As evening draws in and a cool breeze ruffles the surface of the lake, the birds that make this lake their home make their way to safe havens for the night. I spent a few hours emersed in nature in the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast and ended up here on the edge of the Baroon Pocket Dam as the night began to close in.
Behind the streets and high rise facades of the Gold Coast, lie a range of hills, valleys, and escarpments that divide the Eastern Seaboard from the Western Plains. It is a different place to the artificial icons found along the southern Queensland shore. You will find none of the theme park playgrounds and man-made canals or traffic-jammed streets here. This is a place of nature. A place where you can wander for hours along steep tracks lined with natural rainforests, see native wildlife in their natural habitat, and bathe in icy cold water holes as the midday sun drives the mercury up the temperature gauge.
From the Gold Coast resorts, it is an easy drive to explore any of the many attractions that can be found there. One such place is Springbrook. One of those towns where, if you blink, you will miss it. So don’t blink.
It was to Springbrook that I decided to go on the weekend that is the subject of this weeks post
Since Cyclone Debbie visited in April 2016 Springbrook has been even more hidden. The main road in has been closed and now one must take the more circuitous route through Advance Town to get there
As with all things adverse, there is a silver lining, as this route takes you past the Heinz Dam and, it was here that I found myself as the sun was going down. After looking about at the base of the dam, I arrived at the top car park just ahead of an officious security guard who “ordered” me off the place as it was closing time. I think he missed the customer relations seminar.
With the dusk closing in, I headed further south until I noticed a side road in the Numinba Valley where I found a quiet cul-d-sac right beside the lake. Another couple was there, enjoying an evening meal, but other than that, I had the place to myself.
I sorted out the best way to set up the truck and settled in for the night. Being right by the water, the ever-present mosquitos soon made their presence felt, and so I retired behind my mosquito net for an early night.
The following morning, I was up before the sun, hoping for a nice sunrise, but with the surrounding hills, the sun would not show its face until much later in the morning. I was able to get some shots of the early mist on the lake.
The dam was built in 1976 but further upgrades in 1989 and 2011 have raised the height to its current level. The shore where I stayed was bordered with the skeletons of dead trees, drowned with the rising waters of the previous upgrade. While this detracts from the pristine waters that one might expect at such a lake, it is very picturesque because of its brutal starkness.
As the sun began to warm the air, I headed off and turned into the road to Springbrook. Although not a bad road to drive, it was steep in places as it climbed the escarpment before descending down the other side into town.
As I said, Springbrook is not a large town, and it was only by accident that I turned into the Main Street where there was little more than a cafe and a post box to mark its importance as the centre of town.
It was a shade after eight thirty and I decided that the cafe would provide coffee and information and was pleased to see the “open” sign out on the street. I wandered along the wide Verandah and tried the first sliding door. It was locked so I wandered further until I found a second door. This time.. sucess. I went inside.
The room resembled a small hall, with tables and chairs set about and a serving counter at one end. Along the walls were items of Springbrook memorabilia along with fridges full of drinks, but there was no sign of a waitress, cook or any other human. I selected a bottle of water from the fridge and took it to the counter. To my left was a door that clearly led to the kitchen, and so I stood near it whistling a mundane tune, loudly, to attract some attention. It appeared that there was no attention to be attracted in that kitchen and so, being a patient man, I waited.
After several minutes, a lady arrived at the locked door, presented some keys, and walked inside. She was eying me up as if I was some kind of apparition and asked how I came to be there. I explained about the unlocked door as it became clear to me that the place was not yet actually open, despite what the sign outside might be proclaiming.
As for breakfast, I was told that the kitchen didn’t open for some time but was treated to some good information as to how I might spend my day. I also got much of the lowdown on the seedier goings on in town. All a part of the colour that is country living in almost any country in the world.
My hostess turned out to be Gayle Grayson, and she and her husband Peter were the proud owners of the Springbrook Cafe and Bar.
After showing me a coffee table book of photos around Springbrook she let me in on a secret that lived inside the ladies loo. Now, as it was before opening hours, I felt I could follow her into the room, where no gentleman should ever go, in search of the Fat Angel. It appears that she had fallen from grace and had landed, not too glamorously, on the ceiling of the powder room.
Outside, Gayle pointed out all of the options I had for spending a day in Springbrook. The most popular it seemed was the walk down to the Purlingbrook Falls. After posing for me on her trusty cycle, I left Gayle to her day and set out along the road to the car park at the top of the track.
Even at that time, the car park was more than half full and there were any number of folk milling around getting ready for the four-kilometer round trip walk. There were backpackers hiking in on foot right through to a busload of tourists up from the coast for the day.
Not knowing what I should expect I packed my photo gear, water, and some food and headed off. The track makes its way along the top of the escarpment for several hundred meters before it begins to descend. There are several lookouts along the edge and a few groups of trekkers were getting selfies of themselves with the amazing view as a backdrop.
It is always a shame that whenever there is a photo opportunity, someone in the group has to take the photo. Very few of us will carry a tripod and so there is always one face missing. To this end, I will always offer to take a photo for them so that everyone can all be in the group, and today was no exception. It is also a good chance to meet new people and it is amazing, the places where people are from that you meet along the way.
To make the descent easier, sets of steps have been placed along the track in the steeper places. Between the sets of steps, the track follows a steady but reasonable slope as it winds down the escarpment to the base of the falls.
The two kilometers went by quickly and soon enough, I came upon the pool that received the waters from above. The first impression that you get as you come along the track is almost surreal. The falls are partially hidden by lush palms and rainforest and all you get is a glimpse of what lies behind. Mixed with the sounds of birdlife and rushing water were the cries of laughter of people already enjoying the pools. The day I was there the flow over the falls themselves was quiet as there has been little rain to feed the streams.
There was quite a crowd there by the time I got there and I spent a few minutes photographing and watching the people do what people do.
There was a sign describing the significance of the pool, especially to the natural fauna and flora in the area. Tourism places a heavy burden on the natural landscape in places like this and often we forget the damages that we do in our careless pursuit of pleasure. Despite asking that people do not swim here, there were those who chose the path of selfish righteousness and plunged in regardless.
The sign also pointed to a place where swimming was welcome…. Just a kilometer further down the track… I had been speaking with others here who had told me that the walk was well worth the time so I set off down the track.
Sure enough, I came upon another pool, this time, filled with people shrieking from the cold. The group from Poland were already there taking advantage of a cool swim in the, now, very warm day.
Upstream the creek made its way through rainforest before tumbling over a low waterfall into the pool. The pool was deep enough that you could jump from the rocks above the falls without fear of hitting the bottom. The pool drained out on the other side through large rocks and there was an area where a group of hikers was able to spread out and have a bite before taking a swim.
I finally began my trek back, first to the falls and then to tackle the 400 or more steps that lay ahead on the climb back up the escarpment. There were still folk heading down to the pools, even as the heat of the day was reaching its peak. In spite of being in the shade of the rainforest most of the time, the air was hot and I found myself reaching for my water bottle more and more.
This track requires a reasonable level of fitness and it is essential to carry plenty of fluids, especially for the trip back up the slope.The information pamphlets suggest that this is a circuit track but Cyclone Debbie has closed off one section and so you must return by the same way that you arrive. It seems that Springbrook is slow to get its recovery effort underway.
After getting back to the car I decided that I had time for one more experience and so chose to have a look at the Best Of All Lookout. This is found a short drive out of town at the end of Repeater Station Rd. The walk is only 600 meters and the view across the Tweed Valley is astounding, even on a hazy day like this. It lies at a point, almost on the border of NSW and QLD at an altitude of around 1000 meters.
With tired muscles, I eased my body back into my truck and headed back down to the coast to once again take up the day to day life that keeps the wolf from the door. There are other tracks here that will call me back over the next few weeks while I stay on the Gold Coast.
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It’s strange how we can travel a stretch of highway time and again, yet so often miss hideaways that sit just off the main roads as we hurry from one city to another. For me, that stretch of road was on the Pacific Hiway between Sydney and Brisbane. I have travelled that road several times, but never had the chance to drop in on the beaches and bays along the way.
I had heard about a place called Bluey’s Beach, just north of Newcastle, and on my previous attempt to stop here, my travelling companion, a massive storm, forced me to keep on driving. I now had an opportunity to take a more liesurely drive down to Sydney to deliver a car to my son. I took a week off work and slowly made my way south.
While I had covered this distance often in a semi-trailer on an overnight run, because there were a few things I needed to fit in and it was two days before, just after dark, I drove into the little village of Tuncurry looking for a motel to stay the night. I checked out a couple in Tuncurry and over the bridge in the twin town of Forster before continuing on down to Bluey’s Beach, some twenty kilometres south. Here, Vodafone fails badly, and so having some internet work to do I was forced back to Tuncurry and settled on the first place I had looked at. It was a small motel with small rooms, but big enough for me to spend the night and was well priced for a short stay.
After an early start I made my way down by the river where the early folk were going about their morning routines. The council workers were busy cleaning and clearing after the people who has spent the last evening in the park. There were joggers and walkers and those who just seemed out for a stroll. The river was pristine and sparkled under the rays of the early morning sun. All in all, it was a pleasant atmosphere.
I decided a nice breakfast in the sun was in order and I crossed the bridge into Forster to hunt down a cafe in the main street. The town centre is reached by doing a U-Turn at the first round-a-bout and then slipping down a narrow street on the left. The street is one way with shops and cafes spilling out onto the footpath, bathing the scene with a friendly ambiance.
At this time of the morning, the narrow street was shaded and it was impossible to find a table in the sun. I selected a cafe and settled down to choose my order. Coffee was a given but the food selection did little for my appetite. I finally chose pancakes and was soon served up a lovely looking dish.
Sadly, that was the best it got. The first taste was dry and super sweet. Even the syrup did little to moisten the pancake mix but I struggled through wishing I’d stayed with my usual mundane poached eggs on toast. The coffee was nice tho, so all was not lost
With no plans for the day, other than to make my way south towards Bluey’s Beach and I wandered out behind the shopping strip to where the river made its way out to the ocean. What a tranquil scene….. the breeze, just barely kissing the water, smudged the reflections and shadows under an impossibly blue winter sky. Such a pretty scene hidden away where so few would ever see it.
Back on the strip I checked out the shops, many of which were just opening their doors for the day’s trading. There were stands to be wheeled onto the footpath and cobbles to be swept. It was here I ran into a reluctant stranger. You may recall my “100 Strangers” project where I am making a point of meeting strangers from all walks of life and writing a small piece on who they are. Well “Tracy” was my first stranger on this day. We chatted a while and I explained my quest. It was then that she became shy and asked to remain anonemous. While this gave her an aura of mystery, I believe it disqualified her from the project. We agreed on a fictitious name of Tracy and she happily allowed me to shoot a few photos of her going about the morning chores.
From Downtown Forster I headed up to the Forster Town Beach. This beautiful stretch of sand ran out beneath the seawall towards the headland from the cafe and surf club at the northern end. I was beginning to rue the choices I had made for my breakfast after seeing the fare available here and the veiw from the tables.. I stood and watched people being people while a whale watching boat, loaded with eager nature lovers headed out to sea in search of that plume of spray as a whale breached and gasped a breath of air.
My meanderings took me south to Second Head where a rocky shore mixed with the sands across the wide bay. Standup Paddle Boarders made their way out past the out crops, maybe searching for their own inshore whale. A broad pathway wound its way along the forshore and there were more than a few out taking in the morning air.
The rocks along the bay had an almost tesselated structure, as if they had been stacked in rows, one apon another where sea birds rested and preened their feathers in the cool morning breeze.
The next stop at Bicentennial Park reunited me with the whale watchers, albiet these were onshore spotters who seek the elusive spray plumes through powerful binoculars before radioing the boat with directions to get them close. I wonder how long it will be before these jobs are taken over by the drones that are beginning to fill the skys these days
From the road to the shore, there are boardwalks that take you through woody scrub where the air is filled with bird song and if if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of a robin or wren.
One of the sites of this area is the Dune. This massive wall of sand, falls to the sea much like a flowing waterfall, and indeed, more than a few surf this wave on boogie boards or simply just roll their way to the bottom.
At ElizabethBeach, a short but steep walk took me to the look out at the top of the headland. Here a two storied structure provides a grand view from way north to way south. From here the size of the dune is given its true perspective.
I passed by some of the bays as the days was getting late and soon found myself on Bluey’s. By now the wind had freshened and the onshore breeze was bringing in some larger swells from the Pacific Ocean. There were rock buttresses here that stood firm against the waves as the tossed their spray in frustration at not being able to drive on inshore. High on the headland the tall tower of a lighthouse at Seal Rocks stood proud against the sky line.
From Buey’s Beach, it is necessary to head inland around Smith’s Lake and, craving a coffee as I sometimes do, I followed a sign to Frothy Coffee on the waters edge across the bay from the Sandbar. This hard to find gem was well worth the wrong turns I took on my way. Broken signage provided ambiguos directions as I navigated my way through suburbia until, quite unexpectedly, I came upon a blue shed set right on the edge of the lake. The deck was built out over the water and it was a very pleasant hour spent sipping coffee and watching the occaisional fisherman as they cruised passed on the lake. Across the water you can see the sandbar which, is a narrow strip of sand that cuts Smiths Lake off from the sea.
From Smiths Lake I headed further south to Seal Rocks where I found a set of rocks that may well have given this place its name
I followed Kinka Road, past Boat Beach, to it’s end where I took to walking up the path towards the lighthouse I had seen earlier in the day from Bluey’s Beach. The path was wide and for a time I wondered if I was headed the right way as the direction I was headed seemed to have the lighthouse over my left shoulder and falling away behind me. Slowly the track began to swing around and soon enough the lighthouse was dead ahead again. I was hurrying now as the signage had said the grounds closed at sunset, and the sun was getting perilously close to the horison behind me.
I passed a bunch of sugar loaf rocks, seperated from each other by deep and narrow cuttings that had been weathered away by the sea over the ages. Behind me the sun began to burn the horison as it dipped ever so slowly towards night. I hurried on and arrived at the precinct with the shadows casting long and low, but the lighthouse, sitting atop the headland, was still bathed in the soft evening light. Ahead of me was a steep path with a few steps to ease the way. It was a breathless climb. With time running out, I was determined to get some sunsets shots before they closed the facility.
I stayed at the top, watching the light slowly fade as the sun cast it’s final rays of the day across the land. I was joined by a group of backpackers who climbed the stairs around the lighthouse tower to get a better view. Finally, the light gave way to darkness and we all trooped back down to the buildings below.
The old keepers quarters have been renovated to be able to take overnight tourists. My back packing companions, it seemed, would be staying here this night and so I set off along the dark pathway, retracing my steps to my car.
It had been a long day and I made my way back out to the main road to look for a place to rest my head for the night. The next day would take me into Sydney where I would meet up with my son and deliver his car before flying back to the Sunshine Coast and the grindstone that earns my daily bread…Ah well….
Merry Christmas to you..and I’m sorry it’s late
But at last I have finally caught up with this date
It is not something huge, for me in my life
]With family scattered and not having a wife
I started with coffee at breaking of dawn
Getting news for my blog on this year’s Christmas morn
I was up on the river just near Noosa Sound
Just to drink Old Salt Coffee with rain tumbling down
Then later I took a phone call from son one
Seems he’d had a big night and his head was undone
Some news of concern at the place he did stay
Super typhoon Nock-ten would be landing that day
Then later a call this time son number two
And we chatted of things in his life that were new
Then a friend not believing I am happy just me
Insisted that I go around there for tea
Alas there was eating… ham, jellies and such
By the end of it all I had ate much too much
After Family Feud and then Pictionary
I headed on home and sleep overcame me
So that was my Christmas, but what of your own?
Was it big celebrations? Another year flown?
Did you spend the day cooking, preparing the food
Or was it a day spent in lazier mood.
Or maybe some time you spent walking the beach
Your phone in your hand and your arm you’d out reached
To take just one selfie, your record of fame
So in years to come you can think “Oh how lame!”.
And so as I said in my opening line
I wish you good Christmas and good happy times
And as good that in two oh one six it has been
I wish you the best in two oh seventeen