Helping move building materials on remote Mount Surprise - excitement, wildlife, company - plus a little digging for gems!!
Mount Surprise - bush, rocks, rolling hills, isolation, wildlife and gems.
Peter and his son Thomas' place on Mount Surprise, on a lovely ridge with nothing beyond it.
I spent the weekend with Peter, Thomas and friend Ed helping move some building materials on-site. Logistically the plan seemed quite straight forward. Load up a lorry and 4 wheel drive ute with building materials – 6-8m metal roof beams, tin for the roof, large water tank, bricks, concrete mixer etc etc. The kitchen sink went up on an earlier trip!
But where is Mt Surprise? It's a little bit isolated and difficult to get to. First drive about 300km west of Cairns to the township of Mount Surprise, then it's a further 30km along a gravel road - at this point the lorry can go no further. Then unload the lorry onto the ute and trailer and make multiple trips up the last 12 km to their place.
It's a homestead but definitely still 'work in progress'. The current work being necessitated by the termites that are eating out the woodwork!
Yours truly, on one of the many loads taken up the last 12km of 'road'.
Family clan of apostle-birds, as they check out a new nest, each one hopping in and out in turns. In total there were 6 birds. Spotted on route up Mt Surprise.
Through the cracked windscreen. Being pulled up one of the Jump Ups.
To go back to these last 12km, they're exciting!
The road is gazetted, but in places it's difficult to walk, let alone drive up heavily laden with building materials. The steep sections of the road are called 'jump ups' basically because that's what you have to do. (Listen to Peter describing them on the audio at the top of this page).
Or to see a short 1 minute video of the jump up on You Tube go to:
You may need a travel sickness tablet as it's a bit bouncy!
It was fun and I was in good hands.
Peter and Thomas love coming here. Peter and now Thomas have been doing so since they were both children. It's a unique place to visit – the isolation, the vastness, wonderful rock formations, wildlife and gemstones.
It's the first place also that I saw a dingo in the wild.
The other reason for coming though, and why many people do, is that Mt Surprise is a gemstone field. Walking through the bush you can still find gems on the ground, and more if you're willing to do some digging. In the photo Peter shows where someone had been fossicking in a creek.
A small piece of topaz missed in the creek.
We did find a few gems, the best though was a gift. On Mt Surprise there is a population of Great Bower-birds. The male makes an elaborate bower as a nest (the bower is a twin walled avenue of twigs about 1m long by 45cm high). To attract a mate he decorates the entrances with anything bright that he can find – stones, shells, but also coins, bottle tops or bits of plastic. If he is lucky he'll also decorate it with gems – and that's where we found the largest piece of topaz.
It seems that even in the avian world gemstones are a girls best friend!
Topaz found in the bower - maybe worth $100 or so.
It was a great and unique weekend, thanks to Peter and Thomas for taking me.