Back to our regular programming. This week - borderland adventures! The last few days we have been traipsing all around a dead volcano, then abandoning the coast for the outback.
The morning after the wrap up of Bluesfest we slowly packed away all our stuff, while dealing with a couple of sunshowers. The winch was christened by pulling out a 5 ton Toyota bus, then used a second time to rescue a bogged caravan. Strike that one off the 'things we took and never used' list.
After departing the festival grounds we drove down the road to the super nice town of Mullumbimby. We had a brunch meal, perused the cute shops around the town centre (definitely a place to visit again), loaded up on groceries and then drove to check out the shiny rock place.
The gardens around the place were indeed tranquil and restorative. There was a big stupa sculpture/shrine dedicated to world peace, a foot massaging stone walk, a pathway with bamboo arching, creaking and meeting over head, and large smoky quartz geodes, cut in half and looking vibrant. It was a very chill place (again, a place to spend much longer at).
After departing from the most awesome festival ever, we needed a couple of days of pampering, feet de-mudding and not-having-to-set-everything-up. We found a cute little AirBnB in a place called Uki. We stayed with a lovely Mauritian/Australian lady named Maryse and got to enjoy stunning views of Mount Warning (Wollumbin meaning 'Cloud Catcher' in the local language). We did indeed see some clouds being caught.
This whole area is shaped by the remains of the Tweed Volcano that has slowly eroded away leaving some very impressive geology and enough altitude for temperate rainforest to establish in the rich volcanic soils. I didn't even know this part of Australia existed before we ended up here. It has being surprising, magical and very rewarding to explore these rugged and ever-so-green mountain landscapes.
Wednesday morning we enjoyed our first ever proper breakfast out (Bakery morsels off the Spirit of Tasmania at La Panella don't count) at a little cafe in the shadow of Wollumbin. Lazing by the river, surrounded by an ocean of green and dappled light, it was a very relaxing way to start the day. A little drive about, then some more relaxing on the verandah with that wonderful, wonderful view of Mt Warning / Wollumbin (and an ensuite - luxury!) and the rest of the day disappeared.
We said goodbye to our new friend Maryse and set about crossing the border. A long and winding climb through the beautiful Tweed Valley took us to the rim of the dead volcano and the border of New South Wales and Queensland. A final glimpse backwards and we drove into the Springbrook National Park.
Glad to be back in the lush clean air of nature, we wandered a short loop to see a really cool rock formation - a natural bridge. The water cascades down through a hole in the roof of a half open cave - we couldn't see the glow worms in the daylight, but did see microbats flitting around in the misty air.
Winding our way down the outer face of the volcano bought us past a group of Commonwealth Games cyclists out for a practice ride in the mountains to Hinze Dam for lunch. We popped back into civilisation (Robina - Perth peeps, think an even more Joondalupy version of Joondalup!) briefly to load up on groceries and get some new shoes for Ruth, the turned our sights a little ways westward.
Through the defence land warfare training grounds at Canungra and we pulled up for the night at the showgrounds in Canungra. A great stopping spot and surprisingly, the first single night stop we have done since day 68 in Victoria.
We departed early for the winding climb up the mountain to a place Grandma Davies had recommended we visit - O'Riellys. Verdant valley vineyards gave way to steeply sloping pastureland, which in turn became dense eucalypt forest. A stop at Kamarun lookout let us see how high we had climbed. Between brief showers we took in the sprawling vista before us. Beautiful hinterland indeed.
The climb wasn't over however. From the lookout we dove into rainforest. Warm, cool, temperate. Each blind corner and curve of the winding (mostly single lane) road revealed a change in landscape and botanical ecosystem. Eventually we found ourself in what felt like a movie set caricature of lush green rainforest - every shade of green and brown, dappled light everywhere and a tangle of Life surrounding us.
We found our camping spot in the Green Mountains camping area and wandered over to the National Park visitors centre where a very friendly bloke named Barry talked to us about some of the amazing bushwalking in the area, both on track and off. A passionate guy, you could hear his love for this remarkable ecosystem in every word he spoke. We only had a couple of nights, but there are some really amazing full day walks worth investigating if you ever find yourself in this area.
We set up camp then used the afternoon to explore the rainforest tree top boardwalk (which is the original one from the eighties which inspired the various tree top walks around the country. We have been on the Walpole and Tahune ones). There is also a tangled rainforest botanic garden to wander around. Winding tracks and pathways switchback through lush foliage and pretty coloured flowers. The odd stone bench and the sounds of the rainforest let you relax and feel like you are truly in the wild.
The next morning we set out to do one of the shorter hikes. Just over two hours took us from camp site to Moran's Falls and back again. We met a friendly photographer along the way (teaching Ruth a few iphone photography skills) and thoroughly enjoyed the winding walk through the lush greenery to a lookout over the falls, then along and across the creek that feeds the waterfall to a cliff edge showing the expanse of the valley below.
That afternoon a cool thing happened. You might hear about it in another blog post if you are lucky.
Sunday morning saw us rise and pack up roof tent and foxwing early. A short drive to the trailhead and we took another hike through the rainforest, this time to Python Rock lookout. The hike down took an hour because we snapped a bucketload of photos of the strangler figs, the fungi, the twisting vines, the interesting trees and the general gorgeousness of the rainforest. We eventually crossed through a clifftop stand of burnt off eucalypts and found the lookout. Breathtaking. Absolutely Breathtaking. Three hundred metres below, the eroded valley is still an ocean of green. A better view of Moran's Falls on the left and rolling forest, fields and farmland to our right. The arid outcropping of Mount Razorback in front of us. This place was really special. The hike back only took twenty minutes without the lollygagging.
On the road again after our hike, it was time for an epic drive. Both in landscape and duration. We wanted to take Duck Creek Road back down the mountain as it is supposed to be an excellent four wheel drive track. Unfortunately due to extensive erosion from Cyclone Debbie the road is closed and we could only go back down the way we came. Forty winding (often single lane) kilometres later and we were back in Canungra.
We turned west and drove to and through Beaudesert and Boonah. Then the next set of mountains looked large before us. The Great Dividing Range is a truly epic wall of rock. We wound up, and up, and up, and up. Gary decided 50 km/h in second gear was most comfortable. Then we wound our way up some more, eventually topping the pass on the Cunningham Highway. A long and much mo