3CT – Munro to Retakunna

3CT – Munro to Retakunna

Distance – 19km
Story seats – 14
Weather – Cloudy, light wind, 14C

Day 3, the big one. We set an alarm last night so that we’d wake up in time for the sunrise over the ocean. 5/6 of us jumped out of bed and headed for the helipad where we saw the sun come over the horizon and bathe the sea cliffs in a golden glow. It was utterly breathtaking and I felt like I was on the edge of the world. We ate breakfast enjoying almost the same view from the kitchen hut and then organised our day packs which we’d be taking for most of the hike.

I was feeling pretty nervous about today because I have a fairly major fear of heights. Looking off anything over a couple of storeys sends me into dizziness and panic. It’s fair to say we had a few stops on the way out to Cape Pillar for me to do a nervous wee…or 5. Our walk started in wet eucalypt forest and emerged onto the accurately named hurricane heath where we mounted the longest boardwalk section of the track (over 2km). At the other end of the boardwalk we discovered that it had been designed by local Aboriginal people to look like a snake slithering over the landscape. We learnt about the rare Eyebright flower, global warming of sea currents, a very special She Oak which is endemic to the Tasman peninsula, the birds and the bees, and the impact the winds have on the landscape.

The last story chair was particularly appropriate because as we came over the hill the weather turned and a mist started to brew up. Lucky for us because we’d had a bit of an early start we were able to walk down the other side and away from the worst of the weather. The further we walked the more spectacular the views got especially of the incredible Tasman Island. We read about the stories and the hardships of the people that lived on the island and worked the lighthouse to ensure the safe passage of ships. I couldn’t get over the strength and courage of the lightkeeper families, just getting from the sea to the top of the island would have been a huge challenge, let alone living on a windy, isolated rock alone for months on end.

All too soon we reached The Blade and despite my best efforts (crawling) I only managed to get 1/3 of the way up before my brain would let me go no further. Hannie and Callum went bravely on and were soon joined by the rest of our group who caught up with us just in time for lunch. I sat on the blade and enjoyed watching the clouds appearing to wizz up the cliffs and into the sky.

Once everyone was safely off The Blade we continued on our way, skirting the cliff edges and enjoying the wonderful views and scenery. At the turning point we contemplated lunch but ended up heading back to the Seal Spa story chair where there was more to look at and more shelter from the wind. A couple of boisterous scrub wrens joined us, hopping around and waiting for any dropped food.

After what seemed a very long hike we made it back to Munro, slung our packs over our exhausted backs and slowly walked to the cabins for the night at Retakunna. The spot was nice enough with plenty of bird life and Mt Fortescue lurking in the background but it was my least favourite of the huts. Annika and I cooked up our dinner or fried rice and dehydrated crumble and custard before we turned in for the night.

3CT – Surveyors to Munro

3CT – Surveyors to Munro

Distance – 11km
Story chairs – 10
Weather – Sunny, light winds, 15C

We emerged into the sunlight of our second day bleary eyed and feeling a bit worse for wear. 5/6 of our group didn’t have a particularly good sleep which probably comes from being on a foreign bed, in a sleeping bag, with a blow up pillow. I managed to locate a coffee pot in the second kitchen and went about making a brew. There were a few seconds of panic this morning when it appeared that we’d be unable to caffeinate due to a forgotten Aeropress.

The hike started pretty rudely with an ascent of Arthurs Peak. Unladen it probably would have been an easy climb but with an extra 15kg on my back it was a workout. As we walked I thought in retrospect that it would have been good to do some training with weight on my back, my legs were on fire and I was relying very heavily on my general strength from cycling to get me through. We still enjoyed it, it was honestly hard not to with the number of flowers, little creeks, and the occasional view out towards the ocean. We stopped at all 4 story seats learning about scats, fire, and the “messy” Tasmanian forests.

The first stop after the hill, Jurassic Crack, offered us views back towards Mount Brown. While sitting at the lookout enjoying the amazing coast we saw 3-4 humpback whales frollicing, and I spotted a pod of dolphins playing the the swell. We spent ages just looking out over the ocean taking it all in and trying with various levels of success to use the 2 sets of binoculars we brought along. As we walked back down the hill I spotted a mountain dragon sunbaking on a stone, I called everyone over to have a look and as we were bending down it decided to run full speed directly at one of my friends. It was very amusing.

We followed the coast around the edge of the cliffs passing through a couple of unexpected patches of wet forest that are caused by the sea cliffs sucking up cold air, condensing it, and keeping these isolated areas damp and cool. The path continued and the forest opened onto the low windswept heath that was absolutely covered in stunning wildflowers as far as the eye could see. Another critter was noticed off to the side of the boardwalk and we all stopped to have a look. My first thought was that it was a rat (gross) but on closer inspection, and it allowed us to get ridiculously close, we realised that it was an Antechinus!

Eliza brought out the Jet Boil at ‘Where the ‘ell are we?’ and we learnt about the initial bushwalking team’s attempts to cut a path through the cape between 1965-67 while having tea/cuppa soups. We spotted yet more whales and quite a few different birds. For my lunches I bought tuna packets with a variety of flavours/additions. They were pretty heavy (260g each) but absolutely delicious and just what I needed to fuel the walk. I can definitely recommend them.

Further along the trail we found ourselves once again surrounded by trees and enjoyed our last two story seats ‘Love in the Woods’ and ‘The High Life’. The high life seat prompted us to try and create our own Haiku poetry while we sat looking up the the birds in the canopy. I can’t remember mine exactly but it went along the lines of…

Callum climbs a tree
I hope that he does not fall
A branch is broken

I’ll probably stick to photography hey.

After what felt like miles but was only probably 1km we reached Munro and what a spot it was. The cabins were arranged around a more centralized communal area, there was a hot shower, heaps of sunny decks, and a whale watching platform complete with binoculars. A few of the groups were doing some yoga, others were lying in the sun, we opted for a stretching session, showers, and a dinner of spag bog before turning in for the night.

Crows Nest, Bunya Bunya, and a Crushed Stove

Crows Nest, Bunya Bunya, and a Crushed Stove

I’m really starting to fall in love with the feeling of freedom and relaxation that I have each time I get into the van and this Friday was no exception. After an earlish finish at work I met Matt at home and we took off towards Esk. We stopped in town at the first pub for dinner (on the slightly cryptic advice from a police officer that breatho’d Matt). What a great pub! The food was awesome and well priced and the place had a strong community vibe. We ended up singing happy birthday to at least 5 locals and bought some meat tray tickets to raise money for the Esk school.

Post dinner Matt got to put his newly installed light bar through its paces and boy did that thing shine. We don’t plan on doing a huge amount of night time driving on the big lap due to the kangaroo hazard however if we need it it’s there. We arrived at Crows Nest National Park unscathed, set up camp, took a moment to look at the stars and then popped into bed.

The next day started off with a crunch. When we bought the van it came with a couple of single burner gas stoves, nothing fancy just the $20 ones from bunnings and those little lock down gas canisters. I’m really paranoid about gas in confined spaces and will not sleep in the van with the canisters or stoves inside so each night I take them out and pop them underneath the van. This morning they met their demise when I didn’t want to get out of bed and asked Matt to drive closer to the picnic table so he could make me a coffee. We both forgot about the stoves and so Matt drove over the top of them crushing them beyond recognition. Fortunately for us Crows Nest had gas BBQs for us to cook our breakfast on.

Following all that excitement we went for a bushwalk down to Koonin Lookout. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of this or anything else until about 10am on Saturday morning because someone (it was me) forgot to charge their camera battery. Of course because I am a passionate landscape and wilderness photographer and particularly enjoy taking photos of birds the universe rewarded me with a stunning kingfisher which spent 30 minutes diving in and out of Bottlebrush Pool 5m away from us. I spent the first 5 minutes kicking myself for my lack of camera but the little fella was too entertaining for me to stay angry.

On our way to Toowoomba to pick up a new camp stove we stopped in at Crows Nest and had a wander about. We were pleasantly surprised to find a cute and pretty town where, despite the early hour, people were getting out and about. Interestingly Crows Nest is reportedly the only town in Australia named after an Aboriginal, in this case a man named Jimmy Crow that lived in a hollow tree. We stumbled upon an amazing factory that was making fizzy drinks and syrups and had been since 1903. The owner went out of his way to show us how the drinks were made and talked us through the carbonation process (the water is sprayed into pressurised CO2) which was basically the opposite of a sodastream. We spent way too much money there on a variety of technicoloured beverages for the road.

In Toowoomba BCF I ended up buying the Coleman Fyreknight Hyperflame Camping Stove, it was a pretty expensive piece of kit but it’ll be the stove that we take with us on the big lap. I’ll do more of a review of it when we’ve had more time to get to know each other but so far I’m really impressed!

We drove out of town and on towards the Bunya Mountains where we would be spending the night. The countryside was flat and dry which was nice in it’s own special way. The Bunya Mountains seemed to pop out of nowhere and suddenly we were climbing into the hills. Matt absolutely nailed the timing and we arrived right on golden hour. It was breathtaking looking at the country spill out below us with the occasional Bunya Pine poking out of the forest.

There are 3 campgrounds in Bunya Mountains National Park, Dandabah, Westcott and Burtons Well. Burtons Well is by far the most scenic however only Dandabah allowed campervans so the choice was made for us. We set up our spot and relaxed in the sun where we were joined by some of the adorable red necked wallabies.

The next morning we woke up to frost…in Queensland. It got down to -1 which is a record for the 4 years we have lived here. We packed up the van and drove down the road to the Burtons Well camping area where we started our hike up to Mount Kiangarow to see the view and the grasstrees. Mount Kiangarow is the highest point of the Bunya mountains and is definitely worth the effort. The forrest was full of birdlife (including Australia’s smallest bird, the Weebill). We caught up to another couple of walkers/twitchers who were searching the trees for the elusive Paradise Riflebird .

Rather than walking the whole way around the ridge and then having to walk back up the road to the van we drove down to Westcott and started the walk out to Koondail lookout. Around 15 minutes in I saw some movement in the tree up ahead and a flash of blue sure enough it was a paradise riflebird searching for lunch. I was beyond excited but I could not get a good photo of him (see bird butt below). The rest of the walk was stunning, filled with beautiful views, a swooping peregrine falcon and for some odd reason huge numbers of prickly pears.

Back in the little town of Dandabah we made a beeline for The Bunyas cafe and a much needed afternoon coffee. Open between 9am-8pm on most days this cosy little spot served up a great flat white and their dinner and lunch menus looked fantastic. We spent the rest of the afternoon relocating our campsite to the slightly sunnier side of the campground and then sitting in the warmth reading books and enjoying the wallabies.

On the way out of the national park the following day we came upon a group of 3 blokes next to a broken down car. They’d been working on a farm out near Crows Nest and had borrowed a car to drive up and camp for a few nights. Unfortunately the car was a dud. One of the guys thought if he could get a part in town he might be able to fix it so him and one of his mates jumped on the bed in the back and we turned around to Dandabah. Matt dropped me and the less mechanically inclined fella back at the campground and I spent the rest of the morning sitting with our neighbours, chatting, and drinking the coffee they made me. The man whose name I have forgotten is the owner of a Townsville pineapple farm and his partner runs the servo and a caravan park. They gave us a brochure so we will try and pop in an visit some time.

While Matt was away the camp ground was visited by a satin bowerbird, king parrots, a bush turkey, and a couple of crimson rosellas.

With car part in hand Matt returned, we made our farewells and then got back on the road and headed quick smart back to Brisbane to get ready for the work week to come.

Campground Review

Crows Nest National Park – I quite liked this small camping area (13 sites) but I couldn’t see myself staying there for any longer than 1 night. There just wasn’t that much to do. Facilities were limited but it was neat, tidy, and quiet. $6.55 per person per night 6/10.

Dandabah – This camp was made up of a open grassy area with vehicle access to sites. It was very close to a restaurant, cafes, and a small general store which made it super convenient. All our fellow campers here were really considerate and there was a huge variety of wildlife. The shower block and toilets were well maintained and hot showers were free! $6.55 per person per night 9/10. Loved it here.