The tour bus promised a day of fun. The tour itinerary confirmed that the fun would be water-related: swimming, sliding, diving, splashing. Essentially, a perfect day in a country-club - but for the fact that the “country-club” in question is scattered all over Atherton Tablelands, "a highland region of northern Australia, near Cairns".
It looked like a curtain touched by a breeze because the foamy mass of falling water appeared to be moving but ever so slightly. It was not even particularly wide, and there was more than enough space to swim past and behind it, to a recess a mere meter or two away from the waterfall. Once in the recess, one could not help perceiving the waterfall in a very different way. The buzzing curtain was gone, replaced by a growling white wall boiling with spray. It was for this wall that we came to Milla Milla – to challenge it by swimming straight through it.
Intuitively, I expected my fellow fun-hunters to follow the famous “When in danger or in doubt, run (swim) in circles scream and shout!” advice. They did not. Instead, very quiet and focused, they would edge towards the wall and dive straight into it, headlong. I followed suit – and next thing I knew I was thrashing wildly, the silver strands of falling water feelings like hammers pounding on my lungs and cutting them off any supply of air whatsoever. It lasted for an eternity and some, and then I was through and craning my head so as to face the wall that had in the meantime turned into a curtain once again. I repeated the attempt once more for good measure and scrambled out of the lake and to the relative warmth of the paved path leading to our parking lot…
While Milla Milla made us work for our fun, the silvery three-stage Josephine just offered everybody a free ride. All we had to do was to sit next to the lowest section of this cascading waterfall and shift the body just a tiny bit - so as to slip into the stream and turn into a human projectile carried at a dizzying speed all the way down and then hurled into a natural basin. For an hour or so there was many a splash and a scream with delight, as absolutely dripping and completely happy tourists would stubbornly keep climbing out of the basin and back to the waterfall entry point – until utterly exhausted. Only then did many adventurers sprawl lazily on mossy boulders, some of them casting wistful glances at Josephine’s top section where no sane tour operator would ever bring any tourists.
Those daring souls had already had – and happily taken – a chance to boost their adrenaline while proving their mettle at the Babinda Boulders renowned for their diving opportunities. The rest of us were splashing merrily in the lake, both deliciously cool on such a hot morning and so clean that we could easily see its bottom several meters away. Occasionally we would steal a look at an adventurer, swishing through the air before disappearing under water, and sigh half-nervously, half-admiringly. I was among those swimmers who must have secretly wished they could join the divers – if only the diving area were a little bit closer to the surface of the lake. The last stop of the tour, a 60+ meter deep volcanic crater filled with water and known as Lake Eacham, granted that wish. Its diving platform was meant as a mere observation point where enlightened visitors could rest their eyes on the placid waters and meditate…on whatever they choose to meditate. Yet the platform’s proximity to the surface made it irresistibly tempting, and I could not help performing a number of somersaults into the lake to put an exclamation mark on a perfect day of entertainment.
Arguably, none of the tour stops - not even the Curtain/Wall - can be considered a wonder in its own right, but the “country-club” tour as a whole can!