Monday, March 31, 2014

A Quiet Day At Undarra Volcanic National Park

It's a quiet drive west along the Gulf Development Road to Undarra Volcanic National Park. Slowly, outcrops of volcanic rock begin to appear between the eucalpyts until, when you arrive at Undarra, large granite boulders stud the landscape. All the way out we were trying to decide whether we would pay the somewhat exorbitant fee required to enter the lava tubes, and, were half relieved when we reached the resort to discover that we had arrived in the “off season” and there were no tours. No decision to be made. 

 Doug at Atkinson's Lookout
We found a trail map showing the walks and duly set off along a concrete path towards the “bush breakfast,” the distance of which was marked off in 50 metre intervals as if the tourists could barely manage to stagger the 250 metres to get belly up to the bar. Passing the “breakfast bar” we walked along beside a jumble of granite boulders where dozy grey kangaroos lounged in the shade. I noted, cynically, that Undarra Resort also runs an expensive wildlife tour, no doubt to see the very kangaroos that are so plentiful you almost trip on them. 
We took a turn to the right, then another right and hiked up onto “The Bluff”. Someone has come up several original and highly creative names like The Bluff, Bush walk, and Swamp track, to denote the various walks and landscape features. The Bluff is a series of large granite boulders and slabs and affords a view down onto the extensive Undarra resort complex, 90% of which appears to be comprised of old rail cars. Continuing on, we took a left and wandered out to Atkinson's Lookout passing a small waterhole on a milky creek along the way. Just before you reach the lookout, an ominous sign insists you “Go Back. You are entering the exit of a half day circuit. Return to the Lodge for trail information.” This sign was so ridiculous, I had to take a photo. I'm not sure what would happen were you to walk the remaining 10 km in an anticlockwise direction and in a couple of hours instead of a half day. Would it be like trying to drive the wrong way down Pitt Street in Sydney? Anyway, the lookout is a pleasant rock platform with shade and a view over the surrounding plains. By this point we had decided that the walking, though pleasant, wasn't particularly inspiring, so we returned to our car, after a dip in the waterhole on the way past, had lunch, and grabbed our rock shoes and went bouldering up on the Bluff until we needed to leave for the next attraction. The granite is mostly very solid, grippy and, in many places has a desert patina very much like City of Rocks in Idaho. The rocks aren't quite so tall, however.

 There's trouble ahead

We also drove out to Kilkani Cone which is the remnant of an old volcano. There is a 2.5 km circuit up to the crater rim and around the circumference and this was actually a really interesting track. It's a scenic walk around the rim with several other small old volcanoes visible, the forested lava plains now spread out below, and the almost perfect circular crater filled with green grass and trees on your right.

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