Rising sharply from the plains around them and thought to be the remnants of an extinct volcano, the fertile lands that comprise the Bunya Mountains National Park is home to the largest remaining concentration of bunya pine trees in the world and are awash with wildlife, waterfalls and lookouts.
Those rugged peaks had been calling me for quite some time now, so before the school holidays started, I decided to “pack up my bags, and I’m gonna get away,” and booked into some friendly, mountainside camping accommodation.
Town To Town, Two-Lane Roads
Being one who never takes preference to the highway over backroads, I decided that from Toowoomba I would zig-zag my way across to the Bunya Mountains National Park instead of taking the high road along route 49 or 68.
The first stop was Kingsthorpe, a tiny town that had a beautiful hidden attraction. Mt Kingsthorpe is a microscopic reserve that takes you to an elevation of 610m along its 512m track.
The road to this natural lookout is on a very steep, rough-looking, inconspicuous laneway nestled between two houses in the residential area to the east of town.
Thankfully, I managed to not comply with gravity as I rolled on up the road, navigating numerous potholes, broken edges and gutted sides up the unmaintained road. Making it to the top of the car park in a 1.8L 2wd was a feat in itself.
The track itself was a gentle climb up and provided stunning pockets of views across the Toowoomba plains. The top of the mountain revealed sweeping, panoramic views that allowed you to appreciate the breadth and scope of the landscape.
Leaving the hidden gem of Mt Kingsthorpe in my rearview mirror, I headed forth to Goombungee. A town of more substantial size than the first, this pretty little town that had a business district has claimed itself the Picnic Town and had a cute little sign to boot.
The sign indicated coffee, an art gallery and most hilariously, a toilet, which I think is a very polite way of saying there is not a whole lot of things to do here, but the lovely buildings make a quick walk through town enjoyable.
Next stop on my tiny town tour to Bunya was Haden. Resembling the first town more than the second town in size, Haden is a drive-through town, but it does have the beautiful Scenic Lookout that provides sweeping views eastwards of the undulating landscapes of Toowoomba’s hills.
Passing through Peranga and Quinalow, I then slightly deviated to the town with the single longest name in Queensland. Kaimkillenbun is hard to say fast three times and is affectionately referred to as “The Bun”.
The pub on the main intersection is even named so. It’s called “The Bun Pub”, which probably explains why there is a kitty casing the joint. They love bunnies. Sorry, Meowth, wrong kind of buns.
Clearly an agricultural town with numerous equipment and silos being visible from the only intersection in town, there was little reason to go out of my way to visit this town other than to get a photo of its sign for my collection, but the cat and quirky pub made the 3km detour worthwhile.
Now it was time to quit zig-zagging across the plains that made up the Darling Downs and head straight for the hills. It wasn’t long before the road started hitting the foothills surrounding the isolated mountaintops of the Bunya Mountains before dramatically becoming steep, tight and windy.
Rounding corners named the Devil’s Elbow, and something else equally ominous that I can’t remember, the drive was slow and meandery so it was super impressive coming across a lady cycling her way up the mountain! What a champ!
Soon there were open views of the landscape I had just risen from. Stopping to get a photo from a bay by the side of the road to get some photos, the car’s cabin started filling with smoke when I got back in. EEK!!! Luckily, it turned out to be nothing, and I carried on the wayward road.
J.S. Fisher Lookout
Shortly after that was the beginning of the Bunya Mountains National Park, then even short-lier after that Russell Park and J.S. Fisher Lookout. I wouldn’t be exploring the Timber Chute walks that Russell Park had to offer on this occasion but the areas that had been cleared because of those tree lopping days meant that the view at J.S Fisher Lookout was expansive and uninterrupted.
The vast plains of the Darling Downs were on display in an impressive panoramic which one would have assumed you could have seen the curvature of the earth. Alas, that was not the case. Perhaps the Earth IS flat?
Joking aside, it was cold! The winds that I am just now mentioning had been strong and present all day, but at this elevation, it wasn’t just blustery, it was freezing.
Burton Wells Camping Area
Drinking in the views from a while, I decided to bypass the mini township of Dandabah and head straight to the campsite because it had already taken me way too long to get here in the first place even accounting for my slow ass and taking forever to take photos etc.
By now, it was about 3.30 pm. I wasn’t expecting any creatures of the fluffy, bounding kind, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a pademelon zip-out in front of me as I drove along the mountaintop road.
An uneventful few kilometres more under the thick, shady rainforest canopy, I finally arrived at Burtons Well Camping Area. There were already a bunch of other people there set up for the night ahead, but I managed to get a spot that had a view of the South Burnett plains.
Deciding it was too late to be able to fit in a walk, I called it a night and after setting up the tent and filling the belly, I took the opportunity to photograph the stars on this crisp, crystal clear night. I was stoked with how the images came out even though there was no foreground at the campground to compliment the spectacular galaxy.
Calling it a night on this wildly windy day, I snoozed relatively early at 8.30 pm. I had so many layers of clothes including snow gear and was rugged up snugly inside my sleeping bag so I thought I would be good for the night. Wrong.
It was SO cold! I woke up and hour and a half later and after deciding that even with all these layers on and a sleeping bag zipped up to the tee I couldn’t stop shivering and hauled ass out of there and slept out the night in the car. So. Much. Warmer.
To Be Continued…
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