Close to home #13 Bunya Mountains National Park
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 just a few hours’ drive from 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 Scenic Circuit walk at Queensland’s Bunya Mountains National Park is aptly named; there’s a beautiful view of the North Burnett region from Pine Gorge Lookout. But it’s not just the scenery that attracts visitors to this isolated section of the Great Dividing Range.
Fondly known by all who visit regularly as “The Bunyas”, the park is Queensland’s second oldest and home to the world’s largest stand of bunya pines. These magnificent trees tower above the subtropical rainforest at the top of the range. Every three to four years, they produce huge cones up to 30 cm in length which contain large edible seeds called bunya nuts. Although the distinctive pines dominate the landscape there is a wide variety of flora and fauna, some only found in this area.
Our circuit walk begins from the picnic area at the tiny settlement of Dandabah, where small groups of red-necked wallabies gather to graze. In spring and summer, flowering black bean trees attract crimson rosellas.
Once on the walking track we need to be on the lookout, because many of the forest’s inhabitants are timid. We almost miss a motionless eastern water dragon, sunning itself on a log by the creek.
Not so worried about hiding is a male brush-turkey, more interested in attracting a female to his mound of leaf litter than avoiding us.
As we continue along the path, an eastern yellow robin darts along the forest floor ahead of us.
Higher up, bird’s nest ferns hang from tree trunks, and overhead the spreading fronds of tree ferns provide welcome shade.
Not so welcome are the giant stinging trees, their leaves covered with fine, silica-tipped hairs. Even the lightest touch causes pain which can last for days. We’ve heeded the advice on the warning signs and worn our closed-in shoes on this walk, because even dead leaves on the ground can be harmful. Luckily there are no stinging trees close to the path and we move on unscathed.
After a dry winter, only a trickle of water flows over the rocks at Festoon Falls but it’s enough to sustain the lush ferns and mosses clinging to the rock walls.
In the shallow waterholes below we spot large brown tadpoles, half hidden by the dappled sunlight on the water. They will take up to three years to mature into great barred frogs, which live in burrows in the creek banks.
It seems as if all life in the mountains grows slowly; strangler figs take hundreds of years to completely overwhelm their host plants. The walking track passes spectacularly between the aerial roots of one giant fig. The tree is more than 400 years old and the space is all that is left after the host plant died.
The circuit finishes with a gentle climb from the forest floor up the hill to the picnic area.
In the late afternoon, birds gather when seed is put out for feeding and photo opportunities. Regular visitors bring their own birdseed, because small bags from the general store are costly. Crimson rosellas and king parrots compete for attention, while sulphur-crested cockatoos wait more patiently till the rush dies down.
Kookaburras would prefer to snatch a sausage from the barbecues of unsuspecting picnickers.
When you come to the Bunyas bring your shoes, bring some bird seed and definitely bring your camera. You’ll want to photograph more than just the scenery!
Join Jo for Monday Walks