I have a small addiction. It’s not exactly a harmful one, but it can distract me from working occasionally and result in some frustration. I’ll be tapping away intently at my laptop until a characteristic fluttering movement in my peripheral vision causes immediate physiological and emotional responses. An increased heart and breathing rate accompanied by an idiotic grin and a sudden compulsion to leap up and grab the closest available camera heralds the onset of the maddening condition known as “take-a-picture-of-a-butterfly-itis.” This condition can be intensified if the butterfly happens to be blue, my favourite colour. I’ve been told that blue is meant to be soothing, however it doesn’t seem to have that effect on me when I see it on a butterfly.
Until recently, the hyperactive movements of Blue Triangle and Blue Tiger butterflies have eluded capture by my lens. Following their meandering flight through my garden has not led to photographic satisfaction, so much so that I had even renamed them the Blue Teasers. A recent series of events contributed to me achieving a much longed for state of blue delirium though.
I never thought I’d be grateful for a chest infection, my fear of driving through city traffic or for missing my early morning alarm until the day my blue desires were sated. Being tired from lingering illness, wanting to avoid road stress and starting late meant I chose a scenic drive to Mt Glorious from the south of Brisbane via Fernvale rather than a more arduous hike further afield. Reading hiking accounts from Cameron’s High and Wide blog also encouraged me to check out this beautiful area.
On the way, I enjoyed views of Wivanhoe Dam which was originally designed in response to the 1974 floods and is a water supply for Brisbane city and surrounding regions.
Wivanhoe Dam happens to be home to a population of Australian Lung Fish, Neoceratodus forsteri, a protected species and one of only six remaining species of lungfish in the world. I remember eating one as a child and being very unimpressed by its texture and muddy flavour. They are nocturnal bottom feeders, growing up to 1.5m and weighing 40kg and have been known to live for up to 100 years. They are very slow growing though and are threatened by human interference to their river habitats, in particular the construction of large dams. While dams provide a feeding habitat for adults they often do not provide the right conditions for spawning or for nurseries.
Here are a few images I have taken of Wivanhoe Dam on past trips.
My first stop along the drive was the picnic area, Red Cedar. I’ve been here before with Lycra Man, one of my occasional hiking partners, who is more of a cyclist than a walker. Our attention was focused on a tranquil creek on an adjoining rural property rather than the picnic area though. Here are some memories from that occasion.
This area originally featured towering red cedars but many of these were cleared by the timber industry. Now the remaining red cedars are protected. Here’s a picture of me with the remains of one such tree. I can’t work out what I was feeling there – adoration or sadness? My daughter who likes to tease me for being a tree-hugger took this picture.
The next part of my walk is where my blue fantasies were fulfilled so I apologise if I become a little incoherent while I relive the intense rush. As I left the creek area and walked across the mown grass of the picnic grounds, the sight of hundreds of Blue Tigers fluttering and sipping dew had me hyperventilating and wondering if someone had spiked my early morning coffee.
My daughter and I spent the next few minutes trying to capture the enchantment, but the blue teasers were already warming up from the sun and our efforts are a little blurry. The Blue Tiger, Tirumala hamate, is a migratory species and apparently enormous groups of them can sometimes be seen in the Greater Brisbane Area. I wondered if recent heat wave conditions had encouraged their movements. Moreton Bay Shire Council has a useful information leaflet on butterflies in the region.
Now to all you readers for whom clouds of butterflies are the norm, I apologise for my childlike excitement. But this was a first for me. Only those who also suffer from “take-a-picture-of-a-butterfly-itis” and a love of all things blue will probably understand.
After a calming tea break, I’ll now resume my hiking tale with a little more decorum. A further drive along a misty, winding, steep road took us to Maiala Rainforest on Mt Glorious, which is part of D’Aguilar National Park.
The original inhabitants of this area were the Kamilaroi people and Maiala means “quiet place’ in their dialect. European settlers felled most of the original magnificent hoop pines in the area to use for timber and only a small remnant remains within the rainforest. It is hard to believe now that the carpark and picnic area used to be a timber mill.
The gentle class 3, 2km walk through Maiala Rainforest, which was the first national park declared in this area was a delight for the senses. Lack of time meant we couldn’t continue on to do the class 3, 4.3km Greene Falls Walk, the class 4, 6.4km Westside Track or the class 4, 24km Aquila loop, but that gives me an excuse to revisit this magical area to write up more hiking reports.
The impressive root systems of Strangler Figs, Ficus watkinsiana, fascinate me. For overseas readers, the fruit of these trees is popular with birds and often their droppings containing the seeds become lodged in the forks of other trees. The seeds sprout, the roots grow downwards and the leaves grow up. Eventually the host tree can be “strangled” by being encased in the roots of the fig.
While looking for better words to describe the dark and sometimes gloomy interior of a tropical rainforest I happened upon an old favourite, tenebrosity, and a nice little literary quote:
“It was one night in winter, when all nature shone in the nocturnal beauty of tenebrosity…” Ulysses
Tenebrosity has also been used to label a sinister, depressing kind of darkness. While I do find rainforests a peaceful environment, I can imagine it feeling quite different if I was lost. The sounds of catbirds crying like abandoned children, the frequent rustling in the shadows, and the lack of a horizon could encourage an ominous train of thought…
The rainforest floor was littered with fruit, many edible. Here are some albums of rainforest bounty. It’s a reminder of just how much food such environments contain. Along our walk we couldn’t avoid crushing Davidsons Plums and lilly pillies underfoot.
Many rainforest trees feature buttresses which may have a few uses. Buttresses help stabilise the tall trees. The top soil is quite shallow which mean nutrients lie close to the surface. Buttresses may also help the plant to gain more nutrients as well as channel water.
We shared the path with young families which meant our sighting of wildlife was limited. Young children can be a little noisy when excited but I’m always happy to see joy expressed that is a result of something other than a computer or TV screen. Full marks to parents who take the time to introduce children to the joys of nature. I just have to choose my times more wisely if I want to view shy wildlife. We did, however, catch sight of our first pademelon, which I think is the red-necked variety, Thylogale thetis. They are usually shy creatures and I barely had time to pull out the camera before it was gone. Their generous rumps make me feel fondly towards them as my own is not exactly small.
The air temperature in the forest was a delightfully cool 25C compared to the 39-40C (104F) conditions of my home area in the previous few days. However, I still managed to drown my shoes in sweat due to physical exertion in the extremely high humidity. The walk was an easy 2km though and apart from a few steps had a mild gradient.
It surprises me that we have rainforests such as these so close to the city centre. The South East Queensland Wildlife Centre at Walkabout Creek is another destination I plan to visit. It is even closer to the city and within the D’aguilar Ranges. The centre is one of the few places which provides views of a platypus in exhibits which mimic natural settings. There are many beautiful areas within the D’aguilar Ranges to explore and more information can be found at the National Parks Site.
With my blue addiction fed, my senses stimulated and my mind soothed by a rainforest walk, I was ready to face the manic world of city living once again, for a few hours at least…
“A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home…”
– Hermann Hesse, Baume, Betrachtungen und Gedichte