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This trek is named for the packers and drivers of the thousands of horses, mules and bullocks that plied the “Back O’Cairns” between 1872 and the turn of the century.
This trek commences from Kalinvale Farm, Kalunga some 10km south of Herberton where the donkeys are agisted. This trek visits the once populous and busy mining centres of Watsonville, Rocky Bluffs, Montalbion, Irvinebank and Lancelot, a circuit of some 90km. Walk Ruffashell Street, the main street of Rocky Bluffs where the rough terrains permitted only wheelbarrows access, swim in the clear water of the Walsh River at the geological curiosity of Natural Bridge, contemplate the fate of those pioneers now resting in the cemeteries at Watsonville and Stannary Hills, admire the views from the Dargo Range before plummeting into Silver Valley -the site of the first discovery of silver in Australia. There will be time to quench thirsts at the Irvinebank Tavern and visit Loudoun House which is now a museum but was once the family home of John Moffat, North Queensland’s own mining magnate. View a Rainbow Serpent in a rock art gallery and look for platypus along the Wild River during the final leg.
A team of pack donkeys carry your luggage, food and camping gear, exercising the skills and heritage of Australia’s many packers and drovers. Sleep under the stars on a bed in an insect proof “Mossie dome” tent. Fully guided with a carefully researched commentary on the geology, flora, fauna and pioneer histories that we pass. Good food including three course dinners cooked over an open fire and even a glass or two of wine with dinner!
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Arrive and check into hotel. Day at leisure with plenty of options – Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, Skyrail, Kuranda Railway or even a Reef visit!
Pre-trek & safety briefings and meet donkey team. And we’re off! A relatively short day to our campsite, the first of our 3-course dinners and a million star experience.
Trek Cardwell Track to Straight Shooter Creek, the scene of substantial alluvial tin mining – and several murders! Tin mining sure was a tough gig back in the day… Our trek continues along Gorge Creek to our campsite at Watsonville.
Visit a few well known previous locals at Pioneer Cemetery before trekking to ‘Picnic Cave’ for morning tea. Our campsite tonight is on Walsh River, with clear rock swimming pools to cool off in.
Swim before breakfast anyone? We begin by crossing Walsh River and tackling the Great Dividing Range. Continue on original pack track to Rocky Bluffs and learn about the history of the smelters here at the turn of the century. Beautiful campsite tonight on a large sandy beach.
A challenging trek today as we follow steep and winding tracks out of the gorge and along to Gladstone Dam. Highlights today include parts of the Stannary Hills Tramway and original wagon road – and hot showers!
Trek through Montalbion Cattle Station, visit Stannary Hills Cemetery, Hales Siding and Bulldog Creek. Hot showers again will refresh us to dine out at Irvinebank Tavern.
Optional local walks around Irvinebank visiting heritage sites: Louden House Museum, The Vulcan Mine, and other options. The donkeys will enjoy the rest as much as we will! Second night at Irvinebank Town Common.
Another challenge as we ascend 1100m Dargo Range and tackle the escarpment of Silver Valley, known for its mining at the turn of the century. So much history today! Campsite near Lancelot, final ghost town visited.
Visit Bluffs to view a rock art gallery, where interpretations have been lost over years, but images remain. Lunch at Wild River then final leg to Kalinvale. Transit to Cairns.