Miz Lizzie Adventures: Paluma and Crystal Creek Falls

Day 2 of the Miz Lizzie Inaugural Adventure.

Our first night in the van was fine ūüôā The aircon worked very well, the bunks were comfortable, we got the site we wanted and virtually no neighbours. I’ve given the kitchen a serious¬†workout, and it’s all good.

However, on waking, we discovered a few plumbing issues had materialised. Miz Lizzie is 18 years old, things have worn and perished, and now that we have her stretching her legs, problems are appearing. Nothing we can’t fix, so far. We spent the morning in the DIY store buying hose, joiners and connectors, plumbers’ Teflon tape and other fascinating bits and pieces.

After that, it was time for FUN!¬† We drove north for an hour, to make a visit to the Paluma Range National Park, a trip we’ve been promising ourselves for a while. It’s a World Heritage Listed Site, and having reached the top up an 18km intensely narrow and winding road, I can tell you it’s utterly worth the occasionally terrifying drive. For quite considerable parts of the journey the road is barely wide enough for two vehicles, and in many places, only wide enough for one. The drop off the edge is immediate and vertical, and there are no wussy safety barriers, either! However, in spite of all these drawbacks, the views are stunning, the lush wet tropical rainforest is dense and vivid, and for me, the highlight of the drive was stopping at the bridge over the Little Crystal Creek Falls. I’ll let the photos explain (click on them to enlarge, it’s worth it!).

little-crystal-creek-mt-speccrystal-creek-falls-2There were at least a dozen people swimming at all levels of the falls (I’ve carefully framed the photos so you don’t see the towels, sandals and snacks!), and I’m impressed at their fortitude, as despite the heat, the water’s cold. The top of the range is at 883 metres/2,900 ft above sea level, and it freezes up there in winter, tropics or no tropics.

After that, we tootled down the road a bit further to the famous Frosty Mango, a caf√©¬†serving ice cream made from a wide variety of tropical fruits grown on the premises. The flavours included guava, passionfruit, mango, sapodilla, soursop, jakfruit, black sapote, custard apple, Brazilian cherry, monstera, pineapple, carambola, jaboticaba and a handful more I can’t bring to mind. Mostly, these fruits never reach the mainstream market as they ripen quickly, don’t travel well and aren’t familiar to consumers, but they do produce delicious ice cream!

And then home, for a bit of a tinker with Miz Lizzie’s waterworks, a bottle of the golden throat-charmer for the Husband and a cider for me, and a relaxing evening. Tomorrow we pack up here in Townsville and head north again for Atherton, on the Tablelands above Cairns. We have a spot reserved in one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever stayed at, in a rainforest glade. Can’t wait!

So, a lot to do in the morning. An early night is called for….

On the road again, part 2

Between Townsville and Atherton, our most northerly¬†stop, lies something I’ve wanted to see for years.

It’s called Paronella Park, a sort of fantasy romantic castle and grown up playground, built by Spanish immigrant Jos√© Paronella and his family in the 1930s. And it’s unlike anything else. For years it was abandoned and neglected, but has been slowly restored to some magnificence, and a condition safe for visitors to the buildings and the superb gardens around it.

I’ll leave you with first my photos, and then a link to a YouTube video. I’d recommend turning the sound off, the commentary is a bit treacly.

castle-turret

castle-back

fern-shadow

through-to-the-fountains

kauri-avenue

castle-front-with-fountains

helliconia

teresa-falls

shell-ginger

The promotional video for the place. Go to full screen if you can, it’s worth it.

Paronella Park is not supported in any way by the state or federal government, but by volunteers and visitor entry fees. It’s totally remarkable, and I have a pass to return any time in the next two years, because believe me, I’ll definitely be wanting to… It really is quite magical. If anyone out there gets the chance, do yourself a huge favour, and visit.

I just wish my photos did it justice.

A happy event

Mr & Mrs Bush Stone-Curlew wish to announce the hatching of Baby Bush Stone-Curlew.

A couple of days ago, we were distressed to see that Mrs Stone-Curlew had abandoned her nest, and there was a lone egg left in it. Despite my grumping about the unholy racket the Stone-Curlew family made at night, I’ve been eagerly following progress, and was sad to think she’d been driven off the nest by a predator after her eggs.

No such thing. One egg has indeed failed to hatch, but the other has resulted in a fluffy chick which is extremely well guarded by its cautious and now very shy parents. They have retreated to the far end of the back yard and become agitated at any sign we might be looking at them. Thankfully, this has also resulted in an abatement of volume in their night time cries…

Bush Stone-Curlew eggI’m not going to bother them by attempting a photo of young Master or Miss Stone-Curlew, but I’m sure Mrs Stone-Curlew will not object to my photographing her remaining unviable egg, which is quite beautiful, as well as being, well, painfully large for the size of the unfortunate bird that laid it, being 4cm or 1.75in long.

There’s only one downside to the happy event. Now there will be three of them screaming at night…

More noisy neighbours

I thought the masked plovers were noisy and inconvenient.

I had no idea. They were mild and quiet by comparison with our new bird neighbours. We have had Mr and Mrs Bush Stone-Curlew move in and set up housekeeping 5 metres (5¬Ĺ yards) from our back door. To start with, they’re weird, staring, neurotic-looking birds, quite large (50-60cm/20-24 inches tall), with huge glassy eyes and tremendously long legs. But the biggest disadvantage is the sheer racket they make in the middle of the night. The video link doesn’t begin to communicate just how loud it is, or the fact that it’s mostly at night…

Mrs Stone Curlew

They’re here for a while, since a nest has been established and there are already two eggs in it.¬†Our couple has at least made a bit more of an effort with their nest than the one in the video.

Curlew nest

The Husband of Chiconia is not delighted about it, since he can’t mow near there, and I’m not delighted either, since they are 2 metres away from my washing line and I can’t hang out laundry without disturbing them. It’s nice having natural processes taking place in our obviously desirable bit of avian-friendly real estate, but I wish we attracted the quieter and frankly less creepy looking birds!

The Husband of Chiconia tells me I should be grateful it’s not emus…

 

Abandoned…

So sad…

After a brief period of housekeeping at the bottom of our back yard, Mr and¬†Mrs Masked Plover have moved on, leaving three cold and lonely eggs. The Husband has lost his excuse not to mow down there…

Future plovers...

The original nest

We had been careful to go nowhere near them since the day of my last post, and knew they were still in residence because of the loud cries and swooping around that took place when any conceivable danger (wind in a nearby tree, distant bird passing, car pulling up 20 metres away) was in sight. Three days ago, I noticed all that had stopped.

Today, I went halfway down the yard. Nothing. Perhaps they didn’t hear or see me through the long grass we’d carefully left for 3 metres all round the nest? I crept a little closer. Still nothing.

Abandoned nest

Disguised, but abandoned

By the time I was right on the edge of Plover Jungle, I could see there was no-one home. No-one came swooping down on me to see me off. They had disguised the nest a little since my earlier photo, using dead mango leaves, but the eggs were stone cold.

I retreated, kept watch for an hour or two, and realised they’d truly moved on. Something had disturbed them too badly to allow them to stay. We get a lot of large birds of prey, mostly Brahminy Kits and Black Kites, both of which would be quite happy to dispose of either eggs or chicks, and a couple of those would have been too much for the plovers to cope with.

Poor birds. Better luck next year.

You gotta love a plover

The Husband now has the perfect excuse not to mow the grass at the far end of our backyard.

Mr &¬†Mrs Masked Plover (or more commonly, Masked Lapwing) have set up house in the longer grass down there. They’re silly birds, and will lay their eggs on playing fields, football pitches, carparks and airport runways, without a thought to the potential danger of predators or environmental hazards. More detail than you’ll ever need to know about them can be found on Wikipedia, here.

Mrs Plover on the nest

That’s Australia’s No. 1 Highway 4 metres away on the other side of the fence….

We only discovered this fact when the Husband drove the ride-on mower down to the end and was dive-bombed by Mr Plover. Both male and female are notoriously aggressive during the breeding season, not quite as bad as the Australian Magpie, but loud, hostile and prone to attack. The males especially are a bit of a hazard, as they have a ‘spur’ on the major joint on the leading edge of their wings, and these can inflict painful damage.

Future plovers...While they were briefly away from home, I took my life in my hands and scooted out with the camera to capture the nest and eggs, more a slightly bare patch in the grass than any sort of formal structure. Three eggs so far, four is a normal clutch, so there may be another. While I was taking the photo, the pair were yelling and displaying aggressively at me from the next door garden, so I left it at one photo taken from a distance with lots of zoom, and retreated. Mrs Plover immediately flew back in and settled down, and Mr Plover stalked around crossly, squarking at me.

I tremble for their babies, as we have a lot of birds of prey, crows and other flying meat-eaters in this area.¬†Still, we’ll let the grass down there grow till the babies can walk and run and feed themselves. The longer the grass, the better the cover.

It could be a couple of months. The grass is going to be waist high…