The next week flew by. We stayed at Mount Carbine for a couple of nights to rest and clean up. It took about two hours to clean the car. The girls helped, which probably added 30 minutes or so, but it was a lot more fun with them involved. Another hour took us back to Palm Cove, where we picked up our bikes and Lauren’s school work, then we stayed in Cairns for a couple of days.

The main objective here was to get a bike rack fixed to the front of the trailer’s A-frame. I’d never been overly keen about the bikes hanging off the spare wheel the whole time, so this was the much researched solution.

I was happy to have a look round Cairns while we were here though, and I really liked it. Heritage buildings, waterfront, lots of nice outdoor areas for kids. We went to the cinema one night and it cost about $67! Fuck! I forgot how much all that kind of shit costs!

Bike rack done, we put the big smoke behinds us and wound our way back up the mountains. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as we entered the rainforest again, passing through Kuranda and finally arriving at a farm stay in Yungaburra, a tiny wee place in the Atherton Tablelands. No cinemas for miles, but instead, little critters who came out at night for a feed. Ahhh…

One of the things we’d missed on our way through last time, was the much lauded Cathedral Fig Tree, so this time we made a point of checking it out. Bloody amazing is all I can say.

The strangler fig climbed up the original tree and killed it, as they do. The dead tree then fell, hitting its neighbours and coming to rest about 45 degrees. Over time the fig dropped a series of roots down to the ground, eventually creating this amazing curtain effect which looks like something out of Avatar. Quite humbling actually, the sheer size and life force of the bloody thing.

Two nights in Yungaburra and we hit the road.

Having reached the top, the plan now, was to make our way to Darwin via the Savannah way, a 3,700km route that goes from Cairns to Broome, through 15 national parks and five world heritage areas. The first stage runs right along the bottom of the Cape York Peninsula, and there’s kind of a whole lot of nothing for 1,000kms or so. Oh well.

Our first stop across the plain, however, was very far from nothing. The Undarra Volcanic National Park was a place I’d been looking forward to visiting for some time now.

Millions of years ago, once again, this entire area was full of volcanoes. Not big ones like we’d passed on the way up the coast however, these were much smaller. Many of them ‘shield’ volcanoes, which protrude only a little bit from the landscape, and are shaped, surprise surprise, like a shield.

The Undarra Volcano erupted very slowly, for a sustained period of about 11 months. The lava didn’t erupt into the air like you see in the movies. It was gently pushed over top of the crater, and then it flowed downhill for 160km, making it the longest lava flow on earth, ever.

For the first 30km of descent the angle was 2 degrees, which gives the lava just enough momentum to create tubes. Basically the lava flows downhill, gently but continuously, burning a channel through everything it comes into contact with. Eventually the lava on the surface of the flow cools, hardens, and forms a roof, which then insulates the lava still flowing underneath.

11 months later the lava stops, leaving a 30km system of underground tunnels.

A few million years go by. The roof falls in on parts of the tunnels leaving exposed sections that create their own micro environment, acting like mini oases for plants and wildlife that find the surrounding Savannah just a bit too harsh.

And then finally, a few farmers looking for lost cattle stumble across the longest series of lava tubes in the world, in their own back yard.

A very Australian story, really, where some bloke stumbles across something amazing in the middle of bloody nowhere. There’s so much of Australia where nobody ever goes either, so who know what else is still out there, waiting for someone to stumble across it.

Anyway the lava tubes, I thought, were truly awesome. In the proper sense of the word.

Biggest series of lava tubes in the world. Tick.
OK let’s go. It’s a long freakin’ way to Karumba.

Oh, watched the last of the State of Origin matches here too, which NSW lost once again. Pft. And was served in the bar by a wee lassie from Inverness! Jesus if it isn’t the Irish it’s the Scots.