Undara National Park, Australia November 20-21, 2007
This is the description on all the advertising and literature for the Undara Experience, an outback “development” taking place about one full day’s drive from Cairns. “Accessible” is subjective since you have to brave some pretty hairy dirt and gravel “roads” primarily dominated by road trains and 4WD vehicles that have spare gas cans and tires strapped on top, We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and pushed ahead in our tiny 10-year-old Mazda 121 rental. Bravery or Stupidity? Only our fate will decide but we will learn some lessons along the way.
During the last few hours drive toward Undara, the scenery changes dramatically. No more mountainous rainforests or waterfalls and virtually nothing green. We’re entering true Crocodile Dundee outback landscape with dry, sandy outreaches, enormous ant and termite mounds that stand up to ten feet high and sparsely spaced trees.
Roadkill kangaroos and wallabies emerge every twenty minutes to remind us just how many there must be roaming this open territory.
Arriving at this park area we are immediately impressed. Accommodations include basic tent camping, RV spaces with full hookups and basic cabins. Luck smiling on us, we scored their best room at a last minute half price deal and checked into an ensuite double room.
Not just a cabin but an entire 1950’s passenger train of sleeper cars that have been restored!
It’s still about $20 per night over our budget but how could we pass up this experience? Best part is that there is almost nobody around. The facility can accommodate over 200 guests but they only have 34 since it is fringe season. There is a fresh water pool, restaurant, bar, laundry, hot showers and terrific staff. No need to blow money on expensive tours as everything you want to see here is all around you, totally accessible and free.
One afternoon, Heather walks 7km into the Outback to “scope things out” on her own in the sweltering heat. What a champ!
She finds a group of kangaroos on her way back, so I’m immediately in tow. We hike ten minutes and find a whole group of Kangaroos including babies.
Wild Roo’s can be aggressive and territorial so you must be slow and cautious approaching them. The staff was amazed that we were eventually able to get twenty feet away for about ten minutes before they hopped away faster than you can imagine.
Lesson #1: We were lucky. The six foot male would normally have attacked us to protect his family. No harm, no foul right?
Outback Lesson #1: The closest supermarket is an hour away so dinner options at Undara are simple. Either you already knew that and brought all your own food OR you pay $25-$35 per person for dinner in the restaurant. Trapped without options we decide to spoil ourselves and enjoy the experience. After a gourmet dinner we are treated to live music around the campfire while we get acquainted with the other guests.
Next day we toured the Lava Tube Caves and saw some incredible natural formations in cavernous underground caves.
Outback Lesson #3: Bring bug spray for the flies and mosquitoes. For some reason they always go for your ears and it gets annoying. Here’s a photograph Heather took from inside one of the pitch-dark tubes by “painting with light.”
We spent the rest of the day enjoying the pool and shooting a video segment on the wildlife. Another gourmet dinner and an after-dark wilderness hike that revealed a highly deadly tree snake, more Kangaroos, possums, wallabies and a Kookaburra. Satisfied with everything we packed into two days, we set out away from the outback and back toward the tropical areas.