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.