Tag Archives: Lamington National Park

August 28, part 2

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.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra


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.

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Wednesday, August 28

Another glorious sunrise, accompanied by the symphony of birds. My back, shoulders, and neck still ached from carrying a pack and camera equipment yesterday, but a few minutes of vigorous exercise loosened the muscles back up.

Again, at breakfast, the birds came to check for handouts. Most abundant were the rainbow lorikeets, followed by currawongs, plus a few crimson rosellas, and a satin bowerbird dashing in out of the brush, hoping the other birds would drop something.

James, the lodge manager (a handsome, young man with immense enthusiasm for the beauty of this place) came around to see who would be coming on the Tullawalal Circuit hike with him this morning. This is one of the “short walks” at Binna Burra, and I signed on. Then I dashed back to my cabin to finish packing and moved my gear to the lodge, since checkout was at 10 am, and I’d be on the hike then.

As we had done yesterday, we gathered at 9 am on the flower-bordered lawn behind the dining room (always behind, because the front projects over the cliff edge). It was to be only a 2-1/2 hour hike, so we didn’t need packs. It was amazing how much lighter my camera equipment seemed when it wasn’t in company with a backpack.

Everywhere, great views.

Everywhere, great views.

We headed across the clearing and past the original house built by the family that settled Binna Burra, up around the campground, and past the lovely pittosporum tree, the fragrance of which delights me beyond words. We stopped at a sign that outlined today’s hike, and then we headed into the forest.

Since this was a shorter walk, and not one of those gotta-keep-going-or-we’ll-never-get-back-by-dark marathons, James set a pace that was brisk but interrupted far more frequently. He pointed out buttress roots and strangler figs, stinging trees, forest apples, and rosellas crunching gum nuts overhead. We stopped to see the trapdoor spiders, and James pointed out a rock surrounded by cracked snail shells. This, he explained, was the work of the noisy pitta, a bird that smashes shells on rocks to open (and eat) the snails. We saw a hoop pine, one of the many popular timbers that became an early industry for the area (and which might have caused an early end to the rainforest, had not several people had the insight to protect this region). James also pointed out the Lignum Vitae, the tree with the hardest wood in the rainforest. Also known as ironwood, it’s so dense it sinks in water. It can be used for bearings and was a common material for parts of ships that would wear out if lesser woods were used. It has an oil that makes it insect resistant, and when it falls, it takes eons to decay. Cool.

In the distance, we could hear a catbird calling. Its call was sort of a cross between a cat’s meowing and a baby’s cry. Then we walked on.

As we walked, James told us a lot about the rainforest. Trees with buttress roots don’t have taproots. Everything in the understory has adapted to take maximum advantage of the limited sunlight: new growth is reddish, which processes sunlight more efficiently, and on some vines, the stems are as flat as the leaves, and are green as well, so more of the plant’s surface is exposed to the light.

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August 26, part 3

After lunch, I took another walk, this time along the short “Rainforest Circuit.” (Signposts name and point to possible paths and tell how long they are.) This was a beautiful trail. The greenery was lush and abundant. I saw figs, gums, palms, lianas, monsteras, ferns, and more. There were some interesting flowers. One flower-covered tree (which another hiker, who passed at an opportune moment, identified as pittosporum) is one of the most intoxicatingly fragrant trees I’ve ever encountered—cleaner and stronger than jasmine. Incredible.

Monstera deliciosa

Monstera deliciosa

I saw pademelons (small, kangaroo-like marsupial) hopping through the brush. The birds I saw included currawongs, magpies, crimson rosellas, scrub turkeys, quail, and a wood pigeon. I could hear whipbirds (which are far more commonly heard than seen: check out the sound here), and an occasional bellbird, magpies, bowerbirds, and half a dozen things I couldn’t identify. It was wonderful. And I get to stay here for another day and a half!

Crimson rosellas

Crimson rosellas


Back to my room to freshen up for the evening. Glad I brought a sweater. It’s surprisingly chilly up here. Now, it’s time to head for “Beethoven in the bush”—music, munchies, and mingling before dinner.

Fascinating sunset. Usually, one needs clouds to add interest and color to a setting sun, but this evening, smoke from distant fires caused the light diffusion needed for a colorful sky. We watched from the library, which, like everything else, has an incredible view. As promised, Beethoven was playing in the background. Beautiful.

Smoky sunset

Smoky sunset


I met a lot of charming people during this pre-event time and even more over dinner. Dinner was lovely and abundant. Then, it was back to the library for a slide show by noted Australian artist Rex Bachkhaus-Smith. Rex creates wonderful watercolor paintings of Australian subjects, most of them with nature themes. Quite remarkable work, and he seemed like a delightful man, as well as.

Then, early to bed. I’ve been told the sunrise is remarkable here—plus, I’ve signed up for one of the long walks with the naturalist for tomorrow.

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August 26, part 2

WOW. This place is fabulous. I had previously fallen in love with Lamington National Park, during my first visit to Australia, and the splendor of the rainforest had drawn me back here. However, Binna Burra itself is beyond expectactions. I can hardly express how gorgeous it is. Hewn from the wilderness in the 1930s, the lodge and all its furnishings, are made from the wood cut and stone moved to create the clearing in which the lodge sits. Every view is unbelievable. There is a fair range of room types, and I went for a budget room/cabin. My room turned out to be charming–all wood interior, fixtures, furniture; comforter on the bed. The view from my bedroom window is incredible.

Binna Burra Cabin

Binna Burra Cabin


My room

My room


It is so quiet up here. Not quiet as in no sound, but quiet as in no sounds of civilization. Nothing except the breeze through the trees and bird calls. I don’t think we even realize how many sounds we just filter out back in the “real world.” The silence is immense.

I saw magpies outside my window. When I went outside, a Satin bowerbird flashed past. I heard the “starter motor call a minute later. This is wonderful. I’m so glad I’m here for a few days. (I discussed the bowerbird and posted a video of its odd mating call here, if you’re curious. Magpies were introduced in this post.)

I went for a walk, to find my way around the place. I was surprised that I felt out of breath pretty quickly. Then I remembered–I’m on the top of a mountain, and the air is a bit thinner. (Just 2,625 feet above sea level, so not exactly inducing altitude sickness, just a little less air. Either that, or perhaps my lungs are in shock because the air is so clean.) I’ll have to take it a little easy today–and hope I adjust quickly.

The incredible silence was broken for a moment by a ringing bell that announced lunch. The dining room is fabulous–perched on the edge of a cliff. Wood walls face the clearing where accommodations are located, but the outside wall is all glass, so there is an absolutely unobstructed view of the mountains, valleys, and forest surrounding the peak on which Binna Burra sits. Stunning.

And the food was good and abundant, with multiple options, including seafood and vegetarian. One could not easily go hungry here. At lunch, those of us who were new arrivals were given a bit of info about when things happened and how things operate. There are meals and snacks multiple times during the day, plus if you want to go off into the wilderness, they’ll pack a lunch for you. Nice.

There are naturalists, a botanist, and an ornithologist here, to answer questions and lead regularly scheduled walks, both long and short, to make sure we have the opportunity to see as much of the rainforest as we want. Everyone else I saw or met seems to be really into this outdoor experience. Hiking gear, binoculars, cameras, and piles of books are very much in evidence. It’s good to know people still care. At home, I so often encounter people who aren’t interested in seeing anything, and if they see it, don’t want to learn more about it. Here, everyone was prepared to not only look, but to look it up. Wonderful.

The view is amazing, but I’m not sure how my photos will turn out, since the mountains are somewhat obscured by the smoke from nearby forest fires. During lunch, I was told that the fires have been quite bad this year. Sad. And yet, even with the haze, the view is unbelievably inspiring.

Even with the smoke, the view is inspiring.

Even with the smoke, the view is inspiring.

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