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Journal for 30-Jul-2003 : Mt Surprise

Went on a Lava Tube guided tour today. Many of the lava tubes are considered too dangerous or fragile to allow any Joe Blow into them. The National Park has lots of restricted areas that you are only allowed into with an approved guide.

The lava tubes are cylindrical holes in the ground formed by fast moving lava. These were produced by an eruption of the Undara shield volcano about 190 thousand years ago, which is the blink of an eye in geological terms. The hole region west of the ranges here is a one massive lava field. Undara set all kinds of volcanic records, and the tubes are also the longest, biggest, most colourful etc, lava tubes in the world. But perhaps the most amazing thing about them is they weren't really discovered until the 1970s. The incredible network of lava tubes that runs for hundreds of kilometres only cam to light as a result of military areal surveys.

The lava fields are rather uninviting country, because the basalt is hard to walk on, full of holes allowing any rainwater to seep straight into the water table (or even run down a lava tube) and explodes when heated by camp fires, supposedly. In any case, there is no ground water here (other than in the lined dams built for the cows) so there is very little wildlife, not even termites.

The first 7ks out from the Lava Lodge took nearly an hour as we bounced over the corrugations. More fast single track riding against the wind, but down the (very slight) hill to Mt Surprise.

Mt Surprise is a real metropolis. It has *two* roadhouses. We enjoyed the ubiquitous "fish chips and salad". Naturally the salad was a Mt Surprise salad, with some rather interesting and expected elements.

I shouldn't be so hard on these guys, because the people at the Mt Surprise Roadhouse/Café were really friendly and were making an effort to serve their customers, and it shows in the quality of everything about the place. Nice camping areas, nice food, nice rooms and nice birds (obviously).

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