“Are you made of sugar?” I smiled as I remembered these joking words from my childhood while my little green car struggled valiantly up the winding, slippery mountain road, her windscreen wipers squeaking in protest. No, I wasn’t made of sugar. My body composition is about one third fat. Rather than melt in the rain, I’m more likely to float away.
I don’t know if this teasing expression is used in other countries. Australians do like their quips. “Were you born in a tent?” was another used by relatives when we left doors open in cold weather. One of the most memorable outback sayings I’ve heard when people wanted us to hurry was “Rattle your dags!” Dags are the dried lumps of dung hanging from a sheep’s woolly rear end that swing when they run. Who says we aren’t a cultured mob?
I was headed to Mt Tamborine National Park for an authentic rainforest experience. What better way to appreciate a rainforest than in a downpour? Leech heaven! This was not the original plan, but the weather does what it wants. I’ve never won an argument against it. The bonus would be I’d probably have the trails to myself. Surely there wouldn’t be any other fools wanting to walk in this weather?
Mt Tamborine is 80 km south of Brisbane and is really a plateau, one of many in the region that have been formed by water erosion of a huge dome created by an ancient shield volcanic eruption. The area has 10 different types of forest including subtropical rainforest and contains more than 900 different species of plants.
The name “Tamborine” has nothing to do with the musical instrument but originates from the local Yugambeh language and means wild limes. Finger wild lime trees grow in the area and the fruit was used as a thirst quencher. Another name for the area in the Yugambeh language is Wonglepong which means “hearing wrong way”. I can attest to the confusion that the mountain creates. The reverberation of sound while walking through the rainforest means it is difficult to tell where it originates. This can sometimes have deadly consequences which I’ll mention later.
I made it safely to the carpark of the Joalah section of the National Park but for a brief moment wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn and arrived on the set of a Victoria’s Secret lingerie shoot. A large group of young, heavily tanned female foreign tourists were stripped down to their brightly coloured skimpy underwear after having been soaked. I started to wonder how empty the trails would be… Now if it was me stripping down people would be more likely to think it was a Bonds mature full support briefs advertisement or possibly a lost seal.
Not keen to blind anyone with my fluorescent white flesh, I pulled out my emergency plastic hooded poncho to keep dry. An older couple were setting off on the path, kitted out in full wet weather hiking gear. Who needs expensive equipment like that I told myself – a little too smugly as it turned out. Now, when I paid $2 for my emergency hooded cape several years ago I wasn’t expecting something high quality. However, neither was I expecting it to be the consistency of plastic food wrap and require a delicate operation to unfold. I reminded myself once again that I’m not made of sugar, ignored the multiple tears I’d made in the process and began with the class 3, 1.5km return Curtis Falls track.
Magnificent flooded gums and other eucalypts towered over the track.
The activity of lichens left brightly patterned decorations on trunks.
Skinks were hunting for insects and worms disturbed by the rain. I was also on the lookout for worms as giant ones up to a metre long live at Tamborine and will come up to the surface during wet weather. Gurgling sounds can be heard as they tunnel through water soaked soil.
I’m terrible at identifying skinks but naturalist and photographer, Robert Ashdown suspects these are Gully (or Pale-lipped) Skinks, Saproscincus spectabilis, one of 12 Australian species of rainforest skinks in the genus. Rob also does a tremendous job working for Queensland National Parks and Wildlife. If you love beautiful shots of Australian nature and interesting facts, I encourage you to check out his wonderful blog.
The trail quickly drops into lush subtropical rainforest consisting of piccabeen palms, strangler figs, tree ferns and epiphytes. Crystal clear Cedar Creek was visible through the trees.
Piccabeen palms, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana have aerial roots allowing them to absorb oxygen despite the waterlogged soils.
Rainforests are a mycologist’s delight and I found several species, which I took pictures of while holding my camera underneath my cheap plastic hooded cape. I now have a greater appreciation for the difficulties faced by blogger friends who encounter rainy, misty weather on a regular basis. Continually cleaning a fogged up lens and preventing rain spots is a skill I’m yet to master, hence the lack of photos.
On one slimy specimen a crane fly and other creepy crawlies feasted.
During my camera juggling fungi follies, an elderly male hiker went by. I saw him reach Curtis Falls before me but instead of appreciating them, he quickly returned without stopping. I soon discovered why. A young couple, perhaps honeymooners, were canoodling in the water. Their lack of clothing and exuberant affection didn’t perturb me. It was the fact that they had entered a clearly signed restricted area designed to protect the glow worm and platypus population that caused me some angst. Glow worm colonies are sensitive to products we use on our skin, especially insect repellents. Flash cameras and torches are also not meant to be used around them.
I wrestled with my camera under my make-shift plastic tent to show you the gentle falls which can become a raging torrent after heavy rain. Not wanting evidence of their exploits, the couple exited the water. I try not to spoil other people’s fun but I draw the line when they ignore warning signs about damaging fragile species.
Next I headed along the 4.2km lower creek circuit. It was here that the abundance of small leeches had me checking my lower legs every few minutes to flick off the suckers.
Another lizard caught my attention.
As did the continual rain dripping through the increasing number of holes in my cape. Trying to manoeuvre without tearing it was like attempting to tissue wrap a trampoline bouncing toddler. Perhaps I exaggerate a little here, but you get the picture. The plastic hood almost stopped my hair being drenched…
Fortunately this is subtropical Queensland not Scotland. I was still sweating despite being thoroughly soaked.
The rain continued.
It gave a mystical atmosphere to the forest and also brightened fallen palm leaves, lichen-patterned tree trunks and moss covered rocks.
Occasionally the sound of snapping and falling palm leaves and branches had me on guard. As I wrote earlier, it can be near impossible to establish where certain sounds originate while walking through a rainforest. The sight of enormous fallen trees is a reminder of the possibility of serious injury. Sadly, such a tragedy occurred very recently on the Caves Circuit at Binna Burra which I walked and wrote about last year. A married couple in their 30s were walking along the track when without warning an enormous 3 metre wide tree snapped off 20 metres up its trunk. There was no time for them to know where to run. The tree crashed into others and the woman was killed before paramedics could arrive. This occurred only 1 km from the entrance. However, there is usually much more risk associated with a sedentary lifestyle and car accidents so I will continue to enjoy the trails.
Earlier I predicted the trail would be quiet. I had underestimated the popularity of Mt Tamborine though and also the mettle of fellow hikers. The several tour groups looked a little glum until I passed by. By the number of sudden grins and phone cameras pointed in my direction, it’s possible my drowned rat appearance gave the umbrella holding Japanese tourists some amusement. Those crazy Australians! I’m not sure if I had acquired the tear in the back of my hiking pants by that stage. I only found out about this when my daughter told me what colour my underwear was on my return home. At least I had chosen an attractive colour. Some dedicated local hikers stopped to chat with me about how wet, nutty and happy we all were.
The rain stopped but droplets continued to fall from the foliage so the camera did not make much of an appearance. I checked the Falls again and managed a few shots before returning to my car, wrapping myself in towels and drinking hot soup from my thermos.
The experience had evoked memories of my children dancing in the rain after a long dry spell in the dusty arid west. It sounds corny but I really did feel emotionally and physically cleansed by the experience. Even the tenacity of the leeches made me smile. Nature is a drug that I am happily addicted to.
For more information about Mt Tamborine National Park (including maps) please check the Queensland National Parks site. As well as walking trails, Mt Tamborine has many other attractions and these can be found on the Discover Mt Tamborine site.
Thanks for reading!