Big Question Marks

Friday, August 31, 2007

Into the Outback…

Lately we’ve been pondering where the infamous Outback really begins. Everyone seems to have a different answer. As Daisy took us out of the greenery and into a vibrant, dusty landscape of red sand, road trains, and grasslands, we figured “We must have found it!” But then, we’re only about an hour or two from what’s called the Tropical North. We still plan to head further west, to a town called Mt Surprise (yes, of course just because of the name) and asked an Aussie traveler if the town is “in the Outback” and she just laughed and said it’s not the Outback till way past that. Sheesh!

Right now we’re in a place called Undara (which, by the way, looks like our idea of Outback anyway), home to a national park and these mind-blowingly huge caves called the Undara Lava Tubes. We took a tour deep into the tubes this morning and learned all about how lava formed these massive holes in the earth about 190,000 years ago. We’re in a volcanic area right now, where even though it’s dry, the soil seems pretty rich. It’s cool to see a chunk of history that scientists are still getting excited about.

And we also got excited about seeing our first bunch of kangaroos and wallabies in the wild! (Wallabies have little rounded ears, while roos have pointy ears). What a sight yesterday when we set up our campsite just before dusk and a big kangaroo and a baby in tow just went hopping (quite high!) through the campground. We’ve since seen the pair, along with a mum with a joey in her pouch grazing anywhere they can find grass… and they’re pretty tame. We also saw Mareeba rock wallabies acting cute on some rocks near the lava tubes, and a gigantic snake (a python?) stretched across the road when we came into Undara (we'll put the wideo up soon). And we watched the full lunar eclipse (go from bright to dark to red and back over 6 hours) from around a campfire last night as well (though we’re not getting any better with our astronomy yet).

The night before we got into what really looks like Outback, we stayed for a drizzly night in Ravenshoe (pronounced “Ravens-hoe”), Queensland’s highest town, which sits 920m above sea level. It didn’t look much like we were in the mountains, since we’d already been up in the Atherton Tablelands (a giant plateau full of farming west of Cairns) for a few days. You feel the altitude more by the cold temperatures and the wind—we also visited the Windy Hill wind farm, which powers 3500 homes with 20 turbines, quite a cool sight. Ravenshoe’s budget campsite was actually an old railway yard on the town’s main street, complete with old trains and rusted-out railway paraphernalia everywhere… and it costs us $2 to stay there, a bargoon! We got down into true hobo-mode and barbequed up some veggie kebabs, garlic bread, and Adrian had steak… living on the wrong side of the tracks indeed.

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