Lamington National Park, Walk 1: Lower Bellbird Circuit

Start: Binna Burra
12km (rtn)
Class 4
30 Sept ’16

So. Walk 1 of about 24. Originally, I’d planned to hike the Ships Stern Circuit, which is one of my favourites, but I was a bit late in getting down the coast so I settled for a half-dayer. Turns out the Ship’s Stern was closed because of back burning anyway (a process here in Australia where sections of nationals parks are stripped of potentially dangerous underbrush by the process of burning it back. It helps to protect houses from bushfires in the dry months, but it’s a pretty horrible for people like me with asthma and air pollution in general. There are a lot of pros and cons).  It was the tail end of the school holidays so there were quite a few cars up at Binna Burra. That was pretty much why I’d stayed away from the Green Mountains this time. It just gets too busy up there. As it was I encountered one group on the trip at a breath-taking lookout, standing around playing Pokemon Go. I just don’t get that.

The Lower Bellbird actually shares the first few kilometres with Ship’s Stern. It’s an easy walk, following the ridgeline mostly, and passing the beautiful Yangahla Lookout (there’s a photo from there in the previous post) before finally beginning to descend. The path draws a wavy down through the elbow of the valley then out away to the north. I find  myself crossing the same trickle of a creek a number of times. It’s been dry, but sometimes I can clearly hear water running somewhere under the debris of the dead, moss-sprayed trees and rockfalls. It’s a lovely temperature, but I’m sweating, mostly because this is my first big walk since the Overland Track in June, and I’m quite unfit (the perils of sitting behind a desk writing). I’m also slightly nervous about my boots. Well, not my boots as such, my ankles that are in the boots. During the last couple of days on the Overland, my ankles took a beating, mostly from my boots being frozen solid each night (the story of my Overland adventures will be in a series of stories and a book next year) but also from the continual dropping down large  sofa-sized slabs of quartzite whilst carrying a 25kg backpack (we walked the track in reverse, so we ending up in the mountains). Oh, and also I’m much older than I used to be. Anyway, I’ve not worn my Scarpas since, and because they’re heavy leather Deltas, there’s not much call for them up here in Queensland, short of a very wet, muddy Lamington. But not today. It’s dry and hard, but the boots feel fine. I’m still going to look into a lighter pair though. I really don’t need the Deltas here.

Wojigumai Cave          ©  P. Brandon 2016
I was trying to recall if I’d walked this track before, but I remembered I had as soon as I hit Wojigumai Cave. Not so much a cave as an eroded fault line, it’s still really impressive. The texture of the contrasting rocks is wonderful, and with the rock face rising above, it acts as a scoop for the breeze. I’ve always loved the hiss of the wind through the canopy. It sounds like something is alive up there, restless. It’s the quality of breath, the way the forest inhales and exhales on a scale far grander than us. Occasionally, as I walk, the wind  will pick up fragments of other walkers talking, or a bark of laughter, on the ridge opposite and carry them across the valley like leaves so that is sounds like they are right behind me.  Other times the sound of the leaves is like distant traffic, but never it is silent.

There are a few open patches of damaged forest, and I seem to recall hearing about a very big and isolated storm out this way maybe a year ago. Where the trees have fallen it hasn’t taken long for the understory to erupt into the new light, and the small cluttered clearing is dotted with flowers and the low, gentle hum of insects.

Bee, on Approach          © P. Brandon
The track is easy, nothing even remotely tricky, which is kind of nice as it frees me up to look for opportunities to test the new camera. Problem with shooting in a rainforest though is that unless you focus on something specific like a bird, a snake or flower, it’s really hard to convey the sense of depth through the lens.


It’s also tricky to capture the quality of the light with a snapshot of a moment in time when it’s so fluid and alive.

A couple of hours in and I clear the rainforest, out into an area of cut brush that I assume is for a helicopter. Perfect spot for a cup of tea. Clear of the forest it’s surprisingly blowy. Probably too windy for the back burning, which would explain why I’ve not smelled any burning. The final 3 or so miles are a bit dull -following the road back past the ranger station to where I left the car, but I come across a sullen-looking bowerbird sitting on the verge (I actually saw it sitting there driving in). I can almost hear its bothered sigh as it lifts off into the trees. For a moment I consider following it, so see if I can find its bower, but the day is getting on and its a very scrubby drop.

One last treat awaits me at the car. The bush I’m next to must be giving off some sort of aroma, as its dusted in confetti of little butterflies.


Right, coffee at Beechmont, then time to hit the traffic home.


New Projects

At the moment, music is taking a bit of a back seat as I’m over at the University of Queensland studying for a Master of Philosophy in Creative Nonfiction Writing for the next couple of years (yes there is such a thing as creative nonfiction, but I’ll get into that in another post). Basically, I’m writing a big thesis on the Overland Track in Tasmania, which I walked in June. The opportunity to go and be a postgrad at UQ, and study Nature Writing and Wilderness, a form of writing that has quite honestly been a life-long passion,  was too good not to jump at.

While I work on the thesis (a series of interconnected essays about Wilderness and the Track) I’m basically submerging myself in the genre. I’ll be walking a whole lot more, writing articles and taking a lot of pictures. 

My Tasmanian walking companion, Zane, has inspired me to take up a little side project. Zane is currently working his way through climbing every peak in Tasmania classified an ‘Abel’ (The Tasmanian version of our Munros. Basically, a mountain over 1100m in height with a drop of at lease 150m on all sides -named after Abel Tasman). Zane is climbing all 158 before Winter 2017. His blog is AbelZane Blog and is well worth a read. My little project is nowhere near as grand.

Beechmont, overlooking the fringes of the park . Mt Warning in the background   © P. Brandon 2016 

I’m going to walk all the tracks in Lamington National Park. There are 24 marked trails, ranging in length from simple strolls through to the 21.4km walk that links O’Reilly’s Guesthouse with Binna Burra. The history of the marking of the tracks is pretty fascinating, and I think I’ll deal with that in another blog post. There are also a scattering of other ‘off trail’ walks deeper into the National Park that I want to take a look at. Most of the tracks are graded Class 4, which means they can be very steep, rocky and there’s not a lot of signage, in all the yeas I’ve been walking here I’ve never struggle to follow the route, and they’re quite highly trafficked. Still, people get lost in this park all the time.

Lamington is a 20,600 hectare area of World Heritage Area (part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia). Most of the park is 900m above sea level, meaning it’s substantially cooler than Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast. It has a variety of ecosystems,  from heathland, to caves, many creeks and waterfalls (over 500) and is primarily subtropical rainforest, and of course the flora and fauna is incredible (I once had a 7-inch long blue crayfish walk over my submerged boot in one of the creeks).

Kurraragin (Egg Rock) from Yangala Lookout   ©  P. Brandon  2016

 So, I’m not walking these in any particular order, just what takes my fancy on the day. No idea how long this will take (though I think I’d like to try and do one trip down there a week).I’m simply doing this to give myself a bit of a challenge while I pursue this degree, and hopefully give me nice amount of locally-produced writings and photos.

In the Deep Green

This is the stunning photograph that is hanging over my desk providing inspiration for the current story. It’s assembled from a great many individual shots by an absolute genius, photographer Alan Lesheim, and it was taken in the stunning Florentine Valley, in Tasmania. It’s a whopper of a print, and the detail is just boggling (and yes, the Angel is really there, not dropped in).  The artist is Allana Beltran, who can often be found performing at the Salamanca markets in Hobart. There is a story behind this as Allana made an amazing and brave stand against the logging of the Weld Valley. There is some incredibly haunting imagery, and this, along with being in the Florentine Valley over the past couple of years, has inspired the new story.

Wednesday Night Rambles

(This is a republish of a blog from a month or so ago, which I think was accidentally deleted by the WordPress mobile app. I’ve lost a couple that way. Investigating…)

Wow, where did that chunk of time go? I’ve actually been terribly busy with a few other creative endeavors. So far this year, the band has taken me to three states in Australia, and overseas to Russia. I won’t bore you with details, as they’re all here in the band blogs. It’s been terribly fun, but also slightly frustrating as at the moment I really want get some writing done.

I’ve never really been able to just peck away at a manuscript. I’ve always needed blocks of time so I can submerge myself in what I’m writing. This is great, but it’s not always practical, neither is writing at night, which used to be my staple, but has now become increasing difficult considering that’s when the band works. It’s taken me a long time to get my head around just snatching a paragraph here and there, but I think I’m getting the hang of it, slowly.

Thing is, because I took a side-step from writing these past few years, i’ve got a whole bunch of potential stories knocking around in my head, each vying for its own little slice of my attention with cries of ‘pick me, you love apocalypse tales!’ (there are two different calls like that from two different stories), ‘pick me, I’m a quirky village fantasy that will remind you of home…’ and even ‘psst. Hey! Remember me? The follow up from The Wild Reel? You promised!’

But what I’m working on at the moment is a little bit different. I’m not sure that there’ll even be any fantasy in it (though it’s early days, and the possibility is very much there). I’m going to change the header of this page in the next day or so to show the piece of art that is currently hanging over my desk, inspiring me.


A very dear friend of mine with not much time left looked me in the eyes yesterday as said ‘You know, I think this is Fate.’ She was referring to the turn of events that led to me standing there rather than her dying. I think she’s probably right, after all, if a person in her condition, one of the brightest fires of humanity I’ve ever known reduced to nothing more than the spark can say that, then it might just be true.

I’m suppossed to be at the Woodford Festival for the next week or so, but instead I’m in Tasmania to be with my friend. The Fate she was referring to is that my current story is set in Tasmania, and that I’d been trying to get down there again this year. It’s another inspiration flash story, a lot like Swim the Moon (in the way the ideas and story were initially formed), and that flash happened last time I was here, as we were driving out to a peaceful protest against logging in the Florentine Valley. I told her about it then, and it was the first thing she asked me about when I arrived.

I’ve no idea how long I’ll be down here for. It could be weeks, but somehow I don’t think so. I’ve promised Helen I’ll start the story here, in her beautiful house, and I’ve already spoken to Alan (who took the amazing photo in the blog banner) and we’re heading out back to the Florentine for a bit of off-track rainforest exploring during the quiet times.

I don’t think I’ll be in the right headspace to get much writing done, but I made a promise to Helen, and I’ve started, and that’s the important thing.

Currently listening to: Another Empty Galaxy by Deepspace

Stormy Tuesdays

Cracker of a storm today. In true Brisbane style with moments of the rain stopping, the sun was out and the streets were steaming. One thing that struck me was the noise of the birds. I was up in the gardens surrounding the University at St Lucia and the parrots, ducks, crows miners and all the other were going insane. It was as if they were all telling each other they were still alive. With the beautiful pre-sunset light, it was just magic.

I’ve been making a lot of notes for this new novel, and I think I’m about ready to start. It’s been occupying a large chunk of my mind (the vacuous bit not consumed with all the upcoming music projects, gadgets or my next meal). Of course, now that I’m ready to start, I have to go away for ten days up to the Woodford festival. Still, I have Evernote on my iPhone, and I might even take my Mac up as this year we’re not performing as Súnas, only as session players. The idea of sitting somewhere shady writing is very appealing!

Those are the intentions anyway. The reality when I’m surrounded my musician friends, fiery tunes and Guinness may be somewhat different.


Right, I’ve started.

I have an odd little ritual when I start a new book. I have to find just the right notebook (I have a small carton full of ones that have taken my fancy over the years, or I’ve been given). For a little while now, I’ve been using Moleskines, mainly because they’re just so nice to work in, but this time, it was an old green velvet notebook that I think I found in Borders many years ago that got the nod. I’m still undecided on the right pen though…

I’m not going to reveal much about the new novel, just to say that it’s a bit of a departure for me (though it could loosely be categorised as fantasy) and the format is possibly going to be very important too. I’m not sure if I can pull this off, but then I guess everyone thinks that when starting a new story.

Not sure how fast this will progress. I’m planning on blogging pretty frequently, more perhaps as a journal for myself than general entertainment. The music side of life is quietening down for a little bit (in regards to Sunas gigs) but I have a couple of new projects forming there too.

2010 is looking to be very busy indeed!