The Bunya Mountains – Deadly and Delicious

“The path to paradise begins in hell.”  When 13th century Italian poet, Dante, wrote these words in Divine Comedy, he couldn’t have predicted how applicable they would be to my first walk in the Bunya Mountains.

I was literally on the trail to a place called Paradise, when a lapse in concentration led to pain described as a combination of hot acid burn and electrocution. Could hell be much worse?

Before I elaborate on my unfortunate error, let me wind back the clock to a few days before my trip.

Whatever happened to Lycra Man? If you’ve been a reader of my blog from the early days, you may be acquainted with my occasional walking partner, dubbed Lycra Man due to his love affair with two wheels and matching fluorescent attire. (See How to Torture a Hiking Partner, Great Expectations, and  Lycra Man’s Attachment Problems. ) It seems he’s amassed a dedicated following, with a few readers asking if he will ever return.

Well, I’m finally able to provide some satisfaction to fans of his sarcasm. He does receive a mention in this account. However, this is not because he participated in my Bunya Mountains adventure. No, the reason for Lycra Man’s inclusion is because my choice of trip almost resulted in him being rushed to an emergency department a week afterwards.

Before heading off 12 months ago on my solo 3 day camping adventure, I mentioned the potential for a shattered skull to Lycra Man. While Bunya Pines only produce a bumper crop every three years, they  may still drop huge cones weighing up to 10 kilograms annually. These crash to the ground without warning in late January to early March.  I was expecting words of concern from my audience, or at least a little comforting reassurance.

My news threw Lycra Man into an excited spin.  His eyes glazed over like Homer Simpson contemplating a doughnut-filled stadium. Luckily, he stopped just short of drooling. You see, Lycra Man’s alternative nickname could be Squirrel, due to his nut addiction. And what are his favourites? Bunya nuts. I was commanded to satisfy his desires.

I told him I couldn’t remove them from a national park, but if I saw any lying on the side of the highway, I might bring one back for him. I also mentioned, with perhaps a tiny hint of sarcasm, that I was incredibly moved by his overwhelming concern for my safety.

After a lengthy pause, he replied, “Obviously, I didn’t comment on the possible danger to you, because I have complete confidence in your vast experience, knowledge, and judgement.”

Have I mentioned his political aspirations?

Unfortunately, poor Lycra Man was to be bitterly disappointed on my return. No, not because I survived.  I had raised his hopes to heavenly heights, only to send them crashing down by returning cone-less.

This was far too much for the Lycra-clad Squirrel to bear. After Googling frantically, he secured a nutty feast from a suburban backyard dealer. The sellers seemed less enamoured than he by the bounty of their magnificent Bunya Pine, perhaps due to the impressions left in their concrete driveway and garage roof by the deadly delicacies.

After revealing his fan base, I asked if I could photograph the roasting process for my blog.  He readily agreed, remarking, “It’s inevitable your audience has noticed my charming qualities.”

I’ll share the unexpected outcome of his culinary endeavours at the end of this post. For now, let’s return to my camping trip.

The Bunya Mountains, 250 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, preserve the largest natural stand of Bunya Pines (Araucaria bidwillii ) in the world.  These are not true pines, but belong to the Araucariaceae family, and were a dominant feature of Australian forests in wetter times.

The mountains have immense spiritual significance to the Traditional Custodians and  other visiting Indigenous groups, and are referred to as Booburrgan Ngmmunge (meaning “mothers milk.”) During bumper crops, Traditional Custodians would invite other groups from New South Wales and Queensland to gather and  share in the bounty.

These were huge festivals and incredibly important socially, culturally and spiritually. It was a time to trade, solve disputes, arrange marriages,  perform ceremonies, develop and enforce laws, review spiritual connections, and to revitalise spirits.

European farming, grazing and logging not only severely disrupted these large gatherings by making it difficult for visiting Indigenous groups to travel along their traditional pathways, but also resulted in the killing and forced removal of many Traditional Custodians.

For more information about this history and what is being done now to revive the festivals and strengthen existing Indigenous connections to the Bunya Mountains, please read the Bonye Buru Booburrgan Ngmmunge: Bunya Mountains and Aboriginal Aspirations and Caring for Country Plan.

The Bunya Mountains are indeed a very special place – so special, that I’ve been grappling with how to write about them for twelve months.

The incredible diversity of vegetation will draw me back again and again.

With at least nine types of rainforest, woodlands, vine-tangled scrub, impressive grass trees,  grasslands (known as “balds”), wildflowers, numerous lookouts, waterfalls and streams, the Bunya Mountains offer a unique combination of experiences in one wilderness location.

I cannot hope to cover the many delights. Instead, I will share a few highlights from my 40 kilometres of walking, including my brief encounter with hell.

With hot showers and toilets, covered barbecue areas, lush green lawns, and a restaurant, cafe and whiskey bar within walking distance, the Dandabah camping ground can hardly be called spartan.

You don’t even need to leave the camping area to enjoy some of the many natural treasures of Bunya Mountains National Park. Birds and mammals frequent the grounds.

Red-necked wallabies rest and feed under trees during the day and evidence of their night grazing is spread across the lawn at first light.

Unless the dedicated national parks rangers have an industrial roo-poo vacuum cleaner, there must be a super-sized dung beetle population, as the lawns are remarkably poo-free by midday.

I could have stayed at the campground mesmerised by the maternal marsupial magic forever, but the promise of exciting forest discoveries eventually enticed me onto the first trail – the path to Paradise.

If you want to be pedantic, it was actually the 10 kilometre Barker Creek Circuit, but it does include a trip to Paradise and Paradise Falls along the way. So, what was it that inflicted so much pain on my path to Paradise?

Heading along the trail, I was struck by how dry and warm this part of the national park was.  An occasional breeze showered me with golden foliage. The path looked more like an autumnal carpet. Finding an interesting feather, I paused to take a shot.

I usually photograph exactly what I see and don’t try to artificially improve the composition by rearranging foliage or rocks. However, in this case,  I really wanted the  the feather to stand out against a contrasting background. Rather than opting to relocate the feather, I decided to remove a few surrounding leaves. I was to regret this decision for many weeks to come.

Here is the before shot.  Can you recognise anything in this picture which may have landed me in hell? No, it wasn’t a venomous spider. I’ve never been bitten by those much maligned creatures.

The culprit – the object responsible for my agony – was the small yellow leaf on the left with three holes chewed out of it.  I should have known better (my mantra really.) I’d been walking past the trees that drop these and am well aware of the dangers. It may look totally benign, but when I picked it up between my thumb and forefinger, this innocent-looking leaf revealed its lingering shocking defence mechanism.

This is a young leaf of a species of stinging tree. Now while most people are familiar with stinging nettles, many may not be aware that  Australian Stinging Trees have been labelled the most painful trees in the world, with one variety being dubbed the suicide tree, due to anecdotes of soldiers killing themselves to escape the agony.

Many native creatures appear to be immune to the sting and even devour the fruit and leaves, but dogs, horses, and humans are severely affected. It was ecologist, Marina Hurley, who described the pain as “like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time”. During her studies on stinging trees she had to use thick welders’ gloves and a mask.

Stinging trees tend to grow in more open sunlit areas of a rainforest –  along paths, or where the canopy has been opened up by a falling tree or storm damage. Queensland National Parks and Wildlife usually have plenty of warnings in brochures and on signs about avoiding these trees. Simple precautions can almost eliminate risk, so please don’t be discouraged from visiting the Bunya Mountains because of my lapse in judgement.

The tiny silicon tipped hairs are like transparent glass tubes and contain a very stable neurotoxin. So stable in fact, that 150 year old dried leaves have still been found to contain this neurotoxin. These hairs, found on the leaves, trunk and fruit, break off in the skin and the neurotoxin is released with temperature changes. Some people continue to suffer for weeks, months and even years from hairs which are buried in their skin as the residual neurotoxin is activated when they have showers or exercise.

The trees also shed hairs continuously into the air. It’s not recommended that you stand beneath the trees for long periods, as the hairs can be breathed in, causing nosebleeds and lung problems. If it is necessary to work underneath, it’s best to wear a filter mask and a hat.

So, what is the treatment for these stinging hairs? Some sources recommend  including hair removal wax strips in your first aid kit, as these will help remove hairs without rubbing.  However, I’ve also read that a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid is used first in some hospitals to soak the affected area  and that this is far more effective in the long term. As with many reactions to stings and bites, the effects vary between individuals, and the part of the body exposed also affects the intensity of pain.

At the time of my close encounter, I was ignorant of the recommended treatment and did not carry  wax strips or dilute HCL. Using a sticky band-aid was not effective and seemed to exacerbate the pain. Rinsing the area with water had no effect either. I considered turning back to camp immediately, but assumed the pain would eventually disappear so continued on. Besides, I was close to midway around the circuit.

The pain did not disappear quickly.  It was several weeks before my fingers  returned to normal, and in the meantime it affected my ability to hold a camera, limiting my photographic offerings to you.

While researching the pain inflicted by stinging trees I came across this vivid description by a hiker (Skywalker) on the forum of bushwalker.com   After losing his footing, he accidentally pressed his hand on the leaf of one notorious species of stinging tree, known as the Gympie-Gympie.  In the interests of helping others to avoid his terrible experience, he kindly shared these words on the forum:

“The following pain was nothing I had ever dreamt of and to say it was unbearable would be an understatement. The pain was so intense, that it was radiating up my left arm and into my chest, which made me to believe I was about to go into cardiac arrest. It was like holding your hand into fire coals. I was paralysed. To cut a long story short, I had to be rescued by emergency helicopter and taken to hospital (thankfully we had phone reception and a gps). No amount of morphine, fentanyl, endone, neurofen, ibuprofen and paracetomal that the triage gave me did anything at all to reduce the pain. After hours of agonising pain, they received advice from a James Cook University tropical medicine professional to use diluted hydrochloric acid on my hand. Upon inital application which involved placing my whole hand into a bucket of the solution, the sting was five times as bad as the sting itself. I screamed the place down and almost cried like a baby (im a 35yo male) but no amount of pain was going to see me pull my hand out if this was meant to be a cure. Two minutes later…complete and total relief. The pain was 100% gone. No redness, no swelling, no marks. I was calling it a miracle. I was sent home half an hour later. I was almost embarrassed about the whole affair.  The reason for my post is to make everyone aware of the only real treatment for this horrific plant….HYDROCHLORIC ACID, diluted to 1:8 to 1:10. You hear of other treatments that have been used in the past that don’t properly treat the pain, but only try to unsuccessfully “remove” the stinging hairs only to aggravate them even further whilst pushing them deeper into their skin or breaking them off and releasing more toxins, and the victim is still in pain years later if they accidentally bump the same place or if they come into contact with cold water etc”

I was much luckier than poor Mr Skywalker and the little taste of hell didn’t dampen my appreciation for the Bunya Mountains.

I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to dislike chocolate until I discovered three close relatives are not fans. Is there an anti-chocolate gene in my family? It’s a terrifying prospect. Such mutations threaten the very fabric of society. The Bunya Mountains provided me with 2 chocolatey treats, one with wings and one to satisfy my mycologist proclivities.

Close to the camping ground lies the old Dandabah School House, which is home to  Australia’s largest known maternity colony of chocolate wattled bats  (Chalinolobus morio). During warmer months, these tiny bats, weighing only 8 -11g,  emerge just after dark from the walls and roof  of this tiny building.

I’ve read reports of the colony increasing to 3000 in breeding season. The females nest higher in the ceiling to help keep the babies warm, while the males tend to roost in the walls. About 24 different bat species have been recorded at the Bunya Mountains, including two rare species. Late one evening I waited patiently for them to emerge. I was expecting a mass exodus of wings, but on this occasion, the bats trickled out slowly from an opening near the roof.

In the past, I’ve sometimes noticed brown and white blobs on logs in rainforest. It wasn’t until I got up close and took a picture of one at the Bunya Mountains that I realised how amazing these blobs are when magnified.

Chocolate brown slime mould (from the genus Stemonitis)  goes through a rapid and fascinating life cycle.  Initially, the slime mould begins as a white plasmodium mass and ends up as dry chocolate tubes, dusty with spores.

Here’s a high speed You Tube video which shows the sporangia development over 24 hours.

This discovery actually solved a puzzle which relates to an experience in my youth. Perhaps this is a story only nature nerds may appreciate though.  As a teenager attending a highschool in a coastal town, I eventually learnt it was “not cool” to express my intense passion for the natural world. Before I learned to hide my enthusiasm for the delights of fungi and insects, I was prone to embarrassing gaffes. Sitting conspicuously alone one day on a grassy bank by the swimming pool, I was shocked when a popular lad approached.  He probably said something incredibly suave like, “How’s it going?”

The whole conversation is mostly a blur apart from my enthusiastic question: “Do you like fungi?”

The day before, I had been exploring my local neighbourhood after rain looking for fungi, and was amazed by how many species I’d found. For some reason the young Casanova looked awkward and left quickly.

Many years later I received a Facebook friend request from a curly haired man I did not recognise although his name seemed vaguely familiar. I ignored it. After all, he could have been a Ted Bundy clone. It wasn’t until I researched chocolate brown slime mould that something in my mind clicked and I realised the request  was from Bruce, the young man from my scintillating teenage encounter.

It seems in the many years since that afternoon he must have been dwelling on my fascinating fungi facts. Obviously, my mycological words of passion had left him temporarily speechless and that is why he walked away. He just needed time to compose himself – about 25 years.  In reality, Bruce was obviously deeply impressed  even though I’d assumed the worst. There’s a lesson here, people. Be true to yourself. Don’t hide those fungal fantasies that give you joy.  When I mentioned this to Lycra Man, he replied, “I doubt it was the fungi he was fantasising about all these years, Jane.”

Oh, he of little faith! I reiterate – to thine own self be true.  Someone, somewhere, some day will appreciate the nature nerd within. Embrace it.

Back to the Bunya Mountains again. I doubt I’ll ever make it up Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, but if I mumble when I say I’ve been up Mt Kiangarow (the highest point of the Bunya Mountains) perhaps I’ll get some impressed looks. At 1135 metres, it is less than a quarter of the height of Tanzania’s iconic climb, but the 2.3 kilometre walk still had me panting in the heat.

It’s no secret I’m in love with grass trees. I devoted a whole post to this romance. The western walks at the Bunya Mountains had me swooning.

Not only are there numerous grass trees along the ridge tracks, but they tower over you. Xanthorrhoea glauca grow on Mt Kiangarow, with some reaching 5 metres.

These are hundreds of years old and are some of the oldest grass trees in Australia.

While recovering at the lookout, I noticed an old friend – actually, many old friends. I’d first encountered a sand wasp on the summit of Mt Ngun Ngun. At Mt Kiangarow lookout there were hundreds of burrows.

Do sand wasps appreciate a good view like we humans?

I knew they could inflict a painful sting when provoked and are not  strictly social insects, but it was only when I returned home and read further that I discovered they may defend as a group if their burrows are disturbed.

After unwittingly trampling their holes with my hiking boots while admiring the expansive views, it was probably unwise of me to lie on the ground, just inches away, taking photos.  However, on this occasion I left unscathed, unlike my encounter with the aggressive dried leaf the day before.

I also survived a close encounter with a curious trapdoor spider. In this case, I was midway through emptying my bulging bladder when I noticed  an audience near my foot.

I spied many lace monitors on my wanders at the Bunya Mountains with one bailing me up on the morning I left. Wanting a few more photographs  on what was meant to be a quick repeat of one of my western walks, I left my backpack (and water) back in the carpark, and bolted up the track. However, on my way back I was stopped by this specimen sprawled on a narrow path bordered by a cliff edge  and a steep scrub-covered bank.

Usually lace monitors don’t linger. They’ll move away as soon as I approach. Not so in this case.

I took the opportunity to take a few close-ups and noticed patches of shedding skin as well as red parasites congregated around an eye. I’m wondering now if the stress of the moulting process, the parasites, or both, affected the animal’s behaviour.

As the day warmed up I quickly regretted leaving my backpack in the car and considered detouring via the scrubby embankment, but my paralysis tick phobia screamed at  me to seek an alternative.

I tentatively placed a long branch near the monitor to gauge whether it would allow me to pass. Within seconds I was treated to what I imagine to be the lace monitor equivalent of a crocodile death roll. The branch was well and truly engulfed by those strong claws.  It now took up a new position. You can see the old injuries to its tail in this shot, as well as part of the branch I used to test its reaction.

Then it closed its eyes and settled in for a snooze.

Thankfully, Mr Sleepyhead eventually headed down the cliff and I could continue my trip home.

The incident had me researching lace monitors on my return and I was fascinated to read that the females lay their 6 – 12 eggs inside termite nests. Initially, they dig a hole in the side of a termite mound which is then quickly sealed over by termites. This keeps the eggs incubated at a constant temperature of 30 C and after 8-9 months the female will return to dig them out.

Initially, I assumed the 119 grasslands, known as “balds,” dotted across the Bunya Mountains were the result of tree clearing by loggers and farmers. Once again further reading surprised me.

Some scientists believe that these grasslands covered even larger areas of the Bunya Mountains for thousands of years. It appears these balds (which contain temperate plant species preferring cooler, moister climates) are slowly disappearing under forest, in response to Australia’s warming climate.  Also, it’s thought that some of the recent rapid invasion by woody plants has occurred because regular fire events undertaken as part of past Aboriginal land management stopped during the 1900s.

These balds are important endangered ecosystems. They contain many kinds of native grasses on which numerous species of birds and mammals depend. One blue grass species, Bothriochloa bunyensis, grows nowhere else in the world. The rare skink, Lampropholis colossus, lives in the Bunya balds.

Fortunately, trickle burning has now been reintroduced by Traditional Owners and  is helping to protect these important grasslands.

It’s a stark contrast to walk from the glare of open grasslands to heavily shaded subtropical rainforest.

This is one of the reasons why the Bunya Mountains is such an interesting place to walk. It’s difficult to become bored when the vegetation changes so dramatically.

And now, if you haven’t nodded off, it’s time to sate your curiosity about Lycra Man’s close call.

The process of roasting Bunya Nuts requires some effort. First we needed to remove the nuts from the cone.

Then Lycra Man cut an “x” in the hard outer shell of each nut and popped them on a tray in the oven. He was so eager to get them into the oven that I missed photographing this step.

We sat down to have a cuppa in another room while the nuts were roasting. It wasn’t long before I could smell something burning. I learnt some years ago never to question Lycra Man’s cooking prowess so kept silent.

When the nuts started exploding, Lycra Man leapt up, removed the tray and placed it on top of the oven. Just after bending down to retrieve the shards of shell from the bottom of the oven, more exploded above his head, spraying the kitchen with bunya nut shrapnel. A temporary retreat was in order until the bombs were cold. Had he not been bending down retrieving the shards from the oven, he may have lost an eye.

Fortunately, some of the much desired morsels were still intact and here they are for you to see. They taste similar to chestnuts which I think resemble a combination of woodiness, mature cheese and a hint of field mushroom. There are a variety of ways to prepare them including boiling, barbequing, and roasting. Being high in protein, fats, carbohydrates and essential minerals, they make a nourishing meal. They do take some work to prepare though, as you can see by the box full of extraneous cone material!

In defending his culinary expertise, Lycra Man suggested that the explosions were an intentional demonstration of how willing he was to put himself at risk to prepare a tasty treat for me. According to him, anyone can boil Bunya Nuts, but roasting them requires a unique kind of valour.

So let this be a warning to you all – roasting these delicious treats can be just as deadly as collecting them. Food safety is not just about food contamination. Bunya nuts can be  tasty mortars as well as tasty morsels.

Thank you for persevering to the end of this mammoth account.  I hope you enjoyed a taste of what is a very special part of the world. It is my hope that together we can work to preserve its treasures, whether they be deadly, or delicious…

51 thoughts on “The Bunya Mountains – Deadly and Delicious

  1. Jane, this is just brilliant. What a fantastic adventure, and what a read! You have given such an entertaining, well-researched account of this incredible place, and done it justice.Your posts are always worth the wait, big-time.

    So, you have experienced the stinging tree – a baptism of fire. That sign on the species (with the student’s art) was done by one of my team. Many years ago I had a similar experience with these plants, and more recently – having forgotten the pain with the passing of time – I took on a bet by my son that I would not grab one of the leaves (he did not believe in their stinging abilities). He did believe soon after however, as I hopped about the track cursing and yelling and waving my hand in the air, to his great amusement and minor concern. They are just so ridiculously painful!

    The Bunya Mountains is indeed a special place. Every time I visit it I see something new – it’s that kind of spot. I have yet to see my reptile Holy Grail there though – one of the isolated population of beautiful Tiger Snakes that live there, but you have to be so lucky to see one, and despite searching I’ve yet to manage this. I have a wonderful photo of one of them by one of my ranger colleagues, who, upon seeing one on the side of the track, leaned over it with mobile phone and took a corker of a photo (it’s on the display screen in the visitor centre). Your sun-bathing lace monitor and sand wasp shots are wonderful.

    You have taken these posts to a wonderful level mate, well done. I hope your hand has recovered – I found that mine would start hurting weeks later for no reason.

    Cheers and all the best, Rob.

    • Robert, I can’t believe you willingly chose to touch a stinging tree! 🙂 I suppose I continued to have more children after the pain of childbirth! Haha. The memory does dim over time until you repeat it and you say, “Never again!” I couldn’t believe how quickly the pain hit. I had only just barely squeezed the leaf with my thumb and finger when the intensity shot right through me. I was shaking my hand and walking around in circles and saying words I shouldn’t… I thought I must have been bitten by a spider at first. As you say, it’s a baptism of fire. Imagine the pain of greater skin contact. When I was at uni, a vet student from Cairns told me he’d accidentally used stinging tree leaves for toilet paper on a walk. Not sure how he managed to transfer them to his nether regions without feeling pain in his hands. Maybe he was wearing work gloves. Ouch.

      Thanks for the encouraging words about my blog post. It’s far too long but it’s difficult not to rave on about the Bunya Mountains and I do go off reminiscing as well of course. As you say, it’s a very special place. I was going to go camping there again but noticed Dandabah is temporarily closed for maintainence/improvements.

      I wasn’t really looking out for tiger snakes but now that you’ve mentioned them, I will be extra vigilant! I probably walked right past them while being absorbed in some other plant or animal sighting. They would be hard to see in the scrub. Perhaps we can do a walk up at the Bunyas some time when our calendars align. I’d love to get some better pictures and as you say, there is always something new to see. The weather has been so hot lately though. Your area used to be the cool rainy spot in Queensland, but your summer temps this year have been pretty crazy. Anyway, thanks again for all your help and support, Rob. It’s really appreciated, mate. All the best. 🙂

    • Thanks, Brian. I hope I didn’t cause you too much distress with my activities! The length of the post is enough to exhaust anyone! I’m exhausted from writing it. You should read Rob’s comment above. He recently CHOSE to touch a stinging tree for a dare. My experience is so recent in memory that I shuddered when I read his words! I couldn’t believe the intensity of pain and how sudden it was. It really was like an electric shock. Thank goodness only two fingers were affected. Hope you’ve had some decent rain down your way. It’s been pretty dry in NSW (and up where I am.) 🙂

  2. I was only thinking about you yesterday and how much I missed your posts. Imagine my delight when this one popped into my inbox. I am saving it for a good long read as there is too much to take in in one go. So sorry about the pain that leaf caused you and hope it gone away by now.

    • Thank you very much, Susan. I’ve also been thinking about you and my other dear blogging friends in the past 8 months and have been feeling frustrated with myself for not having shared blog posts which I promised many months ago. I’ve found it difficult to focus and finish projects but hope to share more this year. My last child has moved out of home so I am now an empty-nester after having my offspring around for about 30 years. The silence takes a little getting used to! The original blog post draft was 10 000 words and I struggled to reduce it to 4000 words. Too long for a blog post really but I hope it makes up for my long silence. Best wishes. 🙂

  3. Hello, Jane. I’d give you a big, long hug right now if I could! I thought of you recently when I made a quick trek to the Washita River, just beyond our property, to quiet my mind. I wondered how you were, hoping for good things. Things have been difficult here the last months, and so I found myself wishing for an escape of some kind… and this morning, there was your post!! I enjoyed two cups of coffee, while reading of your Bunya Mountain adventure, savoring every word, chuckling as I created that vision of you making your way along the paths. You are the only brave woman I know who would write, ” In this case I was midway through emptying my bulging bladder when I noticed an audience near my foot.” I love the reality and genuine nature of your writing! And stinging trees sound much more painful than our stinging nettles, which are found in most areas of the US. I got into a patch of them last summer while digging up musk thistle (they were hidden within a group of thistle) and spent a few days in horrible pain!

    Your humor, fascinating detail to the vast areas and lands you hike along with your awesome photographs, makes your writing some of my favorite reading. I appreciate your writing and friendship more than you know. My hope is to go on a hike with you one day – if we’re both not too old and bodily challenged to accomplish that. I think I’m fairly tough out there in the wilderness, but I’m not sure you wouldn’t label me Screaming American Woman in your storytelling. xoxo

    • Oh Lori, you are such a sweetheart. Thanks for the virtual hug. Sending the same right back at you! Sorry I didn’t reply immediately. It was after midnight here when you commented and I wanted time to think about what you wrote before I replied. I would love it if you could visit here one day. I am not sure how long I will be living in this location, but wherever I am in Australia you are MOST welcome to stay with me for as long as you like! Now that my daughter has moved out I have more freedom to travel but money is an issue at the moment.
      I’m so very sorry to read that things have been difficult for you there these past months. I know how it feels to be desperate for an escape. I must admit that the last year has been somewhat challenging on a few fronts. I think it’s time for me to start actually making more concrete plans but dodgy finances and some health matters are complicating the situation just for now. I’m hoping that this situation will improve though.
      I’m very excited about the prospect of us escaping and being screaming walkers together! That would be so much fun. There are lots of places I would love to take you. Wouldn’t it be exciting to actually go somewhere new that neither of us have explored before. I can imagine laughing until that bulging bladder does burst! Speaking of my bladder, there was a longer story attached to that incident in my blog that you would probably appreciate. I decided I should salvage a smidgeon of decorum and not make it public on this occasion though. Maybe one day. Thanks as always for your wonderful friendship. Even though we may not be in direct contact, it is comforting to know that across the miles, a kindred spirit exists. Am really hoping you get some relief from your difficulties, Lori. xox

    • Hi again, Lori. I’ve just been catching up today on your blog posts from last year. I wanted to comment on many but the comments sections have since closed so I thought I’d reply here again. I was so sorry to read of your little sister Juli being so seriously ill. I was glad to read there was a good outcome. I do hope things are still ok as you’ve not posted in a while. I had a little brother who I was extremely maternal towards. He had serious health problems and died in his 20s so I can relate to your stress levels during this time. It is so, so awful. I really enjoyed reading all your beautifully illustrated stories again. You’ve been doing a lot of filming now too! You have a very special way with words. Your blog is really a wonderful book shared with such honesty, humour, reflection and generosity. I hope you are doing ok there, dear lady? Take care. xo

    • Thanks very much, Isabel. It’s a fantastic place to lose yourself in nature. Next time I’ll be a little more careful about what I touch though. Sometimes my obsessive interest in one thing blinkers me to surrounding dangers! 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Marina. Yes, the Bunya Mountains is a magical place. Unfortunately, my shots weren’t as good as they could have been as my stinging tree experience meant my hand hurt whenever I held my camera. I’d love to go back and improve on my albums. One day I hope to see some of the natural wonders from your beautiful part of the world. 🙂

  4. What an adventure. The whole post from start to finish was an absolute treat. I am very happy to leave hiking in the beautiful places to you as then I get all the pleasure from your photographs without any of the multiple dangers that you encounter so bravely.

    • Thank you very much, Tom. It is lovely to hear from you. It’s a pleasure to share such a beautiful and interesting spot with you. I’m not sure I am particularly brave – more so absent-minded, stubborn and nature obsessed to the point of placing myself in danger! I tend to be a little blinkered when focused on something I am interested in. I get in “the zone.” If I’m not careful, I’ll walk off a cliff one day while staring at birds. I hope you are well there. It’s a particularly hot, dry summer here and I’m noticing less wildlife. I’ve had to supplement the diet of our local birds that are struggling. Your garden birds will be appreciating your feeders in your Scottish winter. 🙂

      • A few years ago, I managed to injure myself by putting my foot through a large hole in a path while looking for flowers.

        I have read about your heatwave. It sounds serious.

        Look after yourself as I look forward to your posts.

        • Ah, the old foot in the hole trick while flower hunting! I have been known to do that while staring up at birds. 🙂 The heatwave conditions have been alleviated where I am by a cyclone hovering off the coast. It’s still humid, but the gusty cool winds are a relief. I’m hoping that it brings much needed rain. Poor Townsville folk (further north) copped major flooding from a cyclone recently, but the flooding rivers are carrying life-giving water to parched inland regions. That’s always the nature of these disasters – they bring both death and life to the land and its inhabitants. Australia is a land of extremes but it seems to be getting more so in recent years. I may need to move to Scotland. 😉

  5. What a fantastic and (very) entertaining post, but you always do write with such fervour, that us nature lovers can’t wait to read the next instalment of your adventures.

    (……and I thought prickly pear fine hairs in my stomach and forearm were annoying after getting too close to photograph the plant and flowers).

    You really should write a book about all your hikes and adventures. Your photography is superb and you certainly have the gift of storytelling.

    • Hi Vicki! Thanks for taking the time to write encouraging words about my writing and pictures. You are kind. It’s been so long since my last blog post I expected people to have given up on me. Giant stinging tree hairs may be painful, but prickly pear hairs are very annoying in their own right. I sympathise! They can also lead to infection sometimes so it’s important to remove them fully. A friend of mine had one reach the bone which caused all sorts of problems. We had a particularly nasty fuzzy looking cactus in our garden out west. It was called a teddy bear cactus but should never be cuddled! My toddler managed to get them all over his hands and arms one day. I actually needed to use a dissection microscope to magnify his fingers enough to see the tiny embedded hairs. Shocking stuff and of course little kiddies don’t like to sit still. Isn’t nature lovely! Heheh. I hope your pain levels are manageable at present. Your chronic conditions must be so draining. I really admire your fortitude and continued ability to find joy in photographing your surroundings. You’re a champ, Vicki. All the best. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Terry! I hope you’re surviving the chilly winter there. It’s always hard for me to believe that while we’re sweltering through a Queensland summer, in your part of the world it’s freezing! Oh how tempting those snow covered mountains look. The reality of day to day living in a freezing winter might test me though. I’d still love to visit one day. It looks so beautiful. I hope you are well. All the best. 🙂

  6. Hey Jane, great to read another of your wonderful posts…it’s been awhile;) The Bunya Mountains look magic, I’ve been past a few times over the years but I’ve never been in…..one day. I’m quite partial to my nuts too, although all that preparation and then having to dodge the bunya shrapnel has me thinking I might stick to my roasted macadamias. Hope to see a few more more posts this year, this one was certainly an epic:)
    Cheers

    • Thanks, Kevin. The Dandabah Camping Ground is a great base to do the 40 km of walking tracks at the Bunya Mountains. There are also lovely cottages and chalets for rent across the road if you and Sam don’t want to rough it in a tent. I’ve only been there in summer, but apparently misty winter days are beautiful.The western tracks are drier and warmer, but there are plenty of lookouts and impressive grass trees. For me the magic of the Bunya Mountains is achieved by slowly meandering along the trails to see as much wildlife, plants and fungi as I can, rather than conquering a challenge and ticking a box. If you approach the walks at this national park with this mindset, you will discover much more to interest you. The diversity of vegetation really adds to the appeal. Now that Rob Ashdown has reminded me about the tiger snakes, I’m really keen to spot them. Perhaps not everyone’s goal when they visit the Park though! Heheh

    • Thank you! Apart from the initial pain, I had a fabulous time exploring the 40 km of trails over 3 days. I have to thank the stinging tree really for giving me a teaser to begin the post with. It was an adventure that will stay with me for a long time (one finger still feels strangely numb and tender sometimes when I’m typing.) The wallabies in the camping grounds were a real treat. I probably would have been just as contented to lie back in my fold-up-chair reading a book and enjoying their company. I guess I wouldn’t have had as much to write about though. All the best. 🙂

    • Haha. Hi Fabrizio! I bet you thought I’d disappeared forever. We do have quite a few potentially deadly plants and creatures here, but strangely my home seems to cause me the majority of my injuries, especially my kitchen. I’ve burnt and cut myself so many times and let’s not start on my falls on slippery surfaces. I’m quite surprised I’ve not had a major accident or been bitten by something nasty on my bushwalks really as I get so focused on looking at one thing that I am oblivious to other dangers. Blindly focusing on the feather on this walk led to my little taste of hell. Yeah, next time (if there is a next time) we roast bunya nuts I will make the cuts deeper and longer and place the nuts in a brown paper bag on a tray. As for the heavy cones crushing my skull, I may need to wear a helmet. Great to hear from you again. 🙂

  7. Just like Susan, I was also wondering about you yesterday and hoping you were okay. What a fabulous read this post is! I’m sorry you hurt yourself; what a shock that must have been! There are so many wonderful descriptions and photos of things you saw on your walk that it is difficult to choose what to mention in this comment. The wallabies are certainly cute and the spider watching you from it’s burrow is excellent! I loved the video of the slime mould – I get really excited about slime moulds! 😀 The beauty of the forested areas is obvious from your pictures – to actually be there must be breathtaking. The views from the lookouts are similarly fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing this special place with us, Jane. Also, thank you for the funny account of Lycra Man and his Bunya Nuts!
    I hope your health issues resolve themselves soon;
    Much love,
    Clare 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Clare. Yes, the stinging leaf was shocking in more ways than one – the kind of pain feels like an electric shock, and it certainly took me by surprise. I’ve almost been obsessive in the past about warning hiking companions about the danger, and am always careful to check if a trunk is from a stinging tree before leaning against it. I certainly didn’t expect such a small half-dead leaf on the path to trigger such intense pain. My experience is a reminder that sometimes it only takes a momentary lapse in concentration to end up in trouble! 🙂 It’s been difficult to work out how to write about my Bunya Mountains trip because there were so many interesting events over the 3 days. I’ve really only touched on a few encounters. I’m so glad you enjoyed the slime mould video, Clare. I found the cycle of growth amazing. Fungi will always be fascinating to me. It’s wonderful to “meet” people like you who share in what most regard as a nerdy passion. Ah, I will tell Lycra Man you enjoyed his exploding nuts. He’ll be very pleased. 😉 I hope you are managing to get some relaxation time, Clare. You usually have so much on your plate. Make sure you take good care of yourself too! Much love to you also. xox

  8. Wonderful to have you back blogging your amazing adventures again Jane! I have missed your amazing exploits, and this is one of the best. I have like you been careful around stinging trees in rainforests, interesting about them dropping hairs. Your story is captivating and your photos excellent. Your truly are a remarkable woman, and the suffering must have been immense. Now you can share with others what the leaf actually feels like. So glad you survived to finish the walk. It is amazing we have the most dangerous spiders, snakes and birds but pine nuts too! I guess they would be similar to coconut injury. All the best Jane, great to hear from you again.

    • Thank you very much for those encouraging words, Ashley. You are too kind. Yes, I was extremely surprised to read that stinging trees shed their hairs and you shouldn’t linger underneath them. In the past, I’ve spent hours under these trees taking shots of fungi or birds. Now I’m wondering if some of the pain issues I’ve had in my scalp and face were due to these hairs falling on my head. Since starting my rainforest walks, I’ve been getting unusual sensations in a number of spots on my scalp as though someone is jabbing me with a needle and it would feel a little like an electric shock. I would ask my daughter to check the places on my scalp for ticks but she couldn’t see anything. The pain still returns sometimes whenever I wear a hat, when I’m lying on a pillow, leaning with my head against an armchair, or having a shower. Could embedded stinging tree hairs be the culprits? I’ll definitely be wearing a hat from now on, even in heavily shaded rainforests, and resisting the temptation to take shots under these trees! I hadn’t thought about falling bunya nuts being like the risk that coconuts pose. I wonder how often people get hit by them. I hope you are continuing to enjoy your passion for birdwatching and photography. All the best. 🙂

  9. What a great pleasure this post was! Certainly worth the wait. I, too, was wondering where you disappeared to. Was it something I said? 😉

    You DO have the most amazing adventures. Lucky for us we don’t have your stinging trees, though there’s a good patch of stinging nettles in the yard. It sounds as ours are far less traumatic. And your skill at writing. I could almost feel your pain. Wish I had your way with words.

    Again… so good to read about your great adventures. I suspect I would have enjoyed the original version as much as this condensed one, or more.

    • Hi Gunta! Yes, I’m sure it must have been something you said that led to my dry spell of blogging. 😉 Seriously though, thank you for your enthusiastic comment and not giving up on me. Perhaps I should email you my original 10000 word draft? 🙂 Just joking. I wouldn’t inflict the hundreds of grammatical errors and my whimsical lapses on you. In one way stinging nettles are more annoying because they are more difficult to avoid than stinging trees. I’ve been along paths and creek banks thick with them. Most people are not going to come across stinging trees in their daily lives, but many people in rural areas come across stinging nettles regularly. I’ve been walking through rainforests for years and this was the first time I’ve touched a stinging tree. It gave me something to write about though! Little did Dante know that hundreds of years after he wrote Divine Comedy, a dumpy middle-aged hiking hermit would be quoting him. I doubt someone will be using my words 700 years from now! Thanks again, Gunta. Hope you’re doing well there? All the best. 🙂

  10. Once again… it’s so good to hear from you no matter the word count! You just never know what someone might dig up from the digital crumbs we leave behind. Perhaps you, too, in some unimaginable future age will have your words resurrected. 😀
    We are doing truly well. LOVE the new location. It has everything I could ever ask for… ocean close, hills, mountains and forests (not to mention Redwoods) all nearby. It’s a wonderful world.

  11. I’ve always thought Australia’s poisonous and disease-spreading creatures would put a damper on my nature love, if I lived there. And now I learn that you have stinging trees and killer Bunya cones. They are like something out of a fantasy nightmare. I’m surprised you venture out with any bare skin exposed!

    And poor Bruce, he must be kicking himself that he didn’t respond, “Fungi? I LOVE fungi,” all those years ago. Think of what he’s missed out on.

    Wonderful post, Jane.

    • Thanks, Brenda! Actually, these days I go on walks with very little skin exposed at all. Hehe. I wear trousers, a long-sleeved, high-collared shirt, a hat, socks, hiking shoes, and sunglasses. Whatever skin is left exposed (my face and hands) is covered in sunscreen. Unfortunately, an auto-immune condition has left me photo-sensitive which makes hiking in a hot Queensland summer particularly uncomfortable. I also have sensitivities to tick, sandfly and march fly bites as well as the insect cream used to repel them. It’s quite a process sometimes getting ready to go on a walk! Ideally, I should be living in a different country, I suppose. Somewhere cold would be a start. 🙂 You made me laugh with your comment about poor Bruce. I suspect if he knew what I’ve been getting up to in my life and what I look like now, he’d be thinking he dodged a bullet! I assume he was just reaching out to an old school friend, and I was one of many he tried to reconnect with. Quite innocent I’m sure, however it was fun to play around with the idea of him being enthralled with my fungi obsession all these years. Hehe. So lovely to hear from you again, Brenda. All the best. 🙂

  12. Very entertaining story as always, Jane. I of course love the initial reference to Dante. The Divina Comedia, with its deeply human themes, is timeless and always relevant. One must of course be able to see through the heavy and dense forest of medieval and theological rethoric. But as with your adventures, the fun is in the walking through that jungle. All the best! Marcus.

    • Lovely to hear from you, Marcus! Thank you for the kind words. I’m very pleased you appreciated the reference to Dante. Yes, I agree. Beneath the heavy medieval and theological rhetoric lie themes worthy of reflection. Many great works seem incomprehensible at first, but as you say, when you take the time to explore and tease out the deeper meanings, the adventure is worth it. Often when I do my walks, I discover much more than I ever expected, physically, mentally and spiritually. It takes me a long time to write a blog post because of this. Often I want to share much more than the scope of a hiking blog allows. Hiking is just one of my passions. Your thoughts are always valued, Marcus. Thank you. All the best to you, as well. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, John! I’d been wanting to visit the Bunya Mountains for 20 years and often passed the turn off on my travels. It was wonderful to finally make it there for a camping trip. It certainly lived up to my expectations! Hope you are well? Best wishes. 🙂

  13. Dear Jane,
    While I am greatly enjoying the views in your photos and a mental image of what a roo-poo vacuum cleaner might look like, your vivid descriptions of the agonies inflicted by one lone, innocent-looking leaf, did not help dispel my very healthy respect for Australia. Apparently one not only needs to fear its deathly fauna…

    • Hi Tanya!
      I’m so pleased you enjoyed the scenery and the roo-poo cleaner image. I still don’t know how all that poo manages to disappear so quickly each day. There must be some pretty amazing dung beetle activity going on! It’s funny the kind of things we grow up being used to that others might find frightening. I’m terrified of going camping in overseas regions that have bears and rabies! I’m also terribly worried about all those scary parasitic diseases in jungle destinations and malaria from mozzies etc. We have some of the most venomous spiders and snakes in the world and crocodiles don’t mind munching on humans that invade their space, but I feel pretty safe really…well, except for those giant stinging trees! Heheh. Thanks very much for reading and taking the time to comment. Great to hear from you. 🙂

      • You make a good point, Jane. We probably do get desensitized to the particular dangers that lurk in our respective neck of the woods, though we all need to be aware no matter where we are.
        I am glad your stinging tree encounter did not leave any permanent damage!

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