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The Natural and man-made attractions at Chillagoe Queensland
A place that has ancient aboriginal rock paintings, historic mining relics, amazing limestone caves and a unique vehicle museum would attract many people, writes Len Rutledge
Our anticipation was high as we headed 140 kilometres west of Mareeba along the Wheelbarrow Way to Chillagoe, North Queensland and a day later we agreed that our expectations had been surpassed.
Chillagoe was once an ancient coral reef which has been transformed into spectacular limestone bluffs with a network of more than 500 caves. It is one of the most interesting and unusual places in the whole of northern Queensland.
In 1887, two men working for the mining baron John Moffat found copper and silver deposits on Chillagoe Station. Soon after, Moffat began mining in the area but soon realised that his problem was the difficulty of transportation. He solved this by building a private railway line from Mareeba to Chillagoe and Mungana. In 1901 the line was completed and a large copper smelting plant was opened by the company at Chillagoe.
The tall chimneys on the edge of town are part of the former ore smelter which is now a drive-around museum with a viewing platform, walkways and storyboards. The Chillagoe smelter was opened in 1901 and at its peak over 1000 men were employed extracting gold, silver, copper, and lead from ores which were brought from the surrounding area.
The next 13 years was the most prosperous period for the district. Much of the capital backing the companies was German, however, and this was frozen when war broke out in 1914. This closed the smelters. In 1918, the Queensland Government bought the smelters and they continued to struggle on until closure in 1943. They were sold for removal in 1950.
Many of the caves are within the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. I strongly suggest joining a guided tour with a National Parks ranger so you can learn more about this amazing underground ecosystem. Tickets can be booked on-line and collected from the Chillagoe Hub, a tourist information centre.
There are five caves open for viewing. The Royal Arch, Trezkinn, and Donna Caves are seen by guided tour only. The tours are conducted every day at 9 am, 11 am and 1.30 pm.
The Donna Cave and the Trezkinn Cave are well-lit and have modern walkways and stairways but are relatively small. Visitors descend into the caves by a series of steep flights of steps and each tour takes less than one hour.
The Royal Arch is a series of 11 chambers spread along a 1‑km passage with roots from trees and patches of light reaching into the caves. The cave is not lit so you explore with hand-held lamps.
The Bauhinia and Pompeii Caves can be seen on self-guided tours but you need a torch and you should notify a ranger before entering the caves.
There are a number of interlocking walks which connect the caves, the lookouts and the interesting landmarks. Two that I particularly recommend are to Balancing Rock, and to the Wullumba aboriginal art site. Both are a short walk from the Balancing Rock car park.
15 km beyond Chillagoe is the remains of the old settlement of Mungana which was once the site of two famous copper mines. Two kilometres off the main road is The Archways, an open daylight cave system which I thought was fascinating. I initially wasn’t keen to visit here but afterwards rated it as one of the highlights of the area.
The lack of a guide on this self-guided exploration was more than made up for by the freedom to go at our own pace, and a sense of excitement as if we were discovering the caves for the first time,
On the road into the cave there is an Aboriginal rock art site with a number of interesting paintings on the cave walls. The surrounding rock outcrops are worth exploring and you will come across a timber table which makes a unique tea or coffee stop.
‘Old Fords never die’ says the owner of one of the country’s biggest and most remote private vehicle collections. Beneath an enormous galvanised iron roof, 82-year-old Tom Prior has put together a stunning collection of restored Fords. Tom was born in Chillagoe in 1938 and has remained in the historic mining town all his life.
Tom’s consuming passion for historic vehicles becomes truly evident the moment he starts talking. There are more than 30 pristine cars and trucks, from a Model A to a red-trimmed white 1970 XW Ford Falcon GT 351c, built in Australia. Outside, on the dirt driveway, there are hundreds more rusting relics, ready for some loving care.
A visitor book in his shed is filled with comments from people from all over the world, many of them Ford enthusiasts who have travelled specifically to Chillagoe to see his collection.
Quarries excavating marble are seen all around the edge of town although most are now idle. The Chillagoe limestone has in places been transformed to marble, baked by the extreme heat generated during ancient volcanic activity. The calcium carbonate in the limestone has been melted and re-crystallised and many minerals in the original limestone give the newly formed marble its characteristic streaks and patterns.
Chillagoe has two hotels, a guest house, an eco-lodge, and a tourist village. We stayed at the Chillagoe Cabins which has well-appointed, self-catering cottages and which provides breakfast.
Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge
Vancouver! Canada’s Most Appealing City is A Personal Favourite
Vancouver, Canada’s most appealing city is a personal favourite
Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge
Vancouver Canada, Melbourne Australia, and Vienna Austria seem to vie for the title of “world’s most liveable city” each year. It is perhaps no surprise then that, beautiful Vancouver is one of my favourite cities in the world. The city will appeal to all ages and budget levels with its mountain backdrop, urban beaches, wonderful Stanley Park, and excellent accommodation, restaurant, shopping and theatre/museum offerings.
It was four years since I last visited so when I was there earlier this year, I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with many of the things that make the city so interesting. Amazingly, most were free.
Once mainly industrial, Granville Island is now a thriving social place with a relaxed atmosphere. You see it best at the Granville Island Public Market which sells fruit vegetables, seafood, drinks, and ready-to-eat items. Aside from delightful food products, this is home to dozens of artisans crafting jewelry, handmade soaps, preserves, candles and more. We love it.
The adjacent area has seen artists and retailers move into converted warehouses alongside theatres, galleries and restaurants. Close by, you can rest your weary feet and grab a table in the tasting room of the Granville Island Brewing Co. and perhaps even join one of their daily tours and see the manufacturing process. Alternatively, take a walk over to Rodgers’ Chocolate which serves up chocolates using 19th-century recipes.
Small ferries connect the island to the downtown area and houseboats and pleasure craft crowd the small harbour.
We walked from Granville Island, past some of the cities prettiest apartments to Kits Point. This is the location of several interesting museums. The Museum of Vancouver is the largest civic museum in Canada. It features displays on the natural, cultural, and human history of the Vancouver region. It shares its iconic domed building with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, which is part space and science museum, part planetarium, and part observatory.
Nearby, is the fascinating Vancouver Maritime Museum which tells the story of the Pacific Northwest maritime history. Its main exhibition is St. Roch which was the first vessel to sail the Northwestern Passage from west to east and was also the first vessel to circumvent North America.
This is one of the city’s loveliest and busiest beaches but it was far too cold to swim when we visited. Fortunately, it is also a place to walk, bike or roller skate and there are public art installations, shopping and high-end restaurants. On sunny days it is a great place to listen to beach musicians, rent a boat, kayak or see the Laughing Men statues, a wonderful, light-hearted piece of public art.
The place really buzzes for three nights in summer when crowds watch three nights of fireworks set to music as part of the Celebration of Light festival. The fireworks blast off at 10:00 pm each night, but there is also live music and other activities starting in the early afternoon.
This large, lush park has been named the World’s Best Park by Trip Advisor. Eight million people visit here each year to walk the 5.5‑mile paved seawall path that encircles the green space or visit other specific attractions like the totem poles at Brockton Point, the Vancouver Aquarium, and a miniature train.
You can explore on foot, rent a bicycle from one of several outlets in Denman Street or take a slow horse-drawn tour. The one-hour tour departs about every 30 minutes, stops at the totem poles for photographs then goes by the famous Girl in a Wetsuit Statue and the Empress of Japan Figurehead. The ride continues on the north side of Stanley Park with views towards North Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge before returning to the stay point. Don’t miss it.
Back to the City Centre
A lovely waterfront pathway leads back to the city. On the way, you see several up-market hotels, numerous boat harbours, the seaplane terminal and some of the city’s famed flowers.
Finally, you reach Canada Place with its unusual roof. This is part cruise ship terminal, part convention centre and hotel, and part hub for sightseeing tours. The walkway provides wonderful panoramic views across to North Vancouver.
Robson Street is several blocks south of Canada Place. This is best known as a shopping centre but it is also the setting for many activities, particularly in Robson Square. This is where you find the Vancouver Art Gallery with its excellent collection of paintings. It’s housed in the former provincial courthouse and its exterior has been used in many films and TV shows.
An oasis of peace and calm in the busy city is found in Vancouver’s oldest surviving church, 125-year-old Christ Church Cathedral. The interior has been completely renovated and the woodwork, the stained-glass windows, the organ, and the altar are all stunning.
This is the oldest part of the city and in recent times it has been gentrified with restaurants, galleries and shops set in carefully restored Victorian buildings. Cobblestone streets and iron lampposts help give the district a distinct atmosphere.
It is named after an early resident and a statue in Maple Leaf Square is a popular place for photos. So too is the nearby two-ton steam clock which uses steam to whistle and shoot steam from its five whistles in its version of the Westminster Chime every 15 minutes. On the hour it also gives a toot from each whistle.
Beyond the ornate entrance gate, interesting Chinatown is a mixture of the old and new. This area was once quite seedy and remnants of that can still be seen but it is safe to walk in daylight hours. A highlight is the pretty walled Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden which is modelled after a traditional garden from the Ming Dynasty. This has a C$10 admission fee but the adjacent Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park has some similar elements and is free.
Just south of here, BC Place is called Western Canada’s premier venue for live events and sports. It has a retractable roof which makes it suitable for events in all weathers, and it hosts the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
The driverless YVR Airport Skytrain is the most convenient way to get from the international airport to the downtown area. Buses and Seabus provide good transport around the city.
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A brand new edition of this popular guide is now available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BP7Q44TV. For a free read, go to the website and click look inside.
Article from i2Mag 01/08/21
Under more normal circumstances, you were most likely to visit Skagway, Alaska on an Inside Passage cruise boat from Vancouver or Seattle. The cruise industry is currently in pause mode but many cruise lines are accepting bookings for 2022. The response has been enthusiastic so if an Inside Passage cruise is on your ‘to-do list’, now is a good time to look at your options.
Skagway is one of the towns visited by all Inside Passage cruises. The population today is one thousand but during the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s, it was one of the largest cities on the North American West Coast. As there were few laws there at the time, the city had a rough reputation. Not anymore. Now it has become a tourist hotspot visited by 1.5 million people each ‘normal’ year.
With streets lined with wooden boardwalks, restored buildings that look just as they did 100 years ago, entertainment venues, and a vintage train, Skagway meets the expectations of most visitors. It exceeded mine.
Cruise boats berth close to the city so it is easy to walk to most attractions. One of the first thing you are likely to see is the Snow and Ice Cutting Train that sits at the end of Broadway. There is no better indicator that White Pass receives a lot of snow in winter.
A good place to start any tour of Skagway is adjacent to this in the former White Pass and Yukon Railroad Depot. This massive, colourful structure, built in 1898, is now the National Park Service Visitor Center, where visitors can enjoy movies, walking tours and other activities during the summer. Most of the downtown district forms part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
Further information is available from the Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau which operates from the Arctic Brotherhood Hall building. This is claimed to be the most photographed building in Alaska due to the 8,883 pieces of driftwood nailed to the front of the building.
The fraternal organization was formed in 1899 by a group of gold prospectors who arrived here to set off for the Klondike gold fields seeking fortune. The club was a place for miners to connect and look out for each other.
You can’t go to Skagway without at least popping your head into the Red Onion Saloon. Built in 1897, it was operated as one of the more high-class bordellos in town. Now they serve up cocktails, wine, and beer and some good bar food. Buxom Madams in appropriate costumes overlook the scene from their perches, while waitresses in corsets and petticoats serve food and drinks. It is all good fun. A tour of the historic brothel is offered by one of the madams on the hour for $10.00. It’s well worth the peek upstairs.
Skagway’s unique history as a vital transportation corridor and gateway to interior Alaska and the Yukon is portrayed in the City Museum located in the town’s impressive City Hall. This was the first stone building in Alaska and it displays a Tlingit canoe, a Portland Cutter sleigh, Bering Sea kayaks, a WP&YR locomotive and caboose, a 1931 Ford AA truck, and other things.
The early history of Skagway is also seen in the nearby Moore Cabin and Cottage. In 1887, Captain William Moore visited this area, predicted that there would be a major gold find and foresaw the importance of this valley as a gateway to the interior gold fields. He and his son Ben cleared some land and built a wharf and sawmill to support their homestead claim and began opening the White Pass Trail. Their 1887 log cabin remains the oldest structure in town.
In 1897 Ben and wife Minnie built a new one-and-a-half storey wood-frame house next to their original cabin and this has been restored and is open to the public today.
Most visitors want to see White Pass and the most popular way is by a vintage train on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this is a marvel of engineering with tunnels and long trestles constructed despite the harsh weather and challenging geography. On the trip to the top of White Pass you see a panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges and waterfalls. Trips are expected to resume September 1 2021.
An alternative that delivers a superb combination of scenery and wildlife opportunities is a bus trip from Skagway into Canada’s Yukon Territory. You go up and over the White Pass summit and enter Canada’s British Columbia and then Yukon Territory. It’s not uncommon to see moose, caribou, sheep or bears along the remote Klondike Highway. This is available as a half or full-day tour.
There are also plenty of opportunities for adventure seekers with glacier discovery helicopter tours where you land and walk on a glacier, or a mountaineering adventure where you climb to the summit of an 1800 metre peak using ropes, crampons, and ice axes depending on conditions.
Back in town, the Days of ’98 Show promises ‘one hour of non-stop fun’. The show has been running since 1923 and even Covid19 has not been able to stop it completely. After all that, there is still time for eating and shopping and Skagway has options in abundance. It is a place well worth visiting.
Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge
by Len Rutledge
Spellbinding red-rock desert, dramatic canyons and high-altitude forests are just a few of the wonders to discover in Zion National Park in Utah, USA. A visit last year showed me a red-rock wonderland created by wind, water, and snow that is almost too spectacular to believe.
Zion is the third most visited park in the USA for very good reason. It is large, accessible, and downright dramatic. Don’t make the mistake that I did. The few hours I spent in the park were clearly not enough. It deserves several days of your time.
Human use of the area dates back to at least 6,000 B.C. but it was not known outside the local area until Mormon pioneers arriving in the area in the 1860s. They were so overwhelmed by the natural beauty of Zion Canyon and its surroundings that they named it after the Old Testament name for the city of Jerusalem.
In 1863, Issac Behunin built the first log cabin in Zion Canyon, near the location of the present Zion Lodge. Soon the canyon was dotted with other homesteads but these struggled to survive and were eventually abandoned.
The park is centred on Zion Canyon—24 kilometres long and almost 1,000 metres deep in places. The old riverside town of Springdale is the park’s primary gateway. The main street is flanked by scores of hotels, restaurants, art galleries, and shops, as well as outfitters and tour operators that arrange adventure activities in and around the park.
Pedestrian and vehicle bridges connect Springdale with the park Visitor Centre on the other side of the Virgin River. In addition to exhibits and information, the visitor centre is the southern terminus of the Zion National Park Shuttle, which is the only way to reach the heart of the canyon during summer when visitation peaks.
The first stop on the shuttle route is the Zion Human History Museum, which details the heritage of Native Americans and Mormon pioneers in the region. Entering the canyon, the shuttle makes seven stops, including historic Zion Lodge, a classic national park lodging opened in 1927. The park’s most celebrated landmark—the Great White Throne, a 500-metre-high rock face—can be seen from numerous places along the canyon road.
The road and shuttle route ends inside the Temple of Sinawava, a colossal natural amphitheatre. A riverside path continues to the Narrows, where the three-hundred metres-high canyon walls are sometimes just 7 to 10 metres apart.
I found Zion Canyon epic, and it is full of off-the-beaten-path adventures and hidden gems, perfect for seeking out during the crowded summer high season. There are also plenty of activities other than hiking. You can choose between rock climbing and rappelling, helicopter and 4×4 tours, guided hikes along the Narrows, and tubing on the Virgin River downstream from the park.
Zion, is not without its myths and legends. The major one is that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid built a cabin hide-out in Zion Canyon but there is no evidence of this. Though Cassidy grew up in nearby Circleville, Utah, virtually all of his train and bank robberies occurred out of state, where quick hide-outs were necessary.
Plant and animal life
The park’s ecosystems support about 800 native plant species, including more flowers than anywhere else in Utah. With an elevation change of about 1,500 metres, a myriad of habitats and species thrive here. Plants vary, as fir, ponderosa pine, and aspen prefer the snowy high-country winters, while other plants flourish in the desert heat.
Likewise, animal life is diverse. Tiny pinon mice, golden eagles, California condors, Mexican spotted owls, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain lions are all found in the park but I saw only a few of these. You will have more luck if you hike to some of the more remote areas.
Accommodation and eating
Historic Zion Lodge is the only in-park lodging at Zion National Park and it fills up fast. Accommodation is in historic cabins with two double beds, full bath, gas log fireplace and private porch, and in hotel rooms. All rooms have air conditioning, phones, radio alarm clocks and hairdryers.
There are also three campgrounds where reservations are recommended. There are dozens of hotels near Zion National Park, ranging from family-friendly hotels with pools to exquisite bed and breakfasts in Springdale.
Non-guests can eat at the year-round Red Rock Grill at Zion Lodge and enjoy spectacular views of the surroundings, while outdoor dining is available at the seasonal Castle Dome Cafe. Before or after touring the park, Springdale is the fuelling point for quick bites and leisurely meals.
Zion National Park is located 75 kilometres northeast of St. George, 500 kilometres south of Salt Lake City and 250 kilometres northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. Most visitors will arrive by car, either their own or a rental but there are bus tours available from Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Images by Phensri Rutledge
Len Rutledge is the author of the Experience Guides series to Thailand, Norway, Ireland, Northern Italy, Myanmar, Singapore, India, Istanbul and Melbourne. Books are available as e‑books or paperbacks from https://amazon.com by typing in Len Rutledge in the search box on that site.
Monument Valley is A ‘Must-see’ for Movie Fans
Posted on Jun 10 2021
Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge
Anyone who is a cowboy movie fan has seen pictures of Monument Valley. It was originally shown to the world by Director John Ford who used the location for a number of his best-known films. Now it is a popular feature of Instagram. So, is it worthwhile to visit? My answer is definitely yes but international visitors will have to wait for the country to open up fully after the Covid19 shutdown.
It is located on the Arizona-Utah border in the USA and lies within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation. Because of this, it is not officially a National Park but the area that is most visited by tourists is known as Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The main features are clusters of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 300 m above the valley floor.
Monument Valley isn’t close to anything. The nearest airport is in Flagstaff some 300 km away but most international visitors end up renting a car from Las Vegas (640 km away) or Phoenix (500 km away) and driving to the Valley. Access to the Tribal Park is from US163 and you need to pay an entrance fee.
This takes you to the Visitor Centre and the View Hotel and also allows you to drive Valley Drive. Organised tours, which you pay extra for, provide access to other parts of the park.
You can access this unpaved road in your own vehicle or take a tour with a Navajo guide. The drive is 27 kilometres long and typical times for the full trip are 2 to 4 hours. The road can become very busy during summer days, with queues at the major overlooks. I recommend early morning at this time of the year as the light is better for photography and there are far fewer people than later in the day. In summer, the park opens at 6 am and at 8 am for the rest of the year.
There is much to see along the Valley Drive. This part of Monument Valley is one of the most impressive large-scale landscapes anywhere in the Southwest of the USA. The best to photograph are the tall spires and thin buttes, and the contrasting smooth orange sand all around.
The initial descent from the Visitor Centre traverses a steep, rocky hillside via a series of switchbacks, then the road levels out and passes by three of the most famous Monument Valley formations; West Mitten Butte, Merrick Butte and East Mitten Butte. Further on, the Three Sisters are a group of thin pinnacles, eroded remnants of a narrow ridge extending southwards from one corner of Mitchell Mesa.
John Ford’s Point is a promontory at the edge of a plateau overlooking a large area of uneven, undulating desert land with several isolated peaks beyond. This is probably the best overlook in the park and has a large parking area because of its popularity.
A permanent Navajo jewelry store is located nearby, and you might be lucky to see an iconic image of a lone rider on a horse standing at the edge of the viewpoint as there are horses stationed here most of the day just for this purpose. This is the site where the famous Marlboro cigarette advertisement was shot.
The road continues from here as a one-way loop past Camel Butte, The Hub, Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, Sand Spring, Artist’s Point, North Window, and The Thumb before returning to the crossroads near John Ford’s Point.
Lower Monument Valley tour
This is a popular excursion, recommended for people interested in a thorough visual, historical and cultural insight. As well as the regular scenic wonders, you visit a traditional home where you see a demonstration of traditional Navajo rug weaving.
You also get to experience a traditional music performance with either the traditional drum, customary chant or flute playing in one of the valley’s largest natural arch amphitheatres. Most participants return with a new enlightenment and unforgettable memories.
Mystery Valley tour
If you’re looking for something extra in Monument Valley, you might want to explore Mystery Valley, home to labyrinth canyons, sandstone arches, and ancient ruins. This is only accessible with a Navajo guide who will share an insider perspective of this iconic area and teach you about Navajo culture and tradition.
You visit the ancient Anasazi dwellings and ruins with petroglyphs that look like they could have been scratched into the sandstone yesterday. Another feature is walking under many breathtaking arches.
Eating and staying
Inside the park, The View Hotel has rooms with scenic panoramas and they also have cabins. There are also RV sites or wilderness campsites.
The hotel’s View Restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu of Navajo inspired dishes and classic American cuisine. The adjacent View Express offers deli sandwiches, hot and cold food to take away, and cold drinks and ice cream.
Guided tours to Monument Valley are available from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and some other closer centres.
Len Rutledge has been travel writing for 40 years. During that time he has written thousands of newspaper articles, numerous magazine pieces, more than a thousand web reviews and around 35 travel guide books.
He has worked with Pelican Publishing, Viking Penguin, Berlitz, the Rough Guide, and the Nile Guide amongst others.