Sunday, 9 December 2018

Summer Joy.

Tuesday 27th November

As the European summer was so hot and dry, I was dreading the arrival of our Australian, well Queensland, summer. Unusually and very pleasantly, it arrived very gradually but in the last week of November the temperatures soared and hot, dry winds blew. The mercury reached 40C where I live and was rarely below 35C. Elsewhere records were broken. This made for frightening bushfire conditions across our extremely dry state and sadly many homes, farmland and rainforests were lost. Given the ferocity of the fires, it is a relief that only one life was lost.

Thankfully my corner of the state escaped any major fires, possibly because we had some good falls of rain early November. There was a major fire on Stradbroke Island, approx 50 km away and the air was filled with its smoke for days. I now fully appreciate how awful the Banff and Portland summers were, where their wildfires filled the air with smoke for weeks on end.

Brisbane city skyline, engulfed in Stradbrokes smoke.

A before and after of the Eungella Range west of Mackay. A rainforest of incredible beauty that has been on my 'to visit' list and will take too many years to recover.

To beat the heat, Tuesday's Gaiter Girls hit the trail at 5.45 am at Springwood Conservation Park. A suburban haven, the paths are sealed but the trail is on the side of an escarpment, so the heart rate is given a good workout. The 64 steps from the lower to upper level, certainly has mine racing. We accomplished 11km after completing 2 circuits.

The beauty of the flora and fauna took our minds off the rivulets of sweat running down our backs and forehead.

I felt that my face was possibly the same colour as the Callistemon or bottlebrush. This wonderful mural was on the fence of a home as you entered the park.

Wednesday 28 November

A chance comment by a friend prompted me to select a city walk for the Hungry Hikers on Wednesday. A business appointment had unusually taken her to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre. The Christmas decorations had filled her with delight.  Across the river from Indooroopilly are the leafy suburbs of Chelmer, Graceville and Sherwood, dating back to the mid-1800s. Today the old 'Queenslanders' have been renovated and are prime real estate. I decided a very early morning walk through the area would 'fill the bill' so to speak, with breakfast in the shopping centre and a chance for me to see if my friend was exaggerating.

Very early departures from our homes had us all set to walk at 6.30am. The day was already hot and the heat still in the pavement from the previous day. I worried that perhaps my idea was not such a good one at all. Thankfully it couldn't have been better.

The Walter Tayor bridge, opened in 1936 had occupants living in its 2 towers until 10 years ago.

Spot our shadows on this lovely sweeping bend of the river.

Immediately we crossed the bridge, we entered cool, colourful leafy streets. The jacarandas were almost finished and contrasted dramatically with the now blossoming poincianas. Here and there the frangipani competed with its fragrant scent and beauty.  

Camphor laurel trees 

Absolutely stunning Dancing Lady orchids

My Dancing Lady orchid.

Thanks Laurel for this collage of colour.

The homes on their huge blocks of land had us oohing and aahing, especially as it was street after street of the same. One or two were for sale. We wondered if we could combine our pensions to buy one together.

We had grand plans for this vacant block and pictured ourselves enjoying sunset drinks on the riverbank.

Four kilometres of walking had us at the entrance to the Sherwood Arboretum, established in 1925 to showcase Australian flora in contrast to the exotic species in the Botanical gardens.

An avenue of Bunya Pines.

There are 2 ponds for wildlife but unfortunately one is completely covered in a weed. The spoonbill still managed to feed happily, while the cormorants sunbathed on the second one.

We were overwhelmed by the spectacular fiery red beauty of this magnificent poinciana.

Also in the park - flowering gum, yet another stately eucalpyt and I am still trying to identify this brilliant yellow blossom.

The arboretum covers 15 hectares and in the 1974 Brisbane flood and I guess the 2011, all of it would have been well under water. In the top photo, you can just see the brown of the river through the trees. In the flood I would have been standing under water, as indicated by this flood marker. I estimate the arboretum would have been under at least 30 metres. The white cap on the post is the flood level.
Looking to the river and then to the opposite direction.

Boardwalk by the river and a sky quickly becoming smoke filled.

We retraced our steps [another 11km under our belt] and rejoiced in the air conditioning when we entered the shopping centre. Thankfully we had all remembered to bring a change of shirt.

The Christmas decorations did not disappoint.

This Granny so wished that her darling Ben didn't live so far away.

A perfect reward  for a hot walk - the best pancakes I've ever eaten.

Our group have often driven through these suburbs to the Graceville cinema and thought how pretty. So glad we took this walk to fully appreciate its full beauty, even on a hot morning. 

I'd just like to add that on one day in that week, our Mt Kosciusko had snow falling and Sydney had 2 months rainfall in 12 hours. Flooding and chaos for them. Our wonderful country is full of contrasts.

I would love to read your comments.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Enjoying the Magic of Camping - Evans Head

Be warned - photo overload!

19 - 23 November

Ellie Eagle gets to go camping all too infrequently. Her choice of week to finally head off once more was perfect. The previous week saw temperatures soaring in the mid 30's with high humidity. The following week, just gone, has seen a similar story along with high winds, smoke and extreme fire danger warnings. Today the mercury reached 40C.

During our five days at Evans Head, we suffered only one hot day, cool nights, two thunderstorms and wonderful beach weather.

Evans Head was chosen for this adventure as it has been on my 'to visit list', after a very brief encounter about five years, ago. It did not disappoint. The camping ground apparently has approx 800 sites, including permanent and rentable cabins, but there was no feeling of being in a crowd as the sites were spacious. Ours, nestled beside a grove of dense trees, was the habitat for many birds, who joyfully woke us early each morning and serenaded constantly during the day. The beach and river were just 100m away.

We were four - Jocelyn, my friend of 43 years and her two sisters, Leanne and Marlene. Jocelyn and Leanne hike regularly with me. It was lovely to be able to include Marlene on this occasion. 

It wasn't pleasant to be warned of the possibilty of snakes on the beach but we were grateful of the warning. We hammed it up a tad for our friend Laurel, who is paranoid re the possiblitity of their presence, wherever we hike.

It seems appropriate to include this shot that we sent her, of me saying hello to one. It was just a stick but as we approached with caution, from a distance it certainly looked like an angry snake.

Our beach welcome.

Very English looking cabins in the park.

The cross approx marks our caravan site.

Looking up to the headland we are standing on in the above pic, from our afternoon, surfside drinks location.

The sky that beckoned us to the beach to watch the sunset.

The sunset wasn't spectacular but the ambiance was rather special and the seagulls kept us entertained.

Dinner back at camp.

Day 2
Our first morning was unexpectedly very cold, [Queensland cold] so hot cups of tea and coffee were the order of the day, rather that an early beach walk.

Once we had warmed up, we headed for the hiking trail on the headland.

A narrow chasm between the rocks, regularly made powerful surges of water.

This view - pure bliss. A place to lie on the grass, relax and watch waves endlessly roll in.

Below is where we turned around and hiked back along the top of the dunes to the carpark.
Two days later, we drove to a point near here and hiked to the far point and back. The conditions were quite different.

We had chosen the headland lookout for our sunset view on this afternoon. That decision was quickly reversed when we were almost blown over in the northly gales as we got out of the car.
Below is the only sheltered spot we coud find. Very pleasant, with river and ocean views and it had the bonus of an unexpected visitor.

A 2m python or carpet snake had been sunning himself on the path out of the wind.

Day 3
6am saw us on the beach walking north of the surf club. 10 km and a swim in the river before breakfast.
East view
[Thanks Joc]


There were too many rips in the surf for safe swimming so we took our noodles to float in the river and enjoy its tranquilty.

This was our hot day. After our very late breakfast, we chose to relax in the shade of the riverbank, opposite the camping ground. Reading and bird watching were the order of the day. There may have been a bit of napping too.

As 4pm approach I noticed the sky darkening. We checked out the radar on our phones and then made  a dash back to camp. The storm was moving quickly but we had time to secure everything. 
Looking south and then north.

Although looking so menacing, the storm thankfully passed over without hail or damaging wind. Ellie didn't let any water in. It was too late to organise sunset drinks, so a visit to the Fish and Chip shop at the boat harbour provided us with dinner, which we took to the headland.

Day 4
Another hot day was forecast so 6 am saw us driving slowly along a dirt road, canopied by rainforest  and swamp paperbark trees. [Melaleucas] Every so often there were laybys for parking and a short walk to the banks of the Evans River. The stillness of the morning was beautiful to see in the reflections of the river.

Our destination - Gummigurrah walking track in the Bundjalung National Park. Thankfully a picturesque drive as there certainly wasn't going to be any hiking here, with the footbridge washed out. 

Plan B - Chinamans Beach to Goanna Headland return.

The boardwalk to the beach.

Banyan trees

The sky was darkening as we turned our footsteps towards Goanna Headland.

High tide had passed a good half hour earlier on our arrival at this cliff face, but the decison was made that an alternative track needed to be found over it.

Alas the trail only took us to this great viewing point.

Time was spent trying to bush bash, but to no avail.

Knowing that the tide was ebbing, we finally deemed it safe to make a dash between the incoming waves.

The sea mist was very thick, as the ocean churned from the approaching storm.

Safely through.

We hadn't been successful in keeping our shoes dry and we burst into laughter when we spotted this fisherman casually wading past us.

Within minutes of exiting the cliffs, the skies opened and we were quickly drenched anyway.

The Banyans did their best to keep us dry. Marlene was hoping that the brim of her hat would protect her phone and stood statue-like for the duration. 

A good twenty minutes later, the storm had passed out to sea.  These metal posts and rails near the base of the cliff, had us wondering about their history as we continued on.

Circumnavigating Goanna headland.

Retracing our steps towards the cliffs, with the storm clouds dramatically continuing north .

After the morning's adventures, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the lush farming countryside of this area. We discovered a wonderful cafe called 'The Pantry' nestled in a pecan grove and enjoyed a most delicious lunch.

Our final evening had arrived and coincided with the rise of a 99% full moon. The cloud bank on the horizon delayed its appearance, but we were soon ooh and aahing at its beauty amidst the sunset colours.

The evening was so perfect we were reluctant to leave. 9 pm saw us reluctantly heading back to camp under a sky filled with moonlight. A magical finale to our weeks camping.

I would love to read your comments.