“Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.” – Robert A. Heinlein
Why didn’t I ask Carol? Although she may seem like a quiet, conservative, middle-aged grocery store check-out operator, don’t be fooled. Carol is a hard-core weekend adventurer. Whenever she serves me we always manage to squeeze in a conversation about our latest hikes. When I told her about my Goolman Lookout walk, she chastised me. “You did that in summer! It’s much too hot. There’s not much to see anyway. It’s all dry scrub.” As I said before, why didn’t I ask Carol first? She always seems to know the most up-to date information about walks. I’d been waiting for Mt Cordeaux to open for months and was checking the website regularly, but it was Carol who first informed me it had reopened. She needs to set up her own hiking guru website or maybe “Carol’s Hiking Hotline”?
When the highlight of a walk revolves around the car park you know it’s probably going to be difficult to sell as a thrilling hiking destination. Unfortunately this hike was immediately preceded by one that involved glorious views and lush green rainforest so it really faced very strong competition. If you add a stinking hot day to the mix, then the Goolman Lookout via Rocky Knoll circuit trip was handicapped from the start. As I peruse my album many months later though, it actually doesn’t look quite so bad now. The passage of time and a selective memory can be a wonderful combination! Maybe I can even persuade myself to make a return visit.
This walk is one of several that begin at the Hardings Paddock Picnic Area in the Goolman-Flinders Conservation Estate near Purga on the Boonah-Ipswich Road in Queensland. It’s a multi-use area, being shared by horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers. This brochure gives you all the information you need to know about getting there, the facilities and the track details.
My initial plan was to use this class 4, 7.5km circuit as a test trip to help me decide whether to attempt the more arduous class 5, Flinders Peak Hiking Track that requires a full day and rock scrambling skills.
It was already 28 C by the time I started and I managed to polish off most of my water by the half-way mark. Most of the track looked like this. It’s mainly a wide multi-use open path through dry eucalypt bushland that passes through Rocky Knoll Lookout before finally ascending to the Goolman Lookout. The track then returns to the car park via another very similar looking route.
There were obvious signs of it being used as a horse trail with hoof prints and this old shoe. I was going to take it home as a souvenir but decided to leave it there for other hikers. There were few features of interest along the way so I thought finding a lucky horseshoe might lift another dehydrated, melting hiker’s spirits! Notice the perspiration spots on the ground. I may have contributed to the salinity levels significantly after this jaunt.
I’m a fungi fan but this is the only specimen I saw along the dry track. I was reading Cameron and Maree’s Hiking in S.E. Queensland blog about this walk and noticed the same pic so I’m wondering if it’s the most photographed bit of fungi in the area!
Information guides promised spectacular views along the way but most of these appeared to be obscured by forest growth. You’d think the trees would be more considerate of my needs!
By the time I got close to the lookout, I’d really lost all hope of being able to see much of a view from the top. I’m happy to say I was wrong. It’s a shame I’d seen a beautiful view on another location just days before though. It seems compulsory for the human brain to make comparisons when we process the world. If I could have unseen the views of the previous walk, I may have been more impressed by Goolman’s offering! It’s a bit like eating fresh foods after having only eaten them preserved in tins. It’s hard to go back. You can’t un-eat the tastier version. In the same way I couldn’t un-see the more beautiful views of my recent walk. Looking at the following pics, the views from the Goolman Lookout are quite pretty though.
You may have noticed pics of me sitting on top of rocks in some of my posts. Being so short my neck gets sore from looking up most of the time so when I have the opportunity I like to balance this out with sitting in higher places Hey, it’s a short person thing. It also lessens the chance of picking up ticks while I rest.
Fortunately, the return part of the circuit was mainly downhill. I must admit by this stage I was fantasizing about my thermos and choc biscuits I’d left in the car. I’m a cup of tea and biscuit addict so it’s possible there could have been a rare two headed, winged wallaby with scales along that last stretch and I wouldn’t have even noticed. In the end the 7.4 km uphill walk took me roughly two hours, however the recommended time is 2.5 – 3 hours. Not having much to photograph along the way kept my speed up for a change, as well as the knowledge that my thermos was waiting.
Having downed 3 cups of tea and stuffed my face with chocolate biscuits, I felt much more positive and decided to take a look at the short Chalk Circuit and Harding’s Paddock Camping Ground. That’s when I spied the highlight of my trip…dozens of monarch butterflies feeding on Scotch thistles.
Scotch thistles are an exotic weed here but one of my earliest fond memories is of walking hand in hand with my mother through a purple field of flowering thistles. They seemed as tall as me back then and I remember a brilliant clear blue sky beyond.
They also remind me of Scotland, a place I feel drawn to, perhaps due to some ancestral history. My ancestry is quite mixed. I found out recently that I have strong Spanish links. This prompted a friend to comment, “That explains it then!” When questioned about this response, the person just smiled and refused to elaborate. They must be referring to my Rafael Nadal moves on the tennis court…
I took a short wander around Chalk Circuit where Indigenous bush tucker has been planted. One of the most interesting specimens was the sandpaper fig. Here’s a picture I took from another walk. The leaves are incredibly rough and were used by Indigenous people to polish wood. The inner bark was used to make string and the stems to make fire sticks. They were also successfully used to treat ringworm. The skin would be abraded and then the milky sap applied. Apparently the fruit is extremely high in vitamin C and other nutrients and tastes quite good when eaten at the point at which the fruit exudes a clear substance. Actually, the “fruit” are really syconiums – fleshy receptacles containing flowers that need to be pollinated by a specific wasp.
Just a few kilometres before Harding’s Paddock lies a cemetery devoted to Indigenous graves and memorials. I did not feel right entering the graveyard but I have since found out the world renowned Indigenous singer and activist Harold Blair, is buried there. Harold was born in Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve but grew up in Purga area. In fact, the federal electorate of Blair is actually named in his honour. I was ignorant of who Harold Blair was until researching for this blog.
After leaving the area I did the tourist thing and continued on along the Boonah-Ipswich Road. I stopped by a little creek for some welcome relief from the heat.
There I noticed this weevil on ragweed, a serious weed in our country. I’ve heard there is a species of weevil that has been introduced to help control this plant, but after searching online I haven’t been able to find if this is the same one.
I also came across a rather cantankerous donkey. I’d recently been to the Destiny Boonah Eco Donkey Farm out near Boonah and been told how sociable these animals are. They are also excellent at keeping predators such as dingoes away from livestock. We were told that it is cruel to leave donkeys on their own in a paddock as they become too lonely and stressed.
This donkey was not particularly sociable though and snorted at me before running off. Perhaps if I looked a little more like a donkey instead of just acting like one, he may have been more interested.
This huge wasp nest lying along the same road caught my eye. The entire nest was about a metre long. I was sure it must have been used by an exotic species but it belongs to the native yellow paper wasp Ropalidia romandi. This species is actually quite unusual because the nests can have multiple queens and the colony will swarm like bees. Apparently the stings are extremely painful and the wasp is highly aggressive so I was fortunate that the nest was empty of life when I came across it.
I also saw a few interesting mail boxes in that part of the world.
There are some lovely rural views to enjoy along the Ipswich – Boonah Road as well.
After writing this I’m feeling much more positive about this walk now although not quite enough to want to revisit it. I’m sure that in cooler months this would be quite a nice hike to stretch the legs. The picnic and camping area is well set up with coin barbecues, toilets and showers and there is a small dam where waterbirds feed. I think an early morning walk on a cool autumn day after summer rains have greened up the area would be the best choice to leave you with fond impressions of this location. It’s not a walk I would drive a long distance for though, unless there’s a beautiful fog like this one I saw there recently.
I’d planned a weekend of hiking as I wrote this, however maximum temps above 40C are expected so I may lounge about at home instead and type out a little story about a lifelong dream that came true…