Being Observant

to observe – to be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention

When walking in the bush, it’s easy to miss the little things. If the track is stony or lined with gnarled tree roots I tend to watch where I’m putting my feet instead of looking at what I’m passing. So I make a conscious effort to slow down, to be more observant and to notice what is above, below and beside me.

On the 2 km Queen Mary Falls circuit, the dry eucalypt forest on top of the ridge makes way for rainforest nourished by the mist from the falls at the base of Cambanoora Gorge. I didn’t hurry down the steep, uneven track and paused often to capture the small details in the beauty of the bush.

Nature rewarded my patience!

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Close Up

Over The Cliff

Close to home #4 Queen Mary Falls

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation, closer to home, is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all within a couple of hours’ drive of our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

If dramatic mountain scenery, mild temperatures and tranquil surroundings are on your list of holiday necessities a weekend getaway at the campground at Queen Mary Falls, 11 km east of Killarney on the Queensland/New South Wales border, is the perfect destination. The campsites and cabins are surrounded by beautiful bushland and rich pastures and the peace is broken only by birdcalls and the gentle sound of contented cows.

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In front of the campground is The Falls Café where cakes and Devonshire teas are served on the shaded deck. They also sell seed for the native birds which gather noisily on the front lawn in the late afternoon.

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Signs at Browns Picnic Area, across the road from the café, mark the start of two walking tracks to the falls. The 570 metre cliff circuit skirts around the top of Cambanoora Gorge to a lookout at the top of the falls. Here, shaded by the surrounding eucalypt forest, Spring Creek bubbles gently round boulders worn smooth by the water, before plunging 15 metres to the base of the cliff.

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For a different perspective on the falls, the 2 km Queen Mary Falls circuit scales the steep sides of the gorge. The water splashes down from above, creating rainbows in the mist, before continuing on its way through the gorge. The massive pile of rubble at the base of the falls is evidence of a cliff collapse in the 1880s; one dramatic change in a 25 million year old landscape.

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There are other waterfalls in this area which is part of the Main Range National Park and belongs to the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. A 600 metre walking track leads to Brown’s Falls, a smaller plunge waterfall on the Condamine River. The track heads upstream in dappled shade, crossing the river on basalt flagstones, under fallen trees and over the rocks in front of the falls.

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There’s no need to walk to Dagg’s Falls, a plunge waterfall on Teviot Brook. The lookout is right next to Spring Creek Road and the high rise view across the gorge to the edge of the McPherson Range is spectacular.

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Teviot Brook and Spring Creek both flow into the Condamine River, part of the Murray-Darling river system. The Condamine has its headwaters in the ranges above the falls and flows through Cambanoora Gorge. A four wheel drive track through lush farmland and native eucalypt forest crosses the river 14 times as it winds back and forth through the gorge. The track is rough and rocky and it can take more than an hour to traverse all the crossings. There may be wallabies on the creek banks and in the late afternoon platypus can sometimes be seen in the shaded water.

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At Queen Mary Falls there’s no need to rush. Take your time, go for a walk or two, enjoy the views and feed the birds. You might even stay for longer than a weekend.

Swimming Between the Flags ~ Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Symbol

When I think of Australian beaches, three things come to mind: sun, surf and lifesavers. The volunteers who patrol our beaches every year belong to Surf Life Saving Australia, which has been protecting bathers since 1907.

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The most recognisable symbol of Surf Life Saving is the red and yellow flag. The flags indicate which part of the beach is patrolled, and it changes daily depending on conditions. The black and white chequered flags spaced on either side mean no surfers or jet skies are permitted within the swimming area.

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It’s not compulsory to swim on patrolled beaches but it’s wise to, especially if the surf is rough or you’re not a strong swimmer. Help is not far away if you get into difficulties.

DSCN2644Remember, if you’re having a beach holiday, swim between the flags!

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Symbol

The Best of Both Worlds

Close to home #3 Cotton Tree

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation, closer to home, is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all within a couple of hours’ drive of our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, is one of Queensland’s most loved playgrounds. From the laid back style of Caloundra in the south to the exclusive resorts at Noosa 60 km to the north, there’s a holiday destination to suit everyone.

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Tucked away between the high-rises of Alexandra Headland and the wide mouth of the Maroochy River is the small beachfront suburb of Cotton Tree and the Cotton Tree Holiday Park takes prime position.

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The holiday park, with its broad, grassed camping sites, has two water frontages; it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk either way to the Pacific Ocean or the river. On the ocean side at Maroochy Beach, windsurfers take advantage of the tumbling waves and further along lifesavers watch over the bathers swimming between the flags.

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Around the other side, where the Maroochy River enters the ocean, the water is much calmer; it’s perfect for small children, kayakers and lifesavers-in-training, who perfect their water skills in the glassy conditions.

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Campers at the park have all they need within easy walking distance. Along Cotton Tree Parade and King Street there are trendy boutiques selling the latest swimwear and cafés where freshly caught seafood headlines the menu, while not far away is Sunshine Plaza, the largest shopping centre on the Sunshine Coast. The walkway through the Esplanade Parkland follows the bank of the Maroochy River. There’s time for walkers to pause for reflection at the Maroochydore War Memorial and Naval Memorial.

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Pelicans, who also have plenty of time, gather in the shallows waiting for offcuts from the fishermen.

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With a choice of surf or still water and walking, dining and shopping all in easy reach, every day is a holiday at Cotton Tree.

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Off-Season ~ Weekly Photo Challenge

The Tenterfield area is best known for its lush pastures, which produce excellent beef and lamb.

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There are also several popular wineries in the district. Prior to harvest season, the vines are protected by heavy netting. It stops the birds from stealing the ripening fruit and, should there be storms, also prevents damage from hail.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Off-Season

Found in the Ground

South of Tenterfield is the New England Tableland, where there are subtle changes in the landscape. The massive granite outcrop known as The Bluff dominates the New England Highway, but fewer granite boulders punctuate the farmland.

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There are underground riches on the tableland and fossickers have been coming here for more than 150 years in search of gold, tin and sapphires. Emmaville, 78 km south of Tenterfield, is one small country town with a rich mining history. Tin was discovered in the area in 1872 and a flourishing settlement of 7000 grew around the minefields.

There’s little evidence today of the mining history of the town, except for the fascinating collection of rocks and minerals at the Emmaville Mining Museum. The precious collection once belonged to the local bakers Mr and Mrs Jack Curnow, who bequeathed it to the town with the request that a mining museum be created. Located in the old Foley’s Store building, the museum houses the Curnow collection along with more than 200 photographs recording the lives of the people who mined the tin.

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It wasn’t only tin mined in the Emmaville district. The Ottery Mine, just out of town, first opened in 1882 when tin was discovered, but arsenic was mined here from 1920 to 1936.

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Arsenic was used in the early 20th century to control prickly pear and then during World War 1 in the production of munitions. The men who worked in the mine adopted safety procedures including wearing silk underwear and wooden soled shoes in an attempt to avoid poisoning, although it was believed that a small amount of exposure was good for curing minor ailments. After the war, demand for arsenic decreased as other safer products came into use and eventually mining ceased. Since closing in 1957, the mine has been abandoned, but it has been made safe for visitors by the NSW Department of Mineral Resources. From the paths, the fenced off underground workings of the mine are visible.

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Deposits of crystallised arsenic concentrates on the brickwork of the old refinery glitter in the sunshine, but don’t be tempted to take some home; it’s as toxic now as it was in 1936.

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Boulders and Bushrangers

Tenterfield is the northern gateway to the New England Tableland district of New South Wales. Underlying the area is a layer of blue granite known as Stanthorpe Adamellite, formed after violent volcanic eruptions about 250 million years ago. Since then, weathering and erosion have created a dramatic landscape of granite boulders, huge rocky outcrops and sheltered caves with a secretive past, all within an easy drive of the town.

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The lookout on Mt Mackenzie, half an hour from Tenterfield offers a stunning bird’s eye view of the area. The unsealed road is in good condition and winds through fertile grazing land dotted with large granite formations. Some boulders, bigger than cars, balance inexplicably, while others perch precariously one on top of another. From the top of the mountain, at 1298 metres above sea level, the view takes in the national parks of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, with Tenterfield nestled in between.

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Boonoo Boonoo National Park, 27 kilometres north of Tenterfield, is one of several parks located on the border between Queensland and New South Wales. Pronounced ‘Bunna Boonoo’, the park’s name means ‘big rocks’ in the local Aboriginal language, and the river of the same name makes its way over massive slabs of granite to the cliff edge, where it falls 210 metres into the gorge.

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There are easy walking tracks, shallow rock pools for swimming and plenty of quiet places to sit and listen to the birds or search for delicate wildflowers. The famous Australian poet A. B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson proposed to his sweetheart, a local girl named Alice Walker, at Boonoo Boonoo Falls Lookout before they were married in Tenterfield in 1903.

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A much more notorious Australian with a connection to the Tenterfield district was Frederick Ward, more commonly known as the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. In the late 1860s he held up mail coaches and robbed travellers throughout the New England area. The rocky landscape, with caves high in the hills, provided many hideouts for the bushranger and the one near Tenterfield is easy to visit. It’s an easy walk up to the caves where he sheltered from the weather and the constabulary. The view from the top of the rocks explains why Thunderbolt chose this place; it’s the perfect vantage point to look down onto the main road, along which the mail coaches carried bounty from the gold fields.

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With a chilly autumnal wind blowing off the top of the rocks it’s not hard to imagine how unpleasant life would have been on the run. I would have made a terrible bushranger!