Given my inability to drive, I’ve been somewhat stuck out here in the Lynd. I’ve missed out on seeing the gorges and local towns. However, one place I was determined to see before I left was the Undara Lava Tubes, to the North of us about 200km.
A few days before, the boss told me she was heading to a meeting in Georgetown, and if I wanted she would drop me off at Mt Surprise and pick me up the day after so I could finally go visit. I heartily agreed, and although this plan was amended to her leaving in the morning and picking me up in the afternoon, at least it meant I’d get to see it.
The lava tubes are inside a National Park, and have been owned by the same family for several generations. Originally, the land was to be given back to the government, but as the family had put in the infastructure for the lava tubes, they’ve been allowed to keep it and have exclusive use to run tours (with the exception of a man in Mt. Surprise who has been given permission in recent years).
I decided to do both tours provided by Undara, the Archway and Active Explorer tours. These tours go to different areas of the park, checking out some of the more interesting tubes. The Archway was first, and is named after the area of tunnel that has broken off, creating a unique Archway surrounded by forest. It’s a rather beautiful area, and once held a wedding for the local family.
The Archway is the easier tour, as it has actual stairs and walkways to wander round. The tubes themselves are large and winding, but due to decay and time, have fallen in and don’t go on for very long. Apparently there were once tours that went into areas that no longer exist due to this.
(There is also tours here when the tunnels flood, which is rare, but allows people to come in and swim in the tunnels. It was very popular, and should this part of Queensland be blessed with enough rain again, I’m definitely going to try and make it here – the photos are awesome and don’t doubt it’s incredible to do).
The tour lasts about an hour and a half, and we head back to the reception where I grab a cup of tea before heading out for the second tour, which was the original one I’d been planning to do if I’d not had time. The Active Explorer is only held part of the year, and will be stopping come September due to bat breeding season. It also warns for proper footwear as there aren’t any proper stairs.
This is an understatement. The way down consists mostly of rocks and rope, and the handful of people who hadn’t listened to the warnings (mostly children) struggled to get down. There’s also little to no walkway in the second tunnel, so you actually get to explore the full circular area. It’s very impressive, and fascinating to see.
The final part of this tour has us walking along one of the longer areas of tunnel, although we first stop to check out one of the micro bats hanging on the wall. There are thousands of these little critters living here, and like most animals in Australia, they don’t hibernate. However, they do perform a semi-version of it, where they essentially sleep for several days and reduce what they need to eat. At certain parts of the year when they’re at their most active, snakes will actually come and curl along the railings or arches of the tunnels and catch them as they fly out. Our guide told us that they’d once seen over 20 snakes waiting at one tunnel entrance for just that.
Because of the bats guano, we’re warned to just walk along one side in single file, and to turn off all our lights so we can truly appreciate what these tunnels are like. Almost no light gets inside, and between the temperature and sound its almost like being on another planet. The owner used to spend his days playing in the lava tubes as a boy, and can’t help but feel a little jealous for it – these would have been the ultimate playground.
After doing both tours, I have to say I think the Archway was the better one all things considered. Although the Active allows you more freedom, the Archway has much better scenery.
I still have several hours before Pauline is supposed to come pick me up, so after I’ve had lunch (go for soup since its cheap, and dear god it is the blandest soup I’ve ever had. DO NOT eat at Undara if you can help it), I decide to do a few of the walks. I go to the top of the lookout, and then head along another route that intersects along the way. Takes about an hour to do, and gives you great views of the area.
You also get unbelievable phone service up here since the radio tower is on your way too, huh.
When I headed back down, there was still a few hours before Pauline was meant to show, so headed over to another Undara attraction, the Pool! Its just a little one, and teeming with wasps, but in the this heat it’s so good to cool off.
All things considered, I think Undara is something people heading through the area should see, but they can settle for the Archway Tour and bring their own lunch. Otherwise it becomes very expensive very quickly.