This week, the Gaiter Girls had chosen to hike the 18 km, Tooloona Circuit at O'Reillys. There was time for coffee at Kamarun Lookout, before continuing on the last 10 kms to the trail head.
Initially the trail follows the path of the Box Circuit, that I had recently hiked with The Hungry Hikers. Even so, I couldn't resist another capture of this grand, old brush box tree.
It was a delight to return to the wonderful Elabana Falls. Here we captured our first Gaiter Girl group shot.
I found another log, but wasn't quite brave enough to stand on it.
Immediately after these falls, our trail left West Canungra Creek and followed the Tooloona Creek branch for 7 kms of spectacular hiking. The creek was crossed 5 times. There were 7 waterfalls and endless cascades, whose music accompanied us, as our path zig zagged, up, down and around the water course.
It was 7 kms to the Chalahn Falls, where we took a short snack stop, allowing us to soak up the tranquility of this secluded fall. It also gave me time to take a 360 degree movie.
Prior to reaching the falls, Rachel, leading the pelaton, had spotted a crayfish. It quickly hid behind a rock. We thought it most unusual for it to be so far [20m] from the water. This was to be the 1st of 10 Lamington spiny crayfish we saw, with only 2 in the water. I have since read that they 'often overland along the waterfall tracks, after rain.'
'Pugnacious' was a word used to describe them.
At the Chatham Falls, we found this one swimming.
This one backed in to hide under the rock.
Because of the forest litter and darkness from the thick canopy, we would almost be on them before seeing them. They reared their claws threateningly, making themselves appear as large as possible.
This fellow above, reversed across the path until he fell down a short incline, thankfully landing on his feet.
Rachel had quickly stepped over this fellow below, but he was not happy that she had passed. As soon as he heard Janice approaching, he went into military mode and was ferocious in his stance. The path was very narrow. He wasn't going to move off, so I chose to jump over him. Alas, the path was slippery, with the result that I made a dramatic tumble onto my back into the bushes beside the trail. Our spiny crayfish retreated to the opposite bush and I was rescued amid much laughter. We didn't dare to think of what may have occurred, if the bushes hadn't cushioned and stopped me from falling further.
So small in the scheme of things, but sooooo feisty.
Meanwhile from the snack stop, almost back to O'Reilly's, we were constantly pulling thin, hungry leeches off our trousers. Some of us, who will remain nameless, have a sheer terror of this tiny, blood sucking creature, so the quiet of the forest was constantly being shattered, as yet another sucker was discovered.
Our pace quickened and leaving the creek behind, we arrived at this view across the valley, to the coastline at Bryon Bay. [on a clear day] We didn't linger long, for obvious reasons.
The vegetation changed and the path became more open, wider and flatter. Moss covered the fallen tree trunks.
We now entered a mysterious and seemingly, haunted forest of ancient Antarctic Beech trees, some up to 3 000 years old. They grow from suckers and many of the new branches grow into trunks.
The worst thing about this trail was, that one just wanted to slow down constantly, to soak up its ever changing beauty.
On exiting the trail and entering O'Reillys Rainforest Retreat, we were greeted by an SES volunteer and spotted police and news reporter cars
Thankfully this mountain drama had a happy ending. Two hikers walked out by themselves at 3 pm after spending over 24 hours lost after they went off trail. We tried to imagine their night with the sounds of the bush and invading leeches.
Back at the car, it was time for a thorough check for leeches. Our driver didn't want any getting a free ride back to Logan City. Rachel had already had one attach between her fingers, when she was walking. Now she discovered one had attached through her sock, to her ankle. I had blood under my watch strap, but the leech had detached.
One can't complain about the feisty crayfish and blood hungry leeches on this 18.6 kms trail, when one has been constantly surrounded by its sensational rainforest, from go to woe. It had been a brilliant day hiking down under!
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