For the second time I came across Gerd, a strong German cyclist,this time at Mount Garnet. The first time was just before Lake Eacham, 2 days earlier where we went our separate way.On that second occasion, we rode together towards Undara National Park. Some of the best riding I’ve ever did. Tailwind mixed with amazing scenery and great conversations with the 65 year old legend on the way made it a stretch to remember forever. I mean, we averaged 25km/h without pushing hard!! And the surrounding was magnificent. After about 110 ks, we made it to Undara without much of a sweat.We decided to stay there the next day for 3 reasons; the lave tubes, the wildlife and to rest for a day after mastering the hilly tablelands; we weren’t not sure why they are calling them the “table” land because they’re everything except flat.
Undara National Park is located in northern Queensland along the Savannah Way, 45kms east of Mount Surprise. The park sits on a huge volcanic region covering an impressive 1550km2 where it’s possible to visit a unique feature that happened in the region about 190 000 years ago; the iconic lava tubes. When it erupted, the Undara crater poured 23 cubic km of molten lava flowing down the low gradient terrain, enough to fill the Sydney harbour in about 6 days. One of the flow stretches for up to 160kms, the longest stretch of lava flow known to mankind.
Because the terrain wasn’t too steep or too flat, the lava flow was slow enough to have its surface being solidified by the outside air. A solidified roof was slowly created with the lava still flowing underneath until the eruption completed, leaving these impressive tunnel systems. The weakest sections have collapsed, but the biggest and strongest are still standing. There is an estimated 300 tunnels, but only 69 have been found so far. Some of these 69 are open to the public to visit by booking a tour.
Looking at the tunnels from the inside, the rock patterns forming the tubes made me think of a huge jigsaw puzzle built by somebody. Each tunnel has a keystone keeping the tube in place; remove it and it crumbles down.
The tunnels are home for a numerous kind of wildlife;insects, reptiles and mammals. During my “Wildlife at sunset” tour, we drove for about 11kms to eventually arrive at a lava tunnel entrance. At dusk, hundreds of micro-bats make their way out of the tunnel, flying everywhere; between my legs, zipping by my ears and head, changing direction at the very last second. During the summer season, there could be thousands of bats, attracting snakes (mostly pythons and brown tree snakes) hanging out tree branches to catch bat in mid-air. Absolutely incredible experience.