I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published February 6th 2017
Rainforests and Waterfalls
My friend Jenny was coming over to Brisbane for a week again, so I was on the lookout for something to do with her. I saw a good deal on the Scoopons website. It was 2 nights at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge in Lamington National Park for two people in a cabin for $299 including breakfast, morning and afternoon teas, cheese and biscuits and a complimentary glass of wine at sunset, plus guided rainforest activities. Binna Burra Mountain Lodge was founded in 1933 by Arthur Groom and Romeo Lahey. It is one of Australia's longest-established nature-based resorts.
Red Bellied Black Snake. Photo by Nathalie Salmen.
To get there from Brisbane, we took the Pacific Motorway exit 69 and followed the signs west to Lamington National Park to Binna Burra, about 800m above sea level.
After settling into our beautiful rustic cabin we set off for the 5 km Tullawallal Circuit to see the small forest of Antarctic Beeches (Nothofagus moorei). This rare pocket of Antarctic beech is the northernmost location of this species in Australia and is one of the remaining links with the ancient forests of Gondwana. Nothofagus forests were once widespread across Australia and provided a habitat for many animals that have disappeared. The trees are at least 2000 years old.
Along the rainforest track we came across two Swiss women who were shaking with fear. There was a large red-bellied black snake lying across the path. We reassured them the snake wouldn't attack them, and we all just waited quietly until the snake slithered away. One of the women, Nathalie Salmen, got a great photo of the snake with her telephoto lens and emailed me a copy to use in this story. Red-bellied black snakes (Pseudechis porphyriacus) are very common in Eastern Australia. This one must have felt threatened because it had lifted its head and upper body off the ground in a defensive pose.
We had some more adventure when we got back to our cabin. We were sitting quietly on the deck when suddenly a fat tiger leech dropped off Jenny's arm from under her shirt. Her arm bled slightly for about half an hour due to the leech injecting anticoagulant with its bite.
In the afternoon Sarah, one of the Lodge rangers, took a small group of us on a walk to look at bush tucker plants. We saw a Satin Bower bird nest and learnt a lot about how the local Aboriginal people used plants from the rainforest. The bowerbird had a colourful collection of blue straws and bottle tops around his nest to attract a mate.
That night we had a delicious dinner in the dining room overlooking the National Park. After dinner there was a talk in the library about the animals and plants that live in the park. Sarah showed us photos and passed around jars containing an interesting selection of snakes, spiders, small mammals and insects. We shared our snake stories. One woman from rural NSW told me she was at a snake handling workshop learning how to catch snakes once, when the teacher got bitten by the brown snake he was using to demonstrate the technique for catching one. She said he was lucky to survive.
Another woman told me she was at a wildlife talk at Brisbane forest park watching one of the wildlife rangers handling a harmless snake when it went down his body and slithered through his belt loops. He made a comment about how he had always wanted a snakeskin belt. She videotaped the whole episode and thought she would put it on Youtube one day and make a fortune.
We tackled the 17.4 kilometre Coomera Circuit walk the next day. The circuit provides excellent views into the Coomera Valley and the 160m-drop Coomera gorge. We walked past many waterfalls with names such as Bahnamboola Falls and Nahnangboola Falls, and our walking poles were useful for the many creek crossings, which could be hazardous after flooding following heavy rain. We even had a swim beneath one of the waterfalls. The water was freezing but very refreshing. The track was very scenic through subtropical and warm temperate rainforest, with giant brush box Lophostemon confertus forest. On this walk we saw a rufous fantail bird on the track doing a little dance. I read they do this to distract you from their nest. We also saw some red-necked pademelons and a large shiny black land mullet. We could hear lots of birdcalls including the mournful cry of the green catbird and whip birds.
We should have taken a more detailed map. We were just using the basic one from the Lodge and a few sections were tricky. We were lucky in one area when we were debating which way to go, as the signs to two waterfalls were not on our map. Luckily a couple came along with a more detailed map just at the right time so we saw which way to go.
We got back to the lodge at 5pm and were so tired, we went to bed after dinner and missed a spotlight tour.
We were enjoying ourselves so much and there are so many walks and activities to do that we stayed on an extra day. This gave us the opportunity to do some more walks. It was difficult to decide which walks to do as there were so many options. In the morning I joined a guided walk with a small group to Bellbird lookout with Dean, one of the lodge rangers. It was only 2km return, but we had many stops along the way to look at plants, birds, animals and views. We saw logrunners, satin bower birds, lots of pademelons, walking stick palms, lawyer vines (Wait-a-while palm), tallow wood trees, trapdoor spider holes in the bank and deadly nightshade trees. Trapdoor spiders build burrows up to 30-40cm deep in the ground and are common on embankments.
A man in the group asked why the climbing palm was called lawyer vine (Calamus muelleri), and after Dean explained how hard it is to untangle yourself after getting caught up in the sharp hooks of the palm, the man said he was a lawyer. The palm is common in rainforest in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, especially in national parks such as Nightcap National Park and Lamington National Park.
Dean made us a cup of tea at the lookout, where we had an excellent view of Ships Stern, Turtle Rock, Egg Rock and the Numinbah Valley.
We also saw lots of Stinging trees with their large round leaves. I know these trees can deliver an extremely painful sting from previous personal experience, so walkers need to be aware of them and not touch them.
Lamington National Park has more than 150kms of clearly marked walking tracks that were constructed during the Great Depression and designed by Romeo Lahey. Although the tracks go up and down a lot, you don't get very puffed. Dean told me the reason is because Romeo Lahey studied dairy cow movements on the surrounding hills. He noticed they took a winding way to the top of the hills and never walked at a gradient higher than 1:10, so he decided to make the tracks in the park a similar way. He laid out the park tracks in a similar manner so that walkers would not get out of breath.
In the afternoon, we walked down the hill to the Information Centre where we started the 5 kilometre Caves Circuit walk, which starts beside the car park. It passes through eucalypt forest and woodland with some rainforest gullies. The Kweebani Caves were created by wind and rain erosion and were used for shelter and cooking by the aborigines. The track passes through these caves and then climbs through rainforest back to the summit of Mt Roberts. We saw some red cedar trees in the rainforest.
We wanted to stay another night, but the lodge was booked out. As we drove down the mountain we saw an artist's studio and called in. We met artist David Groom, who is the grandson of Arthur Groom, one of the founders of Binna Burra Mountain Lodge. David told us his beautiful surroundings inspire him.
I loved your account Roz, its an area we enjoy as well so could almost see where you were going. No pictures of the Atlantic Beeches which are so amazing ? Loved the story of the lawyer and the slithery snake ! All the best, Marina