Why the Valley is one of Mackay's best kept secrets
A WARM spring Saturday morning we leave Mackay for a day at Eungella National Park, Australia's longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest.
The drive to our destination atop of the Clarke Ranges is no less scenic than the destination itself.
Cane fields are nestled between the ranges in the Pioneer Valley, which is home to freshwater creeks and waterfalls cutting through smooth volcanic boulders.
The cane fields luminescent green in colour set against the bright blue sky are easy on the eye. Farmers are out on almost every field irrigating the young cane plants and harvesting others, reminding us, that for some work never stops.
We pass the churning sugar mills in the country towns of Walkerston and Marian. Here the vibrant green canefields contrast the rusty colours of the mills. Workers hook up locomotives to the cane trains zipping across the tiny railway lines.
Further along we pass the townships of Mirani and Finch Hatton, before making our way up the tightly winding range road to Eungella.
Other travellers share memories of tackling the road in "the old days” when it was merely a track.
Graham Long, who used to manage a taxi company, remembers cars stopping halfway up the range. Water had to be collected from the creek further up to refill the radiators that had boiled their water from cooling the hard working engines. Once cooled down, the journey could resume to the top, 680m above sea level.
Arriving in Eungella, we stop at the General Store for a home made sausage roll, apple turnover, raspberry slushy and coffee. We go on to the community hall which used to be an army hospital at the Mackay harbour and was dismantled and, yes, trucked up the range.
Local beef producers Mandy Tennent and her family from Cloudline Lowlines & Eungella Beef prepare a second 'smoko' consisting of mouthful-sized beef slider burgers with home made relish for us that look almost to cute to eat. Eating two we remind ourselves that we have more local cuisine to taste and need space in our bellies.
On the quest to see a platypus we follow the road towards Broken River where we stop at the Platypus Lodge Restaurant.
Owner Oskar Krobath serves up his signature beef burgers with an authentic Austrian yodel. Mr Krobath has made the cool and tranquil spot by the river his home. The site is dubbed the "best place in the world to see a platypus in the wild”.
And that we do.
We spend the early hours of the afternoon soaking in the million dollar views from the Eungella Chalet, a hotel on the edge of the range overlooking the valley.
A travelling hang glider sets up as we are just about to leave to return to the real world.
As our bus makes its way down the winding road, we watch the bottom of the valley coming closer through the window. We think about the hang glider circling above us, imagining his view. It keeps our minds still for a little longer.