Undara Queensland 8 to 10 May 2007.
31 May 2007
The Collins family were the first white settlers in this part of Australia back in the 1860's. Since then over six generations of the family have explored these strange formations beneath the land, now acclaimed as one of the longest lava tube systems in the world.
Undara Volcanic National Park is the story of a once violent period of volcanic activity, where the ground trembled, and the sky glowed and streams of molten lava flowed across the country. It all happened over 190,000 years ago when the Undara volcano erupted violently and spewed molten lava across the landscape scorching over 1,550 kilometres of countryside. Lava flowed 100 miles from the crater, along creeks and river beds forming a series of laver tubes. This is the longest flow from a single vent known anywhere in the world in geological time. Over time wind and rain have eroded this bare volcanic surface to create the landscape we see today. When the National Park was created the Collins family were given land rights to farm the area and run the tourist industry. The Undara Experience opened in 1990 and as well as offering tours of the lava tubes there are eight different bush walks around the park. These are of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty so most people can find something suitable.
We woke on Tuesday morning to see lots of Lorikeets around our van, and as we walked down to the laundry we passed a family of Wallaroos (a cross between a kangaroo and wallaby) just hanging about the pool area. After our breakfast we spent some time talking to the lady from the caravan next to us. Her husband and friends had gone off for the volcano rim walk which she had not felt able to do. She invited us over to join them for happy hour when they would be able to give us ideas of places to visit when we reach New South Wales, where they live. After this we set off for a bush walk, before leaving you are required to sign out in the book at reception to say where you are going and when you leave, on returning you sign back in.
We had decided to undertake the Flat Rock and Circular View walk. As we set off on our walk coming up the main drive was Gary and Laura (our Scottish friends) in their motor home so we gave them a wave. The leaflet said we should follow the yellow triangles but were unable to find any yellow triangles only red ones. Someone had been around with a paint pot and forgotten to change the information sheet. However the walk was well sign posted and we got around to the end point of Circular View with no problems. We passed many butterflies on the walk out and managed to get some photos of them. We returned the same way and met up with Gary and Laura at the reception area and discovered they were on the same trip as us tomorrow, what a surprise. After a chat we returned to our van for lunch. Later in the afternoon we joined our neighbours sitting around their camp fire and learning about places to visit on our way through New South Wales.
After tea we set off for the lodge's camp fire activities, tonight Steven, one of the Savannah Guides, gave an informed talk on the feral animals that are causing problems in Australia. Each animal he mentioned such as the pig, rabbit, goat, cat and horse was associated by the English bringing them in, so when he mentioned the cane toad the British guests shouted "you cannot blame us for that" with great gusto, unfortunately the American couple did not appreciate being blamed for this disaster. After this it was time for bed to prepare for an early rise tomorrow.
Wednesday morning we were up early and ready for our eight hour trip which included a walk around the rim of Kalkani Crater and a visit to five lava tubes. There are eight lava tubes in the area. We met our guide Joe at the reception and with 12 other tourists we set off. Joe informed us that a film crew would be joining us for part of the day, this is our second bid for stardom, having a film crew with us on our trip at Monkey Mia. This crew were an Australian one filming for a programme called Out and About, which will be screened on 9 June. There was a bit of a stir with the Australian tourists when they realised the presenters of the show was joining us. One was called Paul Cronin, who I was told later had been the star of the Sullivan's, hands up those that remember that on British T.V. The other was a well known country singer, but we never got her name.
We set off on the walk up to the crater rim with the film crew strategically placed, and we had to remember not to be too puffed out as we passed them by. Kalkani Volcano is one of 69 volcanoes in the area, and last irrupted over 20,000 years ago so as we set off we were hopeful it would not erupt today. The walk gave us some good views across the country side and afterwards we were rewarded with morning tea and home baked cookies. We then went to visit the first three lava tubes, these were very close together and we passed in and out of them without returning to the bus. Joe explained how the tubes were formed, when Undara exploded it spewed lava out at 1000cubic meters per second, part of the flow was channelled by water courses for160 meters. As the outside of the lava cools it hardens to form an insulating tunnel around the still molten interior lava. When the erupting stops the last of the molten lava drains out to leave empty lava tubes. Today weathering has caused part of the tunnel roofs to collapse forming depressions that harbour pockets of vine thicket which allows access into them. There are over 300 tube collapses with 69 entrances.
It was an interesting experience to be in these tunnels and to see the patterns that the lava rock had created. Some of the caves were home to micro bats that were disturbed by our torches. As they flew around they looked quite big but sleeping on the walls they were tiny. As we exited the tubes Joe pointed out where we had entered and the route we had taken on our walk. The film crew left us here and said they we would see us all back at the lodge for lunch. This was a buffet lunch and did not do much to inspire us to eat in the restaurant at night. Our afternoon trip took us to two further lava tubes, these were different as they were bigger than the ones we visited in the morning and we entered and exited the same way. At last tube we walked about 400 meters into it, this went on further but due to the carbon monoxide levels it is not safe to go any further, this was the cave we visited last night to watch the bats leaving. Our last stop was on a viewing hill where we had afternoon tea and more home baked cookies.
This evenings entertainment around the camp fire was communal singing, Jeff was put in charge of giving out the song books and torches as people arrived whilst Ross, the Savannah Guide, lead the singing. This was our last night at Undara as tomorrow we would be heading for the Tablelands.