Our last week in Queensland started with morning tea at the lovely Millaa Millaa Teahouse after which we continued on to the Ma:Mu Tropical Skywalk.
The Ma:Mu Tropical Skywalk is located on the escarpment of the North Johnstone River gorge in an area that has cultural significance for the Ma:Mu Aboriginal people and offers spectacular views over the gorge below and beyond to the surrounding Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. There are more than 1000 metres of ground level walking tracks that connect a 350m elevated walkway, a 10m long cantilever and a 37m high tower high in the canopy of this lush tropical rainforest providing spectacular views of the whole area. In addition, visitors can make use of a free handheld audio guide to learn a lot more about the area and its rich history.
From there we continued on through Wangan, where the smell of hot molasses from the sugar mill filled the air, to Mena Creek to visit the beautiful Paronella Park.
In 1929 an entrepreneurial young Spaniard named Jose Paronella, who had become quite wealthy by buying, improving and then selling sugarcane farms over a period of more than 10 years, bought the land that is now Paronella Park and began to single-handedly build his dream Spanish Castle from concrete. Jose Paronella also built a picture theatre, a ballroom, a picnic area by the falls, tennis courts, bridges, a Tunnel of Love, and planted 7,500 tropical plants and trees. In 1933 Jose built a hydro-electricity generator to supply electricity to his dream – he had electricity for more than 20 years before other nearby residents!
Even though Paronella Park has been adversely affected by natural disasters including floods and cyclones a condition known as ‘concrete cancer’ (where steel reinforcing – in this case railway tracks – rusts and expands cracking the concrete casing) is the main issue facing the current owners who are working to preserve rather than fully restore this magnificent place.
After spending a night camped behind the Mena Creek Hotel we returned to the Millaa Millaa Teahouse for another yummy morning tea (they had an amazing orange/almond cake on offer!) before continuing through the Atherton Tablelands Valley via the twisty Old Palmerston Highway to Ravenshoe. By the look of the various items of footwear fixed to wooden posts near the visitor information centre the townsfolk clearly find it amusing that some visitors don’t know how to pronounce the name of the town: Ravens-hoe (which is correct) or Raven-shoe!
We then visited both Little Millstream Falls and Big Millstream Falls (reported to be the widest single-drop waterfalls in Australia) before stopping in at the Innot Hot Springs for a refreshing dip in the thermal pools on our way to stay at Undara for a night.
The following morning we did a tour of the fascinating Undara Lava Tubes (during which we spotted a native hibiscus plant whose flower has found its way into many a glass of sparkly drink!) before doing a walk around the rim of the Kalkani Crater (the aerial photo I have included of the crater was borrowed from the internet as I don’t have a drone …) before heading on to the lovely little town of Croydon for a couple of nights.
Croydon was a gem of a find – a nice caravan park with a lovely saltwater pool and a town with a fascinating history. The town has a historical precinct that features beautifully restored/preserved old buildings including a town hall, courthouse, lock-up cells, police station and the residence of the Officer-In-Charge all of which were constructed before 1900. At the peak of the goldrush years in the late 1800s Croydon had a population of more than 7,000 yet today only just over 300 people live there.
Despite its small population it is obviously a very active and proud community – there are at least five sets of public toilets (one which also has free showers) within the space of a few streets, the visitor information centre is fantastic (and they show a great video detailing the history of the region) and there are beautiful steel artworks depicting the natural and cultural heritage of the Croydon area in and around the building.
From Croydon we headed to Normanton where, after dropping the camper off at the caravan park, we headed to nearby Karumba for lunch. Apart from buying some really nice meat from the butcher in Normanton my only other memory of the place wil be that the wind blew, and blew, and blew all night long …
The windy conditions followed us for most of the next day as we made our way to Adels Grove but thankfully we had two lovely still nights while camped in the Grove.
In 1920 Albert de Lestang, a French-Australian botanist, took up the property now known as Adels Grove as an experimental Botanical Garden (the name ‘Adel’ arose from his initials).
Albert planted many species of trees and shrubs and supplied the Botanical Gardens of the world with the seeds produced by his nursery. By 1939 he had a list of over 1000 species introduced to his property and the Botanical Gardens in Brisbane still has 536 different samples of seeds sent to them by Albert held in their collection.
Unfortunately sometime in the 1950s, floods and native animals damaged his trees (believed to number 2000 by then. Soon after, while he was absent from his home, fire destroyed his dwelling, possessions, all his research papers and further damaged his botanical collection. By this time Albert de Lestang was in his early seventies and after having lost so much he succumbed shortly thereafter to great depression and a broken spirit. Albert’s last years were spent in a Charters Towers nursing home, where he died in 1959 at the age of 75.
The camping ground now known as Adels Grove was opened in 1984 and, in addition to offering a wide range of accommodation options, it also has a bar, restaurant and a take-away shop (we had delicious, freshly grilled Hoki and wedges!).
Adels Grove is very close to the Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park which is an oasis in a vast area of dry plains, with a gorge through red sandstone cliffs cut by Lawn Hill creek, which flows at four million litres an hour from springs originating in the Georgina artesian basin under the limestone Barkly Tableland of the Northern Territory. The creek is fringed by plant species left over from a rainforest which covered the area fifteen million years ago, and the park is home to some unique animal species such as horse-shoe bats, long necked turtles, and the park’s emblem, the purple-crowned fairy wren.
As a result of its passage through limestone the waters of Lawn Hill creek are highly mineralised, especially by calcium carbonate. This leaves a suspension which is deposited in the form of a soft, porous rock known as tufa. A buildup of tufa over a period of many thousands of years from the bedrock gorge floor has resulted in the creation of the Indarri Falls which separate the upper and middle gorges in Lawn Hill Gorge.
The morning after arriving at Adels Grove we did a one hour river tour on a solar electric powered pontoon along Lawn Hill Creek through the beautiful Lawn Hill Gorge (the gorge has been formed by the creek which is fed by numerous freshwater springs from the limestone plateau to the west) and following the cruise we took a short walk to look at Indarri Falls from above (we’d seen them at water level on the cruise).
And after leaving Adels Grove we headed for the Northern Territory …