Let me be perfectly honest. This was certainly no rugged adventure. I didn’t get hurt or lost. There were no epiphanies. I didn’t reach a profound conclusion. There was a risk that I would never want to return home though.
I often describe how a landscape affects me while I am in it. However, landscapes can also impact us so profoundly that they leave us with residual feelings and memories that are just as potent long after we are removed from them.
Many of us have places we retreat to in our minds when our surroundings become challenging – when depressing world news overwhelms us, and emotional and physical pain threaten to break our spirit. Unexpected triggers as well as conscious efforts to remember, can transport us back to sanctuaries visited long ago. Often it is when we are most remote from such a landscape that we find ourselves seeking solace in memories of it.
Childhood landscapes, in particular, may have the power to affect our preferences as adults. Those places we lived or visited during our formative years can leave lasting impressions which influence the way we view the world and how we make decisions. Landscapes can, indeed, be powerful.
My time spent at Mouses House Rainforest Retreat and my walks in Springbrook National Park in February left that kind of impression on me. I’ve made plenty of day trips to the region many times and stayed overnight in inexpensive camping spots and cottages, but on my last trip I spent two nights in a chalet overlooking a cascading stream, surrounded by World Heritage listed subtropical rainforest.
I struggled to find the right words to recount this trip, not because I thought it was boring or unpleasant, but because every time I looked at my album, vivid memories came flooding back. I became lost in sensation and thinking took a back seat. Reliving the earthy scents, the sound of bird calls, waterfalls and rainforest rustlings, and the exhilaration brought about by breathing crisp, pollution-free mountain air sent me into a meditative state not conducive to sentence construction.
For many years I’ve longed to stay in the Mouses House Rainforest Retreat but it felt more appropriate for romantic honeymooners and it seemed well out of my price range. However, illness and changed plans left me searching for a way to recharge my batteries and escape the bottomless rabbit hole of overthinking. I also had a less selfish reason. My son was engaged and I wanted to check if the accommodation lived up to its advertising should he and his partner wish to honeymoon there. It did, and given its lingering therapeutic benefits it was more than worth the cost.
Due to its height, latitude and close vicinity to the sea, Springbrook National Park has one of the highest annual rainfalls in Australia. In March this year, 1407mm fell in the region, due in part to the effects of Cyclone Debbie. A whopping 789mm was recorded in Upper Springbrook on just one day. Fortunately, I visited in February before the cyclone caused significant damage to roads and power. Access to the mountain is still affected so if you intend visiting, please check beforehand which routes are open.
Initially, my intention was to do as much walking as possible, but I didn’t anticipate the spell the Mouses House chalet would cast. From my seat on the porch I could see, hear, smell and even feel the sub-tropical rainforest’s magic. A Queensland summer in Brisbane is usually hot, sometimes reaching the 40s (Celsius), but up on the mountain, situated next to a stream and surrounded by mist-shrouded brush box trees, I needed a coat.
Two trees had grown through the floor and roof of the porch and skinks waited patiently on the trunks for crawling insects.
Birds flitted around the cascades during the day and at night, short-eared possums (Trichosurus caninus) made their appearance at my door, demanding attention. I’d left my noisy common brushtail possum neighbours behind only to be kept company by a larger, more thuggish version.
It was only recently discovered that these northern mountain brushtail possums in Queensland and New South Wales are a distinct species from the southern mountain brushtail possums, Trichosurus cunninghamii, in Victoria. Today Trichosurus cunninghamii retains the common name of mountain brushtail possum.
They are usually a grey colour on the back with a dirty white underbelly but pure black ones such as this male also occur.
Shy red-necked pademelons (Thylogale thetis) peeked at me through undergrowth.
The chalets are fed by spring water, more gentle on my sensitive skin than our highly chlorinated city supply. Boardwalks through the forest link the chalets to the main office and provide excellent viewing points.
Eventually, on the second day, I dragged myself out onto the equally magical trails. Rather than repeat the challenging 17km, class 4 Warrie Circuit which I have blogged about previously, I opted for the easier 4km, class 3 Twin Falls walk.
Twin Falls may only be 4km but it is probably one of the best value short walks you can do in Queensland. It boasts multiple waterfalls and impressive lookouts as it zigzags through lush sub-tropical rainforest. Walking under rock overhangs, through rock clefts and behind waterfalls makes the trail feel like more of an adventure than the short distance would have you expect.
Along the paths you’re likely to spot interesting fungi like these as well as a variety of reptiles and birdlife.
I believe this to be Boletellus emodensis or Boletellus deceptivus.
Here’s another picture of one kicked over on the path, showing its underside.
This may be Strobilomyces velutipes.
I’m not sure about this one either. Perhaps it is a ghost fungus which glows at night or a Chanterellus. I was far too comfortable in the chalet to go back and check. Yes, even I have limits when it comes to the personal sacrifice I am willing to make for fungi.
Here’s an eastern water skink, Eulamprus quoyii. The females give birth to between 2 and 9 live young in spring.
I may be known as a directionally-challenged hiker, but over the years I’ve discovered many other lost souls trying to find their way. In fact, I am often asked for help. Sometimes I think I need to hang a sign around my neck or wear a ti-shirt that reads, “Please don’t ask me, I’m as lost as you!” It may save everyone much time and embarrassment.
On this occasion though, I was almost a Twin Falls guru, having been there numerous times, so when I came across a foreign photographer who was lugging an enormous tripod and camera and staring despondently at a damaged sign, I was actually able to help.
Since Mr LensCap couldn’t speak English, he tagged along with me for a while, no doubt taking far superior shots with his heavy and extremely expensive equipment. Waterfall shots are my nemesis so I gave up trying to get a good shot. Being a little hot and sweaty from the humidity and exertion, I enjoyed the cooling effects of Twin Falls while Mr LensCap clicked away at the surroundings.
There were plenty of views to enjoy along this short walk. The Gold Coast is visible in the far distance. It’s difficult to believe such a pristine area of wilderness is less than an hour’s drive from the city
I said goodbye to Mr LensCap with a combination of hand gestures and exaggerated English and he simply bowed and smiled. I have no idea if he understood anything I said but he seemed in awe of his surroundings and I was glad that at least on this rare occasion I could be of some help.
Instead of having to drive the narrow winding road home, it was a joy to return to the chalet for a relaxing spa and a snooze before enjoying a nocturnal visit from my new possum friends.
I’m happy to report that my nature loving son and his new wife holidayed at the Mouses House also. Their opinion of the location? “It’s amazing!” In fact, when you read through the guest book, many couples have loved it so much they return again and again for anniversaries and other celebrations such as the impending birth of their first child. Some bring back their children who were conceived there. It makes for interesting reading. I’ve no doubt that being immersed in such beautiful natural surroundings away from electronic distractions and the materialism of the modern world nurtures human relationships. My only complaint is that the cost makes it unaffordable for many people who probably need it the most.
“Anyone who lives in a city will know the feeling of having been there too long. The gorge-vision that the streets imprint on us, the sense of blockage, the longing for surfaces other than glass, brick, concrete and tarmac….I have lived in Cambridge on and off for a decade, and I imagine I will continue to do so for years to come. And for as long as I stay here, I know I will have to also get to the wild places.”
― Robert Macfarlane
For more information about Springbrook National Park and trail maps please check the Queensland National Parks website.
You can find out more information about the Mouses House Rainforest Retreat here.