When I picture Tropical North Queensland, I must admit that the usual suspects come to mind; sand, sun and swimming. But, it turns out that there’s another side to North Queensland, a dark side full of ancient limestone caves, miles of underground lava tubes and more bats than you can poke a python at. From Chillagoe, Undara along with a sneaky stop over through the Atherton Tablelands, here’s what 4 days west of Cairns looks like joined by Andrew Pavlidis and Bec Kilpatrick.
Greeted by a dusty outback pub, vast open plains and classic Aussie wildlife, upon arriving at Chillagoe (215kms west of Cairns) it’s hard to even imagine this region has a large cave system. But, as I discovered, it does indeed have an abundance of caves (600-1000!) and some mighty impressive ones at that.
Across the rather flat landscape, dramatic limestone structures mysteriously arise from the earth and it is here, down below the surface that the ancient caves exist. Donna, Trezkinn and the Royal Archway are the more popular and larger caves which are all well maintained and only accessible with a guide. We also paid a visit to the Pompeii and Bauhinia caves where we scrambled, climbed, crawled and sweated profusely whilst shooting the unique landscape which was quite foreign to us all.
A fear of the dark, bats or confined spaces won’t get you far in these parts however they are worthwhile to overcome and what better way to do it than head on . Strangely enough. as we delved deeper into the earth, this dim underworld began to feel quite normal.
From Chillagoe we headed a few hours south to the Savannah Way. Here, this is where things got extra scientific and down right impressive, as we explored the Undara Lava Tubes and were exposed to some of Australia’s most unique and ancient landscapes.
For many kilometres these cave-like tubes stretch through the earth, formed from moving lava over multiple volcanic explosions way back in the day. The layers of basalt reveal how many seperate explosions occurred, the patterns and textures an artwork in their own right.
I was already surprised to discover that Australia had such a volcanic past with over 160 inactive volcanoes in the region but also that the Undara Volcanic National Park contains the worlds longest lava tube. A highlight for me was when we returned to one of the cave’s at twilight to watch the wild pythons hang out of the trees and catch bats from the air as they exit the cave to feed for the night. At one stage a python became jealous of his neighbours dinner and decided to swallow up both the other snake and bat live. A sight that would’ve made Ozzy Osbourne incredibly proud.
I love travelling the world but I’m so proud to call Australia home. We have so much diversity and unique landscapes on display here in this great southern land and this trip was a pleasant reminder of that.