‘…it is a land of mountains, waterfalls, valleys, rivers, scrubs, forests, magnificent panorama and charming spots teeming with native animals and plant life. Its mountains run up to 4000ft. high, and its waterfalls are not equalled outside the State. Within a five mile radius of the head of the Coomera River, there are fifty falls from 20 to 600ft high, some of them the finest I have ever seen.’ – Romeo Lahey ‘The Queenslander’ 9 Sept. 1911
“The parasitical habit of useless formality must never be allowed to creep in along the Scenic Rim. It is from formality that the average city dweller is fleeing and too often jumps from the frying pan of grinding civilization into the fire of expensive holiday formality. The very, very few who would demand the extreme height of luxury and brass-button service along the Scenic Rim are those who would shudder at the grandeur of its scenery and expensive buildings and furnishings, formalities, and service luxuries will never alter their outlook. The experiment carried out at Binna Burra is worth noting. There, the policy has been liberal good food, comfortable beds in rustic timber cabins, cleanliness, and plenty of personal service and every possible assistance and explanation in sight-seeing at moderate and inclusive cost.” – Arthur Groom ‘The Development of Brisbane’s Scenic Rim’
The Binna Burra “experiment” Arthur Groom mentioned 80 years ago is still the policy today! And this is why I love it so much and keep going back.
My connection with Binna Burra goes back to 1980 when we started camping here for school holidays. It was a long drive up from Newcastle but it was my most favourite destination of all the national parks Mum and Dad would take us camping each year. Binna Burra is family orientated, we usually camped with another family from Newcastle and I would always make new friends with other campers. What I enjoyed most at Binna Burra was the ranger’s station full of maps and wildlife identification posters, the Lodge where we could get hot chocolate, activity books, warm up or dry out by the fire and so many bushwalks from short nature tracks to overnight circuits suitable for a variety of abilities including a braille trail. We always saw pademelons, kangaroos, carpet pythons, lyrebirds and sometimes koalas and platypus. It was and still is a Nature lovers paradise! Rangers had school holiday activities back then and now the Lodge staff run activities for all ages all year.
I lived and worked on the Gold Coast for a while and returned to Binna Burra for some clean mountain air and bushwalking. Usually I camped, out of curiosity I tried glamping for the first time here too, but I sometimes spoilt myself and stayed at the Lodge. One night a partner and I travelled up after work to watch a Leonid meteor shower event and fell asleep on the side of the hill wrapped in blankets under hundreds of shooting stars. That was my last memory of the place until now.
This time I walked to Binna Burra Lodge from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat on the 22km Border Track which follows the rim of the Tweed volcano crater and along the New South Wales/Queensland state border. The Border Track is part of the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk between Green Mountains and Springbrook. The day before I walked 23kms along the Box Forest and Toolona Creek tracks which are excellent for waterfalls and cool wet rainforest. The Border Track offers a bit of everything from ancient Gondwana forest, rocky creek crossings, goat tracks clinging to the edge of the mountains, spectacular vistas to the coast and pockets of dry warm sclerophyll forest. There is so much to see, hear and feel on these tracks including a prolific variety of bird calls. Don’t trust your ears everytime because the endemic lyrebird is a master of mimicry.
I am not very disciplined with time, especially if the day starts from the comfort of a room instead of the tent. By now my bushwalking fitness with a full pack is high, I know what my body can do and how hard I can push myself so a sleep-in or delaying the start of a walk to use free wifi is nothing to worry about. I left O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat at 10:30am and arrived at the lodge at 4:30pm, just before sunset. I set a fast pace for a bush track averaging 6km/hr and stopping every 30 minutes or so to be still and absorb all the beauty around me or take a side trip to lookouts or cairns. If I left at 8am I could have walked a more comfortable speed but free wifi.
I had booked a tent site for 2 nights, check-in was at the Lodge reception so I disposed of all the rubbish I had picked up on the track, walked through the camping ground, past Grooms Cottage, up the long drive and then finally shuffled into the guest lounge wondering if I would be able to walk all the way back to the camping ground again. If I had started walking earlier instead of uploading 500 photos to dropbox I would have had much more energy on arrival but there was still a buzz of excitement just being back after so long away.
2 days before, at O’Reilly’s, I had discovered the email glitch mentioned in a previous post when I asked them if there was a particular reason they hadn’t replied to my email requesting a room sponsorship. There was a bit of confusion because they had replied offering a room. It was very embarrassing for me but there was no trace of a reply anywhere in my account. Then I started to wonder how many other times I thought my media and sponsorship requests were ignored when they hadn’t been.
When I checked into my campsite at Binna Burra I mentioned the request I had sent the Lodge 2 weeks earlier and the problem I was having with missing emails. Without any hesitation they immediately upgraded me from my tent to 2 nights in a cozy timber Casuarina Room. I think I actually cried with exhausted relief and gratitude. Admittedly, I was already very emotional from the flood of wonderful memories returning as I walked from the track to the lodge. I knew Binna Burra was going to be a highlight of the east coast part of The Happy Walk but i wasn’t prepared for the strength of the feelings which came with it.
I had intended on doing a 25km double circuit around Ship’s Stern Bluff and Lower Bellbird tracks but chose to have a rest day, wander around, reminisce, relax and get a Swedish massage. I needed to rest my mind as much as my body and appreciated a lack of phone range. I met one of the rangers and long-term member of staff, Dean, while looking for a cloth patch of the Binna Burra bushwalking parrot. It was my first ever patch and became my favourite in a lost collection of more than 100 from all over the world. I thought, if I find this patch I might start collecting again. Dean offered to take a look in storage to see if any were still floating around, there were not, but he came back with two things I could only dream of when I was a kid. Dean gave me my Junior Ranger and 200km Club patches!!! I cried again.
One of the most common questions people ask me as I walk around Australia, especially after 19,000kms of walking in and around this vast continent is “What is your favourite place?” Until returning to Binna Burra I found it hard to answer because so many places have been my favourites for many different reasons, not just for the view, vibe or people. Binna Burra was my favourite as a kid and it still is. After all the feelings I had while staying there 6 weeks ago and the feelings which come up as I write this it is, without a doubt, still my favourite place. It will not be so long between visits in the future.
The day I continued on the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk I started early so i could take my time and give attention to everything beautiful and curious. The track starts along the Bellbird Track then heads down into the valley between Kurraragin (Egg Rock) and Yowgurrabah (Turtle Rock). It had been an amazing morning. I rescued a rare earthworm off the track (my hands were clean, no sunscreen) as other hikers were walking and talking distractly behind me, rested in some ash caves under bubbly old volcanic rock, braved a rock outcrop for a spectacular view, had a chat with a beautiful monitor lizard who stopped and posed on a tree and felt like I was floating through clouds of fragrance from the spring wildflowers blooming everywhere.
The track turned into a locked 4WD national parks service road, steep, slippery with loose rocks and bone dry dusty Earth. I carefully picked my path, concentrating on each step so I didn’t fall. Then as I shifted my weight (with full backpack) onto a rock which looked embedded it cracked and the piece under my foot broke away and I fell, crumpling my entire weight on my ankle. I stood up but as I lifted my weight off the ankle I knew immediately it was not supposed to bend at that angle. I stood on my good left foot, tried taking weight on the right but it was floppy, a bit crunchy and the pain was blinding. Anger set in straight away and I stood there on 1 leg yelling lots of bad words for half a minute. It dulled the pain a bit. Once I had that out of my system I dumped the pack, sat down on the edge of the track and started assessing the situation. My wilderness 1st aid and advanced outback survival training helped in calming my mind and making a quick assessment of my condition and safety. I had an EPIRB (personal emergency beacon) but I checked my phone because about 7kms back up the track I had enough range to post a video. I had range again and called 000, organised for a rescue team to come and collect me and then settled myself in for the wait. It also helped my pain management to distract myself with photo editing, posting a video about the accident while sitting on the track and reading Terry Pratchett. You can find the rest of the story and the video in the earlier blog I’ll Catch Up Soon.
I have no idea how long it will take to resume The Happy Walk. The ankle needed surgery so it has taken a bit longer in a cast because they needed to wait for the swelling to reduce and then wait again because I’m a public health patient. Next Thursday, 19th October, the cast comes off after more than 7 weeks since falling on the 29th August and physio begins to strengthen the ankle, ligaments, tendons and muscles, gait training to get rid of any limp or twisting and then I need to train before going bush again. I have been told it can take 3-12 months for a full recovery and to expect at least 6 months before easy day bushwalks again. I’m aiming for 3 months full pack! When my physiotherapist says it is okay I will return to thank my rescuers, Queensland Ambulance paramedics Drew and Andy and honorary officer Guy, then resume the walk from Binna Burra again. Between now and then I will continue writing the blog and sharing news about The Happy Walk as well as other intrepid adventurers I draw inspiration from and love cheering on.