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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lookout Road, Goomburra Section, Main Range National Park, QLD.

On this camping trip to the Goomburra Section of Main Range National Park we were keen to drive up Lookout Road and do the walk to Araucaria Falls and stop at Sylvesters and Mount Castle Lookouts.

Lookout Road is a short distance from Manna Gum Campground, starting next to Kurrajong Picnic Area. The road is listed as unsealed but we found that the steeper sections were sealed for ease of use. First it is necessary to ford Dalrymple Creek. The road is gated and rangers close the road if conditions are unsuitable.

Araucaria Falls Track, Class 4, 3.6 km return. 
The parking area is 3.8 km past Kurrajong Picnic Area. We drove up early in the morning and had the carpark to ourselves. Some parts of the track are rough and uneven and it heads steadily downwards to the base of the falls. We often see Logrunners when we walk in dark forests with lots of leaf litter but this time we were delighted to get a photo of a juvenile Logrunner.

We saw an Albert's Lyrebird high in the trees. It moved away in front of us until it found a Crows Nest fern in the canopy and promptly forgot about us while it had a good scratch in the leaf litter that had accumulated in the top of the fern.

The track crosses over the top of the falls before continuing down to the base. The falls are beautiful and I'm surprised that they aren't more widely known. 

On the steady climb back up to the carpark we saw a highly venomous Rough-scaled Snake crossing the path ahead of us. We took a couple of photos and it wasn't until we looked closely at the photos later that we discovered the snake had turned its head around and was having a good look at us.

Rough-scaled Snake Tropidechis carinatus
Sylvesters Lookout Track, Class 3, 940 meters return. 
There is a small car park 900 meters further along Lookout Road from the Araucaria Falls Parking Area and a short walk to the lookout with magnificent views.

Mt Edwards, Lake Moogerah, Mt Alfred, Mt Greville and Mt Barney.
Mount Castle Lookout Track, Class 3, 960 meters return. 
There is a small parking area about 1.6 km further along Lookout Road from the Sylvesters Lookout carpark. This short walk winds through damp rainforest. It is worth going to both lookouts as the views are quite different.

Mount Castle
Winder Track, Class 4, 12 km return. 
The track starts at the end of Lookout Road, 6.3 km past Kurrajong Picnic Area.
We liked the look of this walk and hope to do it on another trip.

Bird List for the Araucaria Falls Track:
Albert's Lyrebird, Brown Thornbill, Australian Logrunner, Bassian Thrush. We could hear Catbirds but did not see them.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Manna Gum Campground, Goomburra Section, Main Range National Park, QLD.

We have camped in Manna Gum Campground twice before. The first time was in our tent and that trip ended up becoming my first blog. Later we spent our first night in our new Kimberely Karavan at Manna Gum Campground on our way to Girraween National Park. This time we came back with the aim of doing the walks we hadn’t managed to do previously.

We were thrilled that quite close to our van a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos came in every evening to roost in a tree hollow. The female would arrive first and enter the tree hollow then the male would arrive and after quite a drawn out ritual the female would finally allow him to join her. Several times we saw them flying with one other Glossy and on one occasion we saw four together. These beautiful birds are listed as vulnerable.

Glossy-Black Cockatoo, female.
Manna Gum Campground is a lovely place to sit and listen to a large colony of Bell Miners. We noticed that there are a lot of dead trees around the campground and we had been wondering what was killing them. We found out from other campers that the trees are dying because the Bell Miners actively chase away other birds. Bell Miners don’t eat the lerp insects that damage trees and because they chase away the birds that would normally eat the lerp insects the trees become overrun by insects and over time the trees die. Apparently, this whole process is explained in the book Where Song Began by Tim Low. We will be getting our hands on the book as soon as we get the opportunity.

Bell Miner
Dead trees at Manna Gum Campground.
Satin Bowerbirds are popular residents in the campground and one of the few birds that seem to survive the Bell Miner harassment. We were able to locate a Satin Bowerbird bower in the Dalrymple Circuit.

Satin Bowerbird Bower.
Red-necked Pademelons like to graze on the grass in the early morning. They can also be seen along the trails but are fairly shy here and will dart away when they hear you coming. There were a few goannas wandering around checking out the camp sites and fire rings for tasty leftovers.

After seeing so many White-headed Pigeons at The Channon Village Campground we saw several at Manna Gum which is the first time we have seen them here.

I often mention the wonderful people we meet on our travels so it is only fair that I mention that on one side of us, for two nights of our stay, we had the most intrusive camping neighbours that we have ever encountered. Typically, people respect the boundaries of individual campsites but not these people and I ended up asking one of them to “Please leave” our campsite twice, so as you can imagine things were a bit frosty. Fortunately, in our experience, such problems are rare. We had a couple of lovely neighbours on the other side who were camping in an impressive camper trailer on it's first night out. We also had an enjoyable “Happy Hour” with two interesting couples who had been camping together off and on for years both in Australia and overseas.

A young Gympie Stinging Tree looking Innocent in the morning light.
There were quite a few Gympie stinging trees alongside the various walks and unfortunately one of the lovely ladies camped next to us accidentally brushed up against some Gympie stinging foliage when she was turning a corner on a track. Her arm became red and swollen and they quickly packed up and I hope she was able to get some relief with medical attention.

Bird List for this trip at Manna Gum Campground: (I will post separate bird lists in the blogs for the walks.) 
White-headed Pigeon, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Superb Fairy Wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Bell Miner, Noisy Miner, Lewin's Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Willie Wagtail, Satin Bowerbird, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Welcome Swallow, Red-browed Finch. We also saw a small flock of Common (Indian) Myna on the side of Inverramsay Road on the drive in.

Manna Gum Campground, Main Range National Park.
Details for the Goomburra Section of Main Range National Park:
Where: About 195 km south-west of Brisbane. From Brisbane drive up Cunningham's Gap. Turn right at Gladfield or Clintonvale. Turn right at Goomburra and drive along Inverramsay Road to the very end.
Campgrounds: Poplar Flat and Manna Gum. Both suitable for Big Rigs, Motorhomes, Caravans, Camper Trailers and Tents beside vehicles.
Facilities: Kurrajong Picnic Area has picnic tables and wood BBQ's, the nearest toilets are a short walk to Poplar Flat. Both campgrounds have fire rings, toilets and several non-drinking water taps. Walks. No showers. No phone. No phone reception. No internet.
Prohibitions: No pets, no generators.
Bookings: Bookings must be made by phone or on the internet before arriving. 
Phone: 13 74 68
Camping Permit: $5.95 per adult, $3.30 per child aged 5 to 17 years, free for children under 5 years. Family Rate: $23.80 for 1 to 2 adults with children under 18. Maximum of 8 people.
No vehicle fee.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Nimbin, New South Wales.

While we were exploring the Nightcap National Park area we encountered a lot of rain so it came as no surprise that when we visited Nimbin it was, you guessed it, raining.

We parked in the large carpark behind the shops and walked round to the information centre where a helpful lady assured me that it hadn't rained much in Nimbin lately and explained how unfortunate it was that the Nimbin area had missed out on a wet season this year. After appropriate commiserations I made my way to the excellent Nimbin Bakery and bought a feather light chocolate sponge roll and a lemon tart. Strangely, there were no biscuits in sight (perhaps they got sick of the cookie jokes.)

On our way back to The Channon Village Campground, we drove past the spot which usually has excellent views of the intriguing Nimbin Rocks but they were obscured by clouds and mist and, dear I say it, rain! The Nimbin Rocks are sacred to aboriginal people and are on private property so please don't attempt to get closer unless you have an invitation.

Some of the things that I love about the Nimbin region are the local Grasshoppers buses and the "hippy potholes".

Shortly after settling back in at the campground with a nice coffee and the tangy lemon tart the only other campers returned from their trip to Nimbin and came over to tell us about their stressful experience. We had noticed that the police were patrolling the car park in Nimbin but didn't think too much of it. However, they were apparently running regos and this is where our fellow campers came unstuck. The story as related to us by a very shaken grey nomad was this: The police approached them and asked if the driver was so and so, to which he agreed. Then he was promptly informed that he was driving without a licence and instructed to step out of the campervan and sign a form that he would undertake not to drive. The shocked grey nomad protested that he hadn't had a traffic infringement for over 10 years. So what was going on? Well it turned out that this otherwise law abiding citizen had committed the deadly sin of not voting in the last New South Wales local election and as a result and unbeknown to him, his driving license had been suspended for some time. The moral of the story is; if you live a travelling lifestyle please ensure that someone is checking your mail!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mount Nardi Section of Nightcap National Park, New South Wales.

We woke to a morning of heavy mist which delayed out start to the Mount Nardi section of Nightcap National Park. The parking area at Mount Nardi is only about 19 km from The Channon Village Campground along Tuntable Creek Road and Newton Drive. Allow extra time for this scenic but narrow winding road. After one and a half days of glorious sunshine the rain set in again. The higher we climbed into the range the wetter it became. We noticed that the sealed sections of the road were green with moss except for the tracks worn away by cars.

Not to be deterred, we donned our jackets, covered our backpacks with rain covers, popped our cameras into drybags and set off into the rainforest. There are two short walks leading from the carpark: Pholis Gap Walking Track, a 4 km, Class 3 medium walk and Mount Matheson Loop, a 3 km, Class 3 medium loop walk that can be combined with the Pholis Gap Walk for a longer walk. The Nightcap Track, 19 km Class 4, can also be accessed from here.

The trailhead at Mount Nardi.
We started out in light rain with the hope that under the protection of the tree canopy it would be a little drier. We entered a beautiful forest of Yellow Carabeen and Fern Trees with a vivid understory of bracken. The track was a little muddy and slippery but we continued on for a while. Unfortunately, the rain got heavier and heavier and the visibility reduced so much that we decided to head back. Our passage through the forest caused a chorus of bird alarm calls. We heard Noisy Pittas but despite pausing on the track for a while and peering into the gloom we could not see them. I held an umbrella over my camera for a few quick photos.

Fungi and Cordylines were thriving in the wet conditions.
When we returned to the carpark it was raining lightly just as it was when we set out. So our theory of being protected by the tree canopy didn't work this time. We can only assume that we were walking along the side of the mountain that was catching all the rain.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cape Byron State Conservation Area, Byron Bay, New South Wales.

Cape Byron Lighthouse
A fine day was forecast so we decided to go to Byron Bay and walk around the headland. We parked at Captain Cook Lookout so that we could do the full circuit of the Cape Byron Walking Track. It is $4 an hour to park but because we have an annual NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Parks Pass we didn’t have to pay. We recently purchased a 2 year Country Parks Pass for $75 and it has more than payed for itself in only a few weeks.

Cape Byron Walking Track: 3.9 km loop, moderate Class 3 walk. Short steep hills and many steps.

The first leg of the walk took us past Clarkes Beach where National Parks and Wildlife Services NSW hire out Beach Cottages. There are excellent views from the path back to Byron Bay. The water was clear and inviting and watching the perfect small waves rolling in we could see why Byron Bay is such a surfing mecca.

Looking back over Clarkes Beach to Byron Bay

Before long we arrived at The Pass where there is a small boat ramp and a Cafe.

The Pass
The pristine waters around Cape Byron play host to dolphins all year round and during the months of May to October humpback whales pass by on their migration between Antarctica and Queensland. There are signs posted at he beaches spelling out the rules regarding how close boats and other water craft can approach the dolphins and whales in order to not disturb them.

From The Pass we climbed up through Palm Valley to Wategos Beach. The tide was out and we had a pleasant walk along the sandy beach. 

Wategos Beach
Wategos Beach looking back towards Byron Bay.
We climbed the stairs at the end of the beach and made our way through coastal heath before climbing the many steps to Australia’s Most Easterly Point.

Australia's Most Easterly Point
From Australia's Most Easterly Point we continued on to a lookout just below the lighthouse complex.

Ascending to Cape Byron Lighthouse
The Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottages
From the lookout we made our way up many steps to Cape Byron Lighthouse. There are tours of the lighthouse every 20 minutes between 10 am and 3 pm for a gold coin donation. The Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottages can be booked as holiday accommodation through the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Cape Byron Lighthouse on the way up.
Cape Byron Lighthouse on the way down.
South of the Lighthouse Information Centre complex there is a lookout point with excellent views of Cosy Corner, Tallow Beach and Arakwal National Park.

Cosy Corner, TallowsBeach and Arakwal National Park
From here the Cape Byron Walking Track descends along Tallow Ridge through natural coastal bushland. There is a paragliding platform tucked into the ridge over Tallow Beach and I was tempted to give it a go but there was nobody in attendance at the platform when we arrived. I guess more organised people than me make bookings in Byron Bay. 

Tallow Ridge and Paragliding Platform (center).
We made our way along the sandy track and before long we came out at Lee Lane and were back at the car park.

Details for Cape Byron State Conservation Park:
Where: Lighthouse Road, Cape Byron, Byron Bay, NSW.
Vehicle Fee: Daily rate: $8 per vehicle/ $4 motorcycles at the Cape Byron Lighthouse and Information Centre carpark.
Parking: $4 per hour per vehicle at Captain Cook Lookout, Cosy Corner and The Pass carparks.
Walk: 3.9 km loop around the Cape Byron headland; moderate Class 3 walk. Short steep hills and many steps.
Facilities: There are toilets at Captain Cook Parking Area, The Pass, Wategos Beach and the Cape Byron Lighthouse and Information Centre. There is a picnic area at Wategos Beach. The Pass Cafe is right next to the track and the Cape Byron Lighthouse Cafe at the Information Centre has amazing views.

Cape Byron Lighthouse Tours: Every 20 minutes from 10 am to 3 pm there are tours of the Lighthouse conducted by volunteers ( Except Christmas Day and bad weather). Gold coin donation. No bookings required. Moderate grade walk. This activity is listed as suitable for children over the age of five.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rocky Creek Dam, Dunoon, New South Wales.

Rocky Lake: the impounded lake at Rocky Creek Dam.
We decided to have a change from National Parks and wet rainforest and headed off to Rocky Creek Dam for the afternoon. There are excellent facilities and great walks. Walkers can access the dam wall and the spillway or head to the boardwalk and platypus viewing platform.

We combined the Waterdragon Walk (1.2 km) and the Platypus Walk (1.5 km) which overlap and we probably only walked just over 2 km in total.

We walked across the dam wall and continued on to the impressive spillway.

From the spillway we continued on to the boardwalk and wetland area. There were Wompoo Fruit-Doves feeding in the Bangalow Palms and a curious Pale-yellow Robin made an appearance but we didn’t see any platypus.

We made our way back to the carpark where a tour group was cooking up a storm in the large shelter provided. There are also other picnic tables scattered throughout the grounds and an excellent children’s playground.

Bird list:
Noisy Miner, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Black Swan, Laughing Kookaburra, Pacific Black Duck, Pale-yellow Robin, Wompoo Fruit-Dove.

Details for Rocky Creek Dam:
Where: Rocky Creek Dam Road, Dunoon, NSW, 2480.
Getting There: 24 km north of Lismore, via Dunoon. 13 km north-east of The Channon Village Campground.
Facilities: toilets, gas BBQ’s, tables, sheltered picnic area, children’s playground, walks, boardwalk, educational signage.
Prohibitions: No dogs, no swimming, no boating or other water craft.
Cost: Free.