Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tooloona Circuit - Laughter, Leeches and Crayfish.

Thursday 16 February

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.

And another.

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!

I would love to read your comment.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Incredible Nature of Springbrook

Wednesday 15 February

The Hungry Hikers set off at 7am for Springbrook's marvellous, Twin Falls trail. This was to be my 6th visit in 4 years and it never fails to send my happiness metre soaring. Today was again magical.

The yellow breasted robin joined us at morning tea.

Editing the photo, I accidentally made it black and white and loved the effect.

Eating MT, my eyes were drawn to an unfurling tree fern leaf.

A delightful meander down to the main trail followed.

Seeing unusual tree shapes. 

And the eucalyptus shedding huge lengths of bark.

Joc also captured this lovely shot, as we headed through the bracken to the trail.

Soon we were admiring the view across the valley to a far cliff face. This we would ascend, when we completed our circuit.

As we arrived at this small bridge, we had made a lot of noise, posing for a photo for Jenny. When I turned round I spotted movement where the red circle is.

A carpet snake or python slithered onto the trail. These are not poisonous, so we felt comfortable standing relatively close to capture his beauty.

A great shot by Jocelyn.

He just couldn't quite decide to cross the bridge or not.

At this point, he is hiding on the steps off the bridge.

Finally, he decided to swim across to the bank. Fantastic to watch.

Continuing on, there was a splash of red, amid the lush green.

Splashes from the Blackfellow Falls.

Distant view of the Rainbow Falls.

Delicate pink of the Helmholtzia lily.

Vibrant green of the soaring, tree fern.

Dramatic rock features.

And the symmetrical beauty of a delicate moth.

After completing this circuit we drove to the entrance to the Purling Brook Trail. Normally we hike this trail 1st, but I changed this for today's walk, so that we could swim in the Warringa Pool and have a relaxed picnic lunch, sitting on the surrounding rocks. On arrival, police tape cordoned off the entrance, news crews were milling round and a park ranger informed us we couldn't enter. We discovered later that, a hiker had discovered a partially submerged body in the pool of the Purling Brook Fall, at about 9.30am. Very sobering.

The decision was made to drive to the Best of All Lookout and eat lunch there. As we drove higher up the mountain, the clouds were lowering and the temperature dropped dramatically. I love the feel of 'mountain cold'.  A temperature we hadn't experienced for several months. 

As we entered the trail, mist swirled and not long after, rain fell.

We were thwarted again. No view and definitely not a pleasant spot for picnicking.

Not sure where we would find a covered table, we set off back down the mountain and fortunately found a perfect spot, beside the local community hall, war memorial and children's playground. We were fully able to enjoy the colourful mural, depicting the Springbrook area and its flora and fauna. I hope you recognise the cliff face and waterfall from my earlier photos.

Yes it had been hot and sweaty, but we all agreed it is definitely worth being out and about in our amazing great outdoors, down under, no matter what the weather.

Our hike may have been shortened, but having lunch beside this incredibly convincing mural, was definitely a bonus to the day.

I would love to read your comment.