The Savannah Lander – Day 3

The Doc was up before dawn. Near The Doc’s Room was an unusual looking Toyota Kluger, when he looked closer it had Texas numberplates. The US version of the Kluger is certainly chunkier than the Australian version.

Off to have an early breakfast near a very nice infinity pool as the sun came up.

Next stop was Cobbold Gorge itself. After travelling through the Kimberley and Pilbara The Doc has visited many gorges, but nothing like Cobbold Gorge. This gorge was formed when an earthquake ripped the earth apart. Over time it weathered into an extremely narrow gorge, what the Doc calls a Weight Watchers gorge! By narrow, The Doc means a standard tinny could not get through some parts of the gorge.

10 people each got into the 2 custom-made boats. The boats were narrow and long with an electric motor at each end (a trolling motor). Silica has leached out of the sandstone rocks forming an extremely hard but polished surface, making it very resistant to weathering.

While the gorge is not particularly long, it is unique. There is plenty of freshwater fish, including the resident freshwater crocodile.

We headed back to the camp, collected our gear, and were loaded onto the bus. We were driven back to Forsayth but the train had already left earlier in the morning. The bus drove us to Einasleigh to meet the train at lunch time.

We ate a simple lunch at the Einasleigh pub and were back onto the train. We travelled back over the rivers and waterways to Mt Surprise. We were booked into our rooms at Bedrock Village.

We had to be on the bus within 30 minutes and were taken for a tour of the Undara Lava Tubes. Gary was our guide.

‘Undara’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘long way’. The park protects one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world. About 190,000 years ago, a large volcano erupted violently, spewing molten lava over the surrounding landscape. The lava flowed rapidly down a dry riverbed. The top, outer-layer cooled and formed a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes. (Department of Parks)

We visited The Archway and the nearby Stephenson’s Cave. The stairs and walkways made the whole experience enjoyable (as well as protecting the caves). The archways, colours and textures were extraordinary and the size of the caves bigger than what the pictures show. These are lava tubes so they don’t have stalagmites and stalactites like limestone caves.

Look closely and you can even see Tweety bird on the wall.

The Doc also saw 2 Mareeba Rock Wallabies darting around. Gary said it was the first time he saw them in this area and The Doc saw two! These wallabies were fast and agile across the rocks.

We travelled back to Bedrock Village for a meal that night. A simple meal well done is one of the simple pleasures of life. It was a full day and probably the highlight of the trip.

The Savannah Lander – Day 2

The Doc was up early, we had a simple breakfast and were transported back to Almaden and boarded the train.

The Savannah Lander soon turned off onto the Etheridge Line where the rail was lighter and the trip now quite rough.

Plenty of water crossings like Sandy Tate River, Rocky Tate River, Saltwater Creek (no it is not salt water) and Fossil Brooke. It is the dry season, so only a little water – actually more than normal, due to recent rain. Unfortunately the train does not operate in the wet season as the water would transform the landscape.

The morning tea stop was at the Bullock Creek Café. OK it was an enjoyable morning tea beside the train, prepared by Wil and Leigh.

Lunch was at Bedrock Village, Mt Surprise. Yabba dabba doo! It was owned by Joe and Jo not Fred and Wilma. I did not see Betty or Barney either.

Then a long but picturesque train trip to Forsayth. The Doc took a turn up the front pretending to be train driver Casey Jones (played by Alan Hale Jr. later to be even more famous as the Skipper in Gilligans Island).

There are an historic train and car near the Railway Station. It included the Desert Rose, a Dodge truck used by the old dunny carter, I kid you not.

We meet the bus and were driven to Cobbold Gorge. We arrived after dark and enjoyed a nice dinner. Off to bed for an early rise and tour of Cobbold Gorge.

The Savannah Lander – Day 1

The Doc spent 4 days on The Savannah Lander historic train, based out of Cairns, Far North Queensland. On Day 1 we arrived around 6.15 am at Cairns Railway Station to be met by Wil and Leigh our drivers, porters, hosts, tea makers and guides.

Our trip followed this map.

Before long we were aboard. It is a steep, but scenic, climb from the Coast up the Macalister Range towards Kuranda on the Atherton Tablelands. Our first stop was Barton Falls Station overlooking the Barron River and waterfalls. This part of the trip took us through some of the oldest rainforest in the world.

Then a short trip to Kuranda Station were Queensland Rail wanted us gone as soon as possible. $500 dollars for a 5 minute stop!

About 30 minutes later we were in the farmlands of the Atherton Tablelands, where they grow mangos, citrus, avocados, tea, coffee and sugar came. Until the late 1990’s it was the main tobacco growing area in Australia. On to Mareeba where we pass into savannah country – hence The Savannah Lander name. Most of the next 3 days are spent in savannah country.

Morning tea was at Mutchilba and lunch at the Railway Hotel at Almaden, once a thriving rail terminus, but no more.

After lunch Macca, our bus driver and guide, drove us to Chillagoe a mining town (the gold mine is in the process of restarting). We were given a guided trip of the caves at the nearby Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. Eddie was our friendly cave guide and Traditional Owner. The cave shots are handheld, no flash and only a little bit of light to focus the Sony RX100II P&S – amazing.

Next we had a tour around town, including the dump (yep the rubbish dump), marble pit (there are several), old smelter (the biggest The Doc has visited) and the Creek.

While The Doc was booked into the Ecco Lodge, however he and the unlucky few were driven to the local pub. He was eaten alive by mosquitos that night. A low point of the trip.

Pungalina-Seven Emu – here comes The Doc

The Doc flies to Cairns tomorrow. On Monday he catches a charter flight to AWC’s Pungalina-Seven Emu (Seven Emu is owned by the Shadforth family) in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Northern Territory). The Doc spends 4 days and 3 nights there.

Having indexed the Pungalina photos he knows what a special place it is. Plus a video of Pungalina-Seven Emu was a key reason for him supporting AWC some 3 years ago.

Then back to Cairns and a few day trips.

The holiday finishes up with a 3 days trip on the Savannalander train. The Doc can be tracked here.


Newhaven – revisited

This time last year The Doc had finished his Kimberley/Pilbara trip and was returning through central Australia using Australia’s longest shortcut – The Great Central Road. After a rest stop at Alice Springs he headed to AWC’s Newhaven Sanctuary for a few days.

This Saturday he heads off to Cairns then onto Pungalina/Seven Emu in Arnham Land.

A few shots from Newhaven. More pictures here.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy Images indexed – huge sigh!!!!!

The Doc has finally finished indexing 300,000 odd AWC photographs. The photographs have been sent back to the AWC head office. It will take a week or 2 to copy across the files and get them into the Daminion catalogue. It has been a huge undertaking – The Doc started in late Janaury.

The Doc would love to show you some of the images, but you’ll need to settle for his images, from AWC Sanctuaries. Enjoy.


Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame, Sydney

Today I accepted the position of Adjunct Professor, School of Law at the University of Notre Dame Sydney. I’m already working on a couple of projects including a course on financial services compliance and another on proofing documents.

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Notre Dame is one of the smaller Law Schools but is achieving  great ratings from its students (basically 5 stars).