I had such grand plans. I always do. You’d think by now I’d be a little more realistic. But what is life without a dream or two…
If you read my last blog post, you’ll be expecting me to reveal the gory details of the Great Finger Debacle of 2016. So what did happen to the poor digit? Was it bitten off by the giant rogue eel inhabiting Gwongoorool Pool at Binna Burra? Or was it torn off by a freak abseiling rope accident on Mt Ngungun? Is it possible I severed it while carving my own canoe?
The good news is it that the finger has recovered reasonably well apart from now being slightly crooked, a little shorter and permanently numb on the tip. For those of you bursting with curiosity, the bad news is the cause of this injury is far less exciting than the previous scenarios.
Some of you may know that my older two children have flown the coop, leaving me with only my poor suffering daughter, Tough Cookie, to nag. During her mid-year university holiday in July, I planned a mother-daughter hiking trip at Lamington National Park.
Since it may have been one of our last opportunities to go camping together, I wasn’t going to give up a chance to inflict some serious outdoor torture on the baby of the family. Walks totalling 55km over three days and two chilly mid-winter nights spent reminiscing around a campfire in the mountains sounded like a perfect way to strengthen the familial bond. Surprisingly, Tough Cookie wasn’t convinced. For some strange reason she felt I was being a tad unrealistic so a compromise was reached. We’d still do the mileage but spend two nights in the comfort of one of the old Binna Burra Lodge rooms.
Loaded down with enough gear for a disaster of tsunami proportions, the little green alien groaned and creaked up the winding mountain road. After checking in and dumping our disaster packs in the room, we launched into our first walk, Dave’s Creek Circuit, one of the most botanically diverse half day tracks at Binna Burra.
Only a few weeks earlier I’d completed this walk solo and experienced two “firsts” in my modest bushwalking career. It was the first time I have ever been cold enough on a Queensland walk to need mittens and the first time I’ve completed a track in the dark.
Since it is only a 12km, class 4 walk, estimated to take 4 hours, I hadn’t expected to need my headlamp, but after a morning straight out of Fawlty Towers followed by a humorous and uplifting conversation with a friend who hoisted me out of a pit of depression, I arrived late. The wet, blustery conditions had also turned the hard clay cliff path surface into a skating rink. It was inevitable really that I’d roll my ankle and it took me seven hours to finally complete it.
The experience taught me that walking by headlamp gives limited depth vision. Slippery tree roots criss-crossing the last few kilometres of the path threatened to send me flying again. Despite the slippery conditions, I loved this walk and couldn’t wait to show my daughter.
On this occasion I was confident Tough Cookie and I would complete the walk in much less time as the conditions were warm and dry and I‘d already collected an album of shots so my camera wouldn’t be slowing us down.
The first few kilometres passed through warm and cool sub-tropical rainforest along the Border Track, a path also shared by the Ship’s Stern Circuit and Coomera Circuit, walks I’ve written about before.
At the entrance I commented that if we were lucky we might see an Albert’s Lyrebird. The words were barely out of my mouth when we caught a glimpse of one on the path ahead of us. I’m still a novice lyrebird-whisperer, so this poor shot is all I can offer you.
Not long after, we stopped to admire these impressive tree fungi. When my daughter illuminated the fungi with torchlight so I could take a shot, a cloud of spores was released into my gaping mouth. I’m still alive so I suppose they weren’t deadly, although it’s possible my impaired cognitive functioning could be due to fungi on the brain.
We came across a few fallen trees over the path, and this huge old specimen was a reminder of the damage that they can do.
Taking the anticlockwise route, we passed through distinct vegetation types, warm temperate rainforest, wet schlerophyll forest, mallee woodland and heathlands.
With such diversity it’s easy to see why Dave’s Creek Circuit is regarded as one of the most interesting walks at Binna Burra. As in previous Lamington walks, piccabeen palms, tree ferns, strangler figs, giant New England ash and Antarctic beech provided interest.
Many scenes along the path reminded us of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in particular, Hansel and Gretel.
Flowering banksias were popular with eastern spinebills.
And carnivorous sundews grew on the exposed eastern banks.
To my surprise the hard clay cliff paths were once again very slippery due to recent showers and slowed us down to a drunken snail pace. I’m not sure Tough Cookie appreciated the crash course in ice skating.
There were views to be enjoyed though when we unpeeled our eyes from the track.
Molongolee Cave on the cliff edge is small but the effect of water trickling down through the rocks was attractive. I imagine after heavy rain it would be more impressive.
We continued on to Numinbah Lookout which gives expansive views of distant ranges.
As we approached, a movement at a tree base grabbed our attention. What was this adorable furry critter? A rare Australian mammal that only we were lucky enough to spot? Might we become famous for our observations?
Instead of fleeing, the critter appeared unconcerned by our presence and kept nosing about in the ground litter for food.
After photographing the unknown, possibly rare species from different angles, we noticed damage to its ears. Upon viewing it on the computer screen we were disgusted to see its face was home to ticks. We pondered whether the tick infestation affected the creature’s senses which may explain why it didn’t fear us.
After returning home and seeking opinions of friends and social media experts, the conclusion about our furry creature is that it’s a rat, most probably a common introduced black rat but also possibly a native bush rat. Australia does have over 50 native species of rodents. Experts reading are welcome to join in the identification process. I must admit I was more than a little disappointed to find out it might be a common feral black rat, not only because I was embarrassed by my initial excitement but also because an introduced rat species in Binna Burra is a risk to native wildlife. The experience did give us pleasure though. UPDATE: Caz and Chrissy from the Australian hiking blog , awildland, have suggested it looks very much like the common native species, the fawn-footed melomy. One stole a head torch from beside them while they were sleeping.
On a branch nearby, a grey shrike-thrush was eyeing us closely and seemed to be waiting for something to happen. I came across another report which mentioned walkers feeding a tame species at the same lookout. It’s a popular spot for hikers to eat lunch and it appears the wildlife are becoming accustomed to scraps.
Further along we enjoyed more views at Surprise Rock, a remnant volcanic dyke. Many people comment that it’s an easy scramble to the top, but our legs were feeling jelly-like after the slippery cliff paths so we passed up the thrill. From all accounts it’s definitely worth it if you don’t mind heights.
The last part of the trail took us back through changing vegetation again and light was dwindling fast. We were still talking about the adorable furry unidentified creature when we reached the lodge and prepared for a three course buffet meal in the dining room. We’d eaten all our backpack snacks by this stage and were ravenous but wanted to have enough room for dessert so held off eating anything else. It’s very rare that Tough Cookie and I eat in a restaurant. She’s a poor uni student and my income is nothing to boast about so we were excited by the luxury of such a lavish meal we didn’t have to cook or clean up after.
It was at this point that the great finger debacle of 2016 occurred. No, the injury did not take place on our walk, but at our accommodation. I had gone outside the room to put on my shoes while my daughter finished changing. As I bent down, I lost balance and rested my hand up against the wall to steady myself. At the same time my daughter was inside, pushing the thick wooden door shut. Instead of being against the wall, I’d accidentally placed my fingers in the door frame, on the hinged side of the open door. I didn’t realise this until I felt the end of my middle finger being crushed and sliced as it closed.
I couldn’t speak from the pain but knocked wildly on the door. My daughter, unaware of what was going on looked at my white face in puzzlement until she saw me clutching my bleeding hand. The searing pain was now gone and replaced by complete numbness. Despite the obvious damage, I no longer felt discomfort. We suspected the nerves had been severed or crushed.
The first step was to reduce swelling and blood flow which we did with soft cold packs from the bar fridge of our room. I kept my hand higher than my heart as well. Due to a genetic condition I have reduced clotting factor which was slightly concerning. It seemed to take forever before the blood flow ceased.
Now, I’m not usually the kind of person who feels queasy about gaping wounds and blood, but my low blood sugar level combined with my naturally low blood pressure brought on mild shock. I spent ½ hour cocooned in warm blankets being fed sugary tea by my daughter while I waited and hoped for the feeling to come back into my finger. Fortunately, the tip wasn’t crushed for long enough to sever the nerves completely and after ½ hour the pain returned.
Looking at the mess of the tip I decided that there was nothing that could be successfully stitched and nothing that time wouldn’t probably heal eventually. Had it been higher up my finger I would have made a different decision. As it was I couldn’t hold the steering wheel and my daughter was only a learner so driving down the range in the dark only to wait at a crowded emergency centre for a few hours seemed like a bad choice. Besides, we had a three course meal to eat, so an hour later we made it to the dining room with my finger impressively bandaged.
Drugged up on pain killers, I don’t even remember the meal but my daughter says I uncharacteristically chatted non-stop to anyone around me who asked about my injury. I’m not sure it was the best dinner table story really and by dessert, blood was seeping through the bandages again.
After a restless night trying not to bump my hand and bleed over the bed, I woke with a migraine and we adjusted our plans. Now if I was a suspicious soul I may have wondered if the whole incident was part of my daughter’s own grand plan to escape a 20 km walk. The cheeky girl even suggested the idea.
I must confess that I wasn’t disappointed to convert our physically challenging trip to one of relaxation. The Dave’s Creek Circuit had given us plenty to talk about already and lazing about the lodge eating a huge cooked buffet breakfast, a cheese platter at sunset and then another three course meal for dinner, interspersed with reading, chatting and short wanders was not too difficult to endure really.
We did manage to do the 5 km, class 4, Caves’ Circuit walk which I’ve done on previous occasions. It’s an interesting wander through rainforest and open eucalypt forest with views of the Coomera Valley but the main points of interest for me are Kweebani Cave and the archway and steps cut out of the volcanic rock mountain side.
My daughter volunteered to give a sense of scale to Kweebani Cave. High on the roof, what seemed to be strange red fungi caught our attention. You can see it in this shot.
It wasn’t until we returned home and enlarged the image that we realised it was definitely not fungi. After once again consulting learned friends and social media, the consensus is that they are wasps’ nests or feral bee hives. I haven’t been able to move beyond that ID.
So the mystery has been revealed. Most injuries I incur are not on walks but in “safe” buildings. While friends and family may sometimes express concern about my walking adventures, given my history, I am probably safer out in nature than in my home or driving a car. Once again my grand plans needed major modifications, but the result was far from disappointing. Who doesn’t need a little luxury sometimes and I have a numb, slightly deformed finger to remind me forever of a very special trip spent with my youngest child.
I almost forgot. Even though it was mid-winter, we managed to transport a few ticks home with us. It wouldn’t be a mildly extreme walk without them these days. I still have a few itchy spots on my head despite it being months since our holiday.
For more information about Dave’s Creek Circuit and other walks at Binna Burra in Lamington National Park, check the Queensland National Parks website.
Thanks for reading and for your patience. 🙂