Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view from the dam wall of lake Tinaroo

The campsite from the dam wall

Mt Uncle Distillary

The banana production line

The banana plantation

The dog at the distillary

Mareeba Rock Wallarbies

Granite Gorge

The swimming hole

Starting the Granite Gorge walk

Climbing up the bolders

Being watched

Where is the path?

Nearly at the end

Sylvia's Comments.

We prepared the van to leave and then joined the group for morning tea before driving away. As we were leaving the camp site and travelling along the narrow track we met the refuse wagon coming up, luckily he had found a spot to pull into and we managed to squeeze by. As we came to the dam area we pulled over and walked out onto the wall and looked back at our campsite over the week-end. Looking out over Lake Tinaroo to the pine clad hills it reminded us of standing on the dam at Pitlochary, Scotland, although we felt it was a little warmer here.

We were on the road once more and heading for the town of Atherton to replenish our food supplies. Atherton is the major service centre for the Tablelands and is a prosperous and bustling town and would be an ideal centre to tour the area, as many of the smaller towns are within easy driving distance. The town was first discovered in 1875 but it was not until John Atherton found the first tin deposits that the place was settled. Legend has it that the tin was discovered in Tinaroo Creek and received its name when John Atherton shouted, "Tin! Hurroo!" Well as tourists you believe anything. Before the town, as it is today developed; a full blown Chinatown sprang into existence. Growing 80% of the Tableland crops, the Chinease played a vital role in opening up the area for settlement. By 1909, Chinatown had become the largest concentration of Chinease on the Tableland, with a population of over 1,100.

During the Second World War the Australian Army had arrived, considering the Tablelands an ideal staging post for the war in the Pacific. As we drove towards Atherton on the Kennedy Highway we passed many information signs with the name of the regiment that had been stationed there before being sent to the front.

After our supermarket shopping in the IGA (Australia's version of Spar in the UK) we went for a walk around the town. We were both in need of a hair cut, Jeff more so as he has only had it cut once since we left home, so on passing a hairdresser's salon that was devoid of customers we went in to enquire if they could accommodate us. The lady called the gentleman from the back, and before we knew what was happening we were sitting side by side getting our hair washed. The gentleman, who cut my hair, told me that the salon had recently been opened. They had previously worked in Sydney but were really pleased to be away from there and loved living in this area. He worked away on my hair without the usual moans about it, (are you reading this Sara) and informed me the style was the London cut, the very latest from London. It did look nice when it was finished and I did not recognise Jeff when he was finished, where has the wild old man of the bush gone?

It was now time to move on and we are heading towards Cooktown on the Cape York Peninsula. This is as far as we can go as the bitumen road ends here and it is all gravel to the top, the highest point in Australia. Still on the Kennedy highway we travelled on till we reached a small town called Walkmin and a road sign intrigued us. One informed us of Granite Gorge and the other of Mt Uncle Distillery, perhaps we are in Scotland. Deciding to check out both of these we turned off the highway and followed the signs.

We reached the distillery first so pulled in to have a look. This is the North's first and only distillery, producing a number of fruit liqueurs such as Banana, Mulberry Mango, Davidson's Plum as well as Coffee, Lemoncello and Limecello. The entrance to the distillery is through the banana plantation and we were surprised to see that the bananas were encased in brightly coloured poly bags. Once inside we enquired, why the poly bags? to be told that it prevented the birds eating the fruit and also stopped the bananas getting sunburnt. Over here they are very keen to remind every one to slip slop the sun protector on that I hadn't realised it also applied to bananas. After some testing we went to the viewing gallery where we were able to watch the workers packing avocado's into boxes ready for transporting to various destinations. The banana production line was not working today. The distillery is set in some lovely grounds so we went for a walk around accompanied by the distillery dog, when we stopped to take pictures the dog brought me a pine cone for me to throw for him. No matter how high or how far I threw it he always caught it, perhaps we should look into seeing if he has any English relatives so he can be signed up for the cricket team. Once he realised we were leaving he was off like a shot to the tour bus that had just arrived to see if anyone else would play with him.

Back in the van and on to our next stop, Granite Gorge. There was a camp site here and as it was getting late in the day we decided to book in for the night. The ranger gave us the walking trail leaflet and some food to feed the Unadorned or Mareeba Wallabies, (often known as rock wallabies), that we would see down on the viewing platform. We set off and met the welcoming committee of two wallabies who had seen us coming and knew there was a possibility of food. Jeff had the camera and I had the food, it was not long before I was completely surrounded by them and some of the males were getting quite vicious with each other. It was hard to keep any order and ensure that the females and the smaller ones got some food. When you put your hand down with food in it they would wrap their arms about yours to prevent you taking it away. These little creatures are on the endangered list and this is the only place they are now found. Once the food had gone they quickly lost interest in me so we continued on our walk. We went down to the swimming hole which proudly announced there were no crocodiles here, a rare sight up in North Queensland. After viewing this we set off on the walking trail following the white dots, the ranger did not tell us it was mountain goat stuff and getting over some of these big granite boulders took a lot of doing for someone with little legs. Some of it was sit on your backside and a shuffle along sort of manoeuvres and I knew Jeff was following behind me and not averse to taking some unflattering pictures, and believe you me he is not averse to doing that. Along the walk we spotted many of the wallabies about on the rocks and they seemed to be watching us, perhaps they like seeing gullible tourists scrambling over the rocks. After an hour of this I was pleased to see the sign at the end pointing to the woodland path back to the car park. When we saw the ranger later on she told us we had missed the easy walk and continued on the more difficult one.

At the camp site there were a couple of cages of birds including cockatoos, a kookaburra, frog faced owl and some lorikeets. The cockatoos were quite talkative asking what your name was and how are you. They also did a good impression of a stifled cough, as if someone was sneaking up behind you, which I discovered on my way to the toilet at 10.30pm scaring me witless.

Before leaving in the morning we purchased another bag of food, at a cost of 42p, and went once again to feed the wallabies. This time I carried the camera and Jeff had the food, after all he had been full of advice to me last night on how to keep order. My only disappointment was there was not as many so he had an easier task, although he will not admit to that.

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