Mackay Sugar Mills and Sugar Growing As we pass the Mackay Sugar Mills, a complex so large its conveyors stretch across the highway, our guide Kevin gives a running commentary. Out of town, the road is fringed by sugar cane fields. Kevin tells us about all things sugar; history, processing, and mill amalgamations.
Melba House On the way we stop at Melba House in Marian. The house was built in 1882 and for a short while was the home of the famous opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba with her husband Charles Armstrong. Here we meet Janet who gives us an enthusiastic and passionate commentary in the Dame Nellie Melba memorabilia room.
Once in the forest we cross three creeks, none with too much water, but we are glad not to be in our own car which is only a 2WD. Kevin takes us to the Reeforest Bush Camp where Col and Jenny are busy cooking a BBQ lunch. The camp is trestle tables beneath a large timber roof. Billies are boiling over a fire. There is the sound of rushing water from an adjacent creek. Small birds flit about the trees. What a peaceful place. Lunch is part of the tour and comes with salad, bread rolls and dessert. Col entertains us with interesting tales of his experiences as a pilot driver for oversize loads.
Billies boiling over the camp fire at the Reeforest Bush Camp.
Araluen Cascades and the Finch Hatton Gorge Next is the 2.8km return walk to Araluen Cascades, a waterfall in the Finch Hatton Gorge. It is an uphill walk that takes us a leisurely hour. There is much to photograph in this rainforest; beautiful fungi, moss covered trees, a bush turkey, a strangler fig woven around a tree, stag horn ferns growing on high branches, and ferns growing atop rocks. Three young men passed us on the way to the swimming hole at the Araluen Cascades, but are leaving as we arrive. It is near winter when we visit and the cold has got the better of them.
The Sky Drive The Sky Drive and Lookout is next on the agenda. It is raining today and the mountains have a low cloud cover which is itself a sight to behold. We have driven through picturesque countryside and can only imagine how magnificent the views over Pioneer Valley would be from this 2400ft vantage point. The drive up the mountain to Broken River is steep and windy. Kevin tells how this road was made during the gold rush and that early in the twentieth century people drove Model T Fords up here and towed logs back down as a brake against the steep descent.
Mist over the Eungella National Park, behind sugar cane fields..
Broken River Platypus Viewing At Broken River we buy coffees from the café, having been served even though closing time is forty minutes past. A number of bush turkeys are scratching about in the garden and sulphur-crested cockatoos are perched high in the forest canopy. We hear the call of whip birds and crane our necks to search for them.
The board walk to Broken River is edged by the rainforest. A rock wallaby jumps past. The view is chocolate box beautiful. Near a bridge we spot turtles in the water but it is platypus we have come to see so we move on to the viewing area.
We linger for a while on the viewing platform. It is close to 5pm, when the playpus are likely to be out of their burrows feeding. Signs tell us what to look for to spot them but they are elusive. Kevin takes us back to the bridge where we saw the turtles and there, swimming toward the bank is a platypus. I quickly snap a photo and go for a second, but all I get that time is his wake as he dives.
Then there are more, a half a dozen or so of these intriguing creatures. It is the first time I have seen them in the wild. Next to me some girls are squealing their excitement and who could blame them.
The tour is run by Reeforest Adventure Tours and departs from your Mackay accommodation or the Mackay Visitor Information Centre at 320 Nebo Road, Mackay. Reeforest can be contacted on (07) 4959 8360 or 1800 500 353, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their website.
Tours run on Wednesday and Sunday at 11.00am, but you may be able to arrange another time; call Reeforest to enquire.
There is free all day parking and public toilets at the Visitor Information Centre. The tour guide stops at public toilets before ascending the mountain and there are public toilets at Broken River. A BBQ lunch is included and is served at Reeforest's bush camp.
Prices (at August 2015) are all inclusive; 1 Only Passenger $300.00, 2 Only Passengers $165.00 Each, 3 Only Passengers $135.00 Each, 4 Only Passengers $120.00 Each, Family price 2Adults and 2 Children $410.00 (Children aged from 6 years is suitable) Group bookings are available; ring Reeforest to enquire about pricing.
Where:The tour departs from your Mackay accommodation or the Mackay Visitor Centre, 320 Nebo Road, Mackay Q 4740
Cost:(At Aug 2015) All inclusive – 1 Only Passenger $300.00, 2 Only Passengers $165.00 Each, 3 Only Passengers $135.00 Each, 4 Only Passengers $120.00 Each, Family price 2Adults and 2 Children $410.00 (Children aged from 6 years is suitable) Group booking