I wasn’t as sore as I thought I’d be from the last Lizzie hike. I woke up full of anticipation on Bunya Mountains morning. The leech bites on my legs itched but I ignored them as I dressed in blue jeans and gray New Balance shoes, no white this time.
It was 7:00 am precisely when I arrived at Booroobin and we switched cars for the drive to the park. This adventure included Lizzie’s husband and Jan an expert on local orchids. As we drove deeper into the interior the green hills became brown. It was almost a 2 and a half hour drive there through lovely rolling farmland quiet towns and abandoned farmhouses
Informative signs explained the bunya story and the importance of these mountains to the Murri people. Bunya trees usually have a heavy crop every three years. The traditional custodians of the nuts invited other groups to a festival to share in the harvest. Up to 3,000 people attended the festivities. The last Boyne, Boyne festival was held in the 1870s. Then the loggers came and first logged the cedar, then the hoop pine and the bunya pine. The park was declared in 1908 and later expanded. It is the largest natural stand of Bunya Pine in the world. In 2012 the Bunga Peoples Aboriginal Corporation was formed to represent all the different Aboriginal groups who have cultural associations with the Bunya Mountains. They work alongside the Queensland park rangers to control feral animal and weeds, do prescribed burns and park planning.
As we entered the Barker Creek track we were greeted by cool air. Our feet crunched on a beautifully maintained path or a carefully constructed boardwalk under many different species of giant Rainforest trees towering above us. I felt insignificant in the awe of their presence.
Just a little way down the path Lizzie pointed and said, “Don’t touch any part of that tree.” I eyes followed her pointing finger and I saw a skinny little tree with large leaves. The heart-shaped leaves reminded of thimbleberries at home, a very innocent bush with delicious raspberry-like berries without any thorns. Lizzie continued to explain, “That is the stinging tree. I touched one once trying to see a flower. It stung like acid and an electric shock combined. The pain lasted for six months. People and horses have died from falling in stinging tree leaves.”
I was glad it was lower than the boardwalk and out of reach. If it had been closer I’d have touched it. It would have been much worse than a leech bite. Even a dead leaf retains its stinging capability for years. This was a baby one, a mature tree can grow to 40 meters.
The sunlight filtered softly down through the thick canopy, losing its heat and failing to reach the bottom of the forest floor.
The boardwalk continued under and through a strangler fig. These huge trees start their lives in the branches of another tree and send many roots down to the ground eventually depriving the host tree of light.
As I walked I strained my neck looking up into the tall Bunya Pines. Perhaps I
shouldn’t have spent so much time under them as huge cone can come crashing down at any time from January to early March, and it was still early March.
These photos just don’t capture their magnificence. I took a short video to show how we humans were like tiny elves moving under these trees.
The lack of light on the ground encouraged gardens in the sky. Ferns, orchids, and strangler figs germinate in the branches of trees where there is more light than on the ground. As we walked along Jan found some orchids that had fallen from their lofty perch in a tree. She carefully placed them up as far as she could reach in the crook of another tree.
Our walk opened up into a beautiful meadow.
Perhaps it was one of the balds the Aboriginal people had kept clear for 1,000 of years by periodic burns. The heat descended on us as we walked in the open. I was relieved when the trail turned back into the rainforest. We past Little Falls, but it was dry so little rain had fallen here in the past weeks. The rainforest had held its moisture in so it wasn’t brown like the surrounding open fields, but the ferns bowed their heads with thirst. Further down the trail there was still water in the creek. I rose-forest smell wafted through the air. “What is that perfume?” I asked Lizzie.
“I think its Cunjevoi, but I don’t see the flowers.” Tall plants grew in the stream and as we went further we saw a lovely flower coming out from large leaves. Tradition has it that it counteracts the sting of the stinging tree, but I wouldn’t trust it.
Just a little ways past the Cunjevoi we came to a sign that said we could walk 3 more kilometers or 300 meters.
The heat had taken its toll and I was very tired so sadly I decided to go just 300 more meters. Lizzie and her partner went the 3 k to get the car. Jan and I slowly walked to the parking lot, where we sat in the shade sharing past and future. In 30 minutes Lizzie’s car rolled up and we put out our thumbs and crawled in their nice air-conditioned car.