Chillagoe Art Trek a Success!

In October this year (2017) we ran our first “Art Trek” to the town of Chillagoe.  As the brainchild of local artist Heather Byrne, this tour involved a train journey from Cairns to Almaden and then three nights in Chillagoe.  The time was spent in some of the fantastic locations around the area painting, drawing and photographing what is a truly inspiring landscape.

Heather was kind enough to write about some of the happenings on the trek – so please take a moment to read what our luck 14 artisits had to enjoy some of her reflections on the 2017 Chillagoe Art Trek…


The inaugural art trek on the Savannahlander took off bright and early from Cairns Railway station 25 October with our drivers Wil and Anthony. The magic coffee that greeted us at Edge Hill was a perfect way to start our art trek.

We had fourteen attendees all looking forward to painting and photographing the great outdoors around Chillagoe and of course all the scenic spots along the way.
We collected two of our art trekkers at Mareeba and we were truly ready for our adventure.

The train clickity-clacked its way across a changing terrain on its way to Almaden where we had lunch and were transported to Chillagoe, about 30 minutes away.
After settling in we were off to explore one of the caves with our guide Greg. Then a quick tour of the town and a ‘get to know each other’ conversation at our accommodation Chillagoe Eco Lodge.

Thursday morning saw us all ready to go to the Mungana cave system where we painted in cool comfort as the caves are several degrees cooler than outside even though they are at ground level. The more adventurous of us ventured out and about around the caves and escarpments and others took advantage of natures’ air conditioning and stayed within the caves. The colours of the bush sparkled colours of green and gold to umber and burnt sienna! Every artists dream.

Back to Eco lodge for lunch and a bit of a rest in the heat of the day and then to the hill overlooking the old copper smelter. Three chimneys still stand proud and tall, the bricks and the skilled labour coming from Scotland to complete the smelter in just four short years.

After a yummy dinner we had ‘show and tell’ and displayed our paintings and sketches and discussed the day.

Its already Friday but many of us couldn’t remember what day it was as the quietness of the bush and the tranquillity enveloped us. Silence only broken by bird calls and the wind.

We made our way down to the local creek where water sparkled over the weir, paper barks made wonderful reflections, there were plenty of shady spots and rocks so we made ourselves comfy and painted the morning away. Flying foxes put on a daylight display by moving camp to somewhere up river, we were close enough but far enough away to observe this display with some awe.

Back to Eco Lodge for lunch and a rest, some of us had explored the town and discovered a coffee shop and the information centre which deserved a return visit.
The afternoon took us to Balancing Rock in the national park, a bit of a climb was rewarded with spectacular rock formations and as the name suggests rocks seemingly balanced on nothing. We painted into the dusk, watching the changing colours and the golden glow of late afternoon.

Back to Eco lodge, our home away from home where host Ian had specially prepared damper and slow cook casserole over a camp fire, a mellow evening accompanied by a mellow glass of red and easy conversation. The Footy match interrupted things a bit with devotees watching the game while others watched the dying embers of the fire and enjoyed a relaxing night with stars peeking through the clouds.

Saturday morning was ‘show and tell’ of yesterdays’ adventures and a relaxed walk for a morning coffee and a visit to the information centre. The time line of Chillagoe and surrounding country is as old as earth itself and this is clearly explained on the walls of the information centre. There is much to see and do at Chillagoe, our time was too brief but I’m sure many of us will return to experience this unique place.

All too soon it was time to board the bus back to Almaden to meet the train and enjoy lunch at the pub then onto the train to track back to Cairns.
We have so many memories and new friends, loads of photos and our art journals and sketches to remind us of this special time at Chillagoe and the art trek.

Heather Byrne