When this twentieth century of ours became obsessed with a passion for mere size, what was lost sight of was the ancient wisdom that the emotions have their own standards of judgement and their own sense of scale. In the emotional world a small thing can touch the heart and the imagination every bit as much as something impressively gigantic; a fine phrase is as good as an epic, and a small brook in the quiet of a wood can have its say with a voice more profound than the thunder of any cataract. – Henry Beston, Northern Farm
If you have a good knowledge of Australian geography, you may be expecting this walk to involve hot, arid, challenging terrain as there are a few outback locations named Tarcoola, including an abandoned gold mining town in South Australia. However, on this occasion it refers to a gentle one kilometre wander along the Brisbane River in the suburb of St. Lucia, a short drive or bus ride from the central business district.
This is the first walk a blog follower has specifically asked me to write about and in my typically extreme way, I took the task very seriously. This was never going to be a quick one off stroll for me. I took my time and returned on multiple occasions over the past six months.
The walk is only 1.15 km long (2.3km return) and I set myself the challenge of finding as much wildlife and other points of interest as I could. It was an experiment of sorts to see how much a short walk could deliver in terms of “blog-ability.” I’m very grateful to Tony and family for suggesting this track as I had no idea it existed despite frequenting the area for years. In all my walks, I’ve never viewed a live wild owl at close range. I’ve seen many tawny frogmouths which are often mistaken for owls, but on this short city walk I discovered my first Southern Boobook Owl. It wasn’t the only surprise I was to come across on the Tarcoola Track.
When discussing this short walk with family and friends, I mentioned that some readers wouldn’t regard it as much of a hike even though I find walks of any length rewarding. Lycra Man came to the rescue and replied, “But Jane, you know it’s not about the number of steps.” Now while there may have been more than a hint of sarcasm in his tone as he enjoys teasing me about my frequent philosophical musings, I am grateful to him for reminding me. When I thanked him, he replied, “Yes, it’s about time you realised I’m an intellectual giant trapped inside a lycra-clad body.”
I asked if I could quote him and he replied that since he’s just a fictional character and so never reads it anyway, it makes no difference. It seems my photo-shopping skills in posts he appears in are much better than I thought.
Often in hiking blogs we focus on rating the terrain. We grade a walk from easy to challenging and mention the length and hours it takes to traverse. But of course there are many ways to rate a hike. If you’re a nature freak like me you may rate it on the fungi that fascinate, the trees that transfix, the insects identified, the birds that baffle, the spiders that spin you out…okay, I tend to overdo it with the alliteration. It’s fun though!
You may also rate a walk on its spiritual or psychological benefits – how many worries it washed away, the pain purged, the hearts healed, smiles solicited, anxiety alleviated, anger abated, imagination inspired or senses stimulated. You didn’t really think I was finished with the alliteration, did you?
It’s time to stop waffling and showcase this wonderful stroll which I now do on a regular basis when visiting the nearby University of Queensland. Since I’ve done the walk many times, I’ve decided to group photos into galleries rather than try to tell a story. I hope that after viewing them you’ll agree that while this is only a short walk, it rates highly in the wildlife and scenic views stakes. It may not be an epic hike, but it’s special nonetheless.
Tarcoola is derived from an Indigenous word meaning “river bend.” The entrance is opposite 157 Esplanade near the end of Tarcoola Street in St Lucia. It’s very easy to miss though so here’s a little help.
There is a 9 bay, 2 hour free car parking area but you can easily take a bus to Hawken Drive close by if you want to spend more time there. The path meanders along the bank of the Brisbane River, passing through dry rainforest, mangroves, and open forest habitats.
Steps and small bridges add interest and there are solitary benches set at regular intervals overlooking the river, perfect for lunch breaks or romantic interludes…
Over 100 bird species have been identified along this one kilometre stretch. The picture quality of the following videos is very poor but I hope the sound gives you an idea of how much life exists in this small stretch of bushland. It’s hard to believe that the city centre is so close. If you want an extra birdy buzz, try playing all three at the same time.
Here are just a few of the species I’ve spotted. I’m yet to master the art of bird photography and the camera really struggled with canopy shots but they give you an idea of what can be seen. If you move the cursor over the pictures, the names will be revealed. Click on a picture to see its full size.
Interstate and overseas followers may not know that the Brisbane River is tidal. Its usual colour is brown.
However, depending on the changing light it can sometimes appear a startling blue.
This reminds me of Monet’s words, “One does not paint a landscape. One paints an impression of an hour of the day.” I walked the track at sunrise, midday and sunset and during varying cloud conditions.
At one point you pass between a St Lucia Golf Course green and the river. Overhead mesh protects you from the danger of stray balls.
If you have a dog phobia, the Tarcoola Track may not be so appealing as it is a popular dog walking area. While most dogs seemed well trained, on one occasion I was barked and lunged at by two labradors off the leash while their owner was absorbed in his phone. At the last minute he gave them a command and they stopped, but the close encounter did leave me shaken.
I also had another interesting experience. While half bending over to take a shot, I was surprised by a dew-covered furry nose of a shaggy breed almost lifting me in the air with its enthusiastic dog “hello” sniff between my legs. I was a little embarrassed walking back to the car with a wet crotch area. Not all owners take their dog’s poo home with them as requested. The owner of what must have been a St Bernard sized breed was not so thoughtful and I still remember the squelch as I walked backwards into a freshly steaming pile while taking a picture of a bird. These people knew the right thing to do though.
Information panels have been erected to educate walkers about the birds and plants along the track. Here are a few examples.
The Lace Bark.
I’m not sure what this it, but the tiny flowers and red berries are appealing.
The wattles were flowering in July.
And what is this?
Towering eucalypts and other giants gave me an aching neck trying to take shots of them.
And after rain, colorful tree bark had me in a photographic frenzy!
Cauliflower-like fungi and this tenacious specimen pushing its way out of a tree limb also caught my eye.
What would a walk be without some attractive eight-legged specimens, lacewing eggs and a brightly coloured comb?
Or remains of old dwellings and some colourful rocks?
Giant “caterpillars” are used to prevent erosion on banks.
For the plane fans, the Tarcoola Track offers opportunities for contrail admiration.
And for a last image, something much smaller – lichen growing over a blue bench.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little experiment. I certainly did and I want to thank Tony again for suggesting the Tarcoola Track, a little known wildlife refuge in the heart of a capital city. I had no idea when I embarked on this one kilometre walk what treasures it would reveal. Every time I return I find something new. Sadly though, I’ve heard talks of some of the land being used or altered by land developers soon. So perhaps in a couple of years it may be gone.
Thanks for reading.