Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Begin the Barrine

Eacham and Barrine are maars, lakes formed when groundwater met magma between two million and 100,000 years ago. The resulting explosions of steam blew out enormous craters in the granite. Although Barrine has a larger surface area than Eacham, both lakes are of roughly the same depth—between 65 and 70 metres.

Recognised for their natural and recreational significance since the late 1800s, the two lakes were gazetted as national parks in 1934 and amalgamated into the Crater Lakes NP in 1994.

But before all that, George and Margaret Curry constructed a recreational hall on the northern shore in 1926. The building became a guest house, then a convalescent home for the Army during WWII, before becoming a tea house. The Curry family's home-baked scones have won prizes. And for good reason.

Lake Barrine is a great spot for watching wildlife. A narrow, well-made path circles the lake, threading through rainforest and giving visitors a great opportunity to see many unusual species.

The first stop on a clockwise peregrination is at the twin kauris. Kauri pines (Agathis microstachya) are endemic to the Atherton Tablelands. These two on the edge of Lake Barrine are about 40 metres in height. They’re reported to be the tallest conifers in the country. Other Agathis species occur in New Zealand, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Borneo and the Philippines.

Musky rat kangaroos forage by day among the leaf litter. You'll certainly hear them scuttling about, even if the only glimpse you get is of a furry, russet-coloured bum disappearing into the undergrowth. Tooth-billed bowerbirds and grey-headed robins (right) are abundant. At certain times of the day, spotted tree monitors bask on fallen timber. In the wet season, orange-footed scrub fowl rake over the litter. For the rest of the year, you'll have to wade knee-deep through flocks of brush turkeys.

The lake’s popularity isn’t merely confined to tourists and bird-watchers. After a morning of shovelling award-winning Devonshire teas into our faces, a friend and I decided to go for a stroll. We hadn’t even got as far as the start of the path when we encountered a strange happening.

A small number of people were standing in waist deep water, addressing a rather larger bunch of people on the shore. It was an odd sight, so my pattern-seeking brain tried to match it up to something already filed away in there.

Aha! I thought. It must be an aquatic ecology class.

Luckily, I didn’t mention this. And the next thing my brain flicked out of my mental filing cabinet was … a baptism.

As we drew level with the group, a young girl (she looked about eight years old) entered the water, which was almost up to her shoulders. After a few quiet words from one very soggy chap, she allowed him to immerse her in the lake. When she emerged, the crowd gave her a round of applause.

That's Queensland.

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