On Anzac Day I found myself filling in time near Brisbane while waiting for a response from a person I had arranged to meet up with. As the day dragged on I found myself at the Brisbane Botanical Gardens near Mount Cootha.
There are themed displays under domes and in shade houses that would take days to see properly. The gardens are lovely with nicely laid out pathways and beautifully manicured plants.
It was here that I met Stranger No 3…. Hector was sitting quietly on the stone wall at the side of the path totally absorbed in something on his tablet. My first impression was that one could check out Facebook anytime, anywhere and it seemed that social media had claimed one more addict.
When I came up alongside him, I noticed that he was sketching the scene before him on the tablet. The treescape on the tablet was impressive and I stopped to ask him about it. He old me that there are quite a few apps that can be used for sketching and with the help of a stylus he was able to create a pretty impressive picture.
The app he used allowed him to choose the medium for each drawing…. this one was an oil painting and of course the beauty of this is that there is no cleaning up of brushes etc when the job is done.
Hector is from Chilli and has been here for two months to study. Clearly art is his passion and while his palette may be a tablet, art is art no matter what the form. One wonders what Picasso might have done if he had an iPad.
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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In the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast lies a range of mountains….. Well, hills really, called the Blackall Ranges. They run from South to North and are dotted with some great walks of all grades.
Today I walked the Kondalilla Falls Circuit track from the top to the bottom and back. These falls are a part of the Kondalilla National Park and form a part of the Great Australian Walking tracks.
The carpark is really just a large cul-d-sac at the end of the street and from there, one heads down to a grassy area dotted with barbecue facilities and table/chair benches. There are also toilet facilities here which it is wise to take advantage of as there are non further down.
From the bottom of this area a sealed track take you down a few hundred metres to a small bridge. This is wheelchair friendly but the bridge is as far as you go. There are stairs at the other side which would make it difficult
Here there is a fork in the path. The left leads down to the top of the falls and is perhaps the easier track to take. It is also a part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track. The right fork, a part of Kondalilla Falls Circuit, also leads to the falls but is perhaps a steeper path, although easy enough to traverse.
I took the right fork, and would recommend this, as the return journey is easier if you come back the other way. The track wanders through rain forest and you will see Piccabeen Palms and Bunya Pines growing along the way. You may also see some examples of Pink Ash trees which grow in some interesting shapes.
Just above the top of the falls, these two tracks merge before you head down a series of steps to come out at the top of the falls. Here I met a couple who were resting after the long slog back up the side of the hill from the falls. We chatted for a while about the effects of climate change on the forest before we each continued our respective journeys
At the bottom of the next section is the top of the falls and there is a popular swimming hole, just before the water tumbles over the cliff. There is space here to eat a picnic lunch or relax in the sun on the flat rocks around the pool.
For many, this is the end of the trail but I headed down the side of the cliff face following the well formed Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track to the bottom.. Along the way there is a look out where you can see the whole of the falls although on this day, after a long dry spell, there was no water to be seen tumbling down the cliff face.
At the bottom, the creek bed is strewn with huge boulders and here and there are small rock pools which are home to the beautiful dragonflies that hunt here.
Heading on I came to another fork. It is here that the Kondalilla Circuit branches off and returns via an easier grade to the top of the falls. There is a saying that what goes up, must come down. In the this case the reverse applied and, having made my way all the way down from the car park, I now had the climb back up to the top.
The route is around 4.7 kms and doing it the way I did, the return journey was just a little easier. Even so it pays to carry plenty of water as the hard bit is at the end. I had two water bottles and had just opened my second when I started my climb. It slipped from my hand and split open on a rock and I watched as it all soaked away into the dry soil.
From the top of the falls there is a section of over 100 stairs and this is perhaps the most punishing part of the trek. Without water, I was in trouble by the time I reached the top and was thankful that the path had levelled out somewhat for the walk back to the bar-b-que area. The real kicker for me was the short walk from there to the car park. I was dehydrated badly and the track seemed almost too steep to tackle.
A short drive down the road to Mapleton and I thankfully pulled in to a service station to top up my water levels, the first bottle barely touching the sides as it went down
All said and done, it was a great walk and I recommend it to anyone with an afternoon on their hands and wondering what to do with it. Just head up the Blackall Range from Nambour or Landsborough and you will find the turn off at Flaxton.