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Journal for 27-Jul-2003 : Malanda

Played tourist today, travelling to all the local points of interest on the Atherton Tablelands. The first port of call was the "Curtain Fig". Fig trees are parasitic plants that use birds to deposit their seeds high in a host tree's canopy. Once germinated, the fig sends down roots to the floor. The fig's leaves then overrun the host tree, and its root system swells and smothers the host tree to death. By this time, the fig's roots are big enough and string enough to hold up the tree. Well, most of the time. For the Curtain Fig, the hot tree fell part the way over, but was propped up by another nearby tree. The fig continued to lay down roots and smother it's various hosts, producing something that looks like a botanic harp.

Rode the seriously hilly Gillies Highway out to the Lake Barrine teahouse. As if the car traffic wasn't enough to worry about, a sign warned us to be wary of cassowaries crossing the road. For those of you who don't know, a cassowary is a large flightless bird no unlike an emu. The primary differences are cassowaries are colourful, inhabit rainforests and have been known to charge at then kill people.

Lake Barrine and Lake Echam are the craters of extinct volcanos. They are lakes almost perfectly lined with level hills decorated with rainforest. Even 100 years ago their beauty was recognised and they were protected. Unfortunately not much more than the lakes were protected. Even though they are less than three kilometres apart, the virgin rainforest surrounding these lakes has a swath of farmland cut between them. Like a lot of Queensland national parks, the Crater Lakes are pocket-handkerchief size, and too small to sustain a population of any large species. Somehow, an adolescent male cassowary made his way into the Lake Barrine rainforest in 1993 looking for a mate. Henry has yet to find a mate, but as cassowaries are unwilling to travel across open country, he's been marooned in this isolated patch of magnificent Queensland rainforest ever since. Also marooned is a pair of enormous Queensland Kauri trees. These two behemoths of the forest are thought to be over 1000 years old, and unfortunately now extremely rare. This tree only takes about 60 years to reach sexual maturity, but does make a fine railway sleeper.

At the less commercialised Lake Echam we strolled by the translucent waters to the turtle viewing pontoon. The saw-shelled turtles in this lake do have a saw shaped shell, but are interesting for another reason. Unlike common Australian freshwater turtles, these ones have the peculiar ability to breath through their bottoms. If only we could all be so fortunate. Lake Echam might not be commercialised, but it sure is popular. Perhaps Sunday is not the day to enjoy a picnic unmolested by hundreds of other picnickers.

We rode on to Malanda, over yet more hills, to Malanda falls. A short set of falls that plunge into the town's swimming pool. There are also a few nice bush walks through the surrounding rainforest pocket that can be stretched out to almost half an hour, and with some imagination (ie pretending the neighbouring farms can't be through the trees) can be believed impenetrable jungle.

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