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Published May 24th 2013
Nature vs Reality TV
Has Reality TV helped to make a National Park famous? Out of curiosity, I Googled Springbrook National Park and, as Google searches so often do, links appeared to some (irrelevant) facts. This was one of them: "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' was filmed in Australia at Springbrook National Park, Gold Coast, Queensland. The show follows the lives of chosen celebrities living in jungle like conditions with little or no comforts for a period of 15 to 21 days."
This World Heritage listed National Park has been on my doorstep for 40 years yet it was only last week-end I made the decision to make the one hour car trip and finally experience it. Had I known an international TV reality show was filmed there would I have been more motivated to visit Springbrook sooner than last week? Probably not, but it would have given me something to smile about as I hiked the trails through the rainforest and past the waterfall: the status of celebrity and the lengths 'celebrities' go to when their star is waning.
My motivation to check out Springbrook came more from the comments from a few of my friends and family who, when talking about nature hikes, would mention Springbrook as a special place and definitely one worth the visit. According to the Australian Government website*, the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia are one of the world's most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest. Originally listed in 1986 to cover rainforests in New South Wales, the World Heritage area was extended in 1994 to include rainforests on the Queensland side of the border. The protected areas in this property include Lamington, Springbrook, Mt Barney and Main Range National Parks. The property covers an area of 366, 507 hectares of which 59, 223 hectares are in Queensland.
I was trying to work out why I had not been one of the estimated two million visitors** to this special part of our world. Living in Brisbane we are spoilt for choice for weekend jaunts, with access to many amazing places within close proximity. We often succumb to being lured interstate or overseas rather than choosing the adventurous and beautiful places right on our doorstep.
All this was set to change, on one brilliant autumn week-end day in May, with the South East Queensland weather turning ever so slightly cooler and the iridescent, cloudless blue sky beckoning. It was time to venture to the world's largest remaining area of undisturbed subtropical rainforest.**
According to the government web site, there are few places on earth containing so many plants and animals which remain relatively unchanged from their ancestors. That in itself should be enough to motivate a day trip to Springbrook, but I was more interested in simply submerging myself in nature. A day trip to Spingbrook was sufficient - no desire to camp out overnight - although there are amenities for anyone seeking the camping experience. My sights were set on the 6,197 hectare Springbrook National Park, nestled in the Gold Coast Hinterland and easily accessible by car by heading south from Brisbane (or north from the Gold Coast) along the Gold Coast Motorway. The Springbrook plateau section borders with New South Wales. The western section touches on the Lamington National Park, where the well known O'Reilly's and Binna Burra are places to be discovered another day.
From the car park, there are a few vantage points on the Springbrook plateau section that provide incredible views of surrounding ranges, towards the coastline. These views are easily accessible on foot, with a short walk to capture a view like this:
Looking out over Springbrook National Park from one of the Look-outs
At 900 metres above sea level, the temperatures are usually cooler on the plateau. The shady rainforest canopies provide a welcome refuge from the sun while viewing the interesting native vines, palms and the fascinating strangler figs.
Due to storm damage over the last few months, Parks and Wildlife have advised (April 2013) the Warrie Circuit; Purling Brook circuit (eastern side) and the Warringa Track are closed. Sadly this cuts down a longer trip for any dedicated bush-walkers. The Warrie (Aboriginal word for 'rushing water') Circuit is a 17km hike which follows the base of the Canyon Cliffs to Goomoolahra Falls. Let's hope the funding cuts will not delay much longer the Parks and Wildlife people getting in to clear the debris and landslides and re-open the track. These nature walks are a special treat and an incredibly beautiful experience.
I was able to access the stunning Purling Brook Falls via the Western side of the circuit. Prior to the track closure, the circuit involved actually walking behind the falls, which would be an amazing experience. Noting the fallen rocks and trees from the landslides blocking the circuit path and a sign advising the track is closed until further notice - its a back track to the car park in the same direction via the 265 steps. A decent cardio work-out.
If the number of foreign speaking tourists I passed as I hiked the Purling Brook paths is anything to go by, maybe the reality TV celebrity show has lifted this natural pocket's profile and injected some international attention. Many Asian, German and Spanish tourists filed past in groups through-out the day. Their enthusiastic chatter and laughter filled the quiet serenity, as they experienced the coolness of the rainforest and heard the occasional call from the local riflebirds and catbirds.
Much is written about the Natural Bridge - accessible by a short one kilometre walk through the forest and into the arched cave where the thundering water plummets into a dark billabong.
Walking into the cave at dusk, on the rocky ceiling and walls I see tiny pin pricks of blue light from the glow worms. An incredible natural phenomenon and draw card for this walk. I'm not sure why but spying those miniature glowing dots was a "wow" moment for me. Some prior thought to bringing a torch on this walk, may have helped with the stumbling steps back to the car with the dim moonlight as our guide. But this was a spontaneous moment and in its unplanned manner was all the more enjoyable.
Information on this incredible part of nature describes this area as representing a major stage of evolutionary history.
With such a beautiful, historical place only a short drive from Brisbane or the Gold Coast and being so easily accessible you really should experience it at least once in your life-time, and hopefully not for the sake of a TV Reality show.
This would be the view from behind the Purling Brook falls