Waking up at the minty fresh, super early time of 4.30 am, I got ready to embark on the first walk of my mini camping trip in Bunya Mountains National Park.
Departing at 5.40 am, I went my merry way along the Mt Kiangarow trail, which was a stone’s throw away from the campground and ascended its gentle slopes.
Plodding along the track with so many layers and a heavy camera bag, I felt like a poor, weighed down mule, but it was still freezing and blowing gale force, it had been all night, so I was nice and warm as I made my way through the tangled web of dry rainforest.
Being the time when the fluffballs and furballs are the most active, I had my heart set on seeing something friendly make an appearance, but alas, it must have been too cold and blowy for the possums to be out swaying on the tallest canopy branches and too blustery for the pademelons to be pounding the rainforest pavement.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
As I was ascending the mountain searching for critters of the night, my flashlight decided to go kaput! Eek! As it was rechargeable, I couldn’t pop new batteries in which is a note for next time that as good as that torch is, it’s not helpful when it dies in the middle of a dark forest. Awkward.
Whipping out my phone, its flashlight wasn’t that bright, but it got me the distance as the day took its sweet ass time diminishing the darkness.
Nothing But Fog
The end of the walk, the big crescendo revealed an entire landscape completely bathed in a thick, never-ending fog. It was so beautiful, quiet and isolating being above the clouds. It was just the mountaintop of Mt Kiangarow and seemingly nothing else. In this chaotic world of ours, the scenery was peaceful and serene.
I lingered at the top for a while watching the ebb and flow of the fog as it clouded together and tore apart uncovering more and more of the surrounding peaks of the Bunya Mountains and the plains of the Western Downs as the sun evaporated the low-hanging clouds. Being up there alone experiencing this was bliss.
Early morning walk fait accompli, I headed back to the campsite to chow down on some low-calorie broth, which was disgusting by the way (never buying that again) then headed back through along the forest drive to check out the friendly mountaintop village.
Numerous beautiful chalets lined the road in before opening up and revealing a handful of small shops, cafes and many, many wallabies!
These sweet, lovely bounding furballs looked like they had taken over the joint. They were here, there, everywhere and you couldn’t miss them. Not that you would want to. Needless to say, I spent a decent amount of time shooting them with my 300mm.
There was one particular wallaby that looks kind of like a little rabbit that was semi snoozing in the large lawned area outside a cafe. At first glance, I thought it was a goner. Dead. Kaput, and that there was just a cute corpse there for all the kiddies to see. I quickly realised that the wally that I thought was a pancake was sweetly dozing when it rose its head from the dead when a car drove by.
Elsewhere in the village, there was a statue of a hand reaching for the sun with tree branches surrounding it. It was if to say nature was helping humankind reach for the stars, that it is our strength or vice versa. Surely it’s the former. I don’t know I missed the sign if there was one. Eek!
There was also a small historical cottage that served as a museum (however, due to COVID-19, it was closed to keep the volunteers safe) and a tiny school building that, at certain times of the year, houses numerous bats that come sunset, explode out of it like some horror movies right there on the TV.
It was also here that you could see all the bunya trees this national park is named after. This little patch of paradise is the largest remaining concentration of bunya pine remaining in the world and these unique, towering, broad, fishbone shaped trees dominate the treeline as I looked around the village.
Peeling myself away from the delightfulness of Dandabah, it was off to Paradise to squeeze in my second walk of the day. Making headway to Barker Creek Lookout, it was easy to see why the starting point was called Paradise.
The towering trees were sparsely grown with soft, delicate ferns filling in the spaces between under a dark canopy created relaxing paradisical rainforest atmosphere. It was a great way to start the walk.
It Could Be Para, Para, Paradise
Soon, there was a gentle, zig-zag decline which lead to the first attraction along the walk, Paradise Falls. Someone forgot to turn on the water! Being mid-winter, I knew that any waterfalls would likely be a trickle, but I still wanted to see them.
I thought that the downpour that occurred just a few days before would have filled these parched waterfalls up just a bit more. There was still water flowing down the small, pretty, broad cliff, but it was more of a case of being heard rather than seen.
The track then followed the creek downstream where there were a few places to see areas where the water had pooled, but I don’t think it was flowing very much before heading on another slight, zig-zag decline to Little Falls.
Unlike the first waterfall, Little Falls had some visible drippage, although it wasn’t a lot. It’s small, broad and pretty like the first one but unlike the first one, it’s got two big holes in its (cliff) face.
It’s also got an unusual shape in it. From a certain angle, it looks like there is a top half of a human skull showing on the rock above the hole behind the waterfall. Now I’m not saying that it looked like the skull of Jensen Ackles, but I’m also not saying it didn’t. Who am I kidding, the resemblance is un-freaking-canny.
Wide Open Spaces
Tearing myself away from the eerie rock that resembled the guy who plays one of the main characters on my favourite TV show, Supernatural, I was soon out of the rainforest and into bald bushland where a beautiful, uninterrupted view of gentle slopes giving way to the surrounding plainlands awaited me.
The view was breathtaking, the wind was soothing, the sun shining upon me was bliss, and it reminded me that no matter how long the darkness you face is, the light is always right there waiting at the other end.
Celebrating The Bunyas
After a short stretch along the grassy hillside, it was time to move forth into the rainforest under the prominent bunya pine tree canopy that I could see along this open area, because light and darkness, “it comes and goes in waves, it always does. It always does.”
Along here I learnt by a sign that the nuts that Bunya Pines produce were not only eaten by Aboriginals, but every three years, they knew that the trees produced more nuts than usual and would gather neighbouring tribes to have a feast and a celebration!
I’m not sure what happens that causes the trees to go on a nut growing spree, but I would love to know.
Land Of The Bunyips? Or The Wendigos
I also discovered that Bunya Pines have distinctive markings that resemble scratches that appear intermittently up their trunks. Bunyips? Or if you’re a Supernatural fangirl like me, you entertain yourself with the thought of Wendigos roaming the woods.
And by entertain, I mean scare the shit out of yourself. They might be of Northern American mythology, but the ferns at the start of the walk aren’t helping my self-induced Wendigo anxiety. EEK!
Oh Big Falls, Where Art Thou?
Ravenous, flesh-eating monster thoughts aside, I carried on because I knew that there was no way I could outrun the monster that lied in my head or any terrifying animals that could legitimately kick my ass in real-time.
After furthermore stomping through the rainforest, it opened back up and was nothing but blue skies from now on. I had reached the Big Falls Lookout, which was less a lookout and more a signposted stop along the trail.
I looked around for the waterfall and thought out loud to the Bunya gods, “Are you having a laugh?” Where are these falls I should be gazing upon supposed to be?
The first two waterfalls had an underwhelming flow, so I was expecting the same for this one too, but usually, there’s blackened cliff rock to indicate that falls had once fell here or something, but nothing. Nothing! All I could see was the landscape, but it was quite a pretty one at that.
I suspected it was on the left side of the view as there was a cliff there, but nothing I noticed to indicate a water source. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
End Of The Line
Fifty metres down the track and I had finally reached the Barker Creek Lookout. Whoo-hoo! Where’s the creek though? EEK! There’s a pattern emerging here.
The scenery was lovely and serene, if not dramatic or impressive. You could see pockets of view of the South Burnett hills below, but trees had blocked off most of the distant landscape, but it was a lovely spot to see the bunya pine trees. They were everywhere here.
I stayed to watch the sunset, and as I was taking photographs of the scene that laid before me, I spotted a large bird that I had never seen before in the scrub a few metres from me.
It was black, grey with a yellow puff-like crest of its head and I thought it might have been a bird of prey. I tried to quickly but quietly grab my camera perched on my tripod to capture it, but it was only there for a few seconds before it took to the skies. Gosh-dang-it. (Upon later research, I determined that it may have possibly have been a Topknot Pigeon)
Back The Way I Came
After saying “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, we’ve reached the end,” to the rolling hills and bunya trees of the Barker Creek Lookout, I began heading back before darkness completely overwhelmed the landscape. This time I had the headlamp with me instead of the rechargeable torch and went my merry way through the darkening rainforest.
I was once again hoping to see some critters of the night searching for a feast of berries, seeds, leaves and other such pickings. The rainforest sections yielded no creatures of the land nor the treetops, however, the scenic treeless area between Big Falls and Little Falls had a wallaby grazing on the long grass that I only noticed because we both scared the shit out of each other.
Making it back to the car without being shredded by a bunyip or a wendigo, I was sad that I still wasn’t able to see a possum or even some ground-dwelling rodents but was delighted I was at least able to see the wallaby.
Even though the waterfalls weren’t running at full flow, the walk through the rainforest was a pretty adventure along an easy path and one that I hope to do again after a long period of heavy rain.
Back To You, Burton
Heading back to the Burtons Well Campground, I was determined to get back into the tent, (I did come here to camp after all), however, the wind that had started picking up while I was at Barker Creek Lookout was now in full force. I figured while I have proven on another occasion that I can handle the cold, no amount of layers I had available were going to stand this icy cold wind that was blasting the mountaintop. The car is was. So. Much Warmth.
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