From Chillagoe we travelled to Undara Lava Tubes, first travelling south east toward the coast, then south west in a V shape (There is a more direct route not suitable for caravans). Thus the countryside varied dramatically through out the day. We drove through a mountain range, rainforest, tablelands and past wind farms. Cattle were always a hazard, even in the towns.
The termite mounds in this area are quite different to those at Chillagoe, a lot bigger both in height and girth.
A very brief description of a lava tube is when lava oozes rather than spurts out of a volcano, in this case the Undara Volcano, and follows the path of least resistance, such as river beds, the outer surface hardens while the inner lava keeps flowing until a tube is left. The Undara Volcano didn’t so much erupt as ooze, around 190,000 years ago, causing lava to flow more than 90km to the north and over 160km to the north-west. It is estimated that 23 cubic kms of lava, at a temperature of 1,2000°C, flowed from the volcano, at a rate of about 1,000 cubic metres every second. The Undara Lava Tubes are the longest in the world and the most intact, possibly due the extreme dry conditions.
On the Google earth map below, can you see the black dotted line from the Undara Crater to The Archway and Ewamian Cave? That is one of the tubes. The bits you can see are the parts which have caved in, the rest is intact tube. That is how it looks on satalite photos, it’s not a drawn line.
For more information go to Undara Experience
Our tour took us to three parts of tube.
Stephenson’s Cave (called a cave because one end is caved in).
Then Ewanian, popular with micro bats. This filled with water during cyclone Yasi so they conducted swimming tours and every one swam around the cave. If you go to their website there is a youtube video of it on their home page. Click Undara Experience.
The Undara Experience or Undara Lodge is at Mount Surprise. The land was owned and run as a cattle station by the Collins family since 1862 before becoming a National Park in the 1990’s. They have a 75 year lease and sole tourism rights to the tubes. Around 1987 some old train carriages were bought at an auction and converted into accommodation, so the camp has a ‘railway station’ theme to it. There are also permanent tents as well as caravan / tent sites available, all generous in size and space. The staff were lovely, they even sang Tim ‘Happy Birthday’ and served him an Undara Lava Cake, of course.
This little bird was drinking from a pool of water in our water connection, they also tried to fly into the van. There are warning signs up not to leave your dinner or BBQ unattended or they will take it.
An orchid in full bloom in the garden.
From Undara Lodge camp ground there are a number of bush walks. Before heading off, every one is asked to sign out and back in so they know if anyone has gone missing. We took the short walk to The Bluff for sunset, the landscape is so flat here and kapok trees with their brillant yellow flowers are everywhere.
The Kalkani Crater is about a 10 minute drive from camp. The walk takes you up the mountain and then around the rim, the views are great and winds are strong.
Two nights was really not enough to explore this area, we hope to come back again, perhaps in the wet season for a swimming tour of the Lava Tubes, how amazing would that be?
Helen and Tim