“O Binna Binna, Binna Burra, wherefore art thou, Binna Burra?”
Ever since my last trip to Binna Burra, the eastern side of Lamington National Park, I’ve been in love with this unique and incredibly beautiful region. It’s part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which includes the largest section of subtropical rainforest in the world. Despite how impressive this sounds, in the tempestuous early days, I wondered whether my relationship with Binna Burra had a future. What were my early fears and how were they turned into infatuation?
Before I detail the transformation, it’s important to recognise the Yugambeh people who have inhabited and nurtured the area for thousands of years, referring to it as Woonoongoora. When the region was declared a national park in 1915 to protect it from logging and farming, many supporters favoured the original name but it was named after Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland instead.
Years ago I made my first trip to the O’Reilly section of Lamington National Park with family. At the time, I’d been used to driving on long, straight, flat outback roads. The narrow winding road of Lamington National Park range and my hips’ decision to go on strike meant the trip felt more like assault and battery than a soothing nature experience. A negative first experience can sometimes taint a place or relationship forever.
After renegotiating working conditions with my hips by massively reducing the load they carry and after reading rave reviews of the place, I was eager to give Lamington National Park another chance. However, it was to take three more visits before my thoughts turned to Shakespeare when describing this amazing part of the world. I debated whether to relate the whole saga to you but I’m a believer in sharing the good and the bad. It’s not all magical. Rarely do my walks go to plan, especially when Lycra Man is dragged along.
The thought of driving up the range in my old car didn’t appeal to me so armed with a hefty bribe I invited Lycra Man, my occasional hiking partner, to share the joys of the wild for a day. Winding roads would give him the opportunity to live out his F1 fantasies. I thought he’d be enthusiastic.
Apparently enough time hadn’t passed since I last tortured him on a walk and he needed more convincing. That’s when I unleashed my hidden weapon: the promise of “real” hot food and coffee rather than a thermos, instant coffee and hiking snacks. For some reason he’s not overly fond of my roasted chick peas and broad beans or the tasty delights of a seed bar and fruit. Don’t these look like mouth-watering hiking snacks to you? Okay, perhaps they’re not to everyone’s tastes.
I should probably tell you Lycra Man is religious about his “pour over” method of coffee making. He has a set of scales accurate to .1 grams to measure out quantities of coffee beans and water and a hand coffee grinder because it gives a nice even grind. He uses a variable temperature electric water jug and the coffee beans are never your supermarket variety. Here, I’ll show you…
Hot water from a steel thermos and a spoon of instant coffee or a tea bag during a walk with me borders on caffeine sacrilege. Also, in his opinion cyclists should eat steak, not “bird seed.”
Anyway, my secret weapon worked so we headed off. Binna Burra is approximately 110 km or a 2 hour drive from Brisbane. I live in the south-west of Brisbane so it involves an inland route rather than coastal roads. Lycra Man had fond memories of a steak lunch he had and decided to take a slight detour from the planned route.
He was to be disappointed though as the pub was being renovated. I reassured him that the tea house at Binna Burra would be lovely. A Tea House? Really? I might as well have told him we’d be dining on cockroaches. I should have expected his response wouldn’t be enthusiastic. He wanted a steak lunch. Full stop.
After a wrong turn brought us to a dirt road adding an extra ½ hour to our trip, Lycra Man accepted a seed bar and chewed in silence. The wrong turn did enable us to meet a few horses though.
A rest stop at Back Creek past Canungra gave me the opportunity to check for platypus. I was careful to avoid brushing against branches or leaning on the ground. With heavy rain and warm weather it was paralysis tick paradise.
I walked back to the car to find Lycra Man sprawled on the grass, dreaming about steak. I wondered how many ticks had crawled onto his head and suggested I check his scalp. Nope, he never gets ticks, so he refused the offer. We drove on to Binna Burra and I noticed him scratching his head but didn’t comment.
Beechmont, close to Binna Burra was a dazzling green after heavy rains.
By the time we ate a chicken lunch and a huge slab of gluten free chocolate cake at the Binna Burra Tea House and Lycra Man had his real coffee, it was mid-afternoon. My plans for a long trail walk were abandoned. I chose the more comfortable 5km return Yangahla Lookout track instead.
The walk began with disinfecting our shoes to prevent pathogen spread, a procedure common in many Queensland parks these days. After thoroughly disinfecting his shoes, Lycra Man realised he should have probably changed into his more supportive hiking shoes first.
I headed off along the track without waiting for him. He would quickly catch up to my snail pace with his Speedy Gonzales legs. However he didn’t catch up. Where was he? Eventually I decided to walk back and met him close to the start. He looked perturbed. Did I have tweezers?
It seemed the head scratching was not his dry scalp condition but a paralysis tick firmly embedded. Being almost as stubborn as me he had attempted to pull it out with his fingers, only succeeding in squeezing the contents more into his scalp and having the tick bury its three pronged mouth-part even deeper.
Confidently, I grabbed my first aid kit. After my last experience with a paralysis tick on my head I’d made sure I always had a set in my bag. It had mysteriously vanished though. Perhaps it was in the car. After a long fruitless search, I used my mildly extreme MacGyver skills and fashioned a device out of a pen lid and a couple of sharpened match sticks. Meanwhile, Lycra Man was fumigating his head with insect repellent.
After the successful tick removal, Lycra Man had lost his usual olive Mediterranean complexion. Did he still want to walk? Yes, but we’d just do the 2km return Bellbird Lookout instead.
So dear readers, after the 2 hour drive, a detour to find an elusive steak lunch, a wrong turn, a tea house meal pacifier and the tick incident, we only walked 2km.
What was the actual walk like? A bird watcher’s paradise. Lamington National Park has over 230 bird species and is home to Australia’s largest collection of sub-tropical birds. During the first 200 metres, the chorus of species shocked me. Whipbirds, catbirds, brown cuckoo-doves, satin bower birds, wompoo pigeons, noisy pittas and king parrots were just some of the birds we heard.
Here’s a sound recording we made to give you a small sample. The eerie calls are green catbirds.
I’m including a few pictures taken with my new camera from a much later walk to show you a brown cuckoo-dove and a satin bowerbird on the same track. These birds were quite a distance from me. Usually I’d have no hope of capturing more than a blob with the old camera. While they aren’t fantastic, I was pleased at how the camera performed in the dull conditions and on the auto setting. We heard far more species than our eyes could spot though as many small birds were camouflaged in the canopy or were too flighty.
Fungi, moss and lichen teased my amateurish photography skills in the dark conditions.
Pademelons (red-necked wallabies) were feeding by the paths. They were skittish enough for these to be the only shots I could take of them.
We also met Big Foot. It turns out that Big Foot is neither hairy nor capable of leaving footprints. Big Foot is a giant fibrous-barked Tallowwood (E. microcorys) believed to be over 500 years old. It is known as Big Foot due to the large root base.
I was more intrigued by the fascinating natural “sculpture” on the trunk which reminded me of a mother tenderly leaning over or protecting her children. Lycra Man was not feeling very artsy after the tick encounter though and said it looked like haemorrhoids.
The first 500 metres of the walk is mostly through subtropical rainforest and includes giant stinging trees, strangler figs, epiphytes and palms which grow on deep red basaltic soils. Closer to the Bellbird Lookout the scenery changes to open eucalypt forest with plants more suited to the exposed cliff and less fertile greyer rhyolite soils.
The rainforest doesn’t follow tidy rules of gardening. It’s wild. Vines and roots compete and strangle. Lost in a rainforest on a stormy day could feel like a prison when you’re surrounded by this kind of scenery.
The view from Bellbird Lookout was hazy due to smoke and time of day.
Much of the winding road home down the range was covered in shadows by the time we left.
It was strange to drive back along open farmland again and see cows where lush rainforest used to grow.
On the way back I reminded Lycra Man to get out a hand mirror and check for ticks in intimate places during his shower that night. He wasn’t impressed. After several weeks, he still has an itchy hard lump on his scalp and walks with me are off the agenda until I can devise a new bribe. By the way, the next day I found the tweezers in the ash tray compartment of the car where I’d put them to guarantee they would never be lost. It seems I only have half a brain these days.
Stay tuned for part two and three when I do battle with the weather and my dodgy eyesight and introduce you to some interesting wild critters from the Caves Circuit and Lower Ballunjui Falls walk which have made Binna Burra one of my favourite all time destinations. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with words from the Yugambeh people:
‘Nyah-nyah ngalingah kurul kurulbu’ (take care of our wilderness).
For more detailed information, including history, maps and camping information, please visit the National Parks site.
UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Ashdowne who works for Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for reminding me of a great resource that provides up to date information on tick prevention, removal and other important information. I used this in my first blog post but it’s worth repeating as not many people check archives. Please read this great PDF. Rob also has a wonderful nature photography blog which I invite you to check out.