I have some excellent news! I have passed my 20,000kms solo milestone.
It is a little bit embarrassing because I had been calculating the distances I walked alone in Australia and didn’t add any international solo treks in Portugal, Morocco, Western Sahara, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, China and Japan (but not including group treks in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Bangladesh). It turns out I’m close to 22,000kms.
This is a significant number for me. It has been on the horizon like a distant mountain which never seems to get any closer. Breaking my ankle was a real blow because I was so close.
Realising my mistake this week was a great moment. Only a moment though. There was nobody around to help me celebrate, I haven’t even drunk to it yet. It may mean a lot to me but I understand it does not carry the same weight for anyone who hasn’t pursued long solo expeditions. A lot more goes into solo expeditions than planning and walking. This number represents the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and intellectual highs and lows of years of single-minded dedication.
I have not completed everything I started. There have been some monumental failures but from these I learnt important lessons which have helped get through the tough sections of many more expeditions and treks. With every expedition, end to end and section hike I have learnt to adapt and take on advice from others who have been there before me. No matter how experienced you are or the distance you have under your feet there is always something or someone to learn from.
I’m about to head off for 450kms of slow but challenging training treks in the Australian Alps over summer. Fingers crossed the ankle is ready. I will be posting on the Terra Roams facebook and Instagram pages when I get phone range with battery power to waste.
Last weekend I faced my biggest fear – public speaking – and didn’t die!
It was an absolute privilege to be one of the speakers at the She Went WildWomen’s Adventure Expo in Sydney on Sunday. To share the stage with some of the most inspirational and accomplished women in Australia was an honour.
It wasn’t without a few hiccups before and during the talk. I had written 3 different talks and none of them felt authentic. Less than a week before the event I scrapped them and started something new which felt perfect. I made a slideshow with necessary prompts to help me through each part of it, just in case I froze up with nerves. Then on the morning of my departure to Sydney I found out my ancient software wasn’t compatible with the audio visual system at the expo.
If I have learnt anything while walking around Australia it is to improvise and roll with it. I had just enough time to switch from my little bag to the backpack and fill it with props for a “show and tell” presentation. I had a 7 hour train ride booked to Sydney during which I planned to to rewrite the talk (with props) and go over it a few times. The train was cancelled, NSW trainlink didn’t tell the 3 passengers waiting almost 2 and half hours when the replacement bus was due. I panicked, paced, drank a can of cola because I was getting a caffeine withdrawal headache because I had planned to buy a coffee on the train. I was beginning to burn while I waited in the sun in 33’C so I found some shade, took out a notebook, poised my pen to write but no words came. The crazy thought that this trip wasn’t meant to be even passed through my mind. I had no choice but to cancel catching up with friends that afternoon. Cancelling the whole trip was out of the question.
So let’s just forget Sa(turd)ay. Once I was finally in Sydney and arrived at my Airbnb everything regained its equilibrium. I let go of it all. On the way down in the bus i decided the best way to be as genuine as possible is to be spontaneous and chat with the listeners the same as I might chat with travellers I meet on the road and in rest areas. I slept surprisingly well.
The expo was amazing! So many incredible people and businesses! I had a few fan-girl moments meeting adventure women I had been following on Instagram, the brilliant founder of She Went Wild Emma and the dynamic duo Kerryann and Amy from Travel Play Live. Lisa Blair who recently returned from becoming the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica spoke and Lauren Jones from The Jonesys shared her insights from walking 1,800kms through the outback with her baby daughter Morgan and husband Justin. Meeting Claire Dunn who wrote My Year Without Matches and teaches rewilding was a special moment which made me wonder if I know enough yet to take on a few of my future plans. Fuchsia Sims from Adventure Junky was so supportive and helped me relax a little bit before and after I spoke. My fellow mental health human powered epic adventurer Amy Wildfire from Push Biking for Mental Health came and we spent the afternoon together. But the big highlight for me was in the morning when my sister, Linda, came down from Dubbo to support me.
It was a big day and my talk was just a small part of it. Even for me it felt small in comparison to everything and everyone who was sharing their part in women’s adventure.
Honestly, I thought I had bombed big time. When I walked up on stage in my bushwalking uniform, well worn holey Barefoot Inc boots, Mont clothes and hat, Wilderness Threadworks pack, sleeping mat and Pacer Poles I was literally shaking from head to toe. I stumbled through it, talked myself into a corner a few times, a quiet part of my brain gently pointed out at one stage I was starting to mumbling, everything was emphasised with nervous laughter (mostly mine) and i didn’t talk about some of the important things I really wanted to mention. I walked away thinking my adventure speaking debut was going to be the first and last, nobody will want me to speak at their events again.
How I felt was very different to how others responded. The wonderful crowd who stayed to listen smiled and laughed with me, their empathy was so deep some cried as i shared my path to recovery. Immediately afterwards and throughout the afternoon people wanted to chat about something I said and share their own plans for new adventure,roaming further. To each of you who listened, Thank You! To each of you who stopped for a chat, Thank You! To everyone who took something away from my story I wish you peace and beauty as you seek Nature through adventure. To Emma creator of She Went Wild a huge THANK YOU for this opportunity to grow and share.
Now i have new friends, feel even closer to my sister, found some products i want to try out, skills i want to learn, old pursuits i want to chase again and am booked in to share with another group of adventurous humans next year. I call that a Great Day!
Lauren, Justin and Morgan are The Jonesys and they have just completed an incredible 1,800km trek on foot through the Australian outback.
The Jonesys did not walk with a support crew to wrangle their camps, keep their water cool and cook meals. Nobody travelled through ahead of them burying caches of supplies. They pulled 2 trekking carts, a modified Burly bike trailer and an heavy duty custom build carrying everything the young family needed everyday as well as all the food and water required for the hundreds of kilometres of walking between communities and homesteads. Truly Amazing!
If walking across the outback wasn’t enough they have taken their followers on an inspiring exploration into sustainable and conscious expedition options as they incorporate an ethos of responsible adventure into every choice they made during preparation. From Morgan’s environmentally friendly nappies, recycled and reusable packaging, sourcing Australian owned brands, organic bulk dry foods, to carbon neutral freight of their fortnightly supplies. This is something I have been passionate about for a long time. I have been doing this for the last 4 years while walking around Australia and it is a thrill to see the Jonesys using their popular recognition throughout the outdoors industry and community to reach a much bigger audience with a clear message that sustainable adventure is possible. Thank you!
Major physical feats such as this are a great platform to raise awareness and funds for organisations needing support and nearly $5,000 has been raised for the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku (WDNWPT)– Western Desert Dialysis or more lovingly known as The Purple House. Here is the link to add your support Shout For Good Well Done Jonesys!
It has been an absolute privilege and pleasure to follow them through their Instagram and Blog. If you follow my Insta page you might have spotted a couple of Lauren quotes I copied from their blog. Finishing the expedition in Port Augusta a couple of days ago isn’t the end of the Jonesys’ family adventures. Please follow and support them.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from their blog.
“Being perfect isn’t what matters. I think its actually about having the courage to live life in the spaces of not knowing, be open to experiences as they come along, trust and being authentically you.”
10 days out of the cast and i’m making progress. Slow but definitely improving.
After 50 days non-weight-bearing in pre and post surgery back board casts and an ultralight fibreglass cast my ankle pretty much forgot what to do.
The tibia was successfully relocated without extra screws. The fibula is still meshing after the screws disintegrated the spiral fracture but the plate provides enough strength to full weight bear. It doesn’t feel okay but i need to trust what the doctors say.
The visualisation exercises were not useful in preparation for my “walking out of hospital like a champion” moment because the tendons and ligaments were so badly damaged any pressure on the ankle caused blinding pain for a few days.
The plated fibula aches all day and night. It tingles and is numb to touch. Both sides and across the top of the ankle are also numb.
The pitting oedema has gone but not the swelling.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it is getting better but my expectations are unrealistic and, let’s face it, i’m impatient. Every morning i wake up, swing my legs over the edge of the bed and expect to walk normally again like 2 months had never happened.
Mentally i need to look forward, keep planning future bike touring and kayak projects. Resuming the walk around Australia will happen as soon as i can walk 20kms with a 20kg pack without too much pain and swelling.
The psychological impact is gradually eroding my confidence. I fight it but i’m too tired to even think straight when the constant pain and discomfort scrambles every thought. My brain is in a fog (more so than usual) and it is embarrassing.
I can walk up stairs but not down. I can lower myself into the pool gracefully but climb out like a walrus. I can walk down to the surf club but need a lift back (not drunk). It takes me 1 hour to walk 1.5kms.
The crutches are obsolete! There is an extra 10 degrees of movement! My boots can be worn as a pair again!
I can not guess how long it will take. I don’t know if i am being too aggressive or careful with exercise and stretches. I hope to be close to normal by the new year. Normal extreme walking i mean, i don’t do “normal” anything really.
I hope you are all staying in one piece. I highly recommend it 🙂
‘…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now it has been 15 years since my last visit. Too long away but Woonoongoora was never far from my heart.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.*
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.