Gorgeous sunrise. The sun’s rays crept slowly over the mountain peaks. Dressed and headed across the central clearing to the dining room, where we watched local birds gather to feast as we ate. On the balcony, in the surrounding trees, and at the bird feeders, there were catbirds, rosellas, currawongs, and, especially abundant, rainbow lorikeets. Noisy and delightful gathering. I was surprised at how completely the bright red crimson rosellas vanished amid the green leaves, when they landed in the trees.
Binna Burra’s resident ornithologist, Glen, came around to each table, to meet those who were going on the hike with him. Our lunches had already been packed, and backpacks with food and water were supplied.
At 9 o’clock, we gathered outside the dining room. Besides Glen, there was Glen’s wife, Jenny, who is a botanist, plus the 1/2 dozen other hardy souls about to embark on one of Binna Burra’s “long walks.” Glen is perfect for this place: lean frame, piercing eyes, full white beard. Jenny is absolutely dear, but looks less like a wild mountain type than her husband. She has short, salt and pepper hair, amused eyes, and a gentle voice. But she is very knowledgeable, and even the tiniest rock orchid does not escape her notice.
The walk started out easily enough: drop down from the lodge into the forest through a thicket of purple-flowered wild tobacco and white-flowered mist-of-the-mountain (beautiful but not indigenous, and considered a nuisance). We stopped when Glen spotted a pair of brown wood pigeons, and then we continued on.
A sign directed us toward the Ship’s Stern Circuit and gave a distance of 19k. However, Glen said our walk would be a bit longer than that, probably topping 23k, because he wanted to detour to the Lower Ballanjui Falls. The forest closed around us, cool and green, a riot of palms, figs, ferns, gums, vines, stinging trees, mosses, and a million other green things. The sounds of birds were around us everywhere: the snapping whistle of the whipbird, the warble of the yellow robin, the cry of the noisy pitta, and a half dozen other musical calls.
At one spot, the ground was littered with odd, red, bell-shaped berries. Glen picked one up and identified at as a sour cherry. “You can try it if you like,” he told us. I thought he was joking, but when he bit into one, I picked one up, too, and tried it. It was a bit crunchy and tasted rather like pomegranate.
After a couple of kilometers of hiking, we came to a clearing. On the far side of the valley was a towering wall of green. Glen told us that it was our destination, that we’d drop into the valley and then climb up the other side, hike out to the point (the Ship’s Stern), and then follow the rim around to Binna Burra again. I looked at the valley 1,500 feet below us and asked, “Drop down into that valley?” Yes.