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Touch of Paradise Part 3

We were based at Mt Surprise in a small park behind the BP service station. It had plenty of shade (would have been useful if the sun was shining), clean ablutions and was only $17 a night for a powered site. We drove from there to Undara to see the lava tubes. We allowed plenty of time because of road works (4 red lights in 40Km). We arrived early enough to enjoy a free coffee while we waited for our tour. It was extremely interesting hearing how the tubes were made when the Undara Volcano erupted 190,000 years ago. Because of the recent rains, there was a lot of water in the tubes – not directly from the rain, but because the underground aquifers were full and the water level rose from underneath. Apparently at Easter some of the tubes were only accessible by swimming. However we were able to walk on the boardwalks at least part of the way and keep our feet dry. The more adventurous continued on the boardwalk into the water. The micro bats flying around the roof of each tube and the amazing shapes and colours of the walls were a feature. I had been here about 20 years before when there was no boardwalk. This is a relatively new addition, and last time I was here it was dry in the tubes. Overall it was very interesting and explained to us why we were seeing black basalt everywhere – even miles away.
The next day was Thursday and we were booked on the Savannahlander which runs from Cairns to Forsayth. We were only joining them for the section from Mt Surprise to Einasleigh. This tour is organised by Bedrock. It was periodically raining with drizzle filling the gaps between showers. And this is sunny Queensland! The tour left from Bedrock with a driver called Di who is an absolute hoot. We started in a Coaster bus and she showed us around town before taking us to the railway station. We thought the train was due to leave at 12 midday but she seemed in no hurry. Eventually the train left at 12.42. Our group of 20 consisted of 16 people from Seniors Holiday Travel and four others including us.
The track had been laid quickly and cheaply in the early 1900’s and was narrow gauge, so the going was slow. The commentary from our train driver was entertaining and informative although I still can’t tell the difference between a kangaroo and a wallaroo as they flee from the train, or we pass by too quickly. In places the train had to slow even more to shoo cattle off the track and we crossed numerous creeks on our journey. The second last crossing was over the Einasleigh River and the last was over the Copperfield River where the town of Einasleigh is situated. The Copperfield River has been formed over a lava flow from the Barker volcano which erupted about 10 million years ago. The Copperfield Gorge looks like a large crack in the lava. The train set us down in the middle of the main street. Di had brought the bus out to meet us. We were to boil the billy down by the creek but it was too wet, so we settled for thermos tea under the shelter near the gorge. Di gave us a cook’s tour of Einasleigh before setting off along a road called The Shortcut back to Mt Surprise. At one time 4000 people lived here but now there are only about 25 residents.
This road was definitely 4x4 territory and we were in a coaster. The 45K of The Shortcut and 23K of the main road took just on 2 hours. The road was wet, severely corrugated in places, rough and slippery, especially when crossing the numerous creek crossings. Many of these had water in them (it was still raining). At first, there were lots of screams and laughter coming from the back of the bus as we hit bumps and crossed flowing creeks, but after we had trouble climbing the hill as we exited one creek, things were much quieter, and the main noise inside the bus was the applause for Di as she negotiated each difficult spot.
What a day! We love old trains and are now heading for Ravenshoe to try the old steam train that runs on Sundays.