Monday, 5 August 2013

Atherton (third time lucky) and Granite Gorge (again)

So, we’re repeating ourselves, but we don’t care. The road back from Mount Surprise took us back to Ravenshoe (the highest town in Queensland) and then to Atherton. There aren’t many roads in Queensland, so there’s little choice, unless you go off road in a 4WD, but we don’t do that! The twice we’d been to the Atherton Tablelands before it had been raining. It’s on a high plateau, so cooler and resembles English countryside, but with some tropical rainforest thrown in (if you can imagine that!), this time it’s a bit better – not brilliant, but it’s not raining so it’s a good start. 

A brief rest on the way up Mount Baldy
There’s a few decent walks in the area and, decided we could do with a bit of exercise it would do us good. We stopped at a campsite in Atherton and set off next day to do Mount Baldy which is on the edge of the town, but were a little disappointed in its size. Although its 1107m above sea level, we had only 200m ascent to make over a 2km path, so it wasn’t as energy sapping as I’d hoped, however it was quite steep. 
On the summit ready to sign the visitors book
We were up in about 45 minutes and back at the van in under 1.5hours in total. Good views from the top, signed the visitors book and read about Jack who walks up there every day to try to inspire people to exercise, after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer due to inactivity and overweight so, 4 years ago at 59 changed his diet and got out walking, every day. 

The view from the top
He reckons he’s now been up Mount Baldy 1460 times and has lost 25kg in weight. His pictures before and after tell an amazing story (are you reading this and taking note Martin?).

Stroking wallabies in between bouldering in Granite Gorge
We were back down in time to go to Atherton market (yawn! No, not really, I loved it Jackie) and back for afternoon tea and cakes and a good session on the internet refining our SE Asia trip (we’re now not going all the way south on the train due to terrorist activity in the deep south of Thailand, the Foreign Office advise against it, so instead we will go halfway down Thailand and have booked at flight from there to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, from where we’ll travel round there on the train, before going back to Singapore to come home).

From Atherton we went back to the Granite Gorge campsite as for one, it’s a great campsite, laid back, in the middle of nowhere and inexpensive, for another it’s full of the really cute wallabies that eat out of your hand, thirdly we took our rock shoes and did some bouldering over the granite boulders and rocks and, fourthly, it’s got lots of tropical birds in cages who all like attention. 
Forgot about the turkey wandering around the campsite
They have a ‘Bob’ (a cockatoo like Murray has in NZ who is called Bob, even though it’s a girl), who shuffled over on his perch and listened carefully, offering his head for stroking through the mesh. It’s a fabulous place and equally as good the second time. Jackie was even more excited in the early evening just as it was almost dark and we were still sitting outside in our shorts enjoying the balmy evening and watching the stars come out, she spied a glider in a tree right by us. It climbed rapidly up the tree then flung itself into the air, gliding to another tree at least 30m away (no exaggeration!). We went over with a torch and saw it in a branch of that tree, looking down at us, before turning and running up the tree and out of sight – amazing!

Look at the little cuties!
We would have stopped a second night, but the weather has improved, the sky is blue and the wind has dropped. The marine forecast says the wind in 15-20knots and we were told snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef is good with winds below 20knots and excellent at 15 or below, so it’s now or never. This morning we booked to go with our chosen company, SilverSonic out of Port Douglas tomorrow morning (Tuesday 6th August). It was really difficult to choose as there are so many companies all going to different reefs. 

This one goes to Agincourt Reef which apparently has been rated as No. 1. It’s on the outer reef right on the edge of the continental shelf, so as well as seeing all manner of fish and coral, we may also see whales swimming past. It’s a full day out from 08:30 to 16:30 and we have 5 hours on the reef for snorkelling and, if we want, diving, although we think we’ll just snorkel as coral is best at shallow levels where it’s equally as good snorkelling, and you can stay in as long as you like, unlike diving. 

We get morning and afternoon tea and cakes and a great lunch (apparently), so everything is provided. Cost? A mere $214 each!! That’s $428 for us both which is £260 in currency we understand – a lot of money, but a special treat for us both. Now we’ve decided to spend the money we’re really looking forward to it!

Jackie being helpful and removing a tick from one

The campsite reception. There are two wallabies in the picture, bet you can't see them!
After that we’ve got to sort out our gear, ready to drop the van off in Cairns on Friday and fly to Melbourne to meet up with Simon Price, Ash Price’s (from our UK mountaineering club) son, where we’re hoping to go skiing if there’s enough snow!

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