FL34 Heading west to Georgetown

Atherton to Georgetown

The morning after flying into Atherton, it was time to take-off again and start making my way west towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. Jack Cross led the way in his aircraft, showing me the way to go over the hills towards the wind turbines before following the Gulf Developmental Road all the way to Georgetown.

On the way I flew over Mount Garnet and Mount Surprise and past the Undara Lava Tubes. What struck me most was how quickly the landscape changed from wet tropical forest to dry savannah grassland and red earth.

Flying over the clouds on Atherton Tablelands

Grant arrived at the airport shortly after and we packed down the trike because we knew we’d be in town for at least a few days before I could fly to Normanton. This is the first time I’ve had to pack up the wing since being on the Nullarbor and I knew it was going to become the norm as I travelled through northern Australia as there just aren’t many hangars at these remote airports.

Once we had the trike all packed away, we found ourselves a comfy camp site at the local Goldfields Caravan Park and settled in.

Selfie at Georgetown Airport
Packing up the wing
Me with pack up straps around my neck
The trike base in the trailer

With school holidays on, I wasn’t able to visit any schools. So we focused on what we do best – going birdwatching! There are many waterholes in this part of Australia and they’re amazing places to go birding.

Georgetown is a hotspot for finch species so we went looking for them at the local racecourse as well as Cumberland Dam. At Cumberland Dam, we saw 5 species of finches in one morning – Zebra, Double-barred, Masked, Plum-headed and Black-throated Finch! We dipped on Gouldian and Long-tailed but you can’t have everything 😀I was so chuffed to see Black-throated Finch!

You can see all the species on my eBird list here.

Cumberland Dam near Georgetown, Queensland
I also took the opportunity to visit the Undara Lava Tubes and they were AMAZING! 🌋
These tubes were formed by lava flows from now extinct volcanoes 190,000 years ago that flowed down the valleys and formed a hard crust on top. The hot molten lava continued to flow within until the volcano stopped erupting after 20 years. What is left behind is a hollow tube.
Roots from the trees above grow down through the rocks and through the roof. They also sprawl out across the loamy floor of the cave as soil gets washed in during the wet season. There is also ‘cave coral’ – calcium carbonate formations that are the beginnings of stalactites on the ceiling that look a lot like coral.
In some areas, the tubes have collapsed and left patches of basalt rocks where remnant rainforest vegetation from Gondwana persist as the rocky ground protects then from fire, unlike the surrounding grasslands. The bottle trees, figs and vines look prehistoric – like something out of a fantasy movie!
The caves fill with water during the wet season and some are fed by natural springs. Bent-wing bats, moths and various frogs inhabit their depths. There were a few tadpoles floating around in the shallows. It s amazing how the bats hold onto the rocks with their little feet!
Entrance at Undara Lava Tubes
Looking out one of the lava tubes
Basalt rock on the roof of the lava tubes
Boardwalk into the lava tubes

If you missed the livestream for Flight Leg 34 from Atherton to Georgetown, you can watch the livestream replay on YouTube by clicking the link below.

Milly Formby
Milly Formby is a zoologist, pilot, and illustrator of the children’s book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure She is currently flying her microlight around Australia in 2022/23 to share,A Shorebird Flying Adventure with primary students.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Available Now

Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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