Monday, August 01, 2011

Atherton Tablelands

This is Part III of a 5 part post about a trip to Queensland and the Top End.

Our third and final day in Cairns, we took a trip to the Atherton Tablelands directly west of Cairns. These tablelands are unlike what we think of as tablelands in the States; instead of mesas, there’s a steep climb up some mountains to rolling plains to the west. The scenery was very beautiful, but again, not the Australia of my imagination.

View from the mountain top

First, we took a drive through a national forest that promised some exciting views. We stopped by the Cathedral Fig, which was a huge tree around 500 years old. This tree actually starts from a small seedling in the canopy of another tree, then drops roots until it eventually chokes the original tree out. Unfortunately, after the Cathedral fig, things went rapidly downhill. The scenery became anticlimactic, our crater walk was washed out, and Platypus Rock looked more like Donald Duck. So onward we went, to Mount Hypipamee, which was the site of another crater recommended by my friend David.

Cathedral Fig tree, with Ethan for scale

The bottom of the crater was water covered in algae

Well, let me tell you, David gets the thumbs up from all three of us on this one. He described this crater as “a really big hole. But it’s actually really cool. You just have to see it.” And that’s pretty much a great description. It was a really big hole. But it was really cool. You just have to see it. Definitely not for those afraid of heights, though. Whew!

These cost about $150 from a greenhouse in the States

We also stopped at a local dairy for some Devonshire tea, which was on our to-do list as well. I wasn’t really sure what that was, but it’s basically biscuits (as in American-style buttermilk biscuits, not cookies, and not scones), jam, and cream. I should explain that the cream is this thick, almost pudding-textured stuff, not the cream you would pour in coffee or tea. It was very tasty, and allowed us to check another thing off the list.

We saw lots of these weird little "turkeys"

The photo opportunity that I missed and really really wish I hadn’t, happened on our drive home. We were driving down off the tablelands and it was dark. As we came to the crest of the mountain, a view opened up before us of the valley below, where the farmers were burning off their sugar cane fields. We could see the red glow of the fires moving through the fields and the lights of the surrounding houses like stars on the valley floor. It was a scene I hope I will never forget.

And that was it for Cairns. The next day, after some airline snafus which I will skip in interest of keeping my blood pressure low, we left for Darwin.


Anonymous said...

We have something in Florida called a strangler fig that is similar. Wonder if they're related, and if so, how they developed so far from one another.

So, you think the "big hole" is not a place for me? Actually it reminds me of the sinkholes we get here. There's one near Tallahassee where we used to swim. It was supposedly "bottomless." Even if this is swimmable, with the green scum and problem of how to get back to the top, I sure don't think I'd be interested!

Love all the pictures!


L said...

Mom, I think that is a strangler fig.

The crater was pretty steep, much steeper than sinkholes. I didn't show it but the edge of the platform kind of stuck out over the edge of the crater. You would have hated it.

Anonymous said...

what made the crater?

Uncle C