When I got back to Cairns the first thing I did was collect the debit card I had been waiting a little over a week for. Naturally the second thing was to spend well over a week’s worth of money. Not that I was just squandering it because I could, now it was time to book trips and tours and do the kind of things you come to the East Coast of Australia for.
The first of these was for the very next day with a company called Barefoot tours. The driver/tour guide of which, Brett, was indeed barefooted. Not far from Cairns is an area known as the Atherton Tablelands, and this was where our small group would spend the day exploring, sightseeing, and most importantly, swimming. But not before picking up our final passenger however, Steve the pet rock.
After a quick stop at the rather impressive Cathedral Fig Tree we arrived at Lake Eacham, which had formed in the crater of a long since dormant volcano. Dipping my feet in the almost cold water I decided the only way to immerse myself was indeed by jumping in at the deep end. Maybe the water by the pontoon wasn’t quite as deep as the deepest point of 70m, but deep enough that I could dive in, not reach anywhere near the bottom, and still take a much longer time than expected to surface. While not everyone joined me swimming in the refreshingly cool water there were others who decided to jump in via the overhanging tree off the shore. The tree that Brett told us we weren’t allowed to jump from, whilst nodding his head somewhat emphatically. This carefree swim was followed by a brunch of fresh fruit, muffins, and Tim Tams, before we drove on to our next destination, Dinner Falls and The Crater.
Not needing much more of an explanation, it is also known as the Mount Hypipamee Crater, but pretty much is The Crater. Like Eachem it was a dormant volcano that had filled with water, but the lookout at the top of the crater is as high above the surface as the Sydney Harbour Bridge is above its own harbour.
Somewhat colder than Lake Eachem, at Dinner Falls we all took turns cringing at the yelps of those in line ahead of us, before adopting comical poses and jumping in ourselves. We then swam across to the waterfalls, sitting underneath which was not unlike receiving a massage from someone with cold hands.
Really cold hands.
Millaa Millaa falls was next, which despite not actually being the waterfall from Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl video as we had been told (I checked when we got back, that one’s in Thailand), it was still the one from the Herbal Essences advert. As much as I couldn’t gloat to all the Peter Andre fans I know back home, at least my fabulous hair flick photo was still valid.
Before reaching our final waterfall however, there was an unplanned stop that surprised all of us when the bus ran out of fuel. It would have been nice if the bus had done this at one of the waterfalls we came to enjoy instead of by the side of a road in-between, but I guess you can’t have everything. A few of us got out to stretch our legs whilst at the same time letting them get bitten by mosquitos, and waited for the RACQ to come and lend a hand. One with a Jerry can in it. As much as it was an inconvenience, I merely adopted my attitude of not worrying because it’s no worse than anything that’s happened back home, and still smiling because at least I was in Australia. And not just Australia, but north Queensland also has some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen.
Despite being so near the coast, the Atherton Tablelands actually reach up to 1,200 metres above sea level, and are part of the world heritage listed Wet Tropics. Our day consisted of driving through pasture lands and rainforests, and more than one national park. We only stopped in the middle of a patch of tall grass that wasn’t that exciting, but was still tall Australian grass.
Luckily there was still enough light to enjoy Josephine Falls, and the small natural water slide that had formed on one of the smooth rocks. Not as long here as we had hoped, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless, as was having our afternoon tea on the party bus back to Cairns. It had neon lights and everything.