to a sting (pour 2 litres over area and do not rub!), and seek medical help immediately. Although predominantly a summer problem from November to May, they can be around anytime of year and can be fatal.
The heat was oppressive so our next stop was to be the Atherton Tablelands, a lush, green area inland with the advantage of much higher altitude and supposedly cooler temperatures. the whole area was once covered in rainforest but that changed in the early 1900s until logging was stopped in the 1960s when the Wet Tropics Heritage Area was created. Now it is a large area of remnant bits of rainforest, lots of green pasture and lakes, with a large number of unique bird and animal species. There are also a fair number of waterfalls and we stopped at 3 on our way to Millaa Millaa
We wanted to stay in a rainforest lodge but none were available for 2 nights so we made do at a place in Yungaburra, a very pretty village.
Near here was a large reservoir, Lake Tinaroo, much of which is surrounded by rainforest but which is otherwise quite disappointing.
Two volcanic crater lakes were nearby. Lake Barrine
and Lake Eacham
which has a resident freshie
which no-one seems to take much notice of.
Also nearby is the Peterson Creek walking trail which starts at a platypus hide and walks along the river. The whole area has been effectively rewilded from what it used to be, a run-down river with little interest in terms of wildlife. Now, after years of volunteer effort, it has been restored to it’s full glory, including rare tree kangeroos.
Two other places of interest were Hasties Swamp, a tiny national park which encompasses the swamp only but which has been equipped with a fantastic hide for birdwatchers and photographers
and the Curtain Fig Tree national park, which contains the Curtain Fig Tree
Finally we moved into our forest accommodation, Chambers Wildlife Forest, which is set in the midst of rainforest filled with the noise of cicadas and birds, most of which were hidden from view. One feature of this place is the daily feeding of forest mammals by smearing honey on a tree truck at night and waiting to see what turns up
This is very much a place where nature is still very much in control. If the lights are too low, the owls will take the gliders, or a python will take a possum. On a walk round the grounds I came back with hitchhikers in the form of leeches. The wildlife here is diverse, including 12 bird species that occur nowhere else in Australia.one of which being the grey-headed robin
The owners of the lodge encourage guests to put fruit out on the balconies to attract some of the endemic bird species, such as honeyeaters and rifleman birds. This worked a little but the most switched on species was the Australian brushturkey
This was a fabulous place, with wildlife everywhere, but 3 nights of self-catering was stretching our meagre resources and it was time to move on, to the most northerly point on our trip, Cooktown.