After leaving Cairns we had our first foray into the outback as we headed off along the Wheelbarrow Way to Chillagoe. We also hit our first patches of proper gravel roads with some minor corrugations. Terry did us proud though and we made it through with suspension still intact. Thankfully all the eggs were still in tact too!
The drive to Chillagoe was beautiful, as we travelled west the landscape morphed from lush green rainforest into dry scrubby bush. The grass changed to a sun-bleached blond contrasting against the deep ochre red earth and green gum leaves. The black asphalt of the road cuts through the earth stretching on to the horizon.
Chillagoe is a small Queensland town with a relaxed, friendly feel. The visitor information centre had an amazing display detailing both the geological and early settler history. Chillagoe also has a rich mining history, with one of its attractions being the old copper smelter that you can visit.
The Chillagoe-Mungana caves are the main drawcard for Chillagoe these days, with quite a few tourists making the trek west to see them. There are three stunning dry limestone caves that have a guided ranger tour through them. We saw two of the three caves. The first felt a little like you were in an Indiana Jones movie with a bit of scrambling and ducking and squeezing through some narrow sections. Bubba loved it and the Jazzy Devil was sure he was going to see Batman and Joker around the next corner, particularly as the guide was telling us about the microbats that live in the caves. Jazzy put in a stellar effort and climbed and scrambled nearly a kilometre of the tour. He was totally worn out after that and lucky mummy got to carry him the rest of the way back. The second cave was much shorter but had the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. It was a very pretty cave but unfortunately I didn’t see much of it as the Jazzy Devil was not in a good mood for this one and screamed for most of the tour. That meant I got to carry him up and down about 300 steps!
Some of the other sites we visited in Chillagoe were Balancing Rock – which is quite literally a giant rock perfectly balanced on the tiniest footprint and needs to be seen to be believed, a small Aboriginal rock art site and the local swimming hole where we could cool off in the afternoon.
I had packed plenty of food before leaving Cairns for our 3 nights in Chillagoe and thank goodness I did. I popped into the general store out of curiosity which I must admit terrified the hell out of me knowing that this was probably all that was going to be available to us on our trek west across the Savannah Way. Aside from a small amount of very expensive fruit and veg there was literally nothing I could buy that would suit our dietary needs.
We absolutely loved our stay in Chillagoe and highly recommend the trip out here if you are ever in far North Queensland. We left Chillagoe headed back for the rainforest and Atherton to spend some time exploring the Tablelands and to stock up before the next part of our adventures. That, however, is a story for my next post. Until then, eat well & live happy.