Last year whilst visiting Northern Queensland Walter came across a place called Undara. It seemed like it would be an interesting place to visit. Being a little out of the way we did not get there. This time round we decided it would be worth taking a detour via Undara on our way to the Atherton Tablelands.
So what is Undara? Located just over400km North West of Townsville or 300km South West of Cairns, Undara is a region that contains the remains of one of the earth’s longest flows of lava originating from a single volcano. Cave s within this lava tube are fertile pockets in which rainforest plant and animal species thrive.
One of the things that attracted us was the option to sleep in an old railway carriage. We are always looking for unique accommodation where possible. The railway carriage was small but more spacious than expected including a small onsuite bathroom. With nowhere to unpack suitcases we were happy to only be staying one night.
We had arranged to complete two tours. The first was a ‘wildlife at sunset’ tour. We drove out to a vantage point to watch the sun set. On the way we saw many species of Kangaroos (and Wallabies). We then enjoyed watching the sun set over a glass of champagne with cheese and biscuits. After sunset we went off to one of the lava tube caves to see thousands of tiny insect-eating micro-bats emerge from the darkness to find food.
Waking up early the next morning we went off for a hike before sunrise taking our breakfast (fruit cake) with us. We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and again saw many kangaroos feeding at a swamp nearby.
Later in the morning we went on a tour to explore lava tubes.
No matter how much I had read about this subterranean marvel, you can’t beat standing in the massive caverns and staring into the blackness of the disappearing tubes, imagining the scene 190,000 years ago. That’s when a major volcanic eruption in the region spewed 23 cubic kilometres of lava across 1550 sq km of countryside. Scientists believe that at the height of the eruption the volcano was expelling 1000 cubic metres of molten rock per second at temperatures of around 1200°C.
The tubes formed where the lava had filled meandering watercourses. The top layer cooled, forming a crust above, but left an underground river of lava. When the eruption ceased, the molten rock drained away, leaving a 100km-long pipeline. In time, sections of the roof collapsed, resulting in the line of depressions and exposed caves we see today.
It is hard to describe how amazing the tubes are and I certainly felt small and insignificant compared to this phenomenon. Once inside the tubes, it felt as if we had stepped into another world! While in most caves you expect to find stalactites and stalagmites, Undara is unique in that the majority of the tube walls are smooth. This is down to the way the hot magma flowed and cooled through the tubes creating a smooth surface.
And so it was time to move onto the Atherton tablelands.