Undara Lava Tubes

Great Big Lava Tubes- Undarra
Sunday August 25th-

After three days unexpected stopover in Cairns (staying at the less than friendly Coral Tree Inn!) we headed off, clutching our new mobile satellite phone firmly in our hands. This new unit had been flown up from Sydney (actually the phone unit somehow missed Cairns, went on to Darwin, then back to Cairns before we got our hands on it– but that is another whole story in itself…TNT couriers apparently have lots of interesting stories about things going missing!!!)

We had identified the Gulf of Carpenteria (Western Queensland) as the next major leg of our journey. This part of the Australian outback is isolated, there’s no denying it! We headed out along the Matilda Highway to our first stop, to explore the lava tubes of Undara. These lava tubes have to be one of Australia’s most amazing geological wonders. . As we drove up and over the ranges behind Cairns we stopped at a lookout for a glimpse back on the city. We both made a silent prayer that we would NOT be returning to Cairns again on the remainder of this trip.

Eric…Not that we didn’t like Cairns it’s just hat we had planned to make it the place that we were to keep returning totime to move on!

We lunched at Innot Hot Springs- a little hot pool of spring water, gushing from the ground right next to little stream, a petrol station & hamburger joint. Seeing as it was about 33 degrees Celsius and the stream had stopped running about a year and a half earlier, we acknowledged the Hot Springs and headed straight to the milkbar for an iced-coffee. I must admit, for my first hot springs I was slightly disappointed by their positioning on the hideous highway, and LESS than majestic appearance…but c’est la vie! (The iced coffee & hamburgers were great)

The next stop was Undara. We luckily managed to pull in 30 minutes before the last guided tour of the lava tubes for the day. (which incidentally is 3:45 pn). Having a chance to explore these ancient lava tubes is one of those experiences that seems to command a healthy amount of awe and wonder. The Undara lava tubes were created more than 190,000 years ago when 23 cubic kilometres of lava erupted from the volcano Undara, and basically spilled over the countryside. These flows are now recognised as the largest and longest in the world. The tubes are quite humongous. The rock formations inside spread out into a smorgasbord of phenomenal colours from pink manganese, white calcium, to yellow, silver and a wild candlewax effect formed by the slow solidification of lava as it cools.

The tours were run by the ever trusty and informative Savannah Guides. They truly do inform you down to the last second of the tour on the biological, historical, and geographical significance of the region. It was a most enjoyable afternoon. Anyone else out there been to Undara too???? Love to know what you thought of it as well………!!!!!!!

Although it was fast approaching dusk we decided to push on to Georgetown for the night, it lay only a further 150 kilometres down the track. We headed out carefully, well aware that there are an increasing amount of animals straying the roads right about dusk.

Eric & I were both feeling extremely cattle shy on the tail end of our last accident, so Eric was driving exceptionally slowly and acutely observantly. Nevertheless we managed to startle a little swamp wallaby, who stupidly in her moment of panic decided to head for our car. Eric & I could not believe our misfortune as we heard the dull thud of her body hit our car. She was killed instantly yet had in her pouch a baby joey who was alive, kicking, and most upset with the whole situation.

Feeling absolutely sick to the stomach with guilt at having hit the mother wallaby, we knew we had to do our very best to save her joey. The first thing we had to find was an imitation pouch of some sort. Luckily I had decided to turn a pair of jeans into jean shorts earlier that morning, so Eric used the leftover jean leg to rig up a little pouch for her. Timidly and carefully we drove on to Georgetown with an extra member on board. The joey spent the remainder of the drive justly screeching, chirping and squirming around.

Forget motels, late night ice-cream snacks, listening to our Alanis Morissette CD, our NUMBER ONE PRIORITY WAS TO GET OUR HANDS ON SOME BABY FORMULA TO FEED IT!!

We pulled in to a service station at Croydon, eternally grateful at that point in time that it was still open. Eric ran in while I reassured our joey that dinner was not far away. Eric remerged with bottle, teat, eye dropper and formula in hand. We pulled into a van park at Georgetown and sat down to assess the situation.

The poor little female joey was barely 4 months old. No hair, her eyes still shut and looking incredibly UN-like the familiar furry wallaby you see on postcards,……………….. we contemplated the newest member of our trip.

Eric managed to feed eye-droppers of baby formula into her miniscule mouth with a bit of difficulty. The night that ensued was that of no sleep. Every few hours we would wake up, heat up her bottle and painfully slowly feed her mililitre by mililitre of food.

Although slightly alien and rat like in appearance she is undeniably gorgeous!!!!!! Love at 1st sight…..You couldn’t help but fall in love with a 4 month old joey. Eric and I worried over her as if she were our own baby. At 5:30 am as the new day broke we were just ecstatic that she had managed to make it alive through the first night.

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