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Lonely Planet Great Guidebook Moment - Undara Lava Tubes

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 9 May 2008 | Views [2318]

I have to admit that when I was researching for this trip, one of the things that quickly interested me were this Undara Lava Tubes. Not because I am a huge geology aficionado, but it looked like being one of these unique and spectacular formations that are worth seeing.

However, and like many other attractions along the way, it had a problem: the price. For us, in our present circunstances, essentially homeless, jobless, and with a two-month van trip on our shoulders, is difficult to throw our bucks here and there.

On top of that, Tiffany says that I am a tight ass. Probably is true. Similarly than the scots, we catalans have a quite deserved reputation of being, let’s say, careful with our money. One example:

- Jordi! (Jordi is the most typical catalan name) Would you bring me to the cinema?

- Again??

- But now is in color!

I remember that I laughed a little bit at this joke when I first heard it, but now is maybe not that funny? Whatever…

The fact is that, though I really really wanted to go to this lava tubes, I had a double heart towards it. Tiffany, once again, with her sometimes easy solutions, proposed that, since she didn’t care very much about seeing them, and Jett surely wouldn’t care either (though, typically, then he said that he really-really wanted to go), they could make an enormous sacrifice, renounce to the visit, and spend the time sadly waiting for my return in the coffee shop.

And that seemed to economically convince me, so I went!

As those many other places that we have found here and there, the history of the place, as a public attraction, is as follows:

Some white people came to the area at the late nineteenth century, and they saw that no other white people had been there before, so they fenced it around and they took it for themselves. Those were the Collins family. During most of the century, like many other families also, they imported cows, and they made them wander around the rainforest (hence the strange face of confusion that cows in this country have sometimes), greatly ignoring those strange holes in the middle of the land. But at the eighties somebody thought that people might be interested in seeing those interesting formations, and the Collins family, to add some income to the beef steaks one, decided to open it to the public, running some tours around, and creating a rather interesting and original resort with restored old train carriages as a romantic accomodation option.

It seems that, somewhere in the early nineties, a newly appointed government in Australia (sorry for my obvious lack of knowledge of the recent australian political history) had the promise to double the land labeled as National Park, and to do that they had to expropiate large amount of natural interest areas from landowners. The Undara Lava Tubes were part of those areas.

So now, the area is a National Park, but the Collins family still have the rights to run the accomodation resort and some guided tours, though they can not let their cows wander around anymore.

The fact is that, today, the area is greatly organised and looks honestly good. I took a tour (the only way to see the tubes) with a very pleasant and extremely knowledgeable Savannah Guide. She brang us to three different sections of the tubes, where we could see the particular formations with great satisfaction.

Is interesting also to know the origin of these formations, and how it became the longest lava tube in the world, with 150 km, after the eruption of one of the 164 active volcanoes that infested the area some 19.000 years ago (year up, year down). That’s because of the very gentle but constant slope from the Atherton Tablelands to the Carpentaria Gulf and the outback, that allowed the lava to flow slowly and interruptedly for a long time.

If you are interested in knowing how a lava tube is formed, I recommend that you search somewhere that can tell you with graphics, since I don’t see myself capable to explain it without being able to move the hands in strange simulating ways. Is interesting and makes absolute sense, however.

So the tour was a success, and I am very happy to have gone.

On the way back to our bus, we saw a little and cute rock wallaby hiding between some rocks close to our footpath. To my surprise, all my party companions, australians without exception, screamed of delight and emotion, flashing their cameras passionately to the small marsupial.

Considering that in my 3 months in Australia, I have already seen probably a couple of hundred of kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, tree kangaroos, rock wallabies and the sort, the overreaction of my fellows was at least a bit funny.

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, on the road

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