I’m a walking pharmacy at present due to a mystery illness which has my face resembling a deformed purple potato and feeling as though I’ve lost a few rounds with more than one karate king. The medications are helping but the side effect of feeling slightly bonkers has kept me offline. I hope to catch up with everyone’s blogs when I am on the mend and apologise for my lack of interaction.
Instead of my planned post which would have detailed in depth my daft attempts to rebel against the weather on my second trip to Binna Burra, this will focus mainly on my more positive third trip. Let’s get the embarrassing details of my second trip out of the way first though.
I would like to think my second trip to Binna Burra was about being adventurous and spontaneous. In reality, it involved stubbornness, impatience and foolishness. Ignoring weather predictions for possible storms, misreading distances on signs and forgetting my glasses was not the best combination.
To cut a long, silly story short, I drove all the way to Binna Burra despite the possibility of thunderstorms and began a walk I thought was 5km long but was really twice the distance. When I realised something was wrong I did not have my reading glasses to check my map. Of course, if I had half a brain I could have used my camera to focus on the print.
After walking about half-way downhill, I received a text from my daughter warning of a sudden severe thunderstorm involving dangerous wind gusts and large hail stones heading for the Lamington area.
A sprint back up the path was needed to save my car and body being pummelled by tree branches and hailstones. Despite the brevity of the walk I did take a few pictures, but it makes sense to share most of them in part 3 when I returned on a more sensible day to finish the walk.
After completely destroying my hiking reputation which didn’t exist anyway, let’s move on to my third trip which involves a surprisingly successful walk.
“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”
Written over sixty years ago, Bradbury’s opening lines to Fahrenheit 451 have remained with me since I read the novel as a young teen. The idea that a fireman’s job was to burn books rather than preserve them in his futuristic world horrified me. Books were viewed as dangerous, being reminders of the past and encouraging people to think and question the status quo.
As time passed and technology rapidly advanced, other elements of the novel gained more significance. His description of people permanently immersed in artificial forms of entertainment through earpieces and electronic screen covered parlour walls had seemed far-fetched at first. Minds fed by artificial experiences are now a reality though.
I pondered this as I ventured along the paths of Binna Burra rainforest for the third time. In contrast to being hooked up to a computer screen, Binna Burra is where the body is enveloped in natural sensory stimulation.
The unpredictable sounds of creatures and falling vegetation, the changes in air temperature, the smell of rotting wood, leaves, soil and flowering orchids, the wild disorganisation of the flora from tiny mosses and fungi to giant red cedars and strangler figs, the changing ground surface – soft, slippery wet leaves through to rough rocky and tangled root covered paths – it’s an explosion of information.
It’s an explosion that results in a mind massage rather than exhaustion though, unlike the effects of a busy shopping centre or the Internet. At the end of my 17km walk I was physically exhausted but mentally soothed – a sharp contrast to a day in front of the computer surrounded by four walls.
This mind massage on my third visit left me in love with the place. In my first post about Binna Burra, I mentioned Shakespeare. How fitting I should then read of a man named Romeo, who over a hundred years ago had a vision to save Lamington National Park for future generations. Romeo Lahey wrote in his diary:
‘I do not remember my reasoning but the idea of those glorious falls being destroyed by selection higher up filled me with an intense determination to have them kept for people who would love them, but who did not even dream of their existence.’ (1)
At the time, vast areas of rainforest were being cleared for building, grazing and farming. It was fortunate he joined the cause to save the Lamington National Park area as Robert Collins, a champion of the region was to die before seeing it declared a national park in 1915.
Imagine the difficulty they faced trying to change the mindset of people over one hundred years ago, considering how much we still struggle today to save a piece of land from mining or timber production.
When the British arrived in Australia, the Indigenous inhabitants were erroneously seen as less advanced because they did not demolish the landscape, build towns and undertake large scale crop production. The Indigenous belief – look after the land and it will look after you – was not respected. Many settlers viewed rainforest as a wild and intimidating landscape to be tamed and utilised for timber and farming.
So it is with gratitude for the struggles of these environmental visionaries that I share my 5 km Caves’ Circuit and 10.6 km return Lower Ballanjui Falls walk with you.
On the way to Binna Burra I discovered this idyllic campsite, complete with showers, toilets and barbecue areas on the banks of the Coomera River. If I survive this mystery malady I plan to camp there and spend a few days exploring longer walks without having to spend a total of four hours driving back and forth from my home.
I told myself I wouldn’t stop to photograph scenery on the journey there but of course I broke my promise.
Finally, I arrived at the information centre and opted for the 5km Caves’ Circuit which features valley views, a variety of forest types and fascinating geological examples of volcanic activity.
I must warn you though – the circuit includes about 1.5km of winding bitumen road to return to your original carpark. You can start the walk at the top carpark near the Binna Burra lodge or lower down at the National Parks Information Centre. I recommend starting at the bottom so the final walk along the road is downhill.
The Caves’ Circuit zigzags through pockets of cool, damp mossy rainforest, piccabeen palms and open timbered forests. At points it follows cliff edges providing excellent views of distant mountains.
A seat commemorating the work of Robert Collins is a handy place to appreciate the view and ponder the history of the area.
Although I’ve never had a head to retain geological facts, the subject is fascinating to me nonetheless. This walk passes through a chunk of ancient volcanic rock and caves which clearly show evidence of the turbulent history of the area.
Paula Peeters, from, Paperbark Writer discovered a tree funnel web spider on one of her visits to Binna Burra recently so I was keen to spot this highly venomous specimen on my walk. I didn’t find her friend, Morticia, but this beauty did catch my eye. She was about 4 cm long and quite aggressive. I have yet to identify her.
I loved this short track because of the varying landscape and interesting geological features and highly recommend it as an introduction to Binna Burra.
Next I attempted to eat my lunch under a tree near the Binna Burra Lodge carpark before beginning the 10.6 km return Lower Ballanjui Falls track. I was accosted by these fearless, ravenous magpies though. Notice the ticks on the face of one. Later that day I was to discover the tough skin of reptiles is not immune to these blood suckers either.
The first part of the Lower Ballanjui Falls walk shares part of the Bellbird Circuit and Ships Stern Circuit and passes through a variety of vegetation types.
Epiphytes feature strongly and I stopped to examine the spores on this birds’ nest fern.
At times the path was narrow along cliff edges and recent rain left it slippery. You need to tread carefully on damp leaves and watch out for leeches. I managed to notice this one before it began its vampire activities.
Rock features added interest along the way.
The Koolanbilba Lookout has a handy lunch seat and an information board labels distant geographical landmarks and shares Indigenous history.
As I approached Yangahla Lookout a loud hideous coughing-hissing explosion stopped me in my tracks. No, it wasn’t the Mexican dinner I ate the day before.
Was it a survivor from prehistoric times ready to dine on a chubby little hiker? I didn’t hear it again and ventured down the stone steps to the natural rocky viewing platform. That’s where I discovered the source of the ghastly sounds. Two lace monitors were sunning themselves, looking like royalty, lording it over the land.
Aware that their only escape was in my direction, I didn’t venture close. I was thankful for the good zoom feature on my new camera to take pictures of these magnificently patterned, muscled reptiles.
Their tough skin did not protect them from ticks though. Both carried blood sucking hitchhikers. Look closely and you’ll find a couple around the eyes of one and under the jaw of the other.
I stood there amazed by these beasts until a bunch of giant marsh flies discovered me and I ran off flailing. Leeches, marsh flies, ticks and mosquitoes – why would I want to live anywhere else but Queensland?
Continuing along the path, it started to get a little squeezy in spots. I wondered how some of my less midget-sized hiking friends would fare in a couple of overgrown places.
There are also a few short sections of steep stone steps and while easy to walk down in good conditions, wet weather and dodgy knees may make the return ascent a little more challenging for some .
I finally arrived at the Falls quite late after spending far too much time enjoying the two lookouts and taking photographs. After checking my headlamp and finding the bulb broken, I realised I was going to have to power back up the track before it got dark. I would have preferred to stay at the falls longer to cool down but the thought of walking along the cliffs in low light and the chance of more leeches had me taking a couple of dodgy snaps and leaving quickly.
This really was an excellent walk, but do take insect repellent and be aware that the paths are slippery and narrow in spots. It can be done as part of the much longer Ships Stern Circuit which I plan to attempt at a later date.
In January, I may be doing another long walk at Binna Burra with Amanda from Walks and Wines . Then in winter I may also be sharing part of the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk involving Lamington National Park with Kevin from Goin’ Feral One Day At A Time. Do check out their great blogs if you want to see more of our wonderful country.
For all the important details about Binna Burra, please check the National Park site and also be aware that in the warmer months, the weather can be unpredictable.
Thanks for enduring this mammoth post which could have been summarised in half the word length. I hope to bring you more posts before Christmas but can’t guarantee my current illness will allow for much exploration. Please forgive my lack of comments on your blogs recently. I will do my best to catch up when I can. Happy travels all!
(1) Source: Alec Chisholm in an article “The Green Mountains: Queensland’s National Park” in The Sydney Mail, 5 March, 1919.