Another beautiful morning in Airlie Beach, home for the past week. We flagged our original plan for a two-week stay as the midges (small biting insects) were dreadful, and each night we were chased indoors well before 6:30pm. Not a fun way to spend the balmy evenings in the Whitsundays. Nevermind, we packed a lot of fun into the week and we shall remember Airlie Beach with fondness.
We were on a roll this morning. Breakfasted, packed down and after a quick swim, on the road before 10am. We had a clear run through to Gargett, a small country town in the heart of the Pioneer Valley, where we stopped for lunch. When not hosting shows and competitions, the Rodeo Grounds are offered as a free camp for travellers to the area, and this is where we are tonight.
Small, no cost, camps are a treat and this one is a gem. The flush toilets are a bonus and these are well maintained and unlike such facilities in larger centres, these are well looked after with loo paper and hand soap. We had lunch at the picnic table and watched the fully-laden sugar cane trains trundle past. Well done Galgett. Surrounded as it is, by a series of smaller mountain ranges makes the Rodeo Grounds a perfect camp spot.
When we arrived, there was one other caravan and a small tent with noone around as they too would have set camp before heading out to explore the region.
Finch Hatton Gorge is a short distance from our camp spot and we drove through the town, similarly named, entered the park and quickly found a carpark. The gorge is part of the Eungella National Park with the boast of having largest area of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia. Backpacks, swimming gear, drinking water and sensible shoes and we set off into the lush landscape with volcanic boulder formations. Talk about an amateur photographer’s paradise, the rainforest has it all.
The park rangers have done an excellent work with the paths well constructed and maintained with a mixture of stairs and pathways and information boards along the way. It is an easy walk although you are aware you are climbing slowly all the time. Good news is the return journey is downhill.
The walking tracks meander through sub-tropical rainforest with paths veering off to Araluen Cascades and the Ring of Fire swimming hole further along, which was a more strenuous bike we didn’t tackle. As it was getting late we decided not to venture to the top swimming hole and while Basil continued to the cascades, I went a short distance further where the rainforest became dense, and as it started to get slippery underfoot I turned back.
The granite boulders and surrounding vegetation make this an interesting and picturesque walk into the cool waters of the Araluen Cascades where we had a refreshing swim in the cascade pool.
We retraced our steps to the truck and drove into the town of Finch Hatton, 10 kilometres away, with all the services you would expect in a small town, from a pub to post office and general store with eftpos and newsagency. The showgrounds were a perfect spot for afternoon tea and a chat about where we might be camped tomorrow night.
This is another beautiful part of the country, set amid sugarcane plantations with the mountains in the distance.
- Australia is the second largest supplier of raw sugar onto the world market.
- Sugar production is worth $2 billion to the Australian economy each year.
- Australia has around 378,000 hectares under sugarcane each year, 95% of it in Queensland.
- Sugarcane is a giant tropical grass that takes between nine and 18 months to reach maturity depending on the weather.
On return to camp we found the other campers preparing the evening and on sunset more vehicles pulled into the area for the night. It is a beautiful evening here at Gargett and we watched the sunset in cloudless skies over the hills and reminded ourselves how fortunate we are to be free to travel and enjoy these out of the way places.
Until next time look after yourselves. Stay well. Be safe.