They say you only live once.
Actually you only die once…
You live every day.
Just an hour’s drive from Hobart, following the beautiful Derwent River, is one of my favourite places in Australia. Mount Field National Park. It’s the perfect place for a walk – from a leisurely stroll to stunning Russell Falls, to an epic trek around the Tarn Shelf.
On this icy day, we take the middle ground – a short, but fascinating walk on the Lady Barron Falls circuit, past Russell Falls and through the tall trees walk. It takes about 2.5 hours and there’s a few stairs in there to get your heart rate up – and it’s worth every step.
It’s amazing what you notice when you really look. All that’s missing here is a couple of fairies flitting around. Wait, what was that?
Oh. It’s EB. He’s found a set of stairs to drag me up, so he’s a bit excited. Only 248 of them (yes, I counted). So much for strolls through fungi fairyland.
Prepare to be incredulated (is that a word?). The Tasmanian swamp gum is the tallest flowering plant in the world. The tallest recorded in Tassie was 98 metres, so the Mount Field ones are shorties really. 70+ metres short…
As they grow, the lower branches break off, leaving a sleek trunk reaching ever-skyward. They’re so fascinating I got a sore neck just staring up at them.
There’s a strange beauty even in the fallen giants. From the earth they rise, and to the earth they return…
There’s nothing quite like nature to lift you up and bring you down to earth.
After all that walking, slipping into the Derwent Estate and Stefano Lubiana wineries on the way home is the end to a perfect day. Cheers.
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
There are times when you really need to knuckle down and get all those urgent things done. But hey, it’s perfect early-Spring weather and a road trip just feels… well, urgent.
After exploring Toowoomba’s street art (more on that later) and free-camping at Gil Weir near Miles, we’ve arrived at Carnarvon Gorge in outback Queensland.
And if we ever needed convincing we have to explore more of our beautiful country, today was it.
After setting up camp at Takarakka Bush Resort, we went for a wander along the creek that wraps around the camping area.
The Takarakka logo is a platypus, so I’m pretty excited. I’ve never seen a platypus in the wild.
We soon come across the ‘platypus conservation area’ signs with viewing benches set up so you can watch for platypus without disturbing them.
But let’s be honest, EB would never make a wildlife photographer. It would require being still for more than two minutes.
So after a brief scan of the water for ripples, I catch up to him striding up the creek!
Further along, we meet a lady who clearly has the gift of stillness (and a comfortable camping chair).
She breathlessly tells us a platypus has just swum right past her, so we wait and watch… and wait.
Finally, undeterred by EB hopping from one foot to the other (doing his best impression of a predator), the platypus surfaces … but promptly disappears again.
We’ve almost given up hope of another glimpse, when there is a rustling in the reeds on the opposite bank. The platypus is actually leaping up the bank to pull down reeds and twigs.
When she’s collected some bedding material for her nest, she tucks it under her paddle-like tail and drags it back to her camouflaged burrow in the creek bank. What an amazing way to start our stay at Carnarvon Gorge. And tomorrow we walk.
The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is an egg laying mammal called a monotreme.
Found only in freshwater streams in eastern Australia and all of Tasmania, the platypus has sleek fur like an otter, a bill and webbed feet like a duck, and a tail like a beaver.
But while they look cute and cuddly, the male platypus has a secret weapon – a venomous spur on each of his back feet. The venom won’t kill you but the pain is (apparently) excruciating. A good enough reason to keep your distance!
Meanwhile, soon after mating, the female platypus begins to gather dried reeds and sticks for her burrow in the creek bank…
As travellers, it’s easy to focus on the epic adventures and forget that short breaks can be exceptional too. That’s why we went back to Bundjalung country this weekend – to hit the mental reset button…
The Black Rocks campground in Bundjalung National Park, New South Wales, is tucked in behind the dunes of Ten Mile Beach.
It’s a truly remarkable camp spot, with each secluded site set up with its own fire pit, picnic table and even a clothesline.
It really feels like you’re the only people on earth – especially when all you can hear is the crackling fire and the soothing sounds of the heathland’s nightlife.
As we soak up the sun in the chilly morning, we’re mesmerised by the vibrant tiny birds flitting among the banksia trees and getting drunk on nectar. Some of the little tweeters even stop long enough for a photo opp! Pure joy right there.
Sometimes, there are only glimpses of colour and movement. If you blinked, you’d miss the Blue Wren preening his feathers in the safety of a spiny bush, the echidna scurrying across the road, and the honey bee collecting liquid gold…
The last time we walked the Jerusalem Creek trail, we were up to our calves in puddles and mud most of the way – but that just added to the fun. This time, the track is just as stunning – and we don’t need to ditch our shoes. Bonus.
Along the way, we pass a bunker built back in the 1930s.
In this and others around here, soldiers trained to protect Australia when the country was under threat during World War II.
By the 1960s, vast areas of heathland were being cleared – not for farming or logging, but for mining. Rutile and zircon black sands were mined here until 1982. But the heathlands are slowly reclaiming the land.
The walking trail meanders between the creek and the ocean until they finally meet. This is a truly beautiful place where shorebirds come to rest and raise their young. But there’s a dark side too.
As we walk along the shoreline, I pick up one sea-worn plastic bottle cap – then another, and another. After just 10m, both of us are holding piles of rubbish… mostly plastic.
And that’s just the beginning. Soon we’ve collected enough to fill our small backpack, and a plastic bag a passing fisherman gives us.
It’s not necessarily wilful tossing – but it does make you realise just how much plastic is circulating our oceans. And it’s heartbreaking.
Finally, we walk the 4km back to camp, carrying our load of plastic waste. Yet, as we walk, we can’t help but be captivated by these wild places – places touched by humans yet somehow triumphant.
Being here is about perspective, after all.
Read more dragonfly posts about Black Rocks:
Are you ready for a short break?
Leonardo da Vinci
Mt Allan, in the Conondale National Park, is not the biggest mountain you can climb or trek up in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland. But it is long, and steep, and a little bit tedious.
It’s the three or more false summits that do your head in on this 4.4km climb through the steep hoop pine plantation.
Just when you think you’ve made it, you turn a bend in the path and the trail goes on – and up, and up. In places, if you tipped too far forward, you’d end up with gravel rash on your nose.
But we’ve been coming back here for over ten years. The first time walking this hideously steep trail, I cried. The second time I made it to the top without a whimper and only the mildest of whinges, probably because I knew what I was in for.
The third time, mid-training for Nepal, I climbed to the top then down to Booloomba Creek and to the old Gold Mine, then back up Mt Allan and down to the camping area again.
This time, I’m happy making it to the top, still smiling. EB, of course, has always loved the climb – mostly for the entertainment value I provide I’m sure.
It’s the kind of walk where, on the way down, you inevitably meet cranky or exhausted or slightly desperate walkers on their way up, wanting to know how much further, and is it this steep all the way?
Telling them the truth is no help at all, so we just say “Bistaarai, bistaarai… slowly, slowly” and smile with sweaty serenity. Okay, we’re not that annoying. We do say it’s hard but totally worth it. Because it is.
One foot after the other has been my mantra on every climb here. With the speed depending on whether I’ve been a full-on desk jockey lately or have done some hill walks…
Dare I say, the downhill trek is tougher on your knees. But making it back to camp, with that glowing sense of achievement, is brilliant.
This is my happy place: a glass of pinot noir (or three), a crackling fire, the toc-toc sound of pegs being hammered in, the murmur of voices drifting across the campground, the cackle of a lone kookaburra, a blanket of gorgeous stars emerging as darkness wraps around us.
And EB having occasional hysterics as he re-enacts my facial expressions during the climb.
The Mt Allan Trail is a Grade 4 track – rough, long, very steep. It’s 8.8km return, with a 9.6m fire tower at the top you can climb for a 360 degree view of the surrounding ranges.
The Charlie Morelands camping area, where the walk begins, has recently been revamped. You can find out more and book camping here. There’s also places to swim and hang out (not in winter perhaps), or shorter walks you can take through the piccabeen palm forest or along the creek…