Walking for Refuges day 8 – Bunya Mountains west walk (Queensland, Australia)

The Bunya Mountains rise high from the flat South Burnett cattle country. It’s a place steeped in history, both happy and sad. A history intricately linked with the natural beauty of the bushland that covers this range. A history I will try to share in this and my next post.

We’ve come to the Bunyas for an overnight camping trip. And so that I can complete walks eight and nine of my challenge to raise money for the Australian Red Cross. Of the three campgrounds we choose Dandabah camping area because it has hot showers and electric BBQs. This is my compromise to Paul who doesn’t like camping and does it because I do. The electric BBQs are a treat because it saves us lighting a wood fired BBQ when we arrive at camp in the dark after my walk.

We left home late so don’t arrive at Cherry Plain to start my walk until 4pm. I’ve chosen this start point so Paul can walk the first 6.2km with me as a loop to Westcott picnic area. I can then walk from Cherry Plain to Burtons Well while he drives there to pick me up.

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We set off onto the trail. It’s cool here at 1,100m above sea level. Much cooler than at our home by the sea. It’s perfect for walking. The path is wide and well marked with green timber national park signs. It’s not like walking in Europe where you follow a colour coded system of markings on trees and posts. It’s far more primitive in a way because if there’s a fire or storm the rangers need to come up here to replace the signs. But the nice thing is that the signs usually show place names and distance.

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The forest here is fairly young. There are some massive old buttressed trees along the path. But these are the exception, not the norm. This is where some of the sad history of the Bunyas comes into play. Not sad for all but I consider it sad. The timber getters worked hard here in the mountains, chopping down trees to build houses, railways and fences so that we Europeans could colonise the lands. While not all timber harvesting is bad, it was done in a greedy unsustainable way by people who probably didn’t yet know the environmental impact of their activities. Today, old trees with impressively huge buttresses are less common than they would have been.

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We wander along the trail, enjoying the flowers and landscape that nature offers. Some flowers and native while others are weeds. We don’t discriminate in our photography because sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. We get some good glimpses of views to the west as we walk. It makes us talk about the trip we took out here last Easter when we drove through the mountains and flat lands for three days. It’s funny how it’s taken until my late thirties to start to appreciate and explore these places close to home.

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We reach Westcott picnic area. It’s a small grassy area for picnics and tent camping. There are some composting toilets, picnic tables and wood fired BBQs. But the real treat are the wallabies that call this area home. With good grasses it’s no surprise they come here to dine.

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After our 1.8km walk back down the road to Cherry Plain I say good bye to Paul and set off back onto the trail alone. It’s now 5:20pm so I’m glad I’ve packed a headlamp. The first 1.1km of the trail is old ground. I walked here at the beginning of today’s hike so cover the ground quickly now.

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I had hoped for some spectacular sunset photos off the lookouts here to the west. However, it is overcast so the light isn’t as bright as I had hoped. The Cherry Plains Lookout gives a good impression of the landscape. It’s almost like taking a drone shot of the topography.

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I walk through open eucalyptus forest where snow gums reign. I love these white barked gums. They occur at high places where the weather gets cold. I think back to a trip I took seven years ago riding my motorcycle through the Australian Alps and Snowy Mountains where these trees are even more prolific. It gives me a sense of peace and calm. They are probably my favourite Australian flora. My second favourite probably has to be the grass tree. I walk through some areas where grass trees grow crazy.

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As I continue northwards the escarpment opens up and glimpses turn into views. The sun starts to set and some colours finally appear on the horizon. I stop to enjoy the views. Probably for a little bit too long – because stopping now will mean I complete my walk in the dark. Sunsets here in the sub tropics signal the coming of darkness, not the start of twilight as is the case in some other geographic zones.

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Of course there are benefits to walking at the end of the day when the world of men grows quiet and nature takes over. Benefits like seeing an echidna in the wild. I think I’ve only seen three in the wild in my life. These shy animals generally prefer to avoid contact with humans but today I am in luck. Unlike the porcupine there’s no danger of an echidna throwing its quills so I can safely take a photo then move on to allow it to continue it’s search for a meal in peace.

A headlamp lights my path for the final 2km of my hike. Paul is waiting patiently at Burtons Well and we drive together back to Dandabah to set camp. Our tent is pitched and bed is made within ten minutes. All that’s left to do is BBQ the amazing sausages we bought at the butcher in Kilcoy and relish the fact that they are made with real meat, not a load of horrible fillers. The night grows cool and we retire to bed to fall asleep listening to the nocturnal wildlife going about their business outside.

Distance walked: 12.2km
Cumulative distance: 110.4km

If you would like to support me in my challenge to raise money for the Australian Red Cross check out my profile at http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills

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