“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind
With a rare Saturday morning free, I decided to stretch my legs at Daisy Hill Regional Park and Venman Bushland National Park, 25 km south-east of Brisbane, an area originally inhabited by Indigenous groups speaking the Yugambeh and the Jaggera languages.
I’ve had a few different hiking partners and on this walk the unlucky victim was Lycra Man. He is more of a cyclist than a walker and I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed him choose to do anything slowly apart from drinking giant mugs of coffee, strong enough to give a herd of elephants insomnia. Considering his need for speed and my preference for a relaxed tortoise pace, I probably should have anticipated the tensions that bushwalking with me could induce. However, I think my desperation for outdoor therapy after two weeks of inactivity impacted my judgement on this occasion. After an unnerving encounter while walking solo recently, family and friends now prefer me to drag them along. Lycra Man innocently volunteered. Why on earth I thought Lycra Man would enjoy this particular destination I have no idea really. I suppose I had such fond memories of walking it with my daughter and brother in the wetter months that I wasn’t thinking rationally. This is how it looked back then. It was green…
How do you torture an avid cyclist? Take him hiking on a popular mountain bike trail on a hot Saturday morning so he’s forced to stare mournfully at mobs of adrenaline-charged cyclists flying past while he’s left sweating and plodding along next to a camera-loving snail.
And just like Lycra clothing tends to reveal all, Lycra Man didn’t hide his emotions about this little wander. I asked him if he’d do this walk again (my standard question of all walking companions). Eyebrows raised, he replied, “Why would you!”
I answered, “Well, this was my third time.”
He countered with, “I think it’s probably like childbirth. You forget the pain after a while.” I’ve had three children so I guess he may have a point.
But surely he enjoyed the lovely cool shady creek where we stopped for a snack? “You mean the stagnant pond with the hordes of disease-carrying mosquitoes?”
I hoped that once he got back home out of the blazing sun, enjoyed a cold drink, and tinkered with his two-wheeled lover, that the memories faded. I’ve spoken to him since to ask if I could quote him and he said if it prevented others from suffering a similar fate, he’d be glad to make that sacrifice…
After that introduction, I’ve probably made this track sound far more arduous than it really is. In fact, apart from feeling very guilty about Lycra Man’s discomfort, I quite enjoyed it and the paths are relatively easy. However, this blog is supposed to be about “survival tales” so I thought I’d better set a more dramatic tone than my last trip report about Girraween, which read more like a travel brochure. This walk did require survival skills if you count as risks some monotonous scenery, mobs of sweaty mountain bikers flying around corners, some confusing track signage, a slightly homicidal companion and me being too silly to take enough water.
As I do every time I drive to Daisy Hill, I took the wrong exit off the motorway. At least I am consistent! Arriving at the upper carpark much later than planned, we were greeted by colourful crowds of mountain bikers arriving and leaving. It seems I had picked the busiest day of the century. Good start! Ah well, at least they were very friendly and I must admit, if I hadn’t damaged my neck years ago from ignoring advice (we think we are invincible in our youth), I’d be joining in the fun too. Cycling is another love of mine but I am limited now to less bone-shattering rides.
And so the walk began. There are many tracks you can choose from at Daisy Hill and the Venman Bushland National Park. The Daisy Hill Koala Centre is an added attraction. I’ve never actually seen a live koala in the wild before but Greg from HikingFiasco has had an overly intimate encounter with one that is quite amusing. Have a read here. Greg is as tall as a tree so he’s got an advantage over me when it comes to koala spotting opportunities. Here are a couple of maps so you can see for yourself the number of tracks that can be taken. Both sections have recently been upgraded with new signage and new bike tracks. Some are just for walking, some only for mountain bike riders and others are shared paths. We started our walk on the Stringybark Trail (a shared path), did a circuit around the water-filled quarry and then followed the Venman Circuit (walkers only) with quite a few little unplanned detours. We ended up walking almost 16 km which on a hot day with a few hills gave us reasonable exercise. Our walk went something like this. And just to make sure we didn’t miss anything, we repeated a few loops…
The first 2 kilometres which we shared with mountain bikers mainly consisted of scenery like this:
I reassured Lycra Man that the view would rapidly get better and tried to engage him in an appreciation of the small treasures to be noticed. He was not particularly impressed by my attempts to point out the unusual beauty of burnt out bushland. I suppose in my mind I was anticipating the bright flush of green that follows rain. I’m always amazed at how quickly burnt Australian bushland can regenerate. This had been a controlled burn by authorities to reduce a build-up of undergrowth, reducing major bushfire risk to neighbouring suburbs in the warmer months.
This massive upended tree root system was hard to miss but once again I think Lycra Man was more attracted to the distant cries of joy emanating from some cyclists ahead of us actually having fun. His comment, “Oh yes, there’s only one thing more exciting than burnt trees and that’s fallen burnt trees.”
I got quite excited by this section of red country as it reminded me of some outback places I have lived.
The warning sign for the quarry sparked Lycra Man’s interest. Anything really dangerous does. The water-filled old quarry is actually a haven for birds and other wildlife, especially in the dry months.
And here is Lycra Man enjoying the view from the top of the quarry.
We ventured down to the lower area where I tried in vain to take some close-ups of waterlilies. They always seem tantalizingly out of reach. I tried some of my snail gymnastics to reach them and only succeeded in dropping my sunglasses into the murky depths. This is the best of the worst pics I could manage…
A new mob of mountain bikers arrived and the birdlife departed so we ventured back up to the the exposed road again to continue our walk. Lack of rain meant the terrain on the Venman Circuit was much drier than I had seen it before and at first glance it appeared devoid of interesting features. The camera has a way of training you to see things you’d normally miss if you were sprinting along though. Dayna (Dayna’s Blog) wrote in a recent post, “I find that when I have a camera in my hand I look at the world slightly differently, like I’m looking through an imaginary lens.” When you don’t have an inspiring mountain view, a magnificent waterfall or impressive rock formation to photograph, you search out small oddities, interesting textures and shapes. My love of the camera can be a little frustrating for a hiking partner who isn’t as enthused by photography though. I really liked how these bright red tree trunks stood out from the surrounding scrub but realised I had probably overdone my enthusiasm for them when Lycra Man started running up to individual trees and saying, “Look, another red tree! You’d better take a picture of it!”
And there is nothing like strange fungi to get your heart racing… I wanted to draw faces on these ones.
The day was warming up and I encouraged Lycra Man to go ahead of me. Here he is at the top of one of the many hills on the Venman Circuit. You go up and down and up and down and up and down on a few stretches…
I even started to lose some of my positivity after a while until we started sighting Tingalpa Creek bordered by ferns through the trees. We stopped at a cool spot by the water for a snack. I had planned a leisurely rest in the shade but mosquitoes the size of birds clouded our vision and we sprinted off again. Apart from the blood suckers it was a lovely spot. Here’s what we saw on the day. The particles floating on the top are fragments from paperbark trees.
This is what the area looked like when I visited with my brother and daughter after rain.
Along the walk we spotted this memorial to Jack Venman who donated this land for all to enjoy.
The variety of tree surfaces on this walk provided some more photo opportunities with red and grey ironbark, spotted and grey eucalypts, paperbark, tallow-wood, brush box, mahogany and stringybark trees being sighted.
We stopped at the Ford carpark, where we should have parked originally if I’d planned this walk properly. How much better to begin and end the walk with shaded paths than hot exposed wide mountain bike tracks. Here we saw a wallaby with a pouch full of baby and this magpie which looked accusingly at me when I didn’t feed it. It’s breeding season for magpies at the moment and if you are an overseas reader, you may not know that for cyclists and walkers in suburban areas this can be a difficult time. The birds are only defending their territory and some of this excessive behaviour is due to negative interactions with humans in the past. We never had problems with magpies swooping on us in bushland and on farms. To understand more you may like to read The Goat that Wrote’s story
Along the way we came to numerous signs and forks in the road. This one was a little confusing. If you look closely you’ll see that someone has painted the words “Wrong way turn around.”
What do you do? The ensuing decision took us on loopy detours and resulted in a few “discussions.” By the way, on the subject of making wrong turns, I must put a plug in for Neil at Bushwalking Blog . You can hire a PLB emergency beacon from Neil if you are planning a wilderness adventure in Australia. They are tiny, only weigh 115g and can be sent out to you in the post. It’s a great idea especially considering that mobile phone coverage is often not available in remote areas. Being as directionally challenged as I am, I’ll probably be hiring one on an extended remote adventure.
By the time we’d finished the Venman Circuit we were hot and parched. On a warm day, 3-4 litres would have been good but we’d only taken 2 litres each. The conversation was non-existent for the last 2.2 km back along the Stringybark Trail and my camera didn’t leave its bag. Sighting what I thought to be the last hill I tried to inject some humour into the uncomfortable silence. “Hey, I’ll race you to the top.” This did bring a smile to Lycra Man’s face and he said, “Go ahead.” I think he doubted my ability. I was up for the challenge though and sprinted an impressive 10 metres before collapsing on the ground. The embarrassment was worth it though to end the walk with some humour. Well I thought the walk was over but I was wrong about it being the last hill…
Despite my ramblings and Lycra Man’s discomfort (I’m sure he actually enjoyed it really, especially after he received the gift subscription to a flash cycling magazine) it’s a great place for some nature therapy. I’d definitely recommend you go there in the wetter months though when the creeks are running across the paths and the bushland has a green tinge to it. Take plenty of water as it’s a deceptively warm walk no matter what the season. With a few hills and sun-exposed paths, it does dry you out. This particular trip took me back to my childhood when I spent a few years in the Burnett region of Queensland. The scrub always seemed dry there but as happens when you are a kid exploring, you usually manage to find something of interest. Check out these websites for Daisy Hill Regional Park and the Venman Bushland National Park for more information. The day use area near the Koala Centre is a great place to take families for a picnic. And of course, you already know by now that it is excellent for mountain biking!
I’ll leave you with the words of Jack Venman who donated his land to the community:
“ People come here to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere—the tranquil bush.’