On our last day in the Cairns region we went on a guided tour with On the Wallaby around the Atherton Tablelands. We visited the world’s oldest rainforest and swam in volcanic crater lakes and under waterfalls. We were lucky with the weather and had sunshine the whole day through.
Our tour guide Lorenz (Lozzy) was a great guy and entertaining to listen to.
We started our morning driving to the sugarcane fields up to the mountains. The scenery is beautiful and probably nature wise reminded us of Europe more than any other place so far, particularly Switzerland or Austria. Hills, green farm land all the way the eye can see. We made brief stops to have a look at Australia’s biggest Cathedral Fig Tree and Lake Barrine. Then we drove to Lake Eacham, where we had the first chance to swim.
Lake Eacham is an almost 70 meters deep lake in a 10 000 years old volcanic crater filled with fresh rainwater and turtles which we were not fortunate enough to spot. Compared to the warm waters at the reef the day earlier, Lake Eacham felt freezing at first. That was soon forgotten when I was reminded how much nicer it is to swim in a lake than in salty water. Lake Eacham was my Finnish summer moment, since it reminded me of home.
After our swim in the lake and some lunch we hopped on to the bus and drove to Millaa Millaa waterfalls. This waterfall is famous from an, oldie but goldie, shampoo add, Herbal Essences. where a woman in the water does a hair flick. It took a little much convincing from Matte, but I decided to give it a go, even though the water was even colder than the lake earlier. After taking the pictures Matte chose not to proceed further, but I had another swim to and under the waterfall, which was a first for me. So much fun!
Again off to the bus and to our final location, Dinner Falls and a Crater in the rainforest. We never made it to the Crater, since Dinner Falls kept us entertained – and frankly it took Matte a while to get into the cold water. But he embodied the spirit of sisu which is Finnish and is more of a concept than just a word. It means to have some sisu in you, which helps you to push through anything that might be scary, uncomfortable or even painful.
Once my sisu man got into the water, time just went flying by. Something to check off from the bucket list again. We had such a highly enjoyable day.
Originally we had planned to visit Kuranda, which is a different part of the rainforest and a popular destination especially for families. It also features the world’s oldest Scenic Railway through the rainforest and by waterfalls, which Matte was keen on taking. However, when we started to plan the trip, the costs were like a slap in your face. We would have had to spend a few hundred dollars just to travel there and enter a few attractions.
On Thursday we randomly wandered into a travel agency (and ended up booking not one, not two, but three tours). We told the rather obvious Scottish salesperson about our plans to visit Kuranda and after chatting a while she convinced us to spend the money on something else. So with the same money as going to Kuranda on a solo trip, we got to see and experience so much more.
We had some serious doubts about taking part on guided tours when we were still in Sydney. We appreciated our freedom of choice and possibility to spend as much time as we wanted in each location. There are some real downsides with the tours: the groups might be too big, personalities might clash, food might be below average and people have variety of paces whilst hiking. You might spend quite a lot of time in the bus, that also are different comfort levels.
That being said, we have learned that the gain from the guided tour outweighs all the possible downsides we might have had. Without our own car it sometimes is the only way to see everything we want to. And the best part is that we have always seen even more than we asked for and enjoyed every bit of it. When doing solo trips on public transportation you can only do so much during one day. And as we realized, sometimes it is even cheaper.
We have been happy with all our tours and definitely felt to get our money’s worth.
And without the tours we could not have experienced a red dessert and thousands of stars, the blue Great Barrier Reef and its colourful fish, and the green lush tropical rainforest and its fresh nature pools – all inside one week’s time! Australia is so much more than sun and beaches, and for any traveller with enough time and means you can really see so many marvellous things.