After about an hour and a half of hiking, we stopped in a grove of moss-covered trees that were identified as Antarctic beeches—Latin name, Nothofagus moorei (also known as Australian beech in some other sources). Apparently, this species of tree dates back to the supercontinent Gondwana and is the type of tree that covered Antarctica, back when Antarctica was still warm. (A bit of later research turned up the fact that trees in the Nothofagus family are actually “false beeches,” with members of the Fagaceae family being the true beeches—in case you wondered.) Interestingly, the small grove of beeches was clearly different than the surrounding rainforest. James explained that these trees need cooler weather to survive, which is why they only grow on the highest mountains this far north. The somewhat taller close relative of these trees, Tasmanian myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii, also sometimes called Antarctic beech or Australian myrtle, or maybe even red myrtle, just to keep things interesting) sticks to the cooler, more southerly climate of Tasmania. (Probably more than you ever wanted to know about the trees—but once I started looking and found out how confused the nomenclature was, I couldn’t resist.)
At this lovely spot, James lowered his backpack and produced scones and fruit. Mike and Greg (two regular visitors to Binna Burra who were on the long hike yesterday) also had packs, and they unloaded billy cans, water bottles, and portable fuel jars (no open fires up here when it’s this dry), and we boiled the billy for morning tea. Above us, bees hummed among the flowers in the tree tops, and all around us, rosellas flitted through the branches. While the billies warmed, we climbed a large mound of huge, lichen-stained boulders for a view back through the forest. James mentioned that the reason the beech trees were so close together is that, when a tree dies, new trees start up almost immediately from the base of the old trees.
With tea finished and gear repacked, we continued on. We left the beeches behind and were again enveloped by the rainforest. By 12:30, we were back at Binna Burra. I dropped my hat and sweater with my gear in the lodge, as the day was warming up. Then I set off across the broad clearing again, to take the Bellbird Track down to the Bellbird Clearing, where a barbecue lunch was being prepared. It was supposed to be a 15 minute walk, but it took me 25 minutes, because I stopped to photograph everything. The steaks were already cooked when I reached the barbeque area, and I served myself a steak and some “vegetable marrow” (zucchini), salad, and a large serving of fresh fruit. I think joined Mike on a log in the shade. We ate and chatted, and every now and then, I’d hand him my plate, say “Please hold this a minute,” and dash off to photograph something. I was especially glad to get a nice shot of a kookaburra that perched on a branch near the edge of the clearing.
After lunch, there was time for one last short walk, and a final wander around the lodge. Then, at 4 o’clock, it was into a minibus that carried us away from Binna Burra. Sigh.