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.