Start: Binna Burra
The night before, we had 75mm rain in an hour. It was one of those relentless Brisbane summer storms; tearing winds, white phosphorent flashes and rippling sheets of water that shook branches and tore blossom. To paraphrase the inimitable Terry Pratchett, it wasn’t so much rain as a vertical sea with slots in it. By morning it had cleared to unpredictable squally showers, but the radar looked a lot better than the night before. Splendid Wife and I left early, stopped briefly to pick up our brother in law, Simon, then hit the road.
There was a fair bit of debris on the road to Binna Burra, and quite a few fresh landslips, but nothing too alarming. Down in the hinterland, it was still raining, but not badly, and it eased off as we climbed up into the mountains. I picked this walk because I didn’t want to head to O’Reillys while the school holidays were on, bad weather or not, and I was also hoping that some of the waterfalls might be flowing after the rain.
Daves Creek is a really nice half-day walk. Like so many walks from this eastern side of the national park, it shares the start with the Border Track, then a bit of the Ship’s Stern, before breaking away on its own. It’s a lot like Ship’s Stern, and follows part of the same ridge line, and on reflection, it’s probably the prettier walk. Despite the rain, we walked in T-shirts as the temps were still around the mid 20c mark. This place is so different when it rains. Despite being a ‘rainforest’, I’ve not actually walked here that much in anything other than heat and sunshine, so, truth be told, I was kind of looking forward to a little mud and perhaps even a temperature low enough to pull on the jacket.
For the first hour, before hitting the track proper, it was hard to tell if it was actually raining, or if it was just the wind through the canopy shaking water down on us. It was damp, humid and smelled incredible. That thick, loamy musk of rotting wood and the deep green. Birds were everywhere, and the forest was alive with the echoing battles of whipbirds, the low, repetitive questioning of the fruit doves, and the eerie screeching of the green catbirds (or as I once described them to a friend’s young daughter, goblin babies) followed us deeper.
The ground was alight with fungi, the most starting being the jelly and cup fungi that ripple along the rotting deadfalls like scattered jellybeans and little faerie umbrellas.
The inky caps, spinning tops and corals were all erupting with the moisture, and it wasn’t uncommon to see roads of orange or yellow stretching away into the green. Some of the trees had stripes of foam running down their trunks, I assume from where the sap gets dissolved by the rain.
There was one other common visitor that wasn’t quite so welcome though. Leeches. Now usually, there are a few on any walk in Lamington, it’s a rainforest after all, but today, they were everywhere. Leeches have to be one of the hardiest little bastards in the wilds. I’ve encountered them everywhere from here to the freezing winter forests of Tasmania. And they like me. I can’t really complain. I’m not that bothered by mosquitos, so I guess I have to make it up with leeches. When we stopped for water or photos, we could see them on our boots, doing that rhythmic, alien, looping dance. Flicking them off became quite a challenge. Socks and pants were liberally sprayed with our friendly go-to mosquito repellent, but when that proved somewhat ineffectual, we had to crack out the DEET. There’s nothing quite like finishing a walk and finding a fat, engorged leech in your sock. They usually reward being rudely disturbed by exploding like a little bladder of blood. Should probably wear gaiters next time it’s wet.
Usually, there are some spectacular views from Daves Creek, but not today. It’s quite a peculiar walking experience though. There have been some significant bushfires through here recently. The undergrowth, usually several meters tall, brilliant green and meeting above the path to form a verdant tunnel, is charred and somewhat apocalyptic. It’s like walking through a forest of black sticks, with the smell of the wet ashes somewhat comforting. Eucalyptus and burnt wood. Clear of the rainforest, the wind is ferocious, and although it’s not raining as such, we’re up in the thick clouds so it feels like it is most of the time. Coming to the first escarpment, we’re almost rewarded with a view. The clouds are scudding so fast it look like a time-lapse film. Yargorui cave is just visible, veiled by a white flume of cloud, but after a moment, I realise I’m looking at a waterfall being blown back up over itself. It’s an incredible sight, like a stream of thick white smoke being exhaled into a fan. I tried taking some photos, but nothing did it justice, so I had to settle for one of the valley that really shows the fire damage.
Carrying on around the ridge, we caught a break in the wind and managed to get past the cascade while it was falling ‘correctly’. Breaking from the path, we headed down to the cave in search of a bit of shelter to make a brew. Unfortunately, the cave was anything but dry, as the waterfall was being blown into it. Coffee would have to wait. I have a short video from inside the cave (shot with an iPhone safely encased in a ziplock bag) but unfortunately I’m unable to post it here. The Olympus stayed mostly packed away as I’ve still not gotten around to buying the weatherproof lens.
Coffee didn’t have to wait too long though, as there was a good break in the weather as we reached Picnic Creek. Simon walks like a Hobbit -his pack was full of just about everything (except for the Sam Gamgee-style pans clattering on the outside) and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had pulled out a skillet, stolen mushrooms and bacon. He set up the stove in a sheltered spot and fixed up some Walking Brew (coffee with evaporated milk from a tube. Bliss). Of course just as we were doing that, we bumped into our first walkers of the day -a large family ensconced in those disposable plastic ponchos, with several young teens with bare legs and mud-gummed trainers. They looked pretty sorry for themselves (rain and leeches), and one of the girls seemed unable to believe we were making a coffee by the side of the track. All they wanted to know was how far it was back to Binna Burra. Dad looked a bit fed up, and I had flashbacks to how I used to feel when my Nan would take me on those never-ending walks that just turned into sore-footed misery and the repeated promise of ‘it’s just over the next hill’. They didn’t linger, but we did -the coffee was great and made me realise how much I missed my little stove. Something to pick up in the sales I think.
The rest of the walk was pretty uneventful. We stopped at Surprise Rock, which is an exposed ridge of rock that has resisted the surrounding erosion, and though we scrambled up for a look, it was just too wet and windy to walk across the top. It was impossible to raise yourself from anything other than a primal crouch, for fear of being torn away and scattered across the valley. The creeks were flowing well (though not as much as I thought they would be, but then the land was very dry so perhaps it’s having a good solid drink). Every ten minutes or so we’d stop for leech checks, and I ended up getting suckered about a half-dozen times, one of them chunky enough on my knee that when I accidentally squashed it I got a nice orange-sized bloom of a bloodstain through my wet pants. That’s going to itch for weeks.
Boots stayed beautifully dry (this was their first wet outing) which made a lot of difference, as Sarah’s old pair gave up the ghost on this walk and she had to endure wet feet for a few hours. Didn’t really use the weatherproofs, despite the rain. It was just a bit too humid for me (though Sarah wore hers the whole time without any problems). The knowledge of dry, clean clothes and a nice stop at the cafe in Beechmont on the way down was enough to make the last few repetitive kilometres back along the Border Track worth while. It was really a cracking walk, something very special with the weather, and a lovely contrast to the hot and horrible experience last month on Ship’s Stern.