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Tullawallal

Tullawallal
 
 

A STRONG south easterly breeze was blowing at Binna Burra on top of the Lamington Plateau. I had arrived early in the morning slowly negotiating the road covered in leaves and other vegetation debris. A tree had fallen over two thirds of the width of the road at one of the hairpin bends near the top. Fortunately I had made it through.

Track entrance at Binna Burra
Track entrance at Binna Burra

Heavy rain briefly fell upon my arrival, but quickly cleared. The thick cloud covered the sky overhead but there was no mist at this level. I was surprised how cold it was especially for December here in the subtropics. Fortunately I had a polar fleece top so I put it on.

I set off into the forest following the border track which heads along the range to the rim of the extinct Tweed Volcano where the trail follows it westward to the next main range where it heads back down to O’Reilly’s. I was only walking a short section of the track, following the Rainforest Circuit where frequent signs highlighted the different varieties of tree growing here.

Track through the jungle
Track through the jungle

The wind was blowing fiercely through the trees overhead. I was concerned branches could break off them and fall on me. Fortunately nothing seemed to be breaking. Leaves were flying around though. The usual chorus of birds was noticeably absent. No doubt they were seeking refuge in the swaying trees, or perhaps the wind was drowning out their soft calls.

About half a kilometre from the start of the track I reached a small saddle. The Rainforest Circuit crossed over the saddle to return to Binna Burra on the other side of the hill. I continued following the Border Track.

Fungi
Fungi

Up to here the track had been a sealed path but at this point turned to a dirt trail that was a little boggy from all the rain that had recently fallen. It was in very good condition though, providing easy passage through the rainforest near the edge of the steep plateau under a hill.

Eventually the track reached a three way junction at a saddle on top of the range. On either side of the saddle a hill moderately sloped upwards to the hill I had just passed and onwards to higher summits of the range. The main track continued along its path towards O’Reilly’s some twenty kilometres away.

Birds nest ferns
Birds nest ferns

To the right another trail gradually descended from the saddle heading through picturesque cloud forest and ferns into the Coomera Gorge.

Just to the right of the Coomera Trail was the entrance to the Tallawallal Track. I followed that one heading gradually uphill over the top of the saddle for a couple of minutes before reaching the next junction. Here the main track continued heading down over the other side of the saddle whilst the other one leading to Tallawallal headed up the hill.

Track towards Tullawallal
Track towards Tullawallal

I followed the Tallawallal track gradually ascending the hill. I was not quite sure where it was heading though. Will it reach the top of the forested hill? Will it end at a cave or other culturally significant place? I did not know.

I could see the other track diverging below me. Eventually there was too much forest between this track and the main one to be able to see it. The track here was rather lonely in the dense cloud forest. Moss and epiphytes hung from the swaying branches in the strong wind.

The track gradually turned following the contours of the hill. There was no sign of the summit, but it seemed to be quite a long way through the trees. Thankfully the track was of a very easy grade, climbing the hill on a gentle slope without any steps. It remained that way until it suddenly ended.

Track towards Tullawallal
Track towards Tullawallal

Several small trees had fallen along the length of the track, completely blocking it. Initially I thought these trees must have come down in today’s wind, but there were temporary trails worn along either side of the trees. I guessed fewer than a hundred people would have walked through here, and I had not seen anyone else on this track today, so these trees must have fallen a few weeks ago.

We walked around the trees to the right. Initially it seemed to be the easier of the two routes, but it was not long before we were climbing through branches to get back to the track. The vegetation here was very thick making progress very slow. I could now see the trunks where the trees had snapped in half about a metre off the ground.

Track towards Tullawallal
Track towards Tullawallal

It was a relief to be back on the track again. The unexpected adventure through thick foliage was once more a very easy grade track that you could almost do in a wheelchair. The track continued uphill winding further around the hill. By now I was walking in the opposite direction to that I had started from. This meant I was now on the other side of the hill. A few bluffs appeared nearby. Perhaps this track was going to end in a small cave. The cave never appeared. Instead the track kept winding its way around the hill becoming a tighter spiral. Perhaps it was going to reach the top.

Tallawallal entrance
Tallawallal entrance

The track turned fairly sharply around some rocks before reaching a sign indicating a stand of Antarctic Beech – Nothofagus Morei. These trees characteristically grew in a ring around what was once the original tree. The original tree had sent out some suckers which grew into their own trees before it had died. It is believed the entire stand of trees is a single organism.

I continued along the track which was by now going in the same direction as it had done at the junction. This meant we had come full circle. Ahead was a small sign saying “Tullawallal”. Next to the sign was a short flight of rocky stairs climbing to some large boulders.

Antarctic Beech
Antarctic Beech

I climbed the stairs reaching the summit of the hill. Large boulders surrounded the small clearing around another ring of Antarctic Beech. This was the northernmost stand of these magnificent ancient trees. Although they weren’t particularly big, standing on the summit in the middle of the ring in the strong blowing wind seemed to have quite a spirituality about it. The angled trees groaned ancient words of wisdom as they swayed in the wind. The moss covered boulders sat silently outside the ring. I wondered what the Aboriginal people would have done up here. Was there a spiritual significance to standing in the midst of the ring of trees upon this summit?

Memorial plaque
Memorial plaque

After a few minutes we decided to head back down the hill. After the short climb down the stairs the trail was easy to follow. After a couple of minutes we reached a plaque I had earlier missed. This was a memorial plaque to Gus Kouskos, a ranger who had worked here for many years before dying. Perhaps his ashes had been scattered here, lain to rest in the forest he had so much loved.

The track continued its gentle descent to where the trees had fallen over it. This time we took the downward temporary trail where access was a little easier with just one bit of vegetation to clamber over. The trees that had fallen were covered in thick moss.

Tree fallen on track
Tree fallen on track

From there it was a gradual descent around the hill to the junction where I turned sharply to the right heading back towards Binna Burra.

The forest thickened and the trees became taller during the gradual descent back along the side of Tullawallal. The sloped dropped off moderately into the Coomera Gorge far below. After about a kilometre the track reached a junction meeting up with the nature trail heading over a low saddle to meet the border track.

Track back to Binna Burra
Track back to Binna Burra

We continued along the nature path gradually descending back towards Binna Burra. Bright orange fungi highlighted the black logs of fallen trees. The fungi and termites were working together to turn the wood back into soil for the new trees to feed on. There were several signs along the track identifying the different types of tree growing here. This included various fig trees and other rainforest trees.

By now the wind was starting to ease off and the trees were not groaning as much as they had been earlier. The south easterly system was starting to pass now, but it was still completely overcast. A few spots of rain began falling, but it didn’t last long. Anyway I could see the park exit up ahead.

The rocky summit of Tullawallal remains standing as a spiritual place amongst the ring of Australia’s northernmost stand of Antarctic Beech. The swaying trees had been groaning in the wind as if telling ancient Aboriginal stories.

Superblog from today:
Lost World Volcano of Gondwanaland

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13 December 2014

 

Brisbane

Australia

 

28°12'S
153°12'E

850 - 950m ASL

 

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