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.

Offline

I’m sorry for not keeping my word. There were a bunch of drafts but not a single one has been completed to schedule before I go offline. These have been deleted because when I finish 3-4 months offline alone camping in the Wilderness I will make a fresh start, new perspectives and approach this blog as a journal of my Wilderness experience and the remaining 2,900kms of my walk around Australia.

I plan to stay out in the bush in solitude for 3 months but this may be extended until early June or shortened it if I tire of the isolation.

It isn’t part of The Happy Walk but will hopefully help prepare me for the final push. I have called this little project “wild recluse” and will document it online in June. 

Until then, from today, the only reason I will turn on the phone will be to check-in with family, organise a monthly overnight trip into the closest town for supplies and access an offline dictionary to assist my daily writing session.

The Happy Walk resumes in Gladstone on June 25 and on June 22/23 I will attend Happiness & Its Causes in Sydney where I look forward to hearing His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s laughter again.

In fact, I have been extremely privileged to have been in his presence listening to his guidance and ideas 3 times, twice with devoted Tibetan refugees in Hunder Valley. 

The photo collage above is of prayer flags flying on top of the world across Ladakh, in the Himalaya of North India, sending prayers of peace on the wind across the Earth. It has been almost a decade since I visited and I plan to return and explore much more.

A New Sponsor

From February to June I will be unplugged and offline, mental preparation for the final leg, so blog posts will be scheduled while I’m away.

During this time I will be introducing you to my sponsors, the businesses who believe in what I’m doing and have generously donated in kind.

Tonight I will start with the most recent sponsor who came on board this week.

Barefoot Inc Australia!

I expected finding a good footwear sponsor to be easy. The brand exposure for an outdoor adventure footwear company sponsoring someone walking around Australia would have been exceptional but nobody responded to my sponsorship requests for years and then I ran out of money and could only afford thongs. It was hard and disappointing. Also very embarrassing not being able to name the brand I wore the hundreds of times people asked.

Thankfully I have been supported by a couple of good outdoor adventure companies, who were often mentioned over the years, Wilderness Sports Jindabyne and Columbia who helped with organising wholesale prices for shoes while I could still afford them. I have been through all kinds of footwear including heavy boots, ultralight runners, adventure sandals, sturdy trail runners and even walked nearly 3,000kms in sponsored orthotic thongs from Slappas. Not everything has worked, some caused injury and some were impractical. Being vegan I care that my shoes are ethical and animal cruelty free and I have specific foot shape/health requirements so this limited my options.

The next section of the walk takes me off the highway and into the bush and rainforests where I need a reliable and light weight boot which provides protection and foot support. I have also had severe foot pain for about 6 months, 3 months requiring rest and therapy and my physio has given me a list of specific requirements in a shoe to prevent future injury. I was so close to compromising myself and settling for a trusted backcountry brand of leather boot or trail shoe when I discovered the new Inov8 Roclite 325 boots.

It is perfect and meets all my requirements!

From the website;

“The all new RocLite 325 GTX, one of the lightest GORETEX boot in the world offers a high level of comfort for a general use trail boot with high levels of protection for the adventurer. Inov-8’s Sticky rubber sole delivers ample grip and durability, while the second generation Meta-Shank™II ensures natural movement with rock protection. Choose this shoe for a protective, natural trail running experience with the worlds best waterproof solution. This boot has become a firm favourite amongst the armed forces for it’s incredible light weight matched with a neutral dark grey colouring for moving quite and fast in less than ideal conditions.

FEATURES INCLUDE:

    • Upper: The updated highly durable upper made of a new denser weave mesh that delivers ample durability and breathability.
    • Footbed: Comfortable and interchangeable, the Roclite utilises a cushioned 6mm innersole for comfort during long runs.
    • Sticky rubber: A carefully blended Sticky rubber make up the RocLite sole, medium sticky compound is used to deliver traction and Grip over mixed terrain.
    • Meta-Flex™ insert delivers a controlled but natural forefoot flex.
    • Met-Cradle™ lacing cradles the forefoot behind the metatarsal heads to provide a secure foot hold while running up or down hill.
    • GoreTex™ waterproof membrane built into the lining the shoe for total climate control in all conditions.

MEASUREMENTS:

    • Weight: 325gm (approx)
    • Stack: 22mm Heel / 16mm Forefoot
    • Drop: 8mm
    • FIT: (S) STANDARD FIT
    • Midsole: EVA
    • Shank: META-SHANK II
    • Footbed: 6mm
    • Cleat depth: 5.5mm”

How does that sound? Well, it gets better!

I phoned for a quick chat about the new boot then wrote a sponsorship request and Barefoot Inc have donate 2 pairs which will be enough to carry me all the way back to Canberra’s National Lifeline HQ, the final 2,900kms of this looong lap of Australia. I promise lots of Instagram photos of these beauties in action later this year.

Thank you Barefoot Inc for your incredible sponsorship!

Changes

This is a quick post about some changes to the walk.

In the last two weeks I have started and tinkered with a few posts but they are all still drafts. I haven’t been able to focus very well, distracted with another project and a bit of mental illness. If this sounds confusing it is because I am not well so I will keep it as simple as possible.

I have severe social anxiety issues which are getting worse so some of these changes are to protect my mental health.

The walk will now be entirely off the highway, following alternative roads, 4WD and fire trails, official walking tracks and beaches. Where any section of the walk gives no alternative than to follow the highway I will thumb a ride through that section. I think there are only about 50-60kms of road left without options. These lost kilometres will be made up in other ways.

The barrow Dory will not return to the walk. Many of the terrains I plan to cross will not be suitable for pushing a barrow. I will go back to my preferred style of walking, with a backpack. The first leg, 1,250kms around Tasmania, was with a backpack. I quickly learnt a lot about packing light for longer. Wilderness Threadworks have very generously donated an hand crafted Luxmore D40 45Lt pack. Thank you!

From Gladstone QLD all the way to Canberra I will walk as many official multi-day bushwalking tracks between the hinterland and coast, starting with the Fraser Island Great Walk. Using the barrow for the last 12,000kms I have missed many beaut tracks through wild places as I follow the scenic roads catching only glimpses. It will feel great being fully immersed in Nature without the noise, exhaust smells and safety issues of the highway.

When the walk resumes in June I will be more assertive about asking for health, food and accommodation help from businesses. This was self-funded for 2 years, I sold everything of any value and am completely broke. I have had a 98% support and sponsorship rejection rate, this pretty much eroded the little confidence I already had to ask for help but last year I ran 2 crowdfund campaigns raising $5,600 to help with the things businesses were not willing to donate. The GoFundMe campaign will resume with the walk. Thank you to everyone who helped!

Outdoor adventure and women’s empowerment magazines, radio, newspapers and TV are always welcome to cover the story of this solo unaccompanied walk around Australia but I won’t chase them or sell myself anymore. If they are not interested on first contact they miss out. Self-promotion makes me feel dirty. I always feel angry when they are not willing to make the effort to support their community through an interesting and uplifting story of hope, suicide prevention and Lifeline. This anger eats at me so I will be minimising the energy I put into reaching out for media support. Local ABC radio has usually been the most receptive and I will continue to call them first. ABC don’t sensationalise or judge and that is probably why they are still the most listened too radio broadcaster.

There will be no more public speaking events. My social anxiety is so extreme now it cripples me, only last weekend I ended up in hospital because of it. A pattern emerged during this walk where I needed days of rest to recover after speaking to schools and interest groups. It takes a lot out of me and there is no support person to lean on or help.

No facebook! This was increasingly using up too much data and time. It was necessary to help raise $20,000 for Lifeline and awareness but it is no longer needed. It feels amazing being free from facebook since deleting my account and pages on the 1st January. My primary social media platform is this blog.

And no more comparing! I am not the Storm Trooper! I am not Sarah Marquis! I’m just a charity walker trying to walk a lap of Australia for Lifeline. Solo unaccompanied is very different to anyone who has walked with a support vehicle or sponsored entourage. Walking around Australia is not comparable to walking across. I need to stop comparing my walk with others and shut down anyone else who tries. It is not helpful for me or them.

There are other little changes in the works but these are the main ones which will make what is already a very difficult endeavour just a little easier.