The East Coast: Atherton Tablelands

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls” – TLC.

We spent one day resting and recuperating in Cairns (both us and the Corolla) before getting back to exploring. While researching the area we found out about the ‘waterfall circuit’ in the Atherton Tablelands.

Waterfall circuit. I was sold.

Heading about an hour south through forest, hills, and hairpin turns, we discovered the tablelands.

First stop was the Cathedral Fig Tree (which we didn’t know existed, we were looking for the other fig tree).

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“Cathedral” is an apt name. We were the only two people there, and in the afternoon heat, the forest was quiet. To witness something grow so massive was more humbling than any man-made building. There was nothing else to do but keep looking up, and wonder how two plants could grow so big when one is trying to strangle the other.

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As we were leaving a man was just arriving. He was a birdwatcher said that in the morning the sound of birdsong coming from the canopy was almost deafening.

The tree was so large that you could stand in the centre of it and be surrounded by the giant.

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And then we found the Giant Fig Tree, which we had read about in a brochure.

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The roots from the fig grew so big (15m) that the weight tilted the original into its neighbor, where the fig took over that tree as well.

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One day the fig will kill the host tree, but for now it stands as a reminder that nature is bigger and more resilient then we could ever imagine.

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It was time to get out of the forests and find the waterfalls.

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First stop was Milla Milla falls. It was beautiful, and I’m sure amazing during the wet season. However when we arrived there were people and tour buses all over the place. If you would like to see Milla Milla (and I recommend that you do), I suggest you go early in the morning before the tours are running to get the place to yourself.

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My favourite waterfall of the circuit was our next stop: Zillie Falls. From the viewing platform up top, you can’t see too much. We found a little unofficial pathway to the riverbed below. I don’t recommend doing this when the water is really flowing, but it was the end of the dry season and the river was pretty tame.

Definitely worth the better view.

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Lastly was Elinjaa Falls. It was nice and cool and quiet, and the path led straight to the bottom. This would be an intimidating one to be when the wet season was in full swing.

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Our last stop of the day was the creepiest natural place I have ever been.

Earlier in the day, we had stopped in at an Information Centre to get a map of the area. As with our trip from Perth to Melbourne, it was one of these volunteers that sent us to the most interesting site of the day.

Hypipamee Crater is not a well-known tourist spot. It is down a skinny path, shrouded by large dark trees, at the back of a park off the main road. We had some trouble finding the start of the path, it was so well hidden by the forest.

There was no one around to ask, but there was a rooster guarding the parking lot.

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As we walked to the crater, we kept hearing rumbling growls coming from the steep, densely forested slopes above the path. The sound was something straight out of a horror film.

The noises stopped once we got to the crater, only to be replaced with oppressive silence alternating with the echoes of bird calls.

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The thick green sludge on top of the water looked thick enough to walk on, and didn’t move or ripple at tall. We stood on the scarcely-supported platform and thought about falling the 82 metres down and landing in the muck. Surely no one else would come by for days. This was a place straight out of a horror film.

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After standing in awe of this massive, sound-sucking pit in the ground until we were too creeped out to stay any longer, we made the walk back to the car. Thankfully no monsters came diving out of the trees to attack.

Once we got back to the safety of the car and did some research, we discovered that the sound was a cassowary’s territorial call. How lucky we were to not have a 2 metre dinosaur-bird come raging out of the bushes at us, but I feel like we came pretty close.

From inspiring beauty, to unsettling hidden destinations, the Atherton Tablelands has enough to see for a very full, satisfying day of exploring.

The Atherton Tablelands in Northern Queesnland has enough waterfalls for you to chase for a full day.

1 Comment

  1. […] it was my lot in life during our time in Queensland to tempt fate in regards to cassowaries. In Atherton we heard the territorial calls of an unseen cassowary who was apparently not happy with our presence […]

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