Just a few days after my first encounter with the rain forest, I was on my way to O’Reilly’s. O’Reilly’s is one of only two entryways into Lamington National Park, the other being Binna Burra. One can walk between the two, if one is fit—it’s 23km, or a bit more than 14 miles. But while it’s gorgeous, the miles of undulating mountain and glorious rain forest are rugged, so give yourself most of a day.
Today, O’Reilly’s is famous as a guest house from which one can explore the glories of the rain forest, and at which the delights of the area are close at hand, from birds that come to eat seeds from your hand to indigenous flowers planted in rich profusion close by.
One of the sons of the original settlers, Mick O’Reilly, returned from World War I to become Queensland’s first park ranger, as overseer of the area that had become a national park by that time. But it was in 1937 that O’Reilly’s gained real fame, when Bernard O’Reilly, forging his way through the dense rain forest that he and his family knew so well, located the survivors of a plane crash deep in the rain forest. After finding the three survivors (four men died in the crash), he hiked back out to get help. Refusing to rest, he returned with a rescue party and a doctor. A group of local farmers cut a 10-mile track through the thick forest so that the men could be carried out on stretchers. It was a remarkable rescue that was later detailed in Bernard O’Reilly’s book Green Mountains. Now everyone knew about O’Reilly’s.
I loved the history of the place, and I loved seeing the photographs in the family room of the generations of O’Reilly’s who lived there. I was also pretty much over-the-top in my delight at the rain forest, birds, and flowers.
I included a picture of a crimson rosella in my April 29th post on writers in Oz. Rest assured that the one in the photo was simply one among dozens. But in the book, I also mentioned the black and gold Regent bowerbird, which is pictured below. Also pictured is the odd bromeliad that delighted me in the O’Reilly’s garden, as well as a spray of orchids. The beauty of this place can not be overstated.