I wasn’t planning on being away more than one night but my pumpkin adventures took me further afield than I had anticipated. I needed a place to sleep to dream of Prince Charming pulling up in his Pumpkin Coach……
Home was too far away as this Cinderella had stayed too long at the Pumpkin Ball and I wouldn’t make it home before my coach turned into a pumpkin. The closest relies were too far away. What to do?
I was within cooee of the Bunya Mountains. I love the Bunyas so it seemed like a perfect excuse to go there.
I didn’t have any food but I had my swag and my sleeping bag I’d had up Mt Killimanjaro. I decided the Bunyas at about 1,000m (3,280 ft) were probably not likely to get colder than Kili at 5,890m (19,300 ft) so my sleeping bag and winter ‘jammies would be good enough. I’d give the Bunyas a go.
So off I went. I bought some hot chips for dinner. Petrol stations don’t cater for gluten free vegetarians (Is that with fish or chicken? or How do you like your lettuce leaves?) – so chips were dinner; and water from a friends rain water tank – better than wine!
After my chips dinner (0 vitamins I felt) I climbed the beautiful twisty road up to Dandabah. Dusk is such a spectacular time to travel. The colours are magical and by this stage everyone else had come or gone so I didn’t pass any other cars. It’s a slow drive up – slower if you can’t resist taking time to enjoy the odd glimpses of vistas or wanting to really see some special tree or take in the fresh evening scents.
The sun was set by the time I got to the top – still light but no sun rays. This left the skyline of the treetops – almost in darkness.
The silhouettes of the Bunyas were perfect against the pale dusky blue evening sky.
I love the Bunyas. Their shape umbrella top is so unique that even I can recognise them anywhere. It always makes me feel as if I am a tree expert as I am able to recognise a Bunya pine (more or less no other trees but recognising one makes me feel especially connected to the Bunyas. “I KNOW that is a Bunya”! It’s like seeing someone from 20 years ago in a sea of faces. Suddenly you reconnect on a far more intimate level than you would have done if you’d know all the faces in the crowd!).
It had been about 10 years since I’d been there so I went for a walk to reorientate myself and make a plan for the morrow!! I had put my camera on to charge in the bathroom so I waited in the car for it. I hadn’t slept in the back of my car before – nor sat in the back seat. I had bought the car from a family with small children so when I went to get out….. I couldn’t. The rear door didn’t open up from the inside and the back passenger doors were on child lock!! I had carefully rearranged everything in the front seats – which now was my only exit!! I laughed!! I needed to practice some yoga contortions asanas to get out through the front door. It would have been amusing to watch this crazy lady falling out of the front door when there were back doors!! Luckily there were only a few red-necked wallabies grazing to see my rather clumsy exit!!
I snuggled into my swag in the back of my car with nearly all my clothes on plus my sleeping bag. I felt so happy knowing I would be waking up and going for a walk in the Bunyas.
I woke well before dawn and as I was fasting (ie I was so badly organised I had no food to eat – only the pumpkin fudge from the Goomeri Pumkpin Festival – but it was a present.), I had little else to do but get up.
It was cold. I didn’t have the right clothes for walking so I decided I may as well just start moving and get warm. My legs were cold so I left my ‘jammies bottoms on under my Aladdin pants. I only had my little red Princess Party shoes (for the party I had been at the night before) so off I went very strangely attired for bushwalking.
The forest was quietly alive being so early. There were birds everywhere – all starting their morning. High in the trees, in the distance, flitting from tree to tree, on the forest floor, on the path, in the brush nearby…… A chirp here for a wren, a chortle there, a squawk from a cockatoo (or twenty) in the distance, the whisper of a small wing, the scratching of a scrub turkey, an argument (or domestic) nearby, a piercing call on the left with an equally piercing response on the right or way overhead, the movement of a leaf giving away the presence of another feathered resident. The call I love most though is that of the whip bird – as distinctive as the Bunya and sounding just like a stock whip. I find the call of the Green Catbirds, often referred to as a crying baby, unsettling as it really does sound like a baby crying. It unsettles the mother instinct in me I think!!
My red Princess Party shoes were great actually. I was able to walk quietly in them, giving me the advantage of being not as easily heard as I walked along the well defined track to Bakers Creek Lookout (plus some side tracks).
I started out a bit before 7am and didn’t meet anyone else until after 9.30am when I was on my return journey and I met a local lady who was retired to Bunya. She told me about the high winds and huge rainfalls they had had in January. I saw the result – massive trees uprooted further up the track.
I felt I was a quiet observer of the forest residents. I disturbed one very large wild pig who fortunately was anxious to get away from me – luckily. The surrounding trees, whose trunks were about 3m in diameter, went straight up for about 20m before the first branch so if she’d decided to run at me I’m not sure what I would have done. The pigs had made a mess in certain areas causing other species of plants to proliferate. Interesting to see how everything interacts.
I ended up walking about 10km. It was fabulous. I enjoyed seeing the forest come alive plus see the light slowly creep into the forest and change the shadows and intensities of the colours of the forest floor and the overhead canopy.
I stood still and listened to all the small sounds happening – the bird sounds I described above were obvious but other small utterances that I wouldn’t be conscious of if I didn’t stand to pay attention. The creaking of the trees, animals scratching in the undergrowth, the air shifting – not quite a breeze but enough flow to move leaves and branches – rubbing some together, the soft sounds as leaves, nuts, small branches and other discarded parts of the trees gently dropped through the vegetation profile to nourish the earth, the wind high in the top of the Bunya and Hoop Pines, grasses rustling, water trickling…. the sounds of life in the forest.
Many of the trees are just enormous. Here is the largest stand in the world of Bunya Pines. They are so majestic in this subtropical rainforest. There are many kinds of ecosystems here. One’s name I found amusing – balds – which are these small grasslands in the middle of the rainforest. Kind of like a bald patch! Perfect name for a bald patch – balds!
It’s fortunate that there were places which were hard to get to in the logging days otherwise these special places would all be gone – well, all the large trees which would have obviously changed the ecosystems. There wouldn’t be fewer magical places where we can go and connect with nature once again and feel invited to be part of the presence of Nature.
We are privileged in Australia to have so many National Parks which are safe to walk through alone. AND…. we have maps and sign posts and tracks and toilets!! Having walked in lots of places in the world, these are not to be taken for granted.
Happy walking and adventure in our fair land!! Hope you too make it to Bunya. Or if you’ve been there write a comment here about your adventures there.