Woonoongoora – Lamington National Park Pt2

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Environmentalists and founding members of National Parks Association of Queensland, Romeo Lahey and Arthur Groom, at Binna Burra c. 1938

‘…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’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Woonoongoora – Lamington National Park Pt1

After Tamborine Mountain I was impatient to get into the bigger mountains but one important chore needed doing first. Dirty laundry! Ultralight backpacking means less clothes and needing to wash them more often. I have 1 jumper, 2 shirts, 2 trousers, PJs and 3 sets of underwear, that’s all you need really (wearing your rain gear while doing laundry means everything goes into one load). I handwash occasionally when in a real fix, usually I stay somewhere with a laundry so everything can be cleaned and dried in the sun on my rest day but if the weather is bad or I’m not ready for a rest day I use a tumble drier. This was my situation, both bad weather and no time to wait for the sun.

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It would usually take only 2 hours for a wash and dry and then I’d be walking toward Green Mountains campground mid morning but it took half a day to find somewhere in Canungra to do a load of clothes. The laundromat was closed from a recent fire, the showgrounds caravan park was closed for an event, the next camping ground 15kms up the road had washing machines but no drier and neither of the town’s hotel or motel had guest laundries. All that was left was the BnB.

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Wendy from the Odd Gecko BnB answered my call and listened to my plight then went better than helping with laundry, she offered a generous discount to stay the night and tried organising a donated meal at the local RSL (which the management refused). Thank you Wendy and Andrew for your spontaneity and thoughtfulness! The Odd Gecko BnB is a real surprise, the rooms are beautiful and native gardens are prolific with bird life. Wendy and Andrew Horchner are part of the local hang gliding and paragliding community, they accommodate large groups of paragliders and hang gliders who enjoy ideal conditions in the area. Even their friendly dog is named after a hang glider.

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The laundry wouldn’t be finished until mid afternoon so I very happily accepted the change of plans, relaxed, reminded myself change is constant and wandered back into Canungra for a coffee with the support crew and riders from the annual Australian Ducati Moto Giro tour. That afternoon it poured torrents of much needed rain as a cluster of wild storms passed over. The perfect way to end a day when staying under a solid roof.

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The next morning before heading up Lamington National Park Road I met Ann Marie and Ros who shouted me a big cooked vegan breakfast at The Hub cafe where I planned to have a coffee while waiting for a break in the rain. Thank you for your wonderful travel stories and new perspectives, it was a most enjoyable pit stop. Now we walk to Green Mountains Campground!

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Woonoongoora as it is known by the Yugambeh Nation or more commonly known to us as Lamington National Park has been a part of my life for almost 4 decades. Mum and Dad made family camping and bushwalking trips in national parks and beach holiday parks each school holiday a priority. We were very lucky kids to have this as part of our childhood and many of my best memories are from these 1-2 week family adventures. We went camping in a variety of places, depending on the season, like Arakoon, Warrumbungles, Kosciuszko but Lamington National Park was my favourite. I try to return, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone, each time my travels take me through SE Queensland.

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Not only is this one of the most spectacular range of mountains protected for conservation but the natural and human history is fascinating. Lamington National Park is part of a chain of national parks along the southeastern Queensland/New South Wales border and through the Northern Rivers along the extinct volcanic Scenic Rim curving around the lava plug of Wollumbin (Mt Warning)to the southeast. The forest is also ancient and the most northerly extent of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia protected by World Heritage Listing.

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Did you see the mistake I just made in the last paragraph? “Natural and human history” should be “natural and cultural history” because humans are an animal species which lived harmoniously with Nature a long time ago. We are part of Nature, we have lost our way, our actions and attitudes are unnatural because we have disconnected with what we essentially are, Nature. I am still retraining my brain to see humans as part of Nature after 40 years being angry about human destruction, wishing humans would leave wilderness alone and stay out of my landscape photos (ffs). The strong, protective, intimate connection I have with Nature never took into account that I was only one of millions who feel the same. I see myself as part of Nature, belonging to the landscape because I never add or remove from the places I wander, Nature remains exactly the same after i pass through as before i arrived and i know I am a minority when it comes to leaving no trace of my passage through Nature.

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Being angry about how other people use and abuse Nature was of no use, an angry activist is not helpful for a cause. However much we want to lock up what we love it provides weak security when nobody else is going to have the same experiences which will inspire them to respect and protect it. Of course we must lock out destructive industry and closely regulate tourism and adventure activities which cause environmental harm but gentle, mindful, responsible, informed and guided use of our wilder places must be encouraged if we are to increase awareness of the necessity to keep them wild. I understand and accept humans as Nature but I haven’t quite reached the stage where I want to embrace it with a big bonding bear hug. It is hard to trust humans to look after something we are destroying.

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Crikey! I have just had a very significant moment of understanding while writing that last paragraph. This is turning out to be more of a “Dear Diary” than a travel diary tonight. Something that has always bugged me since my earlier days of adventure as a kid was the motivation to walk in groups. I have never had the inclination and try to avoid groups and teams at all costs. It baffles my brain because I am naturally a solitary kind of person and don’t mind my own company when I am surrounded by Nature. For 30 years I have been trying to understand the group thing and until this moment it has remained elusive. But when I wrote “gentle, mindful, responsible, informed and guided use of our wilder places must be encouraged” it dawned on me why groups are so important for awareness, conservation and protection. I can write as much as I like and of the 5 people who read this far down maybe one of you will think about how to lower your impact in Nature. In a group there is collective knowledge, experience, passion, respect, curiosity and interactive thought. In groups one guide can lead many towards greater awareness and equip each participant with practices that will benefit conservation far more than one adventure blogger. A group will distract from connecting deeply and intimately with Nature but they will still get a sense if they have a safe, quiet opportunity to be alone. The main thing about the importance of groups is the effective means by which we can pass on the tools of knowledge and practice to a greater number of people seeking a healthier connection with Nature. Of course, it is not what everyone is looking for. This lone wolf is glad there are plenty of good guides out there because it still isn’t my calling.

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I’ll get back to the story now. Lamington National Park, established in 1915, is named after Lord Lamington, not the cake, who was governor of Queensland when Robert Collins entered parliament and proposed a bill to protect the border ranges by designating it a National Park. There were originally a number of small conservation areas, crown and private land, clustered together continuously being threatened by logging and land clearing for farms. Robert Collins and Romeo Lahey were the biggest advocates in pushing for greater conservation efforts. Romeo Lahey proposed the park be called Woonoongoona but the government chose not to recognise the traditional land owners. I hope the name will go back to the original Yugambeh name sooner than later.

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The O’Reilly Family are a logging and dairy family and are most famously known for finding the survivors and assisting the rescue after a Stinson crashed in the mountains in 1937. Regardless of their logging and farming they loved the rainforests and since 1911 they have been collecting and sharing their knowledge. In 1926 they built a walkers lodge for tourists to come up the steep muddy 4WD track and experience the beauty of the mountains. The lodge still stands and is part of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The O’Reilly’s first called this area Green Mountains and the national park camping ground still holds the name. From here you can set out on many day and overnight walks and loop tracks. The 54km Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk between Green Mountains and Springbrook starts/finishes here.

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When i was much younger in my mid-teens I visited the walkers lodge during a school trip and remember the smell of boots, wet socks, old books and wood fire. The atmosphere was wonderful, i wanted to be one of them, a real walker, covered in leaches, muddy and exhausted from exploring waterfalls, caves and mountain lookouts for days in all weather, regaling stories from their adventures and infecting each other with exuberance.

In the 90s I returned a couple of times with friends and lovers before and after they developed the lodge into a retreat with spas, mountain view apartments, flash new walkers rooms and wellness center (massage/beauty). It was very fancy and had an entirely new, fresh feel. It was marketing to a different crowd offering modern facilities for a luxurious escape from the city. It has expanded even further since and now has a conference center and is very family orientated. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat kindly donated The Happy Walk a Hikers Hangout room and i was really happy to find animal cruelty free complimentary toiletries!!! That weekend it was very cold at night and I was even more appreciative of their sponsorship.

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While I was in the Queensland Police Service in Brisbane I would often drive down to Green Mountains or Binna Burra camping grounds to escape for a couple of nights car camping and bushwalking. I was struggling badly with depression and complex post traumatic stress disorder (unknown and undiagnosed at the time) and these excursions alone into Nature helped a lot. Sometimes I didn’t walk, rather, i would sit on the cafe balcony, gazing for hours out over the mountains, bird watching and writing. It repeatedly rescued me from an imminent breakdown.

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Now it has been 15 years since my last visit. Too long away but Woonoongoora was never far from my heart.

Brisbane to Mount Tambourine

I have been a slacker. So many times I have opened up the blog to write and no words come. I can’t explain it but tonight I feel wordy so here is the long awaited Brisbane post which I will merge with Tambourine Mountain. You will need to wait a little longer for Lamington National Park, O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat and Binna Burra Lodge, they will have their own posts because these are very special places in my life and need extra words and photos. Ok, let’s get into it!

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Last time I shared the walk, before the broken ankle, I was on my way into Brisbane for the second time. I had left Samsonvale RFS and arrived at Ferntree Gully. I did not walk through the city because it is disorientating and causes asperger sensory overload.

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In Brisbane I stayed with Ali and Ian for 2 nights. I met Ali and Ian at Dilli Village on K’gari (Fraser Island), but we have other shared history as caretakers of Eyre Bird Observatory a few years apart. I really enjoyed their ethos, a love and lifelong curiosity for Nature, actively protecting and restoring the environment and intellectually stimulating conversations. They have photo books and slide shows from their 2 caretaker stints and it was a real blast from the past watching and listening to their stories.

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On Monday morning I met TV presenter Madison Holly from Brisbane 7News with Mark behind the camera doing an excellent job of walking backwards along narrow bush tracks and over logs for a local news story which went out across Queensland. It was a surprise and relief to hear from 7News. They were the only local media programme interested in the story and I was super grateful. I was starting to get a bit worried my walk and cause were not newsworthy after so many local papers and radio programmes for the last 14,500kms had picked it up.

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On Monday afternoon I caught up with some more people I had met on K’gari, the Totally Wild TV crew! Arika had organised an entire afternoon of filming with Jesse, Shane and Richard around Mt Cout-Tha Forest. It was an amazing experience, lots of fun and hopefully will be enough to make a good story on their Ch11 kids show. At one stage, towards the end of the afternoon I kept forgetting some of the things I wanted to share with the young viewers and realised how incredible Jesse’s memory is to get it right and how patient the crew were when I couldn’t. Shout out to Shane, a master with the camera, making it less scary than I thought it would be and quite a bit of fun at the end after my brain switched off by sending me into the bush.

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While in Brisbane I caught up with more people I had met during the walk. It was an absolute thrill to see Naomi again!!! The first time we met was on the west coast as I began setting up camp on the Murchison River, 100kms north of Geraldton. Naomi arrived with a group of people who joined me for sundowners and we had a great time. The next time was later that year up in the Kimberley near Halls Creek as she travelled across the top end in a big bus with Boss kitty and Dan. It was noon but their planned camp was less than 10kms away so we caught up for a few hours, mine was a little bit further on the side of the road under some boabs where I could forage some bush tucker. The next morning I was walking at first light and they stopped for coffee as they passed at sunrise and I shared my breakfast boab fruit with them. Later that morning another traveller stopped to deliver a bag of fresh veggies, fruit and muesli bars from Naomi and Dan. That was 2 years ago and I am so glad we stayed in touch through Instagram all that time. We caught up again in Brisbane with her brother Dan and friends Rob and Eachan! I hope we can do that again where ever our paths may cross and next time it’s my round.

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For the last night in the city I stayed with Ven-nice, Jen and Theo. Ven-nice is one of my more recent track friends, we met on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. You know when you meet someone very briefly, just a quick conversation full of insight and you immediately feel a connection through shared interests. This was our encounter and thankfully she offered a place to stay in Brisbane and we were able to spend more time talking about the things we’re passionate about. The next morning I started the walk south from Brisbane feeling pumped.

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I caught the train to Logan to avoid the city and started walking along the “country” road towards Tambourine. What looks like an alternative road heading out of the city into the west turned out to be a very busy, winding, narrow main road with NO shoulder or verge for walking and every third or fourth vehicle was a quarry truck. After more than 17,000kms of awareness walking experience beside roads this was the scariest. I wasn’t sure if I was being a sook or the heat (36C) was getting to me but it sure felt like I was going to become the cause of an accident. About 12kms in I found some shade for early lunch and deliberated for a few hours about making up the distance of that road somewhere quieter and safer.

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As I sat there eating a banana and Blue Dinosaur Bar the traffic was getting heavier, constant and loud, it wasn’t near school pick up hour yet and I would still be on the road at peak hour. Without any idea if the road shoulder would improve I had to make the call to walk as far as a safe pull over bay where young Tim gave me a lift to the quieter Tamborine Mountain road about 20kms further on.

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It never feels good skipping any distance, it is always risky walking beside the road but sometimes the risk is too high. Besides, through Lamington, Springbrook, Wollombin and Nightcap National Parks I have many opportunities to well and truly make it up. In fact, since it happened I was able to walk an extra 23kms during a rest day at O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat. * I am writing a brief post separate to this about distance calculation and disclosure of where I needed help.*

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As planned, I made it to the Bearded Dragon Hotel, Tambourine, at the foot of Mt Tamborine on the Beaudesert side. I had heard about this place months before getting there and when I finally arrived they helped me out with a spa room for the night in a boutique country style homestead. In and around the pub there is a vast collection of antiques, including old tractors, pub memorabilia and fair dinkum Aussie stuff. What impressed me most was the impressive kitchen garden used for the busy restaurant. I really appreciated staying there!

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As usual, I didn’t start walking as early as hoped but the road up Tamborine Mountain was still relatively quiet and I felt safe for the first 7kms. Then the tourist traffic, buses and courier trucks joined me on the section which had just narrowed to wind and climb up the steep slope. I didn’t need to think about it for long and turned around, jogging back down to a safe place to wave down a car for a lift up. No, I’m not going to make this a habit, I’m just not okay with what feels at the time like a very real prospect of being hit or causing some other serious traffic accident on parts of the road the locals consider dangerous without an extra pedestrian obstacle. Again I was fortunate to get a lift from a lovely couple who had recently made a tree-change from the city to a large rural block they were tuning into a rescue sanctuary and art studio. I can’t remember their names unfortunately but when I think of them I imagine a willow tree and an amethyst. They dropped me off at the Curtis Falls walking track.

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I had not made any plans to stay with the Tamborine Mountain family I met at the township of 1770 back near Gladstone as I wasn’t sure if I would walk down the Canungra “goat track” on the other side that afternoon or not. I gave myself 4hrs to do as many different things as the mountain had to offer including a waterfall walk, mountain coffee, glow worm cave, wine tasting, watching paragliders, returning someone’s lost phone which started ringing when as I stood at a beautiful lookout and picking sweet little mandarins growing over a garden fence. I still have good memories of visiting as a kid on a family trip and we did some other waterfalls, posh open gardens and went thunderbird egg hunting (natural occurring round rocks filled with rapidly cooled crystalline formations from local volcanic activity).

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It was 4pm when I reached the one way stop/go lights for the “goat track” down to Canungra. I paused at the top deciding whether to camp there and make and early start or camp at the bottom risking walking the last few kilometres in the dark. It was too late and far too short notice to phone Majeed and Sue. There was a good patch of soft flat grass across the road so I put away the phone and took a long drink of fresh filtered mountain spring water supplied by a local just up the road before going across for a closer look. I was open for options but still wanted to push on a little bit further.

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Just as I was about to continue a car pulled up on the little mountain road across from the lights and out jumped a young fella whose happy face I recognised immediately, Keyaan! Then Leila and Sue. It was my friends from 1770!!! They actually lived right there just above the goat track on Mount Tamborine. Unbelievable!!! Every day Keyaan had been looking out for me walking across the mountain. If only I knew I wouldn’t have hesitated calling at short notice. I’m not a believer in things happening because of some greater plan or predestination but this encounter made me wonder.

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It is impossible to describe how I felt at that moment. Ashamed that I did not call them but relieved and grateful they drove past at that moment when I was about to leave the mountain and over the moon they invited to stay. Keyaan and Leila walked me back to their home and I was given the official tour of a legendary backyard filled with adventure and the stuff of wild imagination. In the driveway I nearly stepped on a small handmade flag of Sweden so I picked it up and it is now my bookmark to remind me of the friends I have there and all over the world who I met in similar ways to meeting Majeed, Sue, Keyaan and Leila.

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It is unlikely I will ever live in a house where I can invite well met travellers to rest and share their story. It is one of the most humbling experience when a stranger opens their home and shares their food, company and friends with me. The closest I will ever get to repaying the favour or paying it forward is to welcome travellers to join my camp if our paths cross and let me boil some water so I can make you a bush brew. We can talk about the stars, the most beautiful things we have ever seen and what makes us happy.

 

 

I’ll catch up soon

There has been a big break in the blog and it is almost 4 weeks behind. I have opened the drafts to continue writing but the words aren’t coming.

This is because my head has been elsewhere since leaving Binna Burra 16 days ago.

The walk came to an abrupt holt. You could say it is an unscheduled break.

I slipped on a steep section of the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. A rock i thought was embedded in the ground broke and rolled under my right foot. I crumpled on top of the foot landing all my weight and a full pack on the ankle, breaking it.

Fortunately, it happened on a short section of 4WD trail and in mobile phone range. I have had advanced training in both wilderness 1st aid and outback survival so it was easier to keep a clear head and go through the motions of activating a remote rescue and attending to my own immediate needs.

Being in phone range was just sheer luck and meant i did not need to use the EPIRB/PLB which would have resulted in an air search and i could send both a screenshot of my Google Maps location and a photo of my exact location on the topographic map to the responding paramedics.

It all went without a hitch. Everyone involved, especially Gold Coast paramedics Drew and Andy, did a brilliant job.

I will catch up the blog chronologically when i’m ready. There are some wonderful people, places and events i want to share with you.

The time it will take to resume the walk is uncertain. It has been suggested 6 months is most reasonable to regain enough strength to heft the pack and return to the track.

Shit happens!

To Brisbane

Usually i try not to walk on rest days but sometimes there are places of interest which need a relaxed stroll for best experience. The water front from Scarborough to Woody Point via Redcliffe was a welcome walk after the hills and increasing traffic on narrow roads. 

The salt air immediately lifted my spirits after a couple of hours waiting on train platforms and riding public transport. I find cities perplexing. To avoid getting lost at every intersection ideally i need someone beside me with more experience in civilisation! After i finish my solo lap i welcome good adventure company, not just to guide me through towns and cities but to share the special moments and support each other.

I put out an open invitation for people to meet me at Redcliffe jetty. Nobody turned up. It felt oddly amusing and helped reinforce who i am (or am not) and how tiny The Happy Walk is in the greater scheme of things.

I didn’t stay in Brisbane that night but went down to the Gold Coast to catch up with friends. It was great to see Greg and Cyndy again and enjoy some good quality time together. It was a trip down memory lane seeing and visiting places where i once spent a lot of time, meeting old acquaintances and hoping others are happy and well.

My rest days passed too quick and it was time to return to Woodford and keep walking. 

Things didn’t go to plan last week. First of all i was trying to travel to a small town on a regional public holiday without a bus service. Then the twisted pelvis gave me grief for 2 days. Thankfully The D’aguilar Pub donated accommodation and i impatiently waited until i could walk without drugs again. It hurts a little bit all the time but exercises and stretches help manage the imbalance and twist. Sometimes it just needs more rest. The chiropractor says different and on his advice i will switch to riding next year.

I was good to go by Thursday and spent most of the day walking up Mt Mee. I stopped for a coffee at Birches where they gave me a $5 donation for Lifeline. I try not to take cash donations and ask people to go online where they will get a tax deductible receipt. I think most people end up donating through the Lifeline website instead of my gofundraise page. It does not matter how they donate, every dollar helps Lifeline save lives.

Later that afternoon, as the light softened into dusk i stopped to chat with Jenny and Gayle who were waiting for the last school bus from the city to drop their teens off at the end of its route. When they found out what i am doing Gayle donated online and shared the walk through facebook. Jenny owns Cabins @ The View and offered me a luxury hillside cabin with a spa for the night and shared The Happy Walk on the local community page!!! Thank you!

I thought going uphill for 15kms was a good challenge but the next day decending 15kms to Dayboro was hard. The road narrowed and became even more winding plus there were high winds gusting to 70. It was a cross wind and each time the road crossed a saddle in the hills i braced myself, sometimes walking across leaning sideways into it at an angle. Once i actually fell when the wind suddenly dropped and i didn’t have time to right myself.

On the way i stopped at the Blue Dog Farm roadside stall. Blue Dog came out to say hello, and so did Jacqui, a fellow intrepid trekker who traversed Europe.

A few times on the way to Dayboro i thought seriously about thumbing it past the bends but each time i saw ahead a stretch of verge with a metre of space for me to walk along. I crossed back and forth all morning using the “safest” side. Safest would have been not to walk but if i rode in a vehicle i would have spotted all those sections of verge and regretted not continuing to walk down. I’m glad i did stick it out. It was a beautiful road, both sides of the hill, with amazing views.

In Dayboro, following Jacqui’s recommendation, i stopped at Grate Life Cafe for a huge salad and fresh vitalising juice which they donated!!! Thank you!

Late that afternoon i spotted a 4WD track concealed from the main road behind Samsonvale Fire Brigade. It turned out to be unsuitable for pitching a tent but behind the fire shed there was protection from the roaring wind on one side and the traffic noise on the other. As well as being soft flatish grass it was out of sight from the road. I called Craig, the captain, and he dropped by with fellow fire fighting volunteer and wife Liane. They opened the shed and invited me to use the shower before putting up the tent then allowed me to camp inside! That was another trip down memory lane taking me back to the years i volunteered with Wasp Creek and Kingscote brigades. Thank you!

From Samsonvale i was able to reach the edge of the city of Brisbane before dark and made my way on the trains to my hosts.

It was time to take a couple more days of rest from the walking, kind of.

Sorry – Email Glitch

Just a quick apology. 
My gmail has been glitching and important messages are not getting through. 
I don’t know how long this has been going on or how this can even happen but i found out on Friday there are missing sponsorship and media replies. 
If i ignored you thinking you were ignoring me i sincerely apologise. 
Now i need to change my passwords and hope it stops.

Change of Plans

Just a quick post in case anyone wonders why i am not where i said i would be.
The small roads going into and out of Brisbane outer suburbs are busy, loud, fast, narrow and winding. I am forced to walk too close to trucks for my comfort and safety, not to mention their’s.
I made the call after several very stressful hours to dodge these roads and make up the equivalent distance somewhere safer and quieter.
There are more than 30kms of circuit tracks, waterfall and cave trails that are not part of the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk and can be accessed while camping at O’Reillys, Binna Burra and Springbrook. Plus, i was already playing with the idea of detouring through Nightcap National Park and Minyon Falls.
These are the smarter places for me to be. I’m sure anyone who passed me on one of those corners today would agree 🙂

Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk and Glasshouse Mountains 

It has been 2 weeks and 2 blog updates since i finished the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk and i am only now getting around to writing about it. I will also share the 2 days walking through the Glasshouse Mountains and the Ecolodge.

Once again, i took many photos and i hope these can convey how beautiful it is. As i always say, you need to experience it for yourself to really understand the beauty and wonder.

I don’t mean to not conform by walking the great walks in the wrong directions but it is just how it works when you walk down the east coast from north to south.

Interestingly, my path or direction of walking has turned out to be the easier in terms of gradients and distances between camps if you were to consider the options.

For something a little different i might write this more like trail notes. I will endeavour to try keeping the photos in order of the walk and events since.

The walk is between Mapleton and Montville through the Mapleton and Kondalilla National Parks, Gheerulla Valley and numerous waterfalls, creeks and outlooks.

I started my walk from Mapleton and walked out along Delicia Rd past where it crossed the track and continued up to Thilba Thalba Walkers Camp.

Initially the track ran parallel with the dirt road and MTB trails until near the top where it crossed over to rainforest. 
The subtropical vegetation soon gave way to dry eucalypt sclerophyll bushland and prolific grass trees. The track climbed to the top of the ridge offering some great views down the Gheerulla Valley and followed it all the way to camp.

Thankfully, it was only a short 15km day so i arrived at lunch, dried the tent, brewed a coffee and had a look around.
Later that afternoon i was joined by another “minimalist vagabond”. Jason has been a nomad most of his life too and had some good stories and ideas.

Day 2 was also short, only 18kms including side trips. It rained overnight and there was a cool shifting mist in the valley before sunrise. I was hoping for this purely for the fun of posting a Gheerulla in the Mist photo on Instagram!  

When Jason said i had chosen the right direction to walk the north loop he wasn’t wrong. The descent was the longest and steepest on the track and the later ascent was easy in comparison.

Walking along the Gheerulla River was eye opening. When the track allowed access to the dry river bed and still waterholes i could stand in the middle and look around at the evidence of the real storm force of this river. Not just the water carving rock over millions of years but natural dams built with giant trees, shunted boulders, debris 2-3 metres above caught in the branches all carried down on the full and furious river. There are times you would not try walking this track or even visiting the bases of the falls simply because the raging river would be deadly.

I found some caves up on the side of a hill which briefly sheltered me from the hot sun in their dry cool shade. As with all caves you need to be cautious and considerate of who might live inside. Caves are popular with snakes, wild dogs, micro bats, hermits and aesthetic meditating monks seeking enlightenment. Thankfully, none of the above were home when i visited but there were signs of previous occupants. It made me think about the Gubbi Gubbi traditional owners who would have used it for shelter on hunting trips or moving between camps, probably bushrangers (highwaymen) hiding from police and trackers and no doubt many bushwalkers over the last century or so. Even i quickly measured them up for size, comfort, proximity to water and bushtucker and wondered how many more were out there.

 Before making the last little ascent to camp i took the side track down to the base of Gheerulla Falls. After what i saw on the river i knew there would be only a dribble of water if any but i was interested in seeing how the water had carved out the waterhole. It was a different kind of beautiful and i needed to focus my attention on what was not immediate to the eye for a better appreciation.

The whole day not another human shared that section of track and i camped alone in Ubajee Walkers Camp. Arriving early afternoon i was again able to dry my trustly Mont Moondance 1 and scout around to area. Some nights are damp with dew and some nights it is cold enough the inside of the fly is covered in condensation so i regularly pack the tent away wet rather than wait until mid morning for it to dry. If it is really wet the fly is strapped to the outside of the pack and drips for a few kilometres.

Okay, the distances between walkers camps and the trail ends are short so i won’t keep saying that. Day 3 was like the others 🙂 so i detoured back into Mapleton for a coffee and recharged the phone in the cafe, as well as visiting the local farmers market to buy oranges. 

Only a few hundred metres from camp the sun shining through the yellow pea flowers distracted me and i stopped to try and capture the light and colour in a photo which ended up being about 100 photos because the breeze kept moving it each time the camera focused. This was one of those moments that make you think about life’s coincidences and chance meetings as something more meaningful. A runner whose smile is as beautiful as the sunlit flower stopped to ask about my (unsponsored) Z lite thermarest sleeping mat. Turns out Ven Nice is an ultramarathon runner and another Rich Roll podcast listener and has offered me a place to stay overnight after the Totally Wild film shoot! 

On the way to Mapleton i passed the roadside fruit stall where i bought 4 sweet juicy blood oranges on the first day but sadly there were none on the way back, thus the visit to the market. It was a good turn of events because i met Chris who said something the next day which moved me to tears of humility and happiness.

With charged phone i walked back up Delicia Rd to the track intersection heading south to Mapleton Falls crossing the Baxter River and walker’s suspension bridge before climbing up to Flaxton Walkers Camp. The track and forest changed many times around me and with the weekend crowds and noise i became disorientated a couple of times. When this happened i stood still, breathed and closed my eyes blocking out atleast one sensation. This helped calm me down enough to realise i was still going the right way.

It has been cold at night but getting warmer during the day, high 20s now, it feels like how summer should be. The heat has woken the snakes out of their torpor early and i have started seeing black ones and a brown one baking on basalt rocks. They move fast when they sense me coming, away from me though so i don’t have time to get the phone out for photos. I hope to see some big pythons during the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk through Lamington National Park in a couple of weeks.

I shared Flaxton Walkers Camp with Tai, an architecture student from Hong Kong studying ways we can live more harmoniously with Nature. It was Tai’s first solo camping trek and he rode in on a fixed gear bike to basecamp for a couple of days.

Earlier that day i walked past an avocado packing shed where i tried bartering 2 oranges for an avo. They didn’t need any oranges but gave me 2 perfectly ripe fruit which were marked on the skin but unblemished inside. I wondered what i could barter with 2 avocados but they are the perfect fresh food indulgence for trekkers so i gave that idea away quickly. Instead, i shared them with Tai. On that same stretch of farmland i passed Chris’s roadside stall for her orchards and gardens at The Falls Farm but couldn’t find any coin change for a few more pieces of fresh food but there were nasturtiums growing there for free so i ate some of them. Another property had tasty ripe Surinam cherries growing along the path and i helped myself to a second late lunch.

On the last day of the walk it follows roads through Flaxton for a few kilometres which gave me another chance to recharge the phone in a cafe. But before this i met Chris from the market and The Falls Farm again. We had a good chat beside the road and her understanding words of encouragement and appreciation touched me deeply. Chris, if you read this, thank you so much, i really needed support that morning, more than you know.

Day 4 was easy walking with a few steep but small ascents, mostly it was downhill to the river then up to Baroon Pocket Dam past the Narrows side track and lookout. The forests changed with every kilometre and the perfect swimming hole is halfway. Less people walk this section than the previous day so it was far more serene and friendly once past the loud crowds at Kondalilla Falls. 

My timing was just right. Sunshine all day, every day until i reach the shelter of Baroon Lake picnic area and a thunderous storm darkened everything. It was all show but no rain.
That night i was donated a night of hospitality at The Spotted Chook BnB where i indulged in a luxuriant bath while watching another storm come in, this one brought rain!

The next morning i hobbled into Montville. It is a quaint little village but very touristy, when my Dad wrote a little warning on my map about the prices, he wasn’t wrong! I ended up buying a coffee before leaving the hills. It was not as easy as i thought it would be with dangerously narrow winding roads clinging to the sides of steep hills and heavy tourist traffic. Just as i was about to approach the road i ran into Jill and Geoff, a couple i met at breakfast, who offered to help. Thank you!

Later that day i arrived in Eudlo and met my pack sponsor Dan from Wilderness Threadworks! I love meeting the people who support The Happy Walk and believe in what i’m doing. Dan is an artisan and adventurer who designs and makes great gear. My Luxmore 45L pack is the best i have ever used. After 27 years of solo multiday trekking and bushwalking i have finally found the right pack! Thanks Dan!

On the way to Landsborough i managed to become geographically embarrassed. This often happens when i’m in towns, always in the cities. I tried catching a train to return to where i went wrong and ended up making it worse. It wasn’t until after 8pm i finally found my way to Landsborough Pines Caravan Park exhausted, in agony from the foot problem and feeling very fragile. I didn’t know where i was going to find the energy to pitch the tent. Lisa, the manage, donated a cabin for the night and i had enough energy to pitch the next night and used the day off to see the doctor and podiatrist about the foot.
The thing with foot pain and injury during long multi-month treks is how quickly it throws out your whole body and wreaks havoc on your mind if not treated as soon as possible. An injured toe, plantar fasciitis, severe blisters, old or wrong sized shoes… can cause damage to joints, stress muscles and tendons, twist pelvis and hips, pull back muscles as the body adjusts and compensates for the pain, changes gait, limps and fatigues. I’m not in the outback anymore and after the incredible response to my call for donations i could visit a foot specialist sooner than later. I’m glad i did because the toe has not hurt since the podiatrist helped.

Fresh food has been playing a more important part in my daily diet. Whenever i pass through or camp in a town i eat fresh food and it makes a difference in my physical and mental health. I still eat baked beans from the can but now i can eat them with salad thanks to all my generous beanefactors!
Sometimes cafes donate a meal and this is always very special for me. Not only is the food fresh and nutritious but it has been infused with kindness and gratitude.

From Landsborough i walked along the Old Gympie Road  to Glasshouse Mountains, making side trips and detours to explore places of interest and get better views of the mountains. For a few hours i bushwalked through state forest and national park to get close to Mt Beerwah. 

It was a wonderful day topped off with a room donated by Glasshouse Mountains Ecolodge near the foot of Mt Tibrogargan, surrounded by an edible garden and rainforest.

Leaving Glasshouse Mountains i made the mistake of thinking 19kms was going to be a short day. I stopped to chat with some very nice people, took more side trips including Namgyalgar Tibetan Dzogchen Retreat, more mountain outlooks and a quick rubbish collection at the main tourist lookout. It turned into a 26km day squeezed into only 6hrs which left me walking along a busy dirt backroad in dwindling dusk light. When a local Woodford family pulled up and offered me a lift the last little bit to town i accepted.

I had a weekend off with friends on the Gold Coast coming up so rather than continue on from Woodford into the next range of mountains where there was no public transport i took Friday off as well and spent the day walking along the waterfront between Scarborough and Woody Point before catching the trains south.

Before leaving Woodford i had a delightful encounter with an intrepid adventure couple, Susan and Phil McDonald. It is funny how things happen in life. The day before one of the couples i stopped to chat with and share a cuppa and bikkies at Mount Tibrogargan were June and John from Queanbeyan. That night John calls me to ask if he can give my number to someone they met at the caravan park. A few minutes later Phil calls and we organise to meet for early coffee in Woodford and share some adventure stories. Susan and Phil have already lived big filling their lives with incredible feats and endeavours and next year they will be walking the Burke and Wills track up the east coast of Australia for Fred Hollows Foundation. Phil’s already well known for being a bit crazy. In the 80s he set a guiness world record riding his pennyfarthing bike around Australia!!!

Now the blog is only a week behind the walk. Last week i forgot to mention The Happy Walk tripped over the 14,000km mark. So much has been happening it is hard to keep up. I want to acknowledge all the businesses who help so i will not squeeze everything into this update. 

Next week i’ll share the road section between great walks where i keep meeting wonderful people and recieve the best of spontaneous Australian hospitality.

Thank you

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who responded when i reached out to you. Your response was overwhelming. I don’t know how to adequately thank you but you give me more motivation and the means to continue. This walk is our walk!
My money situation became a bit embarrassing on the weekend and i needed to ask for help.
I imagine myself being able to survive without money but in reality i feel like i have failed at life when it looks like my next meal will come from a bin, i start sizing up public parks for camping near public toilets and spotting taps that still have their handles so i can have a quick little splash bath and wash some clothes under the cover of darkness. I was also scared i had become a category 1 homeless person, struggling to hold onto my dignity while walking around Australia for Lifeline and mental health awareness. It doesn’t make sense.
It is hard to imagine in 2012 i was wealthy thanks to a gift from my parents. I never hesitated to help others and support good causes because saving lives, helping friends and protecting Earth was/is more important than my own money or possessions. How things have changed. My values have not changed but my ability to act on them has.
It is an humiliating desperation born of my reluctance to keep reminding people of what i’m doing, why i’m doing it and hoping some will deem it worthy of their financial support. If you have been following since the walk began it might feel like i’m nagging after a few requests each year. I don’t want you to feel like that so i try not to ask.
On Sunday and Monday i had the added stresses of an injury needing professional help before it created too many other problems and a miscommunication that lead to this weeks food supply box still sitting on the shelf back at basecamp when i went to collect from the post office.
I had $3.53 to my name and no idea how i was going to get through the week. It takes me a lot of courage to ask for help but i reached out to supporters through Instagram and the previous blog update explaining my predicament and hoping for kindness, compassion and deep hearted generosity. The crowdfund is at The Happy Walk GoFundMe.
Thank you to Mum and Dad, Steve and Sil, Phil, Lisa and Tony, Melinda and Family, Kimmi, Sarah, Mel and Bethany, Q, Fran, Barry, Louise, Katz, Dr Kate, The Brooks, Jayson, Sharyn, Kate, Jason, Lauren and Justin, Karen, Nathan and Sandra for your donations!!!
Thank you for the phone calls and messages of encouragement and love!!!
Thank you for sharing The Happy Walk in conversation and the links with your social media networks!!!
Today i could afford to visit the podiatrist, eat salad, use data on my phone and do laundry because of you. The podiatrist, Jason at Stepping Out Landsborough, also donated a custom fit mould for my toe when he found out what i am doing!

Since completing the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk i have received even more generous support through accommodation sponsorships and food.
On Sunday night The Spotted Chook Ferme Auberge, a beautiful French style BnB in Montville donated a night in one of their rooms with a big bathtub which i soaked in for 2 hours. I have never enjoyed a bath so much in my life. Thank you Jane and Leeroy for your generous spirit of giving.

Last night after 8, arriving in Landsborough 3hrs late, lost and in a fragile emotional state i found the Pines Caravan Park. When the manager, Lisa, came down to help me i fell apart from pain, exhaustion and relief. Then Lisa donated the Birdsong cabin for the night so i could fully rest and recover. Thank you for your empathy and care for my wellbeing.

This morning Lisa organised for Henry & Co Organic Cafe to donate breakfast and coffee. I couldn’t believe how much i was craving mushrooms, avocado and spinach until it was placed on the table and i devoured it!

Tomorrow night Glasshouse Mountains Ecolodge have donated a room after i spend the day wandering through some of the most picturesque and culturally significant pinnacles in Australia.
On the weekend i am taking a 2 day break with old friends, Greg and Cyndy, on the Gold Coast before returning to resume the walk near Brisbane next week. I will not be walking through the city because of mental health reasons and i get terribly lost in towns and cities but i am still looking for somewhere quiet to stay in Brisbane on Friday night so i can meet any friends, family and supporters who have time and transport.
I still haven’t written about or shared photos from the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk but i’ll get onto it soon. The photos are slowly being sorted, about 80% get deleted then some need filtering. I realised a lot of my old phone’s limitations last week in dark forest with bright sun or cloud glare slicing through or washing it out around midday and low res in low light between dusk and dawn. When beauty is everywhere all day i must take photos. At least it is a Samsung Galaxy S, the best mobile phone cameras, even if it is 4 generations old. I can’t and don’t need to buy a new phone camera but am open for Samsung sponsorship.
This update has been written tonight on a note app but i will post it tomorrow morning with free wifi, i hope it doesn’t confuse you.