Chapter VI: The Outback – Second time

As promised in The Outback – First time, here is the second post related to this topic. As you could read in the previous post, The Outback is huge and that’s an agreement. So, the second time we took the road and explore a bit more. Just to remind you, Blasco and Kat couldn’t join us because they wanted to spend more time with Kat’s family in Melbourne.

Second time in The Outback

We rented a new car, more comfortable and very good on the highway. After we left our friends at the Airport, we hit the road south towards the town of Gordonvale, and later the Gillies Range road, which is a mountain highway that connects Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands. I got car sick – something that usually happens when there are too many turns and hairpins – and since we didn’t have any itinerary to follow we stopped at Lake Barrine, which is a big volcanic fresh water lake formed 17.000 years ago.

Lake Barrine. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Lake Barrine. Photo by Veronica Lopez

One of the best things about traveling just the two of us was that we didn’t have a schedule or an itinerary to follow, we slept and ate wherever we could. We did have the objective to go as far as possible, and we did get as far as we could. We thought this way because every single corner and detour had something interesting to see and visit, so we wanted to be very flexible.

We continued our way and before stopping in our final destination of the day (Undara Volcanic National Park) we stopped, in a small town called Yungaburra, to have something to eat. Yungaburra is small, 932 inhabitants kind of small, and it is located in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands. It is famous for the many heritage sites, and creeks and nature suitable for hiking and exploring. There we arrive at Yungaburra Pit-Stop and asked for a hamburger and a fish and chips. In that place we paid little for a fantastic meal and service. After filling our stomachs with delicious food, we continued our trip to Undara.

Australia

Mount Hypipamee Crater. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

We were not far from the Lava Tubes Lodge, but it was getting dark and the usual recommendation is to avoid driving in the dark because nature in more active during dawn and sunset. Gladly with my navigation skills 😀 we arrive to the hotel. This was not the normal hotel, not at all. As I expected from Mario, this Eco Lodge was actually a luxuriously restored railway carriages compound in the middle of the forest. The dinner was very simple but delicious and in great portions. We were really tired from the ride, and since there was not much to do in the hotel or the forest at night, we went to sleep and get rested for the Lava Tubes’ Tour the next morning.

Lava Tube. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

Lava Tube. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

We were about to walk some kilometres during the tour, so Mario thought appropriate to have a nice breakfast in the forest. It was delicious and the cook was friendly and a very wise woman with whom I had an epiphany: “travel as much as you can, you are young and without any important commitment such as kids, so take advantage of the time hat you have”. Wise words that I will never forget. The last part of the trip with Mario was  enlightening.

Undara volcanic lava tubes is ancient, and also one of the largest and longest in the world; it is also composed by 164 volcanoes. Undara is an aboriginal expression that means “Long Way”. The lava tubes that we visited were amazing and the guide that was with us was awesome. The National Park hosts the longest lava tube generated from a single volcano, and it has a very rare and special biodiversity, such as: gigantic moths; mini bats; snakes (at the entrance of the tubes) that eat the mini bats; very big and horrendous spiders; and also the cane toad which became a pest itself after it was introduced to negate the other pest that were destroying the sugar cane fields.

Undara National Park. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

Undara National Park. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

After a great tour with a really fun guide, we decided to go back to continue our way. We were not sure what was going to be next, but we didn’t want to stress about that. So, on our way to Georgetown we stop at a very curious precious stone shop in Mount Surprise (a 162 inhabitant village between Undara and Georgetown) to buy some souvenirs for our families. There we met Pete and Pam Blackburn, the lovely owners of Mt. Surprise Gems, who recommended us not skip Georgetown – not much to see for a 300 kilometres ride – and instead enjoy the detours around the area. We were really happy to know that, but the downside was that our car was not a 4×4, and we needed that kind of vehicle to really enjoy the savannah.

Australia

Gigantic anthills along the Savannah Way. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

We were ready to leave the Savannah and start getting ready for our trip back home, so with had a little bit more than two days left, we couldn´t do much. On our way to Cairns we decided to take a different route, knowing that we decided to visit Millaa Millaa Falls (aboriginal name that means “Plenty of water” or “waterfall”). This site is a well known tourist destination in the Atherton Tablelands, and I highly recommend it if you visit this area. The Milla Milla is a 18.3 metres high waterfalls with a natural pool of freezing but refreshing water, I dared to take bath but Mario didn´t; it was truly ice-cold.

Australia

Millaa Millaa Falls and me. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

It was already late in the afternoon, so we decided to stop in Mareeba and look for a motel to crash for the night. Since the motel didn’t offer breakfast, we went to The Coffee Works, a unique coffee place and museum hidden from tourist and the only place open in ANZAC day. We highly recommend it not only for a tasty breakfast but also to understand a little more the coffee making process.

Mareeba is a small village in the Savannah with not much to see – or that’s what you think – except for two museums about aircrafts and the WWII, two highly interesting topics for me but mostly for Mario. In one of the museums (the other one was closed) we met Peter, and interesting mechanic and avid war enthusiast. At first he greeted us with shyness, but after Mario asked him about the aircrafts that were there, the man got friendlier, and ever memorized our names. Peter was the kind of person that knows a little bit about everything, and ask you about an interesting topic – usually related to war – that he is not so sure about. Mario fell in love with the place and the work that Peter was doing; I believe that Mario would be very happy if he could go back there and help him with the airplanes.

WW2 Warbirds in airworthy condition. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

WW2 Warbirds in airworthy condition. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

Less than a day left to return to the Netherlands. This last day we wanted to relax, and just remember about all the things that we did in three weeks, and the things that we didn’t do, so we spent it in a luxury eco-lodge in Daintree. There we swam, we ate nice food and we relaxed and prepared to our long flights back home. Now, the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa is too expensive for the service and facilities they offer, and we are sure you can get a great service in a fantastic place for half the price. So, no, we don’t recommend it.

Spending some days in The Outback alone with Mario was the perfect ending for one of the best adventures I’ve ever had. We were really happy to come back home, but we also were nostalgic about the wonderful three weeks we had in Australia, the amazing people we met on the way, and the many things we learned about ourselves as couple and as individuals. We are looking forward to go back, sooner than later.

The infinate Outback. Photo by Veronica Lopez

The infinite Outback. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Wait for the epilogue… I will publish it very soon this week!

Cheers!!

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