Friday, 3 February 2012

Tablelands on Friday: Lake Barrine (or Ba-rain)

You know all those photos I've posted showing sunny blue skies and crisp shadows? Well, today I'm going to show you what this place really look like in the summer. (A low pressure system is sitting off the coast, sending south-easterly ribbons of rain across the Tablelands. The low will drift offshore along the monsoon trough over the weekend.) If you're planning a trip to FNQ at this time of year, remember to pack wet weather gear.

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The Lake Barrine Tea House on the Gillies Highway is a favourite spot for tea and scones.

Its wide L-shaped verandah looks out over the water and surrounding rainforest. On clear days, the lake hosts Pacific black ducks, hardheads, coots, little black cormorants, pelicans and a large flock of great crested grebes. The grebes invariably sit out in the middle of the water. You'll have to take my word for it, but there were about 30 of them out there this lunchtime.

If you're lucky, the grebes shift closer to the shore when the tourist boat does its circuit. I've yet to do the trip, but I believe the guides like to look for amethystine pythons sunbathing in the trees at the water's edge.

The amethystine (or scrub) python is the largest snake in Australia and is one of the largest snakes in the world. More than once, I've been hailed along the Lake Eacham track with the customary salutation of 'Have you seen any pythons?' Unfortunately, I never have seen any pythons at Lake Eacham and none of the would be python-spotters have shown interest in the other exciting fauna and flora that I've noticed. Yeah, well, they might not be interested in Balanophora, but it's easier to see than a damned giant python. Also less bitey.

A splendid tropical garden surrounds the Tea House. It does, of course, look better in the sun, but the rain and mild temperatures are what keep it lush. The beds are planted with a combination of native and exotic species and edge a verdant sward. [Ed:— don't ever use that phrase again.]

Lake Barrine (and Lake Eacham) are top locations for spotting musky rat kangaroos (Hypsiprymnodon) and rainforest birds. You would be very lucky to see a cassowary, although itinerant individuals do turn up from time to time. The fibreglass model in the foyer is easier to photograph than a wild one and less likely to disembowel you. (That slab of timber is a section through a logged tree and not King Arthur's Round Table. As you can see, there really were giants in those days.)

You can read more about the national park and see a photograph of the Lake Barrine Tea House from the outside here.

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