Compared to last weekend this was a little different. Different in the fact that I wasn’t surrounded by a gaggle of beauties but instead one man…Steve.
The rain was still falling far too excessively for my liking. it seems to have followed me from Hainan Island last week back here to Queensland but I’d made a plan a few weeks before to head out to Lamington National Park for some bush-walking adventures.
I popped into K2 Basecamp (Queensland’s best outdoor adventure store) a few weeks back and started chatting to the guy behind the counter, Steve. We got chatting and the conversation turned to bush-walking – one of the things Queensland is very famous for but something I’d yet to try in earnest.
Lamington National Park is located at the southern most point of the state where it butts up against New South Wales, covering 206 square km with lush rain-forest, most of it at altitudes of over 900m above sea level.
Steve runs a company called Epic Pursuits who specialise in extreme sports; abseiling, rock climbing and bush walking. At 6am on Saturday morning he collected me from my house and together we drove south to the entrance to the park near Beaudesert.
The rain was falling, the road was muddy and we had a weekend of fun ahead of us starting with a 4WD track known as Duck Creek Road. We wound our way up the escarpment until we arrived at the bitumen road just short of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat – a luxurious resort high in the hills.
But we were there for a pampering. This was boys stuff, this was adventure, this was to be a real mental and physical test of our endurance. We parked up and hit the trail…
Steve had plotted out our route on the park map and together with a compass we left the graded track and headed deep into the bush. This is an activity for those who like a real adventure, it’s not about a simple walk in the park or a light jolly along the coast – this is real bush-bashing!
The rain-forest was alive with sights and sounds; parrots and lyrebirds could be heard making their distinctive calls, there was the occasional scrambling of something through the undergrowth and always the sound of dripping water – sometimes lightly from the leaves, sometimes heavily from the heavens. You can’t have rain-forest without rain.
The terrain here is pretty unforgiving, steep sided, heavily wooded landscapes that haven’t changed for centuries. The undergrowth in a constant battle to reach for the skies. I was always aware of the dangers the Stinging Tree, it’s one to avoid – the micro-fine fibres on the leaves are definitely something you don’t want to be touching! Huge trunked Hoop Pines grow alongside delicate orchids, rotting timber provides life for a multitude of new growth, the battle for supremacy is constant.
We cover good ground throughout the afternoon, occasionally stopping to cross a creek, photograph a flower or fungi and then suddenly I stop in my tracks as a curled up Carpet Python blocks our path. They are pretty dormant at this time of year and this one’s curled up trying to stay warm.
With the light fading fast it’s time to find a suitable place to bivvy for the night. We follow our map to the edge of a creek and find a suitable flat area in which to setup our tent. With the rain still falling it’s a race against the clock to get it all up before we become too cold and wet.
Dinner tonight comes from one of the finest restaurants in the area – Chez Steve. As I dive inside the tent to change into something warmer and drier Steve sets about boiling some water ready for our dinner – Chicken Tikka Masala – re-hydrated of course! We sit and chat about our various worldwide adventures; climbing, trekking and riding but finally the day’s exertions have caught up with us. 11kms covered, 19:40hrs and time for bed!
Sunrise the next morning doesn’t happen, overnight the rain has continued unabated and the sound of the waterfalls we’ve camped next to have got louder. We have a mighty big day ahead and there’s no point laying in bed. I glance at my watch – it’s 05:30am.
Our last steps of yesterday’s walk brought us all the way down to the raging creek and now we have to climb back out again AND find a way across. We had pretty wet feet anyway but the idea of dipping them into the cool waters so early on in the day didn’t fill me with joy so instead we walked a little further up stream and found a conveniently placed fallen tree. Sometimes nature provides you with all you need.
We spend the next few hours fighting our way up and slipping down steep slopes, avoiding the sharp needle like vines that seem to lay everywhere and slowly making our way towards our lunchtime destination – Binna Burra information centre.
The respite is well and truly needed when we get there as the weather has really set in now with strong winds and heavy rain making progress a little weary. Lunch consists of muesli bars, nuts and jelly snakes – there is simply nothing finer for the intrepid adventurer!
On a map the final leg of the trip looks huge. We’ve only covered around 14kms today and there’s still 21 to go, but the big difference is the quality of the track. Years ago when the park was first opened up there were a number of paths built and we’ll be following this one all the way back to the car at O’Reilly’s. We head off into the cloud.
Leeches have been one of those interesting little hitch-hikers who’ve jumped onboard for the ride and on closer inspection I find about ten of them quite happily feasting on my ankles and legs. Steve fairing even worse as they seem to have a ponchon for Aussie blood. We remove the little blighters and carry on.
As the light of the day fades, it’s out with the headtorches for the final few km’s and it really becomes a battle of attrition. Our legs are tired, we’ve been wet through for two days straight, the rivers running down the path have meant paddling for the last 20kms and mild-hypothermia is setting in – but this is exactly the sort of adventure I love!
As we climb our final ascent the reflectors of the car shine out bright against the dark night, Steve turns to me, shakes my hand and we both give a wry smile. That was a real mental and physical test – time to get into some dry and warm clothes.
I can imagine that when the weather isn’t throwing all it’s got at you, Lamington National Park has stunning views out across the mountains, valleys and New South Wales. However our view for the last couple of days has been restricted to a few hundred metres at best. That just means one thing though – I have to come back and do it all again when the sun is shining.
Steve and Epic Pursuits offer a range of guided activities that get the blood pumping and the heart rate going. It says on the back of his business card - “…is all about people who want to live their lives to the fullest, realising that we are on this Earth for a good time, not a long time! So get out there and do something different…NOW!”
We certainly did that this weekend Steve, thank you