(22-24 July 2010)
Kuranda is typically the only place many travellers to Cairns visit in the Atherton Tablelands, and as a tourist trap, it does a damn fine job. The markets and cafes are the honey pot, and the tourists are the bees – or should that read, money pit and money? And come 3pm, shops begin to close for the day as the day trippers head back to Cairns via the train or cable car.
But hey, we joined the crowd here for our time in this rainforest village – picked up some great ‘alternate’ clothes (read: hippy) for the tribe, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and marvelled at the amazingly coloured butterflies at the Butterfly Sanctuary – where the tribe all vied for attention from any butterfly in an attempt for one land on them. (Soraya won at this game!)
After spending a little too much of our budget in Kuranda, we headed onto Wondecla, a dot on the map near Herberton about 40 minutes south of Atherton, where Olivier and Shelly live on a 260 acre property. In fact without Olly meeting us by the main road, we would have been unlikely to find their house as it is 4km down a gravel track. We also meet Ethan, their boy and Olly’s mum, Claire who is visiting from England.
And like our friends, Gen and Ash, in Hervey Bay, Olly and Shelly live by basic sustainable means. The difference is that Olly and Shelly have harnessed more of their natural resources as they have a huge property to manage, as well as cater for future development in building a couple of self-contained cabins for holidaymakers. They live off the grid, with power supplied via solar and hydro from their creek (in which platypus live!).
The tribe, bar Kaydin, get a ride on Garnet – one of the more friendly horses – their grins spread wide across their cherubic faces with pride and joy, as Shelly guides them around the paddock.
(and I shot a platypus)
On our tour about the property, Olly mentions that there are platypi / platypuses / platypods living in one or more of the various ponds along the creek that runs through their land, so obviously, as our search continues, we return closer to sunset to spy us one. And as we bound from one pond to another, we luck out in seeking the identifying ripples of a surfacing platypus.
The next morning just after sunrise, I venture on my own and see activity in the first pond I visit – and like the big game hunter, I shoot a platypus with my Canon. At last! When I return to the tribe, they are chuffed and at best mildly excited – I think they are a bit over the platypus hunt malarky. After breakfast, we bid farewell to Olly, Shelly, Ethan and Claire to continue our way back to the coast.
Our final night in the Atherton Tablelands is a stay at the Rocky Creek War Memorial Park just north of Tolga. A large park that accommodates probably around 50 camping vehicles and is home to family of some odd turkey-like birds, which we are unable to identify despite referencing our bird guide. We visit a few sites such as the Curtain Fig Tree – this has to be seen to be believed as it is spectacular; and the crater lakes: Eacham and Barrine.
Also, Saffiya lost her second tooth so we had a little party to celebrate the occasion.