Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 316 (126)

Atherton

Tuesday 18th January (2005)

We’ve done a fair bit of travelling about over the past few days so we decided to step down a gear or two for today and restricted ourselves to sightseeing in the immediate vicinity only. We also afforded ourselves a long lie in and a delicious pancake breakfast – something we usually only do if we want to treat ourselves. But the time we got into the car to set off again, it was close to lunchtime already.

Atherton is a stone’s throw from another smaller town called Yungaburra, which is described in the guidebook as the quintessential picturesque town. And indeed it is a very quaint little place with picture perfect buildings. We had high hopes of cruising through town and taking photos as we went but even accounting for doubling back for a second pass, the our sum total of all the cruising was over and done with within the space of a couple of minutes. Other than the nineteenth century architecture, there really wasn't anything else in Yungaburra to keep us there so we passed right through and made our way through a number of winding back roads to the site of the famous curtain fig tree. Fig trees grow by means of first attaching themselves to a host tree and then, over time, smothering the host to the point that it dies, rots away and leaves just the fig growth left. This particular fig formation is quite rare in that the host tree almost fell over at one point but the fig tree itself continued to grow, creating a curtain of downward growing fig vines that give the entire structure its characteristic appearance. There are very few such curtain fig formations on the planet and so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see this one.

Natures wonders were, once again, very much going to be the theme of the day for us today with the next item up on our list being a lone cedar redwood tree that was apparently left untouched by the logging industry that wiped out all the other cedar redwoods about a hundred years ago. This one is still buried deep in the rain forest and stands head and shoulders above anything else in the treetop canopy. We had to walk several hundred meters from the little makeshift car park to get to it. Although there was nobody else around for miles, the noise in the forest was near deafening. Bugs, small mammals, birds and all manner of weird and wonderful creatures all compete with each other to be heard in the crowd and the resulting cacophony is mind-boggling. I caught myself standing still just to listen to this orchestra of nature’s beasts all singing in one, long, continuous symphony. As I stood there, I heard a ruckus above me as a huge piece of wood came crashing to the forest floor just a couple or meters from where I was standing. Had I been directly beneath the falling limb when it fell, it surely would have killed me. All around us there was evidence of things growing skywards as well as dead pieces of branches and limbs falling back to the ground again – the great circle of life that has been going for millennia. The cedar redwood tree itself wasn’t nearly as impressive as the curtain fig tree but the experience of traipsing through the forest to get to it was certainly an experience and a half.

Back to the car again and we were swiftly moving onwards to another fig tree in the region. This one is known as the cathedral fig. Every bit as impressive as the curtain fig, this one had formed a u-shaped wraparound formation that you could stand within. Whilst admiring this particular fig, we noticed several small rodent-like creatures scurrying around on the forest floor. We weren’t exactly sure what they were and couldn’t get close enough for long enough to get a good shot at them with the camera so it will have to remain a mystery for now.

Between the cedar redwood and the two interesting fig trees, we’d by now pretty much exhausted most of the remaining attractions there are to see here in the area - as far as our plan for today was concerned in any case. Back in Atherton, we picked up some fruit to chop up into a nice fruit salad for lunch. The remainder of the day was spent chilling out back at the hostel. With Sandy’s signature homemade sausage rolls for dinner, we were going to enjoy a very slow day overall today. In fact, we will probably remain here for at least another night – just chilling out some more.

I spent some time on the phone this afternoon with various car rental agencies and have now secured the hire of a car for the remainder of our time here in Australia. We will have a car in Yulara when we visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) in a week’s time, a car in Perth for the time that we will be there and we will pick up a car in Adelaide to be ultimately dropped off in Sydney. We plan on driving from Adelaide to Melbourne to Sydney over the course of a month with a two week or more stop off at Ree-Ree’s house in Melbourne.

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