We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one. – Kent Nurburn
I pity the poor people who have to pay a small fortune to attend saunas. Here in sub-tropical Brisbane we get to live in one free for a few months of the year! A few days ago, I spent the morning freestyling in my own perspiration in order to complete an album of pictures for this blog post. I’ve been to the Slaughter Falls area in Mt Coot-tha Forest a few times but I’ve never actually seen the falls flowing fast. After recent heavy rain, I was anticipating some breathtaking cascades. Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide…
I intended this to be a simple post about a short walk, but it seems to be my natural state to complicate matters so once again I’m going to foist my traditional ramble upon you. That’s what happens when I research an area I’ve hiked. Suddenly I view the whole place differently.
The Slaughter Falls area is part of Mt Coot-tha Forest which is only about 6km from the central business district of Brisbane city and is comprised of 1300 hectares of open eucalypt forest, creeks and waterfalls. There are numerous picnic sites and trails which are described and mapped here. The Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens are huge and feature flora from different regions of the globe as well as interesting sculptures. It’s also the location of a planetarium, of interest to sky gazers.
During important astronomical events, the summit is a popular viewing spot. Here my daughter is using an impressive telescope to view the Transit of Venus. A café meal on the summit has been a birthday treat for me on one occasion.
Before it was re-named Mt Coot-tha, local settlers referred to the area as “One Tree Hill” because by that stage Europeans had chopped down every single tree apart from one tall eucalypt left at the very top. It’s hard to believe the place was tree-less when you see the thick forest and botanical gardens there now.
Before European settlement in 1825, the area was inhabited by the traditional Turrbal owners. Mt Coot-tha was a popular hunting and food gathering area. In fact, “Coot-tha” is derived from the word “Kuta” which was their name for “a place of wild honey.” Mt Coot-tha was home to a large population of native stingless bees and the honey was collected by Indigenous owners and European settlers in the area. Much of the basic road infrastructure of Brisbane was based on established Indigenous Turrbal tracks. Waterworks Road and Old Northern Road are good examples. If you are interested in learning more about Turrbal history of the area read here.
The timber from Mt Coot-tha was used for many buildings and structures in Brisbane that still stand today. Mt Coot-tha was also used at one point for gold mining and as an army training reserve. Most times I research the history of an area, I’m surprised by how much the land was changed in the name of progress or civilisation in just a short space of time. The tree removal, the mining, the land degradation, and the war-time activities all combined to radically change the landscape. For a history of the European use of Mt Coot-tha, Janet Spillman has written this account. Fortunately, Mt Coot-tha is no longer a “One Tree Hill”.
My first trip to the summit of Mt Coot-tha was very memorable for me and changed my attitude towards the city at the time. As an introverted eighteen year old who had left a quiet seaside town to start studying at the University of Queensland, I felt overwhelmed by city living. There were no longer solitary walks on the beach to calm my mind and I missed the people who knew and understood me. I was now sharing noisy corridors with hundreds of other students. It was quite a shock to the system. However, one evening a new friend drove me up to the top of Mt Coot-tha to see the city lights. Viewed at night from a mountain top, the city took on a completely different appearance. Instead of an ugly grey concrete jungle, darkness transformed the city into a beautiful glittering living thing. I felt a new fondness towards Brisbane after that night. It was less alien to me because I had glimpsed another side to it.
“Distance lends enchantment to the view.” – Mark Twain
I’ve since been to the summit a few times at night and also at dawn to watch the sun rise over the city. Unfortunately, the summit is now very popular with tourist buses and other visitors so it’s very hard to get a carpark. However, if you don’t mind a little exercise, you can park your car at the Slaughter Falls Picnic Area and walk up the summit track. This is what I’ve done with family members on a few occasions. Alternatively, you can take a bus from the city or if you have super calves and quads give cycling it a go.
Like many people I wondered about the dramatic name of Slaughter Falls. Was there a murder or other dire crimes committed in this area? Well, the falls were actually named after a town clerk, J.C. Slaughter, and over time the initials have been dropped by locals. However, it does have a bit of a dark past with murders, suicides, rapes and strange happenings occurring. Slaughter Falls is also regarded by some as being haunted, with stories of a raped and murdered girl’s ghost circulating online. There are also tales of satanic rituals. And of course let’s not forget the removal, ill treatment and murder of Indigenous inhabitants, part of the history of this country which is sadly not often recognised or is swept under the carpet. The name “slaughter” could be used in the naming of many places in our country where massacres have occurred.
The walk from the car park to Slaughter Falls is only about 1 km. The paths follow creek lines which are dry for much of the year but run in the wetter months. The picnic grounds are well set up with barbecue areas, toilets and covered tables and seating. Every time I’ve been there I’ve continued on to do the 2 km summit track. When you combine the falls, summit walk and the return journey it turns out to be about 6km which is a reasonable uphill wander on a hot humid day. Many people run the track for training purposes. On the humid 35 C day I was last there I saw many intrepid, sweaty, red faced individuals.
(UPDATE APRIL, 2019: THE FOLLOWING SIGN CONTAINS REFERENCE TO THE ABORIGINAL ART TRAIL WHICH IS BEING DECOMMISSIONED. I EXPLAIN THIS LATER IN THE BLOG POST. I AM RETAINING THE IMAGE FOR HISTORICAL VALUE.)
Close to the beginning of the walk is a bush chapel. Rumour has it that it is sometimes used for “dark” purposes, however on this day, the red substance on the altar was only candle wax.
The well equipped, heavily shaded, Slaughter Falls picnic area is very popular for large gatherings.
Kids are often there, doing what kids like to do in creeks. I enjoyed looking at the foam patterns in the water, some interesting tree roots and the friendly ducks. The next hot day I may ditch the camera and join the kids in the water for some fun though.
I came across this brush turkey that was violently pecking away at a large round nut/seedpod. It looked a little like a macadamia nut covered in white mould but I couldn’t see evidence of a tree. There were about 100 of these round nut cases scattered on the ground but I couldn’t tell which tree they had fallen from. Perhaps one of my Australian readers will know? The nut inside is white. The turkey was very obsessed with breaking it open and eating it so I am guessing it was the bird version of chocolate or he was ravenous. He moved far too quickly and the light was too poor for decent shots but I’ll include the pics anyway to show you his intent expression.
Moving along, my daughter and I came to a weir type set up with a concrete walkway. Instead of a quiet place to reflect, the tranquility was being disturbed by a man and his young sons who were throwing large rocks, bread and a yabby trap into the water. This is how I got to view these hungry little fish. Maybe someone can tell me what species they are.
There were a few bushes flowering along the way. I thought this was a native but apparently it’s the environmental weed, Ochna serrulata. The bright red, flower-covered bush is quite startling and originally comes from South Africa and Lesotha.
However these ones are all native (I hope!)
As we got closer to the falls, I was anticipating a visual delight…and melting very quickly in the blazing sun! The heat was already creating attractive streams down my body and after a small sweaty waterfall made it down onto the camera hanging below my chin, I decided to pack it away for a while (after I took a few more pics of course.)
** APRIL 2019 UPDATE – THE FOLLOWING PICTURES RELATING TO THE ABORIGINAL ART TRAIL INSTALLATION WILL SOON BE PART OF HISTORY AS I WAS INFORMED RECENTLY THAT DUE TO WEATHERING AND DETERIORATION, IT IS IN THE PROCESS OF BEING DECOMMISSIONED. I WAS ASKED TO REMOVE REFERENCE TO THE ART TRAIL SO PEOPLE WOULDN’T BE DISAPPOINTED IF THEY WENT THERE AND FOUND IT IN POOR CONDITION. HOWEVER, IN THE INTERESTS OF PRESERVING THE HISTORY OF AN AREA, I DECIDED INSTEAD TO UPDATE YOU ON ITS DECOMMISSION. THIS WAY, PEOPLE WON’T GO THERE EXPECTING IT TO STILL EXIST, BUT THE FACT THAT IT WAS ONCE THERE WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN IN HISTORY. I ASKED WHY IT WAS BEING REMOVED AND IF COUNCIL WILL BE FUNDING SOMETHING PERMANENT TO RECOGNISE THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS OF THE MT COOT-THA REGION. THIS WAS THE COUNCIL’S RESPONSE:
“The Aboriginal Art Trail was created in 1993, as part of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. It was created in partnership with indigenous artists and was intended as a temporary installation. More than 25 years later and the installations are still there, but very weathered and in very poor condition. We have consulted with the original artists and they have advised to decommission the art trail. We don’t want visitors who read about the Art Trail on various websites to be disappointed if they make a special trip to Mt Coot-tha and find that the installations are not in good condition. Council will be continuing to explore opportunities for art and culture at Mt Coot-tha, particularly in a way that reflects the importance of indigenous history and culture.” Brisbane City Council 17/4/19
It was in this area on another visit that I saw a thrill seeker boulder-hopping with his bike. Something for me to try one day? It looked difficult and painful and I’m not in a hurry to give it a go anytime soon unless someone wants to pay for my emergency surgery and rehabilitation.
There are plenty of towering eucalypts along the way to give you a tree fix. I call one of these a cellulite tree because of the texture of the trunk. It’s funny how we can find wrinkled, patterned, peeling, and bumpy trunks interesting and sometimes beautiful but people’s faces usually have to be smooth for compliments. A grand old tree is majestic but a grand old woman who has survived many struggles in life is often regarded as just…old.
Ok, I know you’ve been dying to see Slaughter Falls. It’s time to finally reveal their magnificence. Aren’t they spectacular?!
Oops , sorry about that! How could I get Niagara Falls mixed up with this album? It’s a mystery… 🙂
THIS is actually Slaughter Falls. Try not to get overwhelmed by the majesty of its trickle! One relative told me he could urinate stronger than this. Hmm…
A hiking partner once suggested to me that some of the crimes committed here may have been due to anger, disappointment and the heat because a walking partner had dragged the perpetrator away from their afternoon nap in the middle of summer just to view this dribble. It’s a theory I suppose. I must admit I wondered if he was hinting at something when he told me this, as it was a very hot day and he could have been watching sport on TV in air conditioning instead…
Of course it’s all relative. When we lived in many outback locations my kids would have been delighted to come across this “trickle” after a few months of dry, scorching heat. They would even have given it a special name like “Magic” or “Enchanted” Falls. So it depends on what you are used to, I guess.
Apparently nearby Simpson Falls is much better so I’ll have to investigate. Anyway, I was actually relieved that they weren’t very impressive as I am not very good at taking waterfall pictures, so at least I can’t make a hash of this one! A silver lining to everything I suppose.
There you go, Slaughter Falls – an impressive name for a modest trickle. While I find the summer heat and humidity sometimes very difficult to deal with, Brisbane and Ipswich provide many green escapes for locals and really I am very lucky to be living here for this reason.
Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.
– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale