The next day we left Port Douglas and headed inland through Atherton tablelands, an area that had been recommended to us. Since it was still raining anyway, we didn’t mind going inland. The cool, tropical Tablelands are set in rolling plateaux at an average of 700 metres above sea level. Dairy farms, waterfalls, wineries and unique wildlife are the area’s attractions. So we stopped at one of the dairy farms ( Gallo Dairy Farm) for lunch and chocolate tasting. The locally produced chocolate we bought was very tasty and didn’t last us very long!We had made the cute town called Yungabarra our goal to reach that afternoon and found a 500-year old curtain fig tree along the way after leaving the dairy farm.We stopped at visitor center in Yungaburra and got information from 2 nice older ladies on platypus spotting at Peterson Creek. We had been told that chances were very slim to see one as they are very shy but we decided to try anyway.
The platypus is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, it is one of the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth (monotreme). Although they look cute enough to want to cuddle, it is one of the few venomous mammals, the male platypus having a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe pain to humans. Platypus used to be hunted for their furs, but it is now an iconic symbol of Australia; it has appeared as a mascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of its 20-cent coin. It is also the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales.
After hiking along the creek for quite some time, we only spotted a couple freshwater turtles, so we started to head back to the car. We asked all of the people we encountered on the trail and everybody was looking but no one had seen one. Then it happened – James saw the elusive creature floating very still in the creek in a hidden pool. The first click and flash from the camera sent the scared animal diving under the water and we thought the show was over. It then reappeared a bit downstream and proceeded to give us our own private photo shoot. How cool was that?
Very proud, we went back to the visitor center to share our photos with the 2 nice ladies and they were ecstatic we had seen one. I think they were even more excited than we were!
We then started to look for a place to call home for the night. But we soon learned that all accommodations were fully booked. It turned out they had a bird “convention” in town and an orchid event in the surrounding larger town of Atherton where we had backtracked to. One woman at an Atherton motel took pity on us and called every single hotel in town and surrounding areas. Nothing… we couldn’t find a decent place to stay. We had resigned ourselves to spend the night in the car when she suggested we try the hostel since it was a backpacker’s place and usually had lots of dorm space. Didn’t sound so good but we had no choice. Turned out the hostel (back in Yungabarra) called ” On The Wallaby” had a private room for the night. So despite the bathroom being downstairs (you had to go outside to reach it), we were happy to at least have our privacy and not have to sleep in a dorm. It was homey, clean and the hostess was very friendly. Lots of backpackers were there chilling out waiting for the weather to get better. That evening, we had dinner with people from all over Europe and stayed up late chatting with them and exchanging our Aussie experiences.
It rained all night and we woke up to pouring rain in the morning as well. We still wanted to do something so we decided to drive to a nearby lake, Eacham Lake, and hike a 3 kms track. Of course because of the rain we didn’t see much wildlife, just some birds but it was still a nice hike. We could have done without leeches we ended up with though!
After the hike, we ate a late lunch and decided to stay one more night at the Wallaby hoping the rain would let up for our tentative plans of seeing waterfalls the next day. The Wallaby only had a dorm room available, but we were the only ones in it (the manager made sure). We took her energetic half dingo dog, Lucky, on a walk that afternoon to check out a large dead python in a field close by and got soaked (the decorative skin and some bones were all that were left). We didn’t get much sleep that night because of partying backpackers and our wallet somehow got lighter we later found down the road. Backpackers…grrrrr
The next morning we headed for the waterfall loop, stopping at the Nurata tea farm along the way as someone had tipped us there were tree kangaroos hanging out there. We treated ourselves to a devonshire tea (black vanilla tea with scone), needing to warm up from the cold rain.
Above: bush stone-curlew.. Below: tea bird 🙂2 pictures below: cute tree kangaroos Despite the weather being still cool and rainy, we forged ahead with the waterfall loop drive after our tea time. Below: bush turkeyWe got to Mission Beach in the late afternoon, a cute little town but (still under rain), and ate a late lunch at the only open restaurant. They had wifi so we booked ourselves for 1 night at a local B&B. Before going to our B&B, we looked high and low for the cassowaries that supposedly wander around the town, but again just like in Daintree, we did not find any, just a lone kangaroo.The B&B was in a beautiful setting with fine hosts Adrienne and Robert. Our room was a haven after spending 2 nights in the backpacker’s hostel. Quiet, large, and very well appointed. We had drinks with the owners at 6pm and met some great people also staying there: Jared, Stephanie and Oriane, astronomers who are currently living in Paris. After chatting for a few hours, we retreated to our room, watched “Rabbit Proof Fence” and fell asleep to the sound of the rain. The next morning, we all had a yummy breakfast with wallabies hanging out and Smokey Bear, the half-persian cat. During breakfast we discussed plans for the day and we all wanted to hike (also gave us another chance to see cassowaries) so we left cars at each end of a trail and did 3 short hikes (9kms total) together. We all got soaked and saw signs of them, but not a single sighting! Above and below: large beautiful spider we spotted on our hikeBelow: finally when we ended our hike, the sun came out!We were all starving by then and so headed to the recommended Shanti cafe where we had a delicious lunch before parting ways.On the way out, we finally saw a cassowary, but it was a juvenile. But good enough!!