April 30, 2013

Return to the Rainforest

Where did we leave off? Ahh yes, night time in Chillagoe.

The second day of my short adventure began early. Very early. I wanted to rise before the sun, and indeed I did. In fact I got up a significant amount of time before the sunrise which was perfect as it gave me a chance to take a few night photos around the small town.

There is not much happening in Chillagoe during the day on a weekday, and even less going on at 5 am on a sunday morning. I left my room armed with a light sweater to fight off the slight chill in the air, my camera, and my tripod. I headed down the street behind the lodge and took in my surroundings bathed in the bright light of the just past full moon.

The sounds of the night were quiet, the rustling of leaves in the light breeze, and the swish of grass. Much more dramatic was the sound of the kangaroos and wallabies. They tend to sit still, quietly nibbling on the grass. Walking by them, the crunch of my boots on the gravel of the road ringing out in the night air, they bolted. A loud snort and then thump, thump, thump as they jump away into the night.

I proceeded to the main street of town, to the pub we ate at yesterday. It is the largest building in town, and the only one with more than one level.

From there I walked towards the small hill out the back of the town. We had been told that it was a great place to see the sun rise from, and as you will soon see, that advice was correct! These are from the walk to the bottom of the hill, just a few hundred meters from the pub.

In this one I got either half an iridium flare, or a meteor!

In this one you can see the top of the hill, the little rocky crags sticking out of the top where I watched the sun rise from.

The first part of the walk up the hill was through the fluffy grass at the head of the road, the rest was up the access track for the satellite dishes at the top. Here is me being epic near the top of the hill.

Perched on top of the tip top rock of the hill I started taking many many pictures of the sun rising, and its light spilling onto the surrounding land. After a few minutes up on top, I saw a group of five or six leave the hotel to make their way up, and they soon joined me on my perch. Here are some of the many views of the sunrise, though it was so much more beautiful to actually see.

That is the hotel/campsite/restaurant/gas station we stayed at. You can see our bus parked near the back road.

The moon as the sun is about to rise.

Some others ready to enjoy the sunrise!

Sun at last on us merry tourers!

We left the summit soon after the sun rose, keen to do some sunrise wildlife spotting. Spot we did, pretty face wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos, a few different types of lorikeet, peacocks, cockatoos, and many other weird, wonderful and wacky creatures made an appearance. On the walk down the hill, this grass caught my eye.

I did not manage to get any pictures of animals around town, but I did get some pictures of other things...

That was on the message board of the general store, and when I say general I mean gen-ner-ral. It has one of everything from clothes and shoes to food to toys to fishing gear to tires to ice cream to post cards to kitchen wares and animal food.

A cool rock formation.

This is the door of the hardware store, the only store other than the general store.

Check out those opening hours!

Now Chillagoe is too small to have its own weather channel, so this is what residents watch to see the weather. Back by eight, breaky was fruit salad, yogurt, hot rolls, tea and cereal. It was very yummy. Right after that we packed up our bags and met back at the bus to head off for the days adventures.

First up on that list was the balancing rock. It is a huge stone looking like it shouldn't, but somehow does manage to stand up. We were offered fifty bucks if we could push it over, but unfortunately no one was able to collect.

The rock was set in the midst of an alien looking landscape full of strange formations.

After the balancing rock, we were off to the other side of town to see the original reason for settling the area.  That reason was copper and gold. The smelters produced many tons of copper, but that was many many years ago and all that remains are the slag heaps and the lighting struck towers looking as though they are in danger of collapse.

The hill overlooking them also provided a great view over the bushland of the area.

Our last stop in Chillagoe was at Toms Ford Museum. He is an old guy now who is obsessed with Fords of all description. There are small Fords, big Fords, old Fords, new Fords, civilian Fords, military Fords, and many many of each kind.

The star for me was the car in the following picture. A 1965 Ford Mustang GT350 289. That car, just like that, the colors, stripes, everything just as it is is probably my favorite car ever. I quite like cars, and there are a lot that I like. This is neither the fastest, best looking, nor probably the most fun to drive, but still I think it is just right. That car is my dream car....

Tom started it up, let her warm up for a few minutes, then gave her some revs. The sound that car makes when it turns dinosaurs into CO2 is just spectacular....

Anyways, I was eventually able to tear myself away from that beautiful piece of kinetic sculpture and jump on the bus, next stop Dimbulah for lunch. Tony had prepared all the fixins for some very yummy sandwiches and some juice. After a nice relax in the park it was off once again, through Mareeba to Granite Gorge.

People getting sleepy!

On the outskirts of Mareeba, we spotted some non members on the golf course. They were in fact kangaroos. We decided to stop the bus and edge slowly onto the fairway for a better look.

Little joey gone into the pouch head first!
  Big male just chillin out.

And no longer chilling. Check out those arm muscles!

Granite Gorge is amazing! Full of out of this world smooth granite boulders and crazy crevasses and more importantly rock wallabies! They are like a really tiny kangaroo, and they hop around rocks in a way that makes mountain goats seem like clumsy elephants. They bound from little tiny ledge to impossibly steep rock and back again. And, if you put a little bit of food in your hand and sit down near them, they come and eat it out of your hand!

They grab onto your hand with their little tiny claws, and if you try to move it away they pull it closer to them. They are so adorable!

I spent a while feeding them, then decided to try copying them and play around on the rocks. It was so much fun. I was leaping around, doing some bouldering and chimney climbing around with a few other people on the tour. I couldnt take my camera cause I really needed both hands. I conquered every challenge I put to myself and after almost an hour I was dreadfully hot and in need of a swim. Trouble was that the bus was about to leave and the swimming hole was quite a ways away.

I ran as fast as I could in its direction and jumped in the first little bit of stream I found and stuck my head under and lay down for a minute. It was glorious. I then jogged back just in time to get in on this photo. It is really difficult to get 20 people to jump at the same time as is turns out, and this is the best attempt we had.

It was just another 45 minutes back down the escarpment to Cairns, and short bus ride home. It was a super fun weekend! I will definitely try to go back to a few of the places before I leave. Thanks to To-Knees Tours, Ranger Bob, Tom and the people at the Chillagoe Pub and Hotel!