Wanders with Wit

Serenity Now!

A Trip to Tamborine Mountain

Hinterland hijinks on Bundjalung Country, Queensland, Australia
View from Tamborine Mountain
Vivacious view from Tamborine Mountain
New Year's Resolution #1: Stop celebrating New Year's Eve.
After attending far too many end of year festivities and pretending I was having a good time until exactly 12:01 am, I had decided to buck tradition and go to bed early for once; rising on New Year's Day to start the year off wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and up for an adventure. Queensland's Scenic Rim hinterland had been summoning me for days and, given a rather hot stinky day had been forecast, I was looking forward to spending the first day of the year enjoying lush rainforest walks in crisp, cool mountain air.
After a pleasant half-hourly sojourn up not-too-winding mountain roads away from the chaotically busy M1 highway, I was immediately intrigued by a sign for the Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens. Having never noticed the sign - nor even heard of the place before - I found myself pleasantly surprised. Not by the steep downhill street that brazenly wore out my car's brake fluid on the way to the gardens; nor even by the number of vehicles already in the car park from which a veritable cacophony of picnic basket-wielding families and squealing children spilled out; but by the sheer beauty of the place.
Lily-pad studded pond & stone arched bridge in botanical gardens
Picturesque lily pond just begging to be painted by Van Gogh
A tranquil, palm-fringed lily pond with stone arch bridges from which dusky moorhens and chilled out turtles could be viewed; a manicured Japanese garden resplendent with bridges, pagodas and a random porcelain-looking giant egg; an exquisite rose garden; a tree with owls ornately carved into it - it was everything a botanical garden should be and more. Better still, there was no loud, boom box-emitting café on site. The entire 11 hectares were run solely by volunteers, who requested merely a gold coin donation at one of the honesty boxes upon arrival. It was the best $2 I'd spent all day and I hadn't yet explored the enticing Rainforest Walk.
Owl statue in foreground of rainforest setting
Giant white porcelain-looking egg in Japanese garden
Native bee house affixed to large tree in rainforest setting
Owl statue, random porcelain-looking giant egg & tree with native bee hangout
As I wandered beneath overhanging vines and past abandoned tree trunks, I admired the hundreds of fallen Bangalow palm fronds littered on the forest floor, before I found myself at the wonderfully themed Sooty Owl Creekside Trail where children and adults alike knocked on the door of the Sooty Owl B&B, thwacked a thong on a set of pipes to create musical notes and watched a bemused huntsman spider observe a trickle of water nudging a giant waterwheel.
A rainbow-coloured sign then encouraged visitors to "Look up, look down, look around." If I hadn't looked up, I would have missed the boab tree blossoming behind a cascade of bromeliads. If I hadn't looked down, I might not have seen the clever owl mural created on the forest floor and if I hadn't looked around, I would have entirely missed the sign pointing to the much-needed restrooms.
The remainder of the morning became a vivid blur of tropical and temperate vegetation: rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias, orchids, hydrangeas and white Agapanthus Snowballs. (Don't worry, I had to look up all the names.) In the absence of a trinkety gift shop, volunteer propagators known as "The Potty Potters" sold plants directly to the public. If I wasn't a certified black thumb - and they were actually open on New Year's Day - I would have bought several saplings.
When it was eventually time to take my leave, I navigated out of the car park and into the endless traffic jam at the tourist-ridden, café-lined strip known as Gallery Walk (which was more akin to a crawl); where visitors could browse displays of lollies, chocolates, lavender, pottery and cuckoo clocks whilst they made the crucial decision of which cuisine to enjoy for lunch: Indian, Greek, Scottish, Polish, German, Italian, Asian, Irish, Mexican or Australian. A crystal shop caught my eye on the way through and I vowed to return when the lunch rush was over.
In the meantime, I headed over to North Tamborine, hoping to enjoy a delicious lunch in the funky, dimly-lit, book shelf and couch-lined café known as Forest that I'd frequented several years prior. Unfortunately, Forest had long since been felled but a nearby shopkeeper suggested I try a specialty bakehouse known as Wilderflower and Wanderberries. The sign on their window stated everything my gluten-free, almost vegan, heart desired. Every product was free not only from gluten but dairy, egg, tree nuts, peanuts and soy, as well as being predominantly corn and nightshade free. (Party!) The only conundrum turned out to be what to choose from their expansive cabinet display: vegan pies, caramel tarts, chocolate tarts, banoffee pies, lemony lemon tarts or freshly baked banana bread. In the end, I settled upon a creamy custard tart washed down with a banana, maple syrup and cinnamon vegan milkshake. Pure gastronomic bliss. On the way out, the owner recommended I visit Curtis Falls, which turned out to be not too far off the beaten, fudge-filled, ice cream-laden track in the neighbouring enclave of Eagle Heights.
Leaf-strawn path in rainforest
Trickling waterfalls at Curtis Falls
Rainforest walk & Curtis Falls giving it a red-hot go
A pretty, light-dappled rainforest with Harry Potter-inspired strangler fig tree roots, coiled vines and musky-smelling leaf litter - in which an enormous skink was trying to hide - provided the perfect subtropical accompaniment along the 1.1 kilometre (0.7 mile) track to Curtis Falls. Upon arrival, a dozen tourists (one of whom may or may not have been Yoko Ono), an obligatory Australian brush turkey and I watched in silence as - due to a particularly drought-stricken year - two small trickles of water wistfully made their way down to the murky creek below. It almost seemed disrespectful to take a photograph.
Before daylight became any dimmer, I jumped back in the car to descend down the steep, winding road to a treetop canopy walk; partly because I had never been but even more so because I had heard it was free. I was close. The entrance fee was $19.50. The staff very generously topped up my water bottle on the house though.
Elevated suspension walkway through treetops
Tiptoe through the treetops
Once out of the gift shop, I dutifully traipsed along the treetop level walkways, stopping to read informative outposts, as I tried to ignore the constant wobbles caused by others around me. Thirty metres (98 feet) below was a near-empty watercourse in which eels, platypus, saw-shelled turtles, giant water bugs and freshwater crayfish were hoping to cavort if it ever decided to rain again.
A cantilevered bridge was the reward for those who correctly followed the directional signs and, if the shimmy shakes didn't get you on the suspension walkways on the way there, motion sickness was ready to usurp any vestiges of vertigo on the bridge's platform; the gaps in the wire mesh of which provided the perfect opportunity for tourists to drop their car keys and sunglasses through. I would have happily stayed to continue exploring the adjacent grounds and gift shop (and helped comb underneath the bridge to find everyone's valuables), if only I hadn't had a crystal store to check out.
Just before exiting the premises, I spotted a sign in the café's lunch cabinet and soon had a 50% off gluten-free, gado gado vegan pie tucked safely away in my bag. Unfortunately, when I arrived back at the Gallery Walk, the Crystal Mountain store was closing. Taking pity on me and my squashed pie, the kind owner let me sneak in for a quick spot of browsing. I didn't dare look at any of the stunning jewellery, lest I was tempted to buy the entire display cabinet but on the very last shelf, a small cluster of celestite crystals caught my eye. Truth was, I was still wobbly from the cantilevered bridge and couldn't tell if it was the power of geology or vertigo-logy that I felt. Knowing I would most likely regret leaving without a crystal that attracted peace, harmony and good fortune, I purchased the light blue slice of celestite heaven and tucked it away in my bag.
Roadside avocado stands & signs with one advertising "Classy Avos"
Sophisticated street stall
With dusk due to arrive, there was no time to visit the glow worm caves at the nearby Cedar Creek Estate, nor swing by the historic St. Bernard's Hotel to watch their two large resident St. Bernard dogs slumbering away. They, and the numerous roadside avocado stalls, would have to wait until another time.
As I navigated the steep drive back down to the maniacal M1, I ardently hoped the lingering smell of burnt-out brake linings belonged to someone else's vehicle, as I spilled the remainder of the vegan pie down the front of my shirt.
Happy New Year, people.